The First Step

I’ve spent my adult life believing that Mario Cippolini was the first rider to soil the Rainbow Jersey with matching bibshorts. Granted, Super Mario could pull off even the worst soilings with the most possible class, but nevertheless it kicked off a trend of matching bib shorts to jerseys – which is something I cannot abide unless they match because they are both Spinal Tap Black. (Interesting bit of trivia: the UCI fined Super Mario for riding in yellow bib shorts when he wore the Maillot Jaune for the first time in the late 90’s; the UCI recently threatened to fine a Tour leader for wearing team-issue shorts instead of yellow ones provided by the organization. True story, unless I made that up in a convincing dream which now feels like a real memory.)

Like all true stories, this Lion King kit pioneering tale also turned out not to be true. Moreno Argentin makes a liar out of me by wearing a pair of shorts in 1987 that not only shows what I believe was the first step towards over-matched unitards, but also demonstrates the most significant best reasons why the 80’s were an awkward time for kit design:

  1. In 1987, the branding of Cycling clothes had barely evolved beyond needle and thread and had only semi-convincingly achieved the feat of screening the word “LOOK” onto Bernard Hinault’s shorts in ’85.
  2. Garment construction and fabric-printing technology meant that only one panel of lycra could accept a graphic transfer without compromising the structural integrity of the bibs; more than that would make drafting dangerous through inattentiveness induced by crackal exposure.
  3. Gradients look great in mockups but do not translate onto fabrics. Not in the eighties, not in the 90’s, not in the 00’s, and not in the 10’s. Tie Dye is the maximum result achievable.
  4. There was a strange obsession with fluoro which which is a challenging spectrum to work with and which seems to be making a re-emergence today for unexplained reasons.
  5. This bullet was supposed to be the kicker, but I lost my train of thought because that black-chrome Bianchi with both shifters in GO MODE is so badass looking.

This picture of Argentin brings into sharp focus our inherent desire to have every bit of clothing match every other bit of clothing in some sort of couture infinite loop. Every advancement in technology is probed to explore the limits to which it can help us achieve this. ADR, Super U, Carrera, and RMO are just a few examples of designs from the eighties that stood the test of time, but there have been some significant missteps as the sport explored the possibilities of newfound graphical technology.

It wasn’t that Mario was the first rider to come up with the idea to overmatch his kit; he was just the first one to have the nerve to wear the resulting abomination outside his dressing room.

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87 Replies to “The First Step”

  1. Just goes to show that the line between being cool and being a douche bag parallels the line between genius and madman.

  2. I dunno, gimme 80’s design and some different colours anyday as opposed to the current trend of “does it come in black?”

    Latest two excitement bombs to drop on the 2015 peloton…

  3. @wielsucker

    It’s a skinsuit so at least Argentin is TTing on a real bike and not these abominations spawned of triathlons.

    And conversely at least he race on the road in a jersey and bibs instead of a skin suit like they’ve been doing lately.

  4. Mama mia. It took me a full minute to figure out that I was supposed to notice something ‘off’ about the kit – because I was staring at the bike. Does that make me a bad person?

    Nice article!

  5. @Aaron

    Black is boring.

    On the contrary. I’m all for the less busy designs starting to appear, and black is the go-to colour if you want a kit to look good. Especially for punters kit, the less billboard-like the better.

  6. Trouble is, when you rule out champions kits, pro team kits, and even retro pro team kits as not suitable for wear by punters then you’re not left with much that isn’t dull.

    I’m in the process of joining my local club so the obvious solution is to get hold of a club jersey as soon as I can. I’m also still holding out a little hope for a V-Jersey…

    With black shorts. Plain black. No debate.

  7. It’s one of my neurosis. I can’t wear clothes of the same color. If I’m wearing jeans, I can’t wear a blue shirt. My wife makes fun of me for it. If, in my dreams, I was wearing the GC jersey with GC-matched bibs, it would cease to be a dream and cross into nightmare territory. On the bike, everything that goes below my waist (bibs, knickers, tights, shoes, shoe covers) is black.

