Rapha Sky Kit

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I need to be honest. I haven’t worn the kit from a team I wasn’t a member of in probably 15 years. Before I moved to Southern California, I and all of my friends wore any jersey or kit we thought was cool. I had team jerseys from PDM, Z, Gatorade-Chateau d’Ax and even a replica Banania-sponsored maillot jaune like Greg LeMond wore in the ’86 Tour de France. My PDM jersey was arguably my favorite jersey until I got my first UMASS team jersey. I still think the jersey that wrapped the granite bodies of Steven Rooks, Sean Kelly and Gert Jan Theunisse was as gorgeous a design as was ever raced. So why shouldn’t I have worn one?

But then I moved to SoCal. The single most image-conscious place on the planet. A place where, unlike Milan, wherein the sure sign that one is aware of the presence struck is being dressed to the proverbial three cubed, in the land where all the best parts are aftermarket—both on cars and bodies—we go to great lengths to make a sculpted appearance look accidental. What that’s about has dysfunction written all over it. However, I quickly learned on the group rides here that you do not wear the jersey of a team for which you did not ride. A simple rule, I suppose. It might have been the first cycling faux pas I ever encountered, aside from the excommunicable offense of not holding your line.

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All those cool jerseys went in a container in my garage. I think they’re still there. I think. Eventually, I learned that there were exceptions, such as if you were given the jersey by someone attached to the team, especially if that someone was a rider. Fundamentally, the rule was about not reaping the reward of something you hadn’t earned. So for years, I wore only those kits from the teams that sponsored me.

So when I heard that Rapha was going to sponsor Team Sky, I hazarded a few connect-the-dot thoughts. First, I wondered what had taken to long. In a world starved for heaven-made matches, Rapha and Sky are the peanut butter and jelly of the British Isles. I mean, dude. This is cycling’s Brangelina. Next, I admit I wondered what the jersey would be, as in would it be an embroidered no-silkscreen affair. Would Rapha impose its style on the pro peloton? Alas, that didn’t happen. The new Sky kit is rather in keeping with a current trend in kits of, Just how black can we make it? If there’s one thing that does, it make the sky blue pop like a child’s balloon in a palm jungle.

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What I didn’t expect was to receive said kit for review. I’ll admit, when I saw the box, I was torn. I simply don’t wear pro kits anymore. How would I say something true without dissing the pro-kit blunder? I’m certain other places don’t suffer this stricture, but my departure from the realm of cool happened when I stopped being one of the fast guys and that’s been a good 10 years. Point being, I’d like to avoid becoming any less cool ’round these parts.

So I pulled the kit out early one morning and dressed in near dark. There was no denying the quality of the kit as I pulled it on. There’s a synergy of cut and materials that occurs in those best-of-class pieces. They lack that little tug here, stretch there, of lesser garments. The jersey length was just-so—long enough to get your hand in a pocket easily enough but only long enough to reach your waist—a proper pro cut.

I headed into the bathroom for a final pit stop before heading out for the ride when I noticed the side panel I’d missed as I dressed. My name. There it was, billboard bold; my name paired with Old Glory.

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I geek out on clothing with the regularity of moon phases. Occasionally, my wife will spy something and comment on how nice it looks. If she doesn’t comment, I take note. I never, ever, go racing to her and say, “Babe, you gotta check this out.” But that’s what I did with this jersey. I waited for someone on the ride to give me some grief. It seemed as inevitable as a baby barfing, which I can say with considerable authority is definitely inevitable. When it came, I simply lifted my arm and twisted a bit.

“Okay, that’s kinda cool.” Game. Set. Match.

Think back on childhood and the first sports jersey or shirt you wore with your name on it. So long as we’re not talking the plastic name tag of fast-food careers, having your name on your clothing is still cool enough to elicit a smile. When I think about it, it seems like I ought, at this point in life, to be immune to such charms. I’m not. I got stickers with my name and the RKP logo made last year, little ones to stick on top tubes, seat stays or any other place I felt compelled. (I also had a bunch made for RKP’s regular contributors.)

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Rapha is rumored to have spent crazy money, Michael Jackson money, on this sponsorship, so to make it work, they need to be able to make this kit connect with the masses, and really, the best way to do that isn’t with a five-sizes, pro-cut jersey and crappy bibs. For those of you who have spent any time around Beatles memorabilia, you know how each of the Fab Four were marketed within a nose hair of their lives. And no matter who you were, there was a Beatle for everyone. So what is Rapha doing?

Rapha is offering the chance for you to order a Sky jersey with your name and flag on it. Before you suck in a deep breath and hold it, I should mention that it’s only $150. And it comes in six sizes, from XS to XXL. How it is that the brand most often derided for being over-priced is offering a truly custom jersey for only $150, I don’t currently fathom. I don’t need to. What I know is that you can spend more on a jersey that’s no better and still not have your name on it. The replica team jersey goes for $115. Rapha is also offering the national champion jerseys for Great Britain and Norway, plus a Wiggins supporter jersey , both in pro-cut a relaxed-fit version of the Sky jersey with “Wiggo” on the sides (they even do kids’ versions in both cuts). The replica jersey (pro cut) is $120 while the supporter jersey (relaxed fit) is only $65. Has to be the least expensive jersey Rapha has ever offered (save the kids’ version which is only $55. So stop complaining about how pricey their stuff is. There are 13 jerseys, two base layers, five bib shorts, three jackets (oops, two—one is already sold out), jeans, nine shirts, a belt, gloves; heck, there’s even a scarf. A proper Sky fan could remake their entire wardrobe in this stuff.

The Sky bib shorts are very similar to the Pro Team bibs that I reviewed previously. You can read that review here. It’s the same pad, and while the Lycra of the shorts has the same weight and feel as the Pro Team bibs I have been wearing, the fabric in the Sky bibs has just a bit more stretch to it. And like the Pro Team bibs, they also go for $260.

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Rapha is offering the custom jersey for a very limited time. From their release:

The order window opens on Friday 26th April 14.00 GMT and closes on Friday 10th May 15.00 GMT. 

Orders should arrive in time for the Tour.

You’ll be able to order the custom jersey here. You can also see the full range of Sky offerings there as well.

I’ve got my name on a jersey. You can bet your ass I’m going to wear this. And Sky isn’t even my favorite team.

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40 comments

  1. jorgensen

    That rule about not wearing team attire unless you were on the actual team is a pretty old rule.
    It was in effect 40 years ago in SoCal, I felt it was correct, still do. And was probably longstanding before my time, not fashion related, but about being truthful.
    Wearing the team jersey on a club ride WAS correct. (hardly any club had team shorts)
    And if you were cool you wore a patent leather hairnet helmet, or none.

  2. Josh

    The envy I feel for your free Rapha shipments is astounding. I have the Trade Team jersey, the Bordeaux Paris jersey, and my second pair of classic bibs awaiting me at home on my doorstep. That was a big spend.

  3. Q

    When it comes to the best looking pro jerseys, the Norwegian champion’s jersey is consistently one of my favorites.

  4. Champs

    Were I to wear a team kit, it would have to be Shaver Sport or Cinzano.

    No level of fit and finish at any price could make me represent Sky—nor would Sky have me.

  5. Wsquared

    I wouldn’t wear Sky kit for the simple reason that I think they are, for the most part, collectively & including management, a bunch of arrogant jerks.

    As for team kit in general, I rarely wear it, but when I do, I abide by the rule of not wearing anything from an active team, preferably the older, the better. (For one thing, there are a lot of real pro riders that train where I live in Colorado. Not that anybody would mistake a geezer like me for one of them.)

    I also like relatively obscure stuff. For example, I have a funky old red green & yellow Bieme Risso Scotti jersey with rice growing on it that’s really comfortable in hot weather. I also have a 20 year old Cerimiche Areostea (Moreno Argentin era) classics style jersey that my wife buried in the garage that I disinterred. It’s probably the safest jersey I own – alternating bright yellow and red wavy barber pole bands that can probably be seen from outer space. Finally, I got a couple of (now defunct) Cervelo Test Team jerseys after the merger with Garmin because I consider the design iconic, rude one & like everything the old team stood for.

    Btw, when the weather was really awful at Milan San Remo this year, some Sky riders like Ian Stannard, put on unlogoed black Castelli Gabba rain jerseys over their Rapha kit. Several other teams did as well. Function trumped fashion & sponsorship dollars.

  6. Kirknewtoniain

    When I first started cycling, and before I joined a club that connected me to the sport’s tradition, I remember going past a pretty tubby guy labouring his way up wee hill not far from my house. He was wearing the KOTM polka dot jersey from the Tour. It just looked wrong.

    So when I joined my local club and was told that really it was not cool at all to wear a jersey that you hadn’t earned, I thought that they made a lot of sense.

    I really like Rapha stuff but have to say I will not be buying replica team kits or leader jerseys. And I live in Scotland btw, so it’s not just a SoCal thing.

  7. Full Monte

    I’ve heard Team Kit is okay when it becomes vintage. For instance, you can rock a 7/11 jersey if you want now. However, you have to be able to rattle off the key team members from the era your particular Team Kit represents and recite their accomplishments.

    Time to go back to the garage and rummage through the Team Kit box. I’d say anything over 10 years old is fair game, and as a cycling journalist, you probably know more about the riders/records of those who wore those jerseys than Wikipedia.

    Then again, some guys I know purposely break many cycling unwritten rules. Much of our lives are already filled with too much/many rules, traditions, dogma. As such, The Rules serve to make many roadies even more elitist (as if many needed any help), and serve to create classes of riders (subjecting the uninitiated to ridicule and contempt). I can’t help but think this kinda sucks, and is less than welcoming behavior to those taking up the sport.

    I try not to get too hung up on The Rules myself. To each his/her own. Just ride. Take a friend.

  8. Souleur

    I think the only kit that has ever made sense to me (beside my RKP kit) is the Assos ‘support yourself’.

    This Rapha kit is cool, but as a Rule Holist I am, I would not be able to break the rule for 10 years and to buy my stardom in this kit. For one, it cost more than my ole Landcruiser, second, you tend to get relegated in the group off the back like a bad infection, and the gracious recipient of snot rockets is very unbecoming for such pedigree.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Lots of fun/funny comments on this. Keep ‘em coming. I’m way entertained.

      My only addition to the discussion regarding rules is this: Sometimes, you gotta know when to break the rules.

  9. bigwagon

    Is wearing pro team kit on a group ride better, worse, or the same as wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey in a backyard football game?

  10. michael

    fuck the rules. you know what rules? chaos theory. embrace your inner bad-ass self, revel in your own personal anarchy. and rock that team kit like it’s going out of style. team sky identity building kit included.

    besides, how many of you slagging on pro team kit belong to clubs and have your own “team” kit made in order to feel some sense of identity?

    i call that ironic.

  11. Wsquared

    Went for a short ride before dinner yesterday. Came upon a guy riding in full green Europcar kit: jersey, shorts & gloves, riding with a lady friend. The really weird part was that he was a drop dead ringer for Floyd Landis. Separated at birth. 30 something, same build, same jaw line, freckles, the close cropped reddish beard & mustache. I had this urge to shout at him, “no dude, Phonak, not Europcar!” I kept my mouth shut, but couldn’t get that image out of my head.

    If somebody wants to represent for his favorite rider or team, I don’t have any problem with it at all. My “rules” are for myself and have changed a lot over the years . Right now, I’m in a “black” phase. But aren’t cyclist in general some of the most self conscious dressers in sports? Recent bits in “Bicycling” included what sock heights are “in” and the stern warning to not mix different brands of shorts & jerseys when you ride. Seriously!

    1. Robot

      My group of friends refers to mixing brands in your kit as “perpetrating.” In one of the great mysteries of our little cult, perpetrating can either be a good thing or a bad thing. You can be mocked (playfully) or admired for it. I am an avid perpetrator. I don’t like to apply rules to the pursuit of fun. I have enough rules in my life.

  12. noel

    If you wear this I’m totally making you go to a Lakers game dressed head to toe in Kobe’s unifrom ready to be called off the bench. And then we’re going to a Guns and Roses cover band show and you have to dress up like Slash. I mean, why limit such radness to one small part of life? Go big Patrick. Go big.

    Except for the Hoiday Ride… which used to be the one ride you were supposed to wear team kit.. to totally dork out and self-depricate. What ever happened to that tradition? What have we become?

  13. Andrew

    “being dressed to the proverbial three cubed”

    Dressed to the twenty-sevens? You must do things differently in SoCal.
    ;)

  14. Souleur

    wow…perpetrator

    I have heard of alot of things, but that one is a new one

    Now that i think a little on it (as that is all I can ever muster), that is fitting. At first I thought ‘creeper’ but actually that is befitting of what I mentioned as the rule breaker…your a perpetrator

    sweet, i have a new word now

    I’m going to use it all day now

  15. Josh

    “Prepetrator” originated on the basketball court. If a guy was wearing Jordan shorts with Reebok shoes, or Nike socks with Adidas shoes, that guy was a “perpetrator” or he was “perpetrating.” I never thought it would make its way to cycling.
    The Clymb had some great simplistic Campy jerseys that I liked, but I didn’t pull the trigger because I ride SRAM and I didn’t want to be a perpetrator (I had carried these feelings over from outside of cycling, obviously). My buddy who rides Campy said just to buy what I like, but I couldn’t do it.
    I have only been road cycling since January, but I have spent a lot of time and money getting up to speed. The issue I struggle with most is being a poser.
    I would consider myself a poser if I wore a Team Sky personalized jersey, just like I would seem like a poser if I wore a Steve Nash jersey to play basketball (Suns, of course. When he went to the Lakers he died to me). If guys have been cycling for a long time and are really good (my campy-riding buddy, for instance), then they can likely do whatever they want to do and be alright. But as a new cyclist, I think it would be super lame for me to wear that jersey. Like a Johnny come lately.
    I hear the guys who say just to be who you are and wear what you want, but I feel like I need to follow the rules for a while until I decide which rules to break and which to keep.
    Moment of total candor: I bought a Lezyne pump (tiny little thing) that came with a little clip that fastens by my bottle cage. After reading the rules, I removed the clip and have kept it in my jersey pocket ever since. The other night I put it back on and am not sure whether to leave it on or not. I am a grown man and these rules actually are making me think twice. I must have never left 8th grade.

  16. Andrew

    Having a somewhat odd sense of humor, I keep thinking about trying to collect the full set of blatantly EPO-driven team jerseys, Festina, Gewiss, etc. Only the “cool” ones, though- never Postal/Discovery.

  17. Brent

    1986 La Vie Claire TdF jersey w/ the battery pack on the back of the jersey. The best jersey I’ve ever seen, and have one in my collection.

  18. Wsquared

    Brent – I’ll “see” your jersey and raise you a vintage La Vie Claire satin poly front plus 100% wool jacket. The peak of 1980s tech in excellent condition. Best of all, it still fits me! I like to ride it in the Winter on my 1989 Look KG 76 “Hinault” with period Shimano 7400 bits.

  19. Peter lin

    Reading the comments is great fun. I’m of the mindset. Who cares what you wear as long as you’re riding and having fun. A day on the road spinning the wheel is much healthier than sitting in front of the TV watching games and getting fat. If wearing cool looking gear helps, then go for it. Every body has their own rituals for getting out and getting motivated.

