I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel I’ve ever quite solved the cycle touring clothing quandry.
Walk into a bike shop or outdoor store and it isn’t quite as simple as finding the ‘cycle touring’ department and taking your pick. I inevitably end up wearing garments – such as trekking trousers, merino or bamboo T‑shirts, hand-made linen slacks, tailored cotton shirts, etc – that were never designed for cycling at all. These are generally supplemented with only a few cycle-specific accessories such as padded shorts, riding mitts, Buffs, waterproofs, and perhaps socks and shoes.
I get the impression that the market for clothing specific to the nuanced requirements of cycle touring must be so tiny – at least in the eyes of the manufacturers – as to not be worth bothering with. It’s a shame, because I really do feel that the industry is missing a trick. Most of us seem to get by with what we feel is sub-optimal clothing because we have no choice. It’s either functional but far too down the ‘sporty’ spectrum in appearance, or is more casual-looking but tends to fall apart once subjected to the rigours of the cycle touring lifestyle.
One British manufacturer bucking the trend is Janapar Grant sponsor Polaris, whose long-standing brand will be recognisable to many. Based on input and feedback from some well-known long distance riders, they’ve been developing a line of adventure cycle touring clothing, and this spring will be putting out the first of their new offerings, as well as outfitting the grant’s lucky recipient.
Their new lines will include a merino riding jersey and a windproof shell jacket designed specifically for touring use, as well as arm-warmers for nippy mornings, a Buff-style tube, and merino socks, with more to come for autumn/winter and for 2017. I’ve been trying out the jersey and jacket over the last few weeks and I’m pretty impressed with the balance they’ve struck between comfort, functionality and low-key appearance.
(These and future lines are available through their online store, which you can check out here.)
In the meantime, I really wanted to ask you what you’d like to see in an ideal clothing range for cycle touring.
Because the way I see it, there are some major gaps to be filled in this department. The most obvious example from my experience is a lack of trousers which are simultaneously comfortable and practical to ride in, socially acceptable to walk around in, and durable enough to last the long haul. I’ve lost count of how many pairs of ‘trekking’ trousers I’ve had either wear through on the backside or split at the crotch seams through the act of pedalling. The pockets empty their contents onto the asphalt with each pedal stroke, and there’s always a draught up my back because they’re not cut for the task at hand.
This hasn’t ever actually stopped me touring, of course. But if clothing designers such as those at Polaris are eyeing up the cycle touring community for size, fit and functionality, then to me it makes sense for us all to get together and let them know what we’re currently missing.
So let’s have a massive brainstorming session. Got ideas for the cycle tourist’s perfect wardrobe? Let’s have them in the comments, and I’ll pass them on to the people who can do something about it!