  8. Fine piece. Sure, “Il Capo” Moreno is overly doing it in the matchy-matchy department, but the bike and cap almost restore balance to the equation.Man, for a wee guy, he was a solidly-built wee bugger wasn’t he? Those are some big guns on the boy. He won L-B-L four times – not bad for a solid sprinter. I believe MA also owned a men’s fashion store in Italy.

    Good to see ADR, RMO, Super U and Carerra getting a positive shout-out. They were great kits. I remember at the time the ADR was a bit wild (who the hell were half of those companies anyway?) but it has stood the test of time quite well.

    The new Garmin is ok. Giant have taken (for commerical reasons obviously), one of the greatest, smartest, stylish kits of recent years and ruined it. I’m sure there are a few more style abominations to be unveiled  . . .

  9. @frank

    @wielsucker

    It’s a skinsuit so at least Argentin is TTing on a real bike and not these abominations spawned of triathlons.

    And conversely at least he race on the road in a jersey and bibs instead of a skin suit like they’ve been doing lately.

    This pic is from L-B-L in 87 when Argentin won because he never gave up. Roche and Criquelion had the 1-2 in the bag but started playing silly games in the last few kms. Argentin, with the help of a few others, chased them down and he won the sprint handily. Roche and Cri-cri only had themselves to blame.

    Conversely, Argentin lost to another rider who didn’t give up – Kelly in 1992 Milan San – Remo. Mind you, on that occasion, Argentin can’t be accused of fannying around – he gave it his all but was beaten by a legend. No shame there.

  10. How often, and how long, did the mechanics change out that sew-up tape on his bars? The outside of the left drop looks scuffed, so maybe not that often.

    Goddamn, Frank. Bullet V is fucking amazing. I lose my train of thought all the time, but, it’ll come back to me at some point in time. Keeps things exciting, like finding buried treasure!

  11. @VeloJello

    @frank

    @Aaron

    Black is boring.

    Black isn’t boring; unimaginative designs are boring.

    Plus black is incredibly slimming…

    That’s why Froome races for Sky.  I don’t want to imagine how fat he’d look in a lighter colored kit.

  12. @chuckp

    There’s always this …

    I can only say I had never had a man crush until I met Cippo. He can wear what he likes. Though the topless cycling he gets up to now a days is a bit much…  One smooth mother fudger.

  13. Yikes, just looked at some Cannondale team ride photos. I’d be embarrassed to show up at a WT race in that. They look like a local club. Very uninspiring.

  14. @VeloJello

    @chuckp

    There’s always this …

    I can only say I had never had a man crush until I met Cippo. He can wear what he likes. Though the topless cycling he gets up to now a days is a bit much…  One smooth mother fudger.

    I don’t know if I’ve known too many Italians in real life or what, but Cipo is a really impressive rider who nevertheless looks like a walking chlamydia bacterium.

  15. @Ron

    I had one of those Reparto Corsa Bianchi’s back in the day.  Campy Record, too, minus Delta brakes. It was a bit poky, SL tubing, with SLX downtube and stays. But it was a great looking bici. Thats not a scruff in the leather on the end of the bar. Thats actually a logo, though I cannot recall for what. Lacing up the bartape actually wasn’t too big of a deal.  And it looked cool as hell when done. But there was zero padding and it was a little slick when damp if you rode without gloves. Who cares if its a bit dangerous as long as you look cool, right? Maybe it’ll make a comeback someday, along with Benotto tape.

  16. @VeloVita

    @VeloJello

    @frank

    @Aaron

    Black is boring.

    Black isn’t boring; unimaginative designs are boring.

    Plus black is incredibly slimming…

    That’s why Froome races for Sky.  I don’t want to imagine how fat he’d look in a lighter colored kit.

    He’s look like Lampre man if he rode for another team, I’m sure he would.

  17. @Ron

    Yikes, just looked at some Cannondale team ride photos. I’d be embarrassed to show up at a WT race in that. They look like a local club. Very uninspiring.

