Feature – Mick Tarrant from Prendas Ciclismo

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A long time supporter of VeloUK, Mick Tarrant of Prendas Ciclismo writes about how clothing has changed for cyclists since he was a boy

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Feature – Mick Tarrant from Prendas Ciclismo

A company selling cycle clothing that first sponsored Echelon-Velo over a decade ago and supports VeloUK to this day, Prendas Ciclismo, gives an insider’s view of the rag trade in cycling

PrendasWebsite1

The exciting new website for Prendas …

Mick writes about how clothing has changed for cyclists ... I was introduced to cycling by my Dad who was a pre and post war rider. I recall his cycling wardrobe consisting of garments more akin to leisure clothing than active wear. Nice line in winter sweaters though!

As a kid, I too was initially clad in regular trousers with trouser clips and jumpers with the addition of probably a “Green Spot Nomad” jacket (or cheaper equivalent) for winter wear. Summers were hot and winters were cold but that seemed no deterrent despite the inadequate attire. Overshoes were non-existent so feet were numb and hands too, due to lack of appropriate gloves, knitted mittens and the like just did not cut it.

By the time youthful exuberance had replaced the velo with a Lambretta and a parka, cycle clothing had advanced but not that much. After a couple of decades away from the bike, I recommenced as an antidote to a “rock’n’roll” lifestyle. The long forgotten sensations of being awheel soon returned and before long I was seeking out appropriate clothing at the local bike shop and embracing the fledgling mail order option.

First shorts (not bib ) were purchased and were still of the wool/acrylic variety with abysmal seat pad. However, many miles were covered, pints were sunk mid ride and all seemed well.

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Prendas do a selection of great retro team kit …

Bikes technology and development began to advance swiftly but cycle clothing was a poor relative to the bike for so many years and bike shops had a pretty basic selection of shorts/bib shorts and jerseys. Tights were usually non bib and of the knitted variety. Seat inserts were not padded and really were just a liner. Winter jackets were of the nylon fronted variety which seemed state of the art at the time but having recently donned one for a retro ride, I realise how ineffective they were.

By the time I got involved with the bicycle trade in the late ’80’s, most or all manufacturers were still producing in house and were therefore limited by their investment in machinery but there was a definite progression. Into the early 90’s, there were some nice little innovations and the likes of ONCE and Euskaltel sported Gore-Tex rain jackets in team design and colour and “Roubaix” lined bib shorts for cold weather racing as far back as the mid 90’s.

Etxeondo in the Basque country were little known but extremely innovative due to their close contacts with the vibrant Basque cycling community and the pro teams mentioned above. It was difficult to obtain and when you could, it was quite pricey but not quite up there with Assos who were beginning to make an impression.

Other main players in the pro peloton were Santini, Biemme, Sportful, Vittore Gianni (now Castelli), Nalini and Giordana. Many of these companies are still in the game but their prescence in the pro peloton has diminished. Clothing companies worked like a charm in tandem with pro cycling teams due to the exposure the brand would receive and the feed back they would receive from the riders which would enable them to make a better product which in turn would filter down to the clothing that we weekend warriors would use.

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Prendas also do their own clothing with the distinctive logo worn by champions

Replica sales were also a valuable form of income for these companies. Admittedly, the team replica clothing was usually of a lesser quality than the pro teams in many cases but that didn’t matter to the aspiring amateur. My first trade team jersey was a team La Redoute by Santini in the mid 80’s and the quality was a revelation to me, still got it even now.

Times change and there are many new players out there due to the manufacturing explosion and modern miracle of the Far East. Teams now ask the clothing sponsor for a huge amount of kit as well as a hefty cash injection to the team’s coffers. Several manufacturers took the option to dump the pro teams due to the investment required and the unwanted stigma of being involved in a doping scandal.

Many companies also decided that running their own production was an outdated ideal, especially when the founders of these companies reached retiring age and their offspring took over the reins, production sometimes headed East. Although China was the primary destination for the outsourcing of cycle clothing, the net is now cast far and wide with Eastern European countries now hard at it as well as other Far Eastern manufacturing bases.

Personally, I am pretty fanatical about buying from companies in Central Europe who do actually produce their own products and it is hugely satisfying to me when on a factory visit to observe lines of machinists, finishers, folders, packers etc hard at work. It also means that any production issues I may have are resolved immediately and without flying half way round the world.

Prices have escalated at an alarming rate in the world of cycle clothing which may be mystifying to you when a large amount of it is cheaply produced. However, it’s a long way from factory to consumer and each time the product changes hands through the chain, a margin is added. Hence, there’s often a quantum leap between cost price and retail price but it is quite easy to plot the price-line.

We know what we pay and we are extremely conscious of the fact that a short supply chain benefits the end-user.

Why has this happened? Probably because most clothing companies observed the vast profits that came with the “carbon revolution” in bicycles which once developed, popped out of a mould at minimal cost. Profits were vast and bike accessory components followed. “I’ll have some of that” they cried in unison. Then there is the “Bigger bucks, better quality” syndrome which can be a valid belief but is often superlative marketing hype playing on people’s aspirations.

PrendasWebsite4_Mick

Mick from Prendas along with Andy Storey put a lot back into the sport supporting up and coming riders, websites like VeloUK and races in Italy even!

I always have a chuckle when I have read that this company or that company has been keeping a close eye on clothing innovations. Agreed, there have been some interesting innovations in recent years like the “Gabba” extreme weather jersey from Castelli and seat inserts have now improved beyond recognition from what was something akin to a window cleaning cloth.

However, there is not really that much more to develop and there is not much more to improve on. Most of the developments that really matter were done and dusted a few years, although as previously stated, there is always a bit of fine tuning and once in a while something will come along that is a real “game changer” like the “Gabba”

Many innovations these days seem to me just a marketing exercise. We’ve all been cold on a bike, we’ve all been wet on a bike but we endure and the thought of some discomfort every once in a while does not deter us.

As for the “aero revolution” in clothing, this kicked off when Cav won the Worlds in a skinsuit and a helmet with vents covered which may have given him an edge against world class opposition. Aero is all well and good but the fact is that most of us don’t remotely resemble professional cyclists and currently few amateur riders actually race so let’s not kid ourselves.

What any rider needs for summer are decent bibs, a jersey, wicking base layer and mitts and voila, you’re just about sorted. Winter is a different proposition but once again warm and well fitting bib tights, thermal jacket of some description which does wick successfully whilst retaining body warmth.

Thermal socks, robust and durable overshoes and one or even two pairs of gloves – in case you are in the extreme cold – allowing you to go with an inner glove. Headgear with or without helmet is essential as is a waterproof (portable preferably) jacket. Plus a variety of accessory products such as arm, leg, and knee warmers can also be useful as can such optional extras such as a gilet.

None of it is “rocket science”. Some of the prices out there are to my mind are ludicrous but that is the way of the world these days. Tell me, would the reviewer giving the £300+ garment a rave review be prepared to lob out that sort of money to buy at retail?…. I think not…

 


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