Finally, cycling clothes that look good – and keep you dry. All power to the pedlars of chic on two wheels.
The American civil rights leader Susan B Anthony was under no illusions as to the importance of the humble bike when it came to the women’s movement – in both senses of the word. “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” she said. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood.”
I hear you, Susan, really I do. But it has taken the clothing industry a long time to wake up and smell the chain grease. A pair of padded shorts and Day-Glo vest are all very well when you’re cycling for fitness; commuting has a very different set of requirements, ranging from freedom of movement to water and windproofing but, most of all, the desire to look presentable in the process. And, in the week before the clocks go back, visibility in the gloomy mornings.
Some people balk at the wearing of a helmet, but Carrera’s foldable one (£59.99) is so simple and stylish, it’s astonishing no one has come up with the idea before now. Breathable and comfortable, it compresses into about half the size for ease of stuffing in a bag. I love this cool kimono-style parka from Cyclodelic (£159), which comes in a soft microfibre fabric that is water-repellent, while the high collar keeps out the worst of the wind and the reflective piping ensures you can be seen.
For more thorough protection from the elements, the bright red waterproof poncho (£88) from Cycle Chic ticks all the maximum-coverage boxes. Team it with matching Dublin Leggits (£44.99), which fit over any shoes (even heels) and keep muddy splashes off your legs. Genius.
And the best gloves I’ve found so far are the string-backed, leather Gantoli ones (£20) from Saddle and Spoke. For a more sporty look, I like the Louis Garneau Elite gloves (£19.99, Evans).
After weather-proofing, being able to move freely is the next priority. Hungarian design brand Urban Legend ships to the UK and has a seriously stylish range of both outerwear and general cycling wear. I especially love the Blueberry dress (€75), with deep armholes and reflective belt, the Oily leggings (€29) and Danube jacket (€165), with its long back, roomy hood and raglan shoulders.
Danish label Baum und Pferdgarten does not design specifically for cycling, but has some great sports luxe pieces in its AW13 collection, including a pair of burgundy, biker-style leggings (£129) and matching elbow-length tee (£99).
Online, at Then And Now, the Milky Way-print leggings from American Retro (£101.50) caught my eye, along with the Teatum Jones Elvin belt in fluorescent lime (£91), Eugene Lin’s grey vest (£82.50) and, for a touch of luxury, Pinghe’s baby sheepskin jacket (an investment piece at £498).
Swrve now makes men’s jeans specifically for cycling (£80), cut low at the front and high at the back, and with bike-friendly features including a seamless, gusseted crotch, articulated knees and spacious back pockets, as well as a reflective strip on the inside right leg, which is exposed when you turn up the chain-side leg. They also benefit from looking good enough to wear anywhere (and small enough sizes for most women).
And I can’t get enough of Dashing Tweeds’ splendid cycling jacket (£680), with its reflective panel on the back and open underarms, inspired by 18th-century horseback armour, no less.
Pack all your excess baggage up in Basil Memories’ recycled canvas double pannier (£71.99) from Evans Cycles, which has bags of space, though can be a tad fiddly to keep strapping to the rack. More stylish is the Ally Capellino-designed Cavo pannier (£175) that clips neatly and securely on to a rack, then doubles as a good-looking cross-body bag when you’re using two legs instead of two wheels.
• www.cyclechic.co.uk; cyclodelic.myshopify.com; www.saddleandspoke.co.uk; urbanlegend.cc; Baum und Pferdgarten at Frontiers, Edinburgh (www.frontiersboutique.com); www.thenandnowshop.com; www.swrve.co.uk; www.dashingtweeds.co.uk; www.evanscycles.com; www.allycapellino.co.uk