On the Cheap
There are many good things that are essentially by-products of the new ‘boom’ in cycling’s popularity. Increased awareness of this, the most sustainable and feel-good form of transport, is only a good thing. But, as with everything popular in the modern world, marketeers latch on and try to sell their wares at vastly inflated prices because, frankly, there are enