I was watching A Sunday in Hell again recently, the wonderfully atmospheric Danish documentary that followed the likes of Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser and Freddie Maertens as they battled for supremacy over the pavé of Paris-Roubaix in 1976.
These were the halcyon days of cycling, when Flandrian hard men ground themselves into the granite cobbles of northern Europe and the cyclists endured the Grand Tours without the pampered assistance of backroom staff, proffering them individually wrapped rice cakes and beetroot juice.
Our fascination with the racing of this period , and the cyclists who graced them, has not dimmed over the decades. If anything, it has intensified. For those of you who have never watched A Sunday in Hell (and you must!) the film opens with the riders arriving for the showdown: de Vlaemink getting a massage, Merckx tinkering with his saddle height, Maertens discussing tactics. As the riders head north out of the Parisian suburb of Amiens, dodging protesting newspaper print workers on the way, it is the wonderful retro kit of the riders that, for me personally, continues to steal the show - fantastic technicolour slabs of colours combined with the strong fonts of iconic sponsors. A visual feast for the retro cycling fan.
It's no surprise therefore, that contemporary designers continue to draw on the inspiration from this era. One just has to glance at the number of Molteni jerseys on display at any given sportive to realise that the market for faithfully reproduced reproductions of the jerseys worn by the great teams of the past are as popular now as they were in their heyday!
The success of the vintage bicycle L'Eroica sportive (above), part ridden over the white gravel strade bianche roads of Tuscany, and also the inaugural L'Eroica Britannia spin-off, held in the Peak District in June, is further evidence that the allure of cycling days long excites many. In both events, participants can only ride on 'heroic bikes' dating from 1987 or before and the majority ensure that their cycling attire matches the year of their bike, more or less. Vintage cycling cloth stands do a roaring trade at L'Eroica and participants will pay as much attention to the authenticity of their bike set-up as to their wardrobe!
We have featured some of the best retro jerseys in the past on Wheelsuckers, but the jerseys featured had a distinctly Giro-esque flavour, but below are five currently on the market that have a broader appeal - contemporary takes on some classics of the past.
La Casera -Bahamontes
The striking La Casera-Bahamontes is a new jersey for 2014 from Prendas Ciclismo - the online retailers with a reputation for faithfully reproducing jerseys from the past. The majority celebrate the great teams of Italian cycling, but the La Casera-Bahamontes jersey marks a geographical shift westwards for Prendas to Spain. The jersey is a near perfect replica of the top worn by the Spanish team of the early 1970's, which was partly managed by the famous Italian climber, Federico Bahamontes, otherwise known as 'The Eagle of Toledo'.
La Casera-Bahamontes were a middle ranking team, though the team secured a stage win at the 1970 Giro d'Italia and Pedro Torres (right) won a mountain stage and secured the polka-dot jersey in the Tour de France in 1973 (the same year that his compatriot, Luis Ocaña, won the race).
Prendas, working in close collaboration with the Italian manufacturer Santini, have endeavoured to keep the design of the La Casera-Bahamontes jersey as faithful to the original as possible - the 14cm zip does not cut through the sponsor's logo, for example. There are numerous modern additions, not least in the soft lycra material, the reflective SMS logo and three rear pockets.
The jersey is beautifully constructed - the detailing around the neckline and sleeves is of a high quality for a jersey in this price bracket. The rear pockets are roomy and supportive and the addition of the small zipped pocket is a nice flourish. The reflective SMS log on the back is reassuringly robust, but does not detract from the overall look of the jersey. The material used is the lycra based Mircrosense, made by the Italian fabric manufacturer SITIP . It's a soft and comfortable fabric on the skin, quick drying and with good breathability, so can be paired with a baselayer.
It also come in a wide spectrum of sizes, from a 32" chest XXS to the whopping 8XL jersey, which will accomodate a 55"girth! It's a striking retro jersey - definitely up with some of the classic Italian jerseys in the Prendas stable and, rather ironically, the red, green and white combination recalls the Italian tricolore, (prompting a Neapolitan friend of mine to assume it was a Italian!). The sponsor, La Casera, is one of the most popular soft drinks in Spain, often mixed with wine to make a fruity cocktail called Tinto de Verano - a refreshing cocktail to have after a hot dusty ride in the Spanish sun, which would no doubt taste even finer when consumed wearing this top!
The La Casera-Bahamontes jersey retails at £49.95 and a matching cotton cap is also available. For more information visit Prendas Ciclismo. (DN)
Shutt Velo Rapide Isobel Jersey
We first came across Shutt Velo Rapide at the London Bike Show in February this year and it was great talking to the enthusiastic team behind this young British label and learn more about the ethos behind the brand and the genesis of some of their growing stable of garments.
The Isobel Jersey is recent edition to their women's range - a wonderfully modern, funky take on a retro cycling jersey, designed by Shutt's award winning, in-house designer, Lucy Gardner.
