Giro New Road Apparel, Part I

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When I first began riding—not to put too fine a point on it—I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I know a great many riders who had the good fortune to be initiated into the sport by family members or friends, but I bought a bike and was instantly on my own. I rode in cotton—T-shirt, skivvies, shorts, sneakers—because I knew nothing about what I was supposed to do. Back then, I rode as much for transportation as I did for fun, and because the city I lived in wasn’t densely populated, it wasn’t hard to ride anywhere I wanted to go. Arriving sweaty wasn’t a problem because spring, summer and the early fall in the South are as hot and sticky as duct tape on the sun. Riding a bike made me only marginally sweatier than everyone else.

But then I learned about wool, about polyester, about stiff-soled shoes, the concept of wicking. My comfort increased in ways I didn’t know how to measure, but couldn’t mistake. Increased comfort allowed me to ride longer and faster—no more adjusting the tighty-whities on the fly. But something else happened along the way that, in retrospect, was both good and bad.

I met other cyclists and began doing group rides. Riding for transportation waned. I’m not even sure of how or why, but after going a summer on a single tank of gas, I began using my car again and restricted my bike riding to training rides. Somehow, even then, I was unwilling to put on man-made textiles for basic transportation.

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Fast-forward 25 years. I live in a place where I can ride virtually every day of the year. The terrain is flat enough for riding for errands. I held some jobs that allowed me to commute and keep a change of clothes at the office so I could change out of my wet cycling clothing. Still, that did northing for when I wanted to run to the store on my bike.

As it turns out, the revelatory nature of riding in proper cycling clothing was my personal apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Once I’d had a taste of that comfort, I was unwilling to go back.

Things are different now.

Giro, along with several other apparel makers are offering cycling clothing that doesn’t exactly look like cycling clothing. I’m not talking the baggy shorts and jerseys that have been the signature of mountain biking for 10 years, but stuff that bridges the distance between functional comfort and something you can walk through a grocery store while wearing without getting the patented sidelong-glance normally reserved for any garment in a neon color.

Last winter, when Giro introduced the New Road line, the mantra I was told multiple times at the presentation was, “No more heroes.” This was on the heels of the USADA Reasoned Decision, so we can forgive any company in the bike industry—even one-time Armstrong sponsor Giro—for wanting to put a bit of daylight between them and doped pros.

Giro’s pitch was that the New Road line would be stuff you could go out and knock out a 60-mile ride in. Yeah, you might be able to do that and be comfortable, but what I wear when I’m out for a ride, a ride where the purpose of riding is actual riding, not one in which the riding is just meant as transportation to get me to an errand, well I’m okay with that continuing to be from man-made fibers. I don’t need that to change. I’ll add that my initial sense was that while the new Air Attack helmet has struggled to find acceptance with anyone, my only issue with the New Road line is that I think the pitch is a bit off.

This stuff is exactly what I’ve been looking for errand-running and riding with my son. When I took the family to Los Angeles’ most recent CicLAvia event, I rode a city bike and wore the New Road pieces. Same deal when I showed up for a mountain bike ride recently. I knew the friend I would be riding with wouldn’t be Lycra-clad, so I figured I might show up in somewhat similar garb. I must have looked okay because he didn’t say I looked like I’d lost my heavy metal band.

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I’ve been wearing five different pieces from this collection and I can say with some conviction that had this stuff been available when I first started riding, I probably would never have graduated to polyester and Lycra. Here’s the thing: I was a pretty serious nonconformist. I played drums in a rock band that was part of the local music circuit. I was used to getting weird looks. However, cycling clothing was weird looking even to me.

Given my wardrobe in 1986, that’s really saying something.

Had the Giro New Road line been available, I’d have purchased this stuff instead. I wasn’t yet indoctrinated into roadiedom. Like I said, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but functional clothing sells itself. It’s likely I would have eventually graduated to traditional cycling clothing, if only for the simple reason that I found my way to bike racing and group rides. Certainly the distance between Points A, B and C would have been shorter if someone at a shop had taken me under a helpful wing, but I was in the sport for nearly three years before I found a club that would have me. Xenophobic much?

As I mentioned, I can’t say I’m with Giro on the idea that this could replace my traditional kit for training rides. I don’t need that to change. But cycling clothing that doesn’t look like cycling clothing is something my life really did need. I want to have clothing that will allow me to walk through a grocery store without people wondering if I’m lost or deranged. I want cycling clothing that does what cycling clothing does (keep me comfortable), so I can ride to the store, or with my son, or to a lunch appointment and not arrived shiny with sweat and wearing clothing that won’t dry out until well after I take it off.

It really comes down to a single, simple idea for me: Just keep me as comfortable as I’d be when riding my bike otherwise, and then I can ride my bike more.

Looking normal and feeling comfortable requires no selling.

In Part II, I’ll discuss my experience riding in these pieces.

 

Images courtesy Giro

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17 comments

  1. bigwagon

    I’ll be interested to see what you have to say about the shorts and pants they offer. Tops don’t seem like much of a challenge, but I’m curious how they have made lowers that are comfortable for a long ride and don’t make you look like you have been squeezed into a sausage casing.

  2. Margaret Smiddy

    After reading this, I went to the Giro site to see what they had for women. I was thinking this is great, bike clothes for getting around town, I like the concept.

    Sadly, they have nothing for women at all. I hope they develop some women’s clothes and am not sure why they didn’t develop apparel for both genders at the same time.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Margaret: I respect and understand your frustration. I’ll be spending some time in the Giro booth at Interbike next week and am hopeful they will be announcing some additions to the line. Giro has never been one to ignore women’s needs. Stay tuned.

  3. tinytim

    This new Giro comfort/casual/functional line fits my bill for commuting and dry mtn rides for sure. But I wonder if this stuff is good for the long and hard road rides, where food, spare clothes, tools, and an extra water bottle is stuffed into the rear three pockets. Add some rain and mud and it seems as though the jersey could get all loose and floppy, which is always a downer when you try to attack your buddy and your jersey resembles a brides gown train. I like the tight and modern race cut jerseys that will stay above the waist while loaded down, and then still offer additional storage underneath the jersey itself, ala stuffing a rain cape camel hump style.

  4. blacksocks

    Hi, @Margaret

    We are very excited for the debut of New Road clothing for women in the early Spring of 2014. The line will be on display at Interbike, and you can find some info on the web from the recent Eurobike show if you want to get a preview.

    The reason for the delay is simple – we needed to find an authentic women’s designer to create the line. Rushing a line to market just to have it timed with the men’s collection would have resulted in clothing that didn’t meet our objectives or our customers’ needs. Our Women’s New Road clothing is not men’s garb “sized” for women. The entire line – 22 pieces – is unique and designed by a woman who rides, for women, and features appropriate fabrics, finishes and designs that we believe in. We will not be releasing full details until we get closer to retail, but I’m sure you’ll see coverage from Interbike. Let us know what you think – your feedback is welcome. Thank you – Eric Richter @ Giro

  5. blacksocks

    @Padraig, I look forward to more detail on your experience, and to having time with you at Interbike to share how the product is evolving with the seasons and rider feedback. As for the pitch – like any great record or live show – the opening track might sound different than the second or the third – but the essence of the band remains the same. We’re as committed to innovations for racing and performance (the Air Attack and the Empire shoe as recent examples) as we are to New Road and the chance to get more people comfortably riding in their own style.

    @TinyTim – A fair question in there…and Feedback is welcome and part of the DNA in all great products. FYI – I regularly ride with tools, pump, phone, a 25c tubular or tube, and warmers or gloves in my pockets and the jersey plus underbib is great for storage. That said, we put a lot of thought into the details for New Road. What looks like a plain wool jersey might offer more than meets the eye. If you’re inclined, check out http://www.giro.com/us_en/newroad/#tech for a closer look at some of the “under the hood” features that are built in.

    Thank you.

    Eric @ Giro

  6. Les.B.

    The two riders in the top picture are okay sporting this earth-toned clothing out on the trail. But for urban riding, the earth tones are effectively camo wear, blending the cyclists into the background and making it easy for drives of cars to miss seeing the cyclists.

    But then again, almost all urban riders show no concern about maximizing their visibility, so Giro is probably right on the button for the target market.

  7. Maremma Mark

    A timely piece. I’ve been riding in lycra for 25 years, the two years before that I was in wool. In all these years of riding it never really crossed my mind that anything better existed, until about two years ago. Sure, I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect riding jacket for decades but I mean jerseys and especially shorts. I’ve about had it with lycra, when it’s really hot I can barely stand it anymore. During the winter the love affair is back on but come spring and summer I’m suffering. That sausage casing feeling, now more than ever with the irritating gripper strip, leaves me yanking and pulling every which way on my shorts trying to find some relief. So maybe this new clothing line by Giro is right up my alley.
    Some riding buddies swear by the Rapha touring shorts but they’re so long in the leg that you have to roll them up. Yes, we’re finicky and picky as hell. We wouldn’t be cyclists if we weren’t. When you’re in the saddle for hours and hours comfort translates into performance. And it has to look good too. A tall order.

  8. Bart

    This is exactly the type of thing I’ve been looking for! I saw these products at the LBS a month or two ago but didn’t know what I was looking at. I just went back and got the SS Marino Crew and the 40M Tech overshorts. The shirt has three pockets in the back and the shorts have a small key pocket in the front and a small phone pocket on one leg. I will ride them home from work today and see how they perform. I plan to wear my normal bibs underneath when riding more than just quick errands. The LBS didn’t have the bibs or undershorts. I looked briefly at some of the other items in the line but wanted to just try the basics to start. I’ll report in a few days on how they work for me.

  9. Rich

    ‘ . . . there’s nothing new under the Sun . . .’

    I look at this and then look at the pictures from Touring Road cyclists in the 50/60′s. I think in many ways it harks back to those days while bringing it up to date. I don’t think it’s for everyone, in the same way that I don’t think Assos is for everyone, but I can see a need for this new/old fledgling arena. I too will be looking forward to seeing it at Interbike.

  10. PedalRon

    Can I ride in this clothing if I don’t have a beard?

    I really am curious when all these dudes put down their Pabsts and took up road cycling. Is this the natural progression of guys who jumped on the fixster wagon and now realize bikes with gears and more than pub runs are fun? I don’t get it. Between Rapha and these Giro picks, the market must be tight out there for bearded cyclo models.

    I do all kinds of riding but it seems as if this is part of an anti-roadie movement. I wear Lycra, I don’t use a power meter and I don’t bore others with my staggering stats. When I do fun rides with non-serious friends I wear bibs or shorts with a regular pair of light outdoorsy shorts over them. Problem solved.

    I’m always glad to see new products for a broad ranger of cyclists, but I wonder if this is targeting new people to sell stuff too or really addressing a need. Lord knows if you’ve ever gone in an REI on a Saturday there are a lot of damn people who really don’t look like cyclists or kayakers or hikers or campers shopping. Even very specific products for very specific sports…seem like just one more thing people want to spend their money on.

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