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The best niche road cycling kit brands

By Matthew Ankeny

Published

Niche kit brands
In cycling, your credibility rolls up with you. Your bike. Your kit. Your sock height. It’s all being analyzed by the people you ride with, pass, and get dropped by. It’s fashun for sport. One part of me loves this; six parts hate it. Wear whatever you damn please. Be yourself. Don’t follow the others. Think independently. 

BUT — also, do something good with your kit. 

And, as much as the big and staid brands keep reinventing themselves (Giordana is, actually, very rad), the niche kit makers are often the leading edge of what’s cool and what’s to come.

So, let’s drop for a second the deep discussions of fabric, cut, quality, durability, and focus primarily on that infinitely undefinable metric: cool. Here’s my hot take on how these brands filter in. Let me know where I’m wrong and what I missed in the comments.

SHOP APPAREL

Cool kids club

Cool kids kits
Pas Normal Studio

Sure, it ripped off Gyakusou, but, also, Gyakusou is cool. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. And, after you get past that outrage, PNS is still making some of the best colors and designs on the road.

Universal Colours

If you have lookbooks, you’re cool. Facts. UC is bringing the cool on all levels, without trying too hard. Which, ultimately, is what makes cool cool.

BBUC

You may or may not associate with unicorns and disco, but, you will associate with good, clean design and a bent for the wild and irreverent.

Machines for Freedom

A matriarch of the women’s scene, now made bigger/better through Specialized backing. Women rally under MFF and always look good doing it.

Ten Speed Hero

Kit so fresh, men get jealous. Or, really, dudes, you should wear Ten Speed, too (I rock the socks), the women know what’s good.

MAAP

Was MAAP once just Rapha for Australia? Maybe. But not anymore. With collections like its PAAM line, MAAP is pushing the boundaries of what’s cool. 

Can't go wrong

Can't go wrong kits
Rapha 

The Waltons didn’t ruin Rapha, and the brand forges on making some of the most desirable kits on the market. Resistance is futile. You must Rapha.

Velocio

You will love how you feel as much as you love how you look. And that matters. Confidence and comfort is style.

Cafe du Cyclist

Nothing wrong with Nice, France. Based in one of the most beautiful places in the world, CdC brings French Riviera swag to the saddle.

Black Sheep

Go against the grain. Be yourself. Stand out. Don’t be a sheep, unless it’s a black one.

Attaquer 

Always, uh, attacking the limit of cool, Attaquer continues to succeed in boundary pushing. The artist series is especially aspirational.

Twin Six

Solid designs with a bit of metal? We're here for it. This is kit for cycling aficionados living in the 21st century.

CA x NY connection

CA x NY kits
Team Dream

If you’ve ever seen a chubby bobcat sticker on some cool kidz bike/helmet, you’ve encountered Team Dream. Made by LA-based Endo Customs, these east-sider kits are fresh AF.

Search and State

Born in NYC but always leaving the city (they like the cross country route), Search and State looks good pretty much everywhere.

Eliel

California proud and super warm and sunny, Eliel makes kits on their own turf and they shine with the light of the Golden State. 

Brandt-Sorensen

Perhaps the most LA-LA brand, B-S is a literal fashion brand that happens to make cycling apparel. 

God and Famous

If you have a bodega series, I respect you. But where are the cats? Need cats.

Ostroy

NYC is a lot of things to a lot of people, and for Alex Ostroy, it’s a playground and a canvas. Sure, there are some painful puns in this mix, but there are also some rad patterns to rock.

Cadence

SF-born Cadence is diving deeper into gravel, like we all are. Nothing to be upset about — every garment is always made better with pockets.

Grab your passport

International kits of mystery
CHPT3 

CHPT3 is on to a new chapter, and it’s looking p-good!

Q36.5 

I can’t afford to test Q36.5 products, but if its price point is any signifier, it must be the best.

Pedal Mafia

Not from Italy (from Oz), not part of the mob, but a cool, legal club to be a part of.

Le Col 

Nothing wrong with good, clean design and great quality.

La Passione 

Consistent, solid, very good, and matches everything.

Best of the Rest

Best of the rest kits
Ornot

Ignore the pun, focus on the understated swag in great earth tones.

Pedla 

Basics and a little flair. Bonus: they went tie dye, and we’re here for it.

RAAD 

Swiss design meets psychedelics? We’re in.

PEdALED

Something tells me we need more Japanese brands on this list, but PEdALED represents well.

Voler 

USA-made with clean designs, compelling colorways, and a slew of pros to stress-test the quality.

7Mesh 

From BC, now-owned by Lululemon, and makers of some really solid, understated cycling basics.

Black Bibs

Ridiculously affordable and surprisingly good quality. Not the freshest kit you’ll wear, but solid training gear.

Establishment Club

Establishment club kits

These are the names you know and love. We all aspire to Assos bibs, POC Swedish flair, that classic De Marchi style, and the master scorpion of Castelli. To cut straight, with these established makers you absolutely can’t go wrong, and most are staying current with the trends set by the younger guns above.

Ale
Assos
Castelli
Craft 
De Marchi
Endura 
Garneau 
Giordana 
Giro 
Gore 
Mavic
Nalini 
Pearl Izumi 
POC 
Santini 
Sportful 

On the radar

On the radar kits

TBH, I don’t know much of anything about these brands. But, some look rad, and maybe you love them. The internet (aka, you) is the expert. Fill us in.

Albion 
Ashmei 
bernard 
dhb 
Isadore
Podia 
SOOMOM 
Siroko 
Veloine 
Void 

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