“Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone” - Joni Mitchell

Cycling used to be the most beautiful sport. Beauty in both its purest sense, the aesthetic, and in the broader sense of the combination of all the qualities of a thing that delight the senses and mind.

Think of Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil or Eddy Merckx in their knitted jerseys, mid-thigh length shorts, perforated leather shoes with white ankle socks and cotton caps. Racing elegant Italian steel framed bikes equipped with exquisite, well engineered components that epitomised good design in that they looked as well as they functioned.

Add the pain and suffering of riders pushing themselves beyond physical limits comprehensible to most people and spectacular backdrops like the French Alps or Italian Dolomites and no other sport could touch cycling’s imagery. No other sportsman looked as cool as a racing cyclist.

Things have changed. Instead of knitted tops in natural colours, riders now wear lycra often with hideous day glow colour combinations. Cotton caps have been replaced by helmets and steel frames with traditional Italian lines and geometry have been replaced with bulbous, disgusting, plastic perversions of the that classic design. And these frames are fitted with freakshow components that belie their designers’ slavery to reducing weight at all costs.

Professional cyclists will always look cool because of their rake like, chiseled physiques and because of the sport itself. The images of cyclists putting themselves to the sword in the most beautiful scenery in the world will always be striking. But modern professionals manage to look cool despite the clothes they wear and the bikes they ride rather than because of them.

Antoine Ventouse 

Comments on this post (2)

  • Jan 01, 2014

    There are still a few riders who are strong or confident enough to resist the pull of mass production, commercialisation, consumerism and peer pressure.
    My 16 year old son trains and races on hand made steel frames. We choose components based on their performance not on trend. He has chosen to race for a club which has no sponsorship despite several offers from sponsored teams.
    He rides regulary in chain gangs where the elders teach the young riders the necessary biking etiquette (a subject of interviews with famous riders on your site).
    There is a movement in this direction. Admittedly it’s a small number of young riders who feel this is important to their apprenticeship but they exist. A ride of a 100 miles starts with one pedal turn.
    Ride on and keep the faith.

    — Christopher Wefing

  • Dec 31, 2013

    Nicely written Thom. Ult, Graeme and I did an interview with Simon Crompton for Permanent Style on this topic that you might find interesting:

    Sublimation’s partially to blame, devils work…

    — james

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