By Kevin Rouse
Cycling's regalia has changed relatively little in the past several decades. Sure we've seen the switch from wool to the likes of Lycra, Spandex and other decidedly higher-tech fabrics, but the stalwart combo of the standard close-fitting bib short and jersey has just about always been cycling's costume de rigueur. And it's been a design that's hardly even been called into question, let alone challenged—until now.
But now, a challenger approaches. It's on its way, and it's coming from certain company by the name of Giro.
Most certainly not a newcomer to the cycling industry, Giro has been making helmets since 1985, and their latest foray into the shoe market can undoubtedly be classified as a success. But never before has Giro dabbled in the clothing game.
After conducting an exhaustive amount of market research and consumer studies beginning as far back as two years ago, Giro found that, as they suspected, the road market has become increasingly fragmented in recent years. No longer is cycling centered strictly around the racing scene. According to Giro's findings "[Today's] streets are filled with roadies, messengers, commuters, and around-town casual cruisers."
Which then prompted the question, is a uniform grounded in racing really the best option for those who'll never race a single mile on their bikes, or watch a single Tour? Why force riders to emulate a side of the sport they’ve never fostered much of a connection with?
Enter Giro's 'New Road' initiative.
Unveiled at low-key meet-and-greet at the Golden Saddle Cyclery in the trendy Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles (recently named America's Hippest Hipster neighborhood by Forbes magazine), don't let the choice of venue lead you into thinking Giro's gone the way of V-necks, skinny jeans and ironic facial hair. Aimed at the non-racer who still appreciates functional apparel, but could do without the skin-tight fit and sublimated sponsor logos, the New Road line seeks to bridge the gap between commute wear and full-bore racer-boy kit.
Accordingly, the line is chock-full of smart, understated (not to be confused with boring—they're anything but) designs that brim with thoughtful details aimed at marrying functionality and aesthetics.
Coming to a bike shop near you early next Spring.
Relying heavily on nature's wünderfabric, Merino wool, much of Giro's new line calls upon the material's natural performance properties. As a natural fiber, it has a lower environmental impact than synthetic fabrics, while still maintaining excellent breathability and natural stretch properties. Merino even possesses natural odor-fighting enzymes that keep funk at bay—let's just chalk that one up as one of nature's little miracles.
While each piece in the line is perfectly fit for use as separate items, where the apparel's true functionality shines is when utilized as part of the painstakingly designed system Giro spent over two years developing and fine-tuning with former Levi's designer Alex Valdman (one of the folks behind the Levi's 511 Commuter Jean). With myriad layering options and inter-compatibility between many of the pieces, we suspect it's going to be hard to limit yourself to buying just one piece of clothing at a time—they just work so well to gether.
Take their SystemZip for example. Built into most of the line's jersey and jacket offerings, it allows easy access to the pockets built into the New Road Bib UnderShort. By moving jersey pockets to the bib short, the items inside are kept closer to the body, keeping them much more secure—and from looking ungainly. A well-placed zipper in the jersey and/or jacket then allows for super-easy access to those pockets, while still giving Giro the option to design a top that remains functional (Giro spokesman Mark Reidy, says much of the collection is designed to be comfortable for 40-plus mile rides) yet still look like something you'd have no problem wearing out and about—off the bike.
While model specifics and pricing won't be released until early next year, I'm rather confident in predicting that the New Road line will see some instant success. Sure, it’s a direct affront to the status quo, but in a sport as style-concious as ours, we could certainly use a few new trends—especially ones as well-executed as Giro’s New Road initiative.