    Definitely. Previous Garmin kits were nice, the Cannondale kits were typical loud single-coloured Italian kits (like CSF-Bardiani and Yellow Fluo), and this is just… dull. Might as well get mom & pop’s shop logo on the jersey.

  18. @frank

    Regarding bullet #V:

    Only one lever is in the “go” position, the other is in the “cross chaining be damned, I will not use the little ring” position… A sentiment often demonstrated by our esteemed leader.

    You need to ride your old bikes more often before you forget how to shift…

  19. I ride a custom-built cro-mo steel steed enamelled in flamboyant Cobalt Blue, with matching blue bar tape, and blue tyres.  I wear an Assos jersey and bib-tights both in a matching shade of blue, blue socks, and blue helmet. The overall effect is, frankly, ridiculous and prompts remarks from the bunch – not all of them complimentary. However, I maintain that if I look co-ordinated then I might feel and hence ride in a more co-ordinated fashion i.e. man and machine as one. This is increasingly more important now at my tender age of 66.

    I have now disposed of the blue plastic tyre levers however – as I was spotted using them when I punctured recently.  This prompted howls of derision from the passing pack and cost me dear at the end-of-ride re-hydration haven.

  20. @Daccordi Rider

    @Mikael Liddy

    Wow, some thought put into those designs….Have you seen the Garmin ‘dales for this season? Also a snooze fest, what a shame.

    I was getting pleased to think some colour was coming back into the peleton but maybe not quite with the panache of the 90s as yet……….

  21. @sowtondevil

    I ride a custom-built cro-mo steel steed enamelled in flamboyant Cobalt Blue, with matching blue bar tape, and blue tyres.  I wear an Assos jersey and bib-tights both in a matching shade of blue, blue socks, and blue helmet. The overall effect is, frankly, ridiculous and prompts remarks from the bunch – not all of them complimentary. However, I maintain that if I look co-ordinated then I might feel and hence ride in a more co-ordinated fashion i.e. man and machine as one. This is increasingly more important now at my tender age of 66.

    I have now disposed of the blue plastic tyre levers however – as I was spotted using them when I punctured recently.  This prompted howls of derision from the passing pack and cost me dear at the end-of-ride re-hydration haven.

    Jesus man, don’t weaken now. Double down on blue, add blue gatorade to your bottles. This concept of looking good on the bike makes you feel good on the bike; it’s the whole Velominati raison d’etre. Good on ya.

  22. @wiscot

    @VeloVita

    @VeloJello

    @frank

    @Aaron

    Black is boring.

    Black isn’t boring; unimaginative designs are boring.

    Plus black is incredibly slimming…

    That’s why Froome races for Sky.  I don’t want to imagine how fat he’d look in a lighter colored kit.

    He’s look like Lampre man if he rode for another team, I’m sure he would.

    Arrrggghhh – I thought we had banned the poor fella!

  23. @sowtondevil

    I maintain that if I look co-ordinated then I might feel and hence ride in a more co-ordinated fashion i.e. man and machine as one. This is increasingly more important now at my tender age of 66.

    Kudos to you, sir – and thanks for subtly hinting that I have at least 10 more years of riding to look forward to – and (hopefully) many more, if all continues to go well. I must admit that I would have baulked at the blue tires, though – but respect, nonetheless.

  24. @Teocalli

    @wiscot

    @VeloVita

    @VeloJello

    @frank

    @Aaron

    Black is boring.

    Black isn’t boring; unimaginative designs are boring.

    Plus black is incredibly slimming…

    That’s why Froome races for Sky.  I don’t want to imagine how fat he’d look in a lighter colored kit.

    He’s look like Lampre man if he rode for another team, I’m sure he would.

    Arrrggghhh – I thought we had banned the poor fella!

    Yeah, but I didn’t post a picture of Lampre man as I think we all have that particular image burned into our brains by now.

  25. @Gianni

    @sowtondevil

    I ride a custom-built cro-mo steel steed enamelled in flamboyant Cobalt Blue, with matching blue bar tape, and blue tyres.  I wear an Assos jersey and bib-tights both in a matching shade of blue, blue socks, and blue helmet. The overall effect is, frankly, ridiculous and prompts remarks from the bunch – not all of them complimentary. However, I maintain that if I look co-ordinated then I might feel and hence ride in a more co-ordinated fashion i.e. man and machine as one. This is increasingly more important now at my tender age of 66.

    I have now disposed of the blue plastic tyre levers however – as I was spotted using them when I punctured recently.  This prompted howls of derision from the passing pack and cost me dear at the end-of-ride re-hydration haven.

    Jesus man, don’t weaken now. Double down on blue, add blue gatorade to your bottles. This concept of looking good on the bike makes you feel good on the bike; it’s the whole Velominati raison d’etre. Good on ya.

    Seriously. This is not a time for half measures. Invest in one of these skinsuits. It looks very aero and probably provides helpful compression.

  26. @wiscot

    >>> Giant have taken (for commerical reasons obviously), one of the greatest, smartest, stylish kits of recent years and ruined it. I’m sure there are a few more style abominations to be unveiled  . . . <<<<

    Ahhhh damn, You are sure right about that…I just saw the new Giant kit at beginning of the thread. Yuck. That’s too bad.

  27. Re Bullet 5, not to quibble, but wouldn’t full-on “GO MODE” (i.e., Big Ring, Small Cog) require the right shifter to be parallel to the downtube?

  28. Stunning shot of the new World Champion respecting both the jersey and the traditions of the sport. I’ve got a lot of time for MK. The rainbow has been subtly applied to the frame too. Classy rider on a classy bike. Anything other than black shorts just dilutes the jerseys impact for me.

  29. @VeloJello

    @chuckp

    There’s always this …

    I can only say I had never had a man crush until I met Cippo. He can wear what he likes. Though the topless cycling he gets up to now a days is a bit much…  One smooth mother fudger.

    I loved Cipo but fuck me fellas, let’s be serious, even he looks a complete tool in this kit

  30. @frank. Was the shot of Hinault with Moser from Trofeo Barachi? I know they teamed up one year and killed it. What a 2 up TT combo and I  would love to see this format resurrected. Let’s hear your dream teams… Kwiatowski and Faboo  over 50km for starters

  31. @Fred

    @frank

    Regarding bullet #V:

    Only one lever is in the “go” position, the other is in the “cross chaining be damned, I will not use the little ring” position… A sentiment often demonstrated by our esteemed leader.

    You need to ride your old bikes more often before you forget how to shift…

    hehehe, that last line is gold!

  32. @Gianni

    @sowtondevil

    I ride a custom-built cro-mo steel steed enamelled in flamboyant Cobalt Blue, with matching blue bar tape, and blue tyres.  I wear an Assos jersey and bib-tights both in a matching shade of blue, blue socks, and blue helmet. The overall effect is, frankly, ridiculous and prompts remarks from the bunch – not all of them complimentary. However, I maintain that if I look co-ordinated then I might feel and hence ride in a more co-ordinated fashion i.e. man and machine as one. This is increasingly more important now at my tender age of 66.

    I have now disposed of the blue plastic tyre levers however – as I was spotted using them when I punctured recently.  This prompted howls of derision from the passing pack and cost me dear at the end-of-ride re-hydration haven.

    Jesus man, don’t weaken now. Double down on blue, add blue gatorade to your bottles. This concept of looking good on the bike makes you feel good on the bike; it’s the whole Velominati raison d’etre. Good on ya.

    Seconded.  No fooling around, full gas.  Go for it.

  33. @JMac

    Re Bullet 5, not to quibble, but wouldn’t full-on “GO MODE” (i.e., Big Ring, Small Cog) require the right shifter to be parallel to the downtube?

    That may be but those shifters are in the Millenium Falcum’s hyperspace lever positions and that’s good enough for me.

  34. @JMac

    Re Bullet 5, not to quibble, but wouldn’t full-on “GO MODE” (i.e., Big Ring, Small Cog) require the right shifter to be parallel to the downtube?

    Given the time period and position of the levers, he’s probably rocking 94 gear-inches or so, say a 53×15.  Depending on the terrain, spinning that counts as go-mode in my book.

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