The Isobel is certainly an eye-catching jersey, constructed from Italian fabrics and with a flattering, female specific cut. The polka dots on the white band over the chest, which playfully recall the Tour de France 'King of the Mountains' jersey, compliment the purple colour, yet do not overwhelm it - an effective flourish and a nice little acknowledgement of La Grande Boucle.
There is some wonderfully subtle detailing in this jersey - the reflective lining on the full length zip and little touches, like the matching purple zip pull and the polka dots repeated on the central rear pocket. The jersey is beautifully constructed too, with a good combination of colours and fabrics: I particularly love the white neck line and sleeves and the venting on the side panels is a reminder that this jersey never forgets that it is geared towards rider comfort.
There are other aspects of the jersey I rate too: the reflective piping on the hem and rear pocket are subtle, yet effective. The rear pockets are substantial, but did not sag, despite my attempts to cram them to full capacity and the addition of the small zipped pocket (below) is useful for valuables and comes with a decent ring pull that makes unzipping straightforward. How many times do rear zipped pockets come with a small tab that you can spend days flapping about trying to find? It's not rocket science, but many get it wrong, but not Shutt.
On the bike the jersey is exceedingly comfortable - the lycra is 90% polyester and 10% spandex, so feels very soft, but is stretchy and unrestrictive, even when riding on the drops. The Isobel was tested in the recent warm weather - around 22°C, but in blustery winds. Paired with a fine mesh sleeveless vest the jersey felt very comfortable - providing good ventilation, but protection against the wind too. Body temperature, critically, was kept at a constant - no overheating, which suggests it wicks very effectively in the summer heat. I'd love to have tested this in hotter conditions, but alas the UK weather turned against me, though I feel confident from a couple of outings that this is a jersey that will provide good comfort on longer rides in far warmer conditions.
The overall look of the jersey and the attention to details suggest that Shutt Velo Rapide is a brand that places huge emphasis on the small details that matter - even the size and colour of the polka dots that grace the front band had to go through several manifestations before the perfect size and colour range was decided. The team at ShuttVR are all keen cyclists and this is also very apparent with this jersey - the quality of the construction coupled with the performance and practicality of the design all shine though. As someone who rides longer, recreational rides I would recommend this garment, but I would argue that the colour combinations and the design make it suitable for less high tempo, city cycling too. Cycling fashionistas. I daresay, would be more than happy to be seen cruising around the streets of East London in this jersey! It's not often that a design can straddle so many camps.
The polka dot theme of the Isobel is also carried through to several of the female specific garments from the ShuttVR collection, including the Marianne Jersey and its matching sleeveless vest and even cropping up on a neckband. Shutt have a good range of cycle clothing for both men and women, though the genesis of the Isobel jersey was a conscious decision to introduce a more feminine line, without losing sight of the fact that women also like to ride at a high tempo. With this jersey I look forward to leaving some of my male cycling friends flailing in my polka-dotted wake!
The Isobel Jersey is priced at £79.00 and comes in sizes from XS to XXL, which accomodates a bust measurement of between 32" and 40". For more information on the Isobel Jersey and their stylish collection of cycling garments for both men and women, visit the Shutt Velo Rapide website. (HA)
Pella Cynar Wool Jersey
We have featured the Italian manufacturer Pella on Wheelsuckers before - their replica Cinzano jersey and bib shorts, made famous by the hilarious Pro-Am bike race in the cult American coming of age cycling film, Breaking Away, is a particular favourite from their collection of retro cycling jerseys.
Keeping with the aperitif theme, Pella have introduced the new Cynar wool jersey. Cynar, in case you are not familiar with it, is a bittersweet Italian liqueur flavoured by artichokes and often mixed with orange juice, but its association with cycling dates from the 1960's when the company invested huge amounts of its marketing budget into the high profile sport.
Cynar's most famous son was Vittorio Adorni, who was runner-up in the Giro d'Italia in 1963 when riding for the team, picking up a couple of stage wins in the process. Cynar competed mainly on the domestic scene, so not surprisingly Adorni soon negotiated a lucrative agreement with the famous Salvarani team, going on to win the Giro outright in 1965.
Vittorio Adorni, in the Cynar team kit, probably photographed in 1963.
The jersey is comprised of 50% merino wool and 50% acrylic, the latter is used to increase durability and stop the bobbling of the wool. The merino wool is a wonderful, naturally wicking fabric - soft on the skin and with anti-bacterial properties. For those who like the 'look' of the jersey, but err towards more contemporary fabrics, Pella also manufacture the same design but in a lycra based polyester.
There is no escaping the fact that this is not a subtle jersey, but if like me you love the original 60's and 70's cycling jerseys with the shouty colour combos and the bold typefaces, then this is one for you! Funnily enough, the jersey reminded me of the iconic Brooklyn Chewing Gum cycling team synonymous with 'Mr Paris-Roubaix' himself, Roger de Vlaeminck, (left) though the Cynar design pre-dated that famous jersey by nearly a decade, which is . . . interesting.
This jersey has three good pockets and fairly long sleeves, but the overall fit is comfortable and the vertical stripes are very flattering! It has a nice adaptable collar too, with a short zip, but I particularly like the proper stitched sponsors name, which gives it a great authenticity. Like all wool shirts it would get more uncomfortable the longer you're sweating in the saddle, but I would definitely wear it for a long L'Eroica type ride. The ultimate criteria for me, however, is whether I would wear it when not cycling.... and in certain circumstances, yes, I think I just might!
The Cynar Wool Jersey, along with the others in the Pella merino range, retails at £125 and is available online at www.rosasport.co.uk. (WC)
The bright orange may suggest this has a Dutch heritage, but the vibrant San Pellegrino jersey is very much rooted in the Lombardy region of Italy, the home of the famous mineral water with which it shares its name. Working alongside the Italian manufacturers, Santini, the San Pellegrino jersey is a modern incarnation of the jersey worn by the Italian domestic cycling, San Pellegrino, that arrived on the domestic cycling scene in the late 1950's, sponsored by the famous natural waters of the town.
The unmistakable Fausto Coppi, pictured with his great rival, Gino Bartali, resplendent in a long-sleeve San Pellegrino jersey.
This is a jersey close to the heart of the founders of Wheelsuckers, as it was selected as the 'Tour Jersey' for an annual trip to Mallorca taken every Spring with their cycling buddies. When we all wore the jersey it was a sight to behold, garnering many appreciative comments from cyclists from around the Globe, enquiring where they could buy it and what, exactly, was the relevance of the San Pellegrino logo! We rarely get that much attention, believe me.
The authentic 14cm zip ensures the San Pellegrino logo over the chest remains intact, yet the quality 100% polyester fabric used by Santini in the making of this jersey ensure that breathability is good and even in warmer temperatures the jersey performs well, though paired with a vest it can be a little too warm and one was hankering for a fuller zip when the temperature moved up towards 30°C.
An unexpected benefit of this jersey is the fact that it makes you highly visible on the road - in murkier conditions or with failing light, I have felt a little more at ease on the road when wearing the San Pellegrino.
Made in Italy and exclusive to Prendas Ciclismo, the San Pellegrino jersey is priced at £49.95 and, as is usual with the sizing option offered by Prendas, comes in a huge variety of sizes to accommodate the most elfin grimpeur and those who weep over their headtube whenever a 2% gradient hones into view. For just £7.50 you can complete the look with the matching cotton cap and Prendas also offer a long sleeve, full length zip version for £69.95 - a stylish, hi-viz jersey for the Autumn, I would propose? (NW)
Rapha Trade Team Jersey
Rapha have drawn on the history of cycling to underpin the very ethos of the label. Their whole marketing strategy has been based on the epic tales of riders from the past and their designs - just like the name of the brand itself - are a conscious nod to the stylish designs of the past and the heroic connotations.
It's surprising, therefore, that it was only this year that the upmarket unveiled three jerseys that exhibited far more that a sideways glance at the iconic jerseys of the 1970's. The trio of Trade Team Jersey celebrate the Giro of 1974, more specifically three magnificent riders and three great teams that graced the podium of the Italian Tour of that year: Eddy Merckx/Molteni, Gianbattista Baronchelli/SCiC and Felice Gimondi/Bianchi-Campagnolo.
The jerseys are made of the same merino blend fabric of Rapha's best selling Classic jersey, so provides excellent performance and durability and all feature full zips and a wonderful attention to detail, not only in the quality construction, but also the embroidered detailing and the historical references.
These three jerseys don't just draw inspiration from the '74 Giro. Drenched with references to the race, the teams and the respective riders, they pretty much live and breathe the memory of the race. Take the one inspired by the great Eddy Merckx for example. The orange and black combination mirrors the colours of the famous Molteni strip he wore that year, yet the wording on the front, spelt out in a font similar to the original, is 'Vleeseter' - the Belgian word for 'Cannibal' (which, of course, all students of cycling will know, is the nickname of the great man). Beneath his moniker is the word 'Ghimbegna' - the famous climb that featured twice in Stage 14 of the '74 edition.
The three jerseys all feature the riders race number embroidered on the back - Merckx, of course, is numero uno - and a short biography stitched into the lining, testifying to their epic greatness. When Rapha turn it on, they really do raise the bar way above the heads of their many imitators. We will have to wait and see if they will offer further takes on iconic riders and races of the past in future collections, but on this showing, let's hope so. (DN)
The Rapha Trade Team jerseys normally retail at £140, but at time of writing they are available at a fantastic knockdown SALE price of only £60.00. For a jersey of this quality that really is a steal, so move fast to ensure you bag yourself a fantastic bargain! Visit the rapha.cc website for more details.
Reviews by: Nick Williamson, Walt Cundy, Helen Ashford and Dave Nash
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