    Personally I can’t justify spending top dollar for cycling gear, so I go middle of the road. If it happens to have team logo, I could give a damn. As long as it fits and is good value, it’s good to go. Hell, it doesn’t even have to cool, as long as it’s not butt ugly.

  20. Josh

    I blatantly break the “no team kit” rule when I feel like it. Similarly, I wear my Blackhawks jersey when I get to go to see the ‘Hawks play. I view it as supporting my team.
    After checking with Frank and Gianni over at Velominati, their rule states that if you don team kit, for a team of which you are not a member, all pieces must match. I am short team gloves and socks, so I guess I am a wanker…
    As to trying to claim something I have not earned, I am 6’1″ and 270 lbs; no one will think I ride for a pro team. I wouldn’t wear team kit to a race, just for a group ride or a solo outing.
    I try to remember that we are grown adults riding bikes that cost more than some new cars, wearing skin tight Lycra outfits, worrying about being cool…
    If your worried, the rules won’t save you. I am off to ride like a lion; it is my day to ride 100 km.

  21. michael

    If you all want to be entertained, imagine that every single one of these comments is being read out loud by Samuel L. Jackson, with a mofo added to the end of each sentence.

    SNAKES ON A PLANE!

  22. nrs5000

    I might just have to perpetrate my old Primal Wear AC/DC jersey onto some Rapha bibs one of these days soon, now that I have a word for it.

  23. Mike

    Only race kit I’ll rock that I didn’t earn is 7-11, but that puppy’s thicker than my ski pants and won’t stretch a nanometer. If it’s indicative of what those guys actually wore at the Giro, they were tougher than a 20-year old tubular.

    All that aside, that Sky-Rapha kit is hot. Take off the “Sky” and I’d totally wear it.

  24. Steve O

    The triumph of emotions over math, of ideology over metrics.

    Did anyone in the history of club rides ever look at someone in a team kit and ask, wonder if he rides for them?

    No.

    Did anyone ever put on a team kit and think he was fooling anyone into believing he raced for them?

    No.

    One can make up all of the “disrespect for the team” analysis that one wants. Bottom line, this is an imaginary, pirely theoretical, and completely time wasting concern.

    But it does shine a light on human nature.

  25. ktula

    If the team kit is only issued to team members only, i can understand why it would be ridiculous for someone who does not ride for that team to wear it. But to say that someone should not be wearing the team kit from a pro cycling team just because that individual does not ride for the team is stupid. This is equivalent to saying no Seattle Mariners fans should be wearing any Mariners merchandise because they are not part of the Mariners’ organization.

  26. MattS

    Up here in Ottawa, Canada, its a lot colder most of the year, but we have the same unwritten rule. Like everywhere else, that means we wear the same stuff all season, or for seasons on end, while we have other stuff collecting dust in the closet. So, I decided to to use our annual hill climb TT to try a non-team requirement. This ‘forced/allowed’ riders to pull out their dusty old stuff from the 90s, or their Rapha they got from their wife for x-mas, or perhaps Michael Barry’s old Saturn skinsuit (yes, that’s what I wore). It was a good time. Since, the event has evolved into a mix of weird kit and full-blown costumes. Its a fun way to break up the same ol’ and let the other stuff see the light of day.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/44666134@N04/sets/72157630766020828/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/44666134@N04/sets/72157627084179068/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/44666134@N04/sets/72157625018897290/

  27. bottombracket

    “Did anyone in the history of club rides ever look at someone in a team kit and ask, wonder if he rides for them?”

    I led some local club rides when the usual leader was in hospital.
    On one of these rides a ‘new guy’ turned up. He had a domestic team jersey on with rainbow bands on the cuffs.
    I assumed it was something he had bought. Turns out he was/is a Master/Vet World Champ sprinter and a UK record holder!

    Later on the ride we stopped at a village shop so he could buy a pack of smokes…

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