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.
Cool kids club
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.
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.
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.
A matriarch of the women’s scene, now made bigger/better through Specialized backing. Women rally under MFF and always look good doing it.
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.
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
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.
You will love how you feel as much as you love how you look. And that matters. Confidence and comfort is style.
Nothing wrong with Nice, France. Based in one of the most beautiful places in the world, CdC brings French Riviera swag to the saddle.
Go against the grain. Be yourself. Stand out. Don’t be a sheep, unless it’s a black one.
Always, uh, attacking the limit of cool, Attaquer continues to succeed in boundary pushing. The artist series is especially aspirational.
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
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.
Born in NYC but always leaving the city (they like the cross country route), Search and State looks good pretty much everywhere.
California proud and super warm and sunny, Eliel makes kits on their own turf and they shine with the light of the Golden State.
Perhaps the most LA-LA brand, B-S is a literal fashion brand that happens to make cycling apparel.
If you have a bodega series, I respect you. But where are the cats? Need cats.
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.
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
CHPT3 is on to a new chapter, and it’s looking p-good!
I can’t afford to test Q36.5 products, but if its price point is any signifier, it must be the best.
Not from Italy (from Oz), not part of the mob, but a cool, legal club to be a part of.
Nothing wrong with good, clean design and great quality.
Consistent, solid, very good, and matches everything.
Best of the Rest
Ignore the pun, focus on the understated swag in great earth tones.
Basics and a little flair. Bonus: they went tie dye, and we’re here for it.
Swiss design meets psychedelics? We’re in.
Something tells me we need more Japanese brands on this list, but PEdALED represents well.
USA-made with clean designs, compelling colorways, and a slew of pros to stress-test the quality.
From BC, now-owned by Lululemon, and makers of some really solid, understated cycling basics.
Ridiculously affordable and surprisingly good quality. Not the freshest kit you’ll wear, but solid training gear.
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.
On the radar
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.