That gaudy jersey you see above — duck and all — how does it make you feel? If I told you it’s the best pro cycling kit of all time, now what’s your temperature?
This week’s perilously subjective question is simple: What’s the best pro cycling kit of all time? I’m about to make my case for EF Education First’s Palace collaboration, a kit only worn in the 2020 Giro d’Italia. But before I ruffle some feathers, a word from our sponsor: You can win a very rare EF x Palace x Cannondale bike (or the helmet and jersey) by buying a $10 raffle ticket:
Now, before you hop into the comments to blast me, I must acknowledge that I love the burnt orange tones and simple horizontal bands of Merckx’s Molteni livery. I’ve got a soft spot for the Mondrian colors of La Vie Claire (doesn’t hurt to cop the look of a great artist). Of course, as a cyclist who came of age in the early 2000s, Mapei’s colorful cubes hit me right in the feels.
However, Palace and EF were onto something when they created this design. Fans’ reactions were visceral. Art — true art — is controversial. It makes some people mad. It makes other people elated. This is not a bland landscape print to hang in room 340 at the Residence Inn by Marriott. The Palace kit was a brick that the EF team chucked through the glass window of cycling’s establishment. And for that reason, I think it’s the best pro cycling kit of all time.
Even if you hate it, you must respect it.
Scoring a collaboration with Palace is the fashion equivalent of SRAM getting Tesla to design a next-generation electronic AXS drivetrain, or like Nobu’s kitchen staff devoting months of time to develop the world’s tastiest energy bar. In the streetwear fashion world, Palace reigns supreme. Kanye, Drake, Rhianna, Ronaldo — we’re talking one-name superstars — have all worn Palace.
But don’t take my word for it (or Kanye’s). Just look at how much a single Palace jersey is listed for on StockX, the Internet’s go-to marketplace for fashion.
So, yeah, when a second-tier WorldTour team (sorry, EF, the results speak for themselves) lands a deal to produce a limited-edition kit with the likes of Palace, it is a coup.
Like all great pro cycling kits, the Palace kit did not sit well with the UCI. The team was reportedly slapped with a heavy fine at the Giro. Whether you think the Palace kit is absolute garbage or pure genius, I think we can all agree that anything that upsets the UCI is a good thing for the sport, in general.
EF and Palace should also get credit for the sheer commitment to this striking look. It wasn’t just a single jersey. The Palace design extended to the bikes (again, we got one, if you want it), the casual wear, and even the water bottles. Above all, the POC time trial helmet has to be the most memorable item of the entire Palace package.
Yes, the duck. The duck is a recurring theme in Palace graphics. Honestly, I can’t figure out if it has some sort of important significance or if a London artist just decided to freak out the squares with a subversive take on Donald Duck. All I know is that I love it. It’s funny. It’s irreverent. Pro cycling needs more of this vibe. It’s supposed to be fun, after all!
That is the bottom line on the Palace kit for me. It is the best pro cycling kit because it doesn’t try to be a pro cycling kit. It tries to be fun. It tries to be fashionable. It tries to be controversial. And on all of those counts, it succeeds.
Okay, thanks for hearing me out. Now it’s your turn: Leave a comment to make an argument for the pro cycling kit you think is the best of all time!