Cycling apparel isn’t especially flattering. It’s tight (which looks great on triathletes; not so much on most mortals) and often billboard garish (especially with the recent resurrection of eighties dayglo). Let’s face it: Chamois feel like diapers off the bike, and most helmets look about as good as strapping an Easter basket to your head.
I had this conversation last summer with Scott Montgomery, CEO of Club Ride, whose company is trying to inject some style into the cycling space. I lamented that while performance wear continues to improve, there aren’t many companies pairing high-function features with fashionable forms as brands manage to do in surfing or yoga. (Though the likes of Club Ride, Rapha, Nonetheless, Outlier, and Chrome have been working on it.)
Fast forward six months, and Giro has unveiled a crossover apparel line that addresses many of these criticisms. Giro New Road is a collection of 14 pieces that the company says reflects the changing face of cycling from a racing-driven mentality and look to something more urban- and lifestyle-oriented. Though there is a pair of padded undershorts and bibs, the line mostly revolves around elegantly textured and cut merino wool tops, understated over-shorts, and a few high-function tech fabrics that look and feel as comfy as cotton. And while the loose-fitting silhouettes and muted color palettes suggest that this is commuter wear, Giro insists that the clothing is just as at home on serious, all-day road excursions as it is busting a few blocks down to the local café or bar.
After complaining about the lack of options in this space, I found myself in an ironic position when I first saw Giro New Road. It might be performance-wear for dudes with beards and steel bikes and tight jeans (not that there’s anything wrong with that) I thought to myself, but I’d never sub it for Assos or Castelli.
Since then, I’ve made myself wear the stuff out on long days and group rides, and truth be told it works pretty darn well. Though it looks like city wear, the features are carefully considered and well implemented. The merino in the tops is lightweight, finely woven, and plenty smooth, and it’s been warm enough to cut the spring chill and plenty cool on the few hot days we’ve had so far. The fits are looser than most kits, but the cuts are still tailored so that they hang well and don’t flap around too much when you’re on the bike. Zippers on all outerwear are rubberized and stiffened for weatherproofing and easy one-handed pulls; zips are aligned for quick access to inner pockets. Best of all, it looks sophisticated enough that you don’t feel conspicuous stopping at a bar or restaurant during or after a ride.
I haven’t tried everything in the line. In particular, I’m eager to test the Bib Undershort, which has smart details like front-fly access and rear stow pockets. Of the numerous pieces I have tested, though, a few have become favorites. The shoulder vents and rear pockets on the Ride Jersey add plenty of function for a day in the saddle, but the textured heather gray colorway has a nice, casual feel. I’m also keen to try the SS Merino Polo (there has to be an undeniable thrill to burning off your buddies in a collared shirt). The 40M Tech Overshort is sharp-looking and comfy enough to wear anytime, but there’s riding tech in the gusseted crotch, stretch side panels, and interior button-adjustments on the waistband. They’re great for mountain biking, too. The Wind Shirt is an Oxford made weatherproof. And the Wind Vest is a sophisticated take on the classic gilet.
My two main critiques so far? First, with jerseys starting at $150 and shorts from $120, it isn’t exactly cheap. Beyond that, there’s nothing for women, who are already underserved in the bike market, though Giro says they plan to launch a full female line in spring 2014.
So will Giro New Road revolutionize my cycling wardrobe? The answer is, no—and yes. These pieces will never take the place of a good race kit: I like that comfort and identity in the right situations. But lately I have found myself reaching for the understated look and cushier feel of these pieces for more easygoing rides with friends, even ones that will last a half-day or more. In the same way that I might opt for a button-up and jeans rather than chinos and a blazer, it’s nice to simply have a broader choice in cycling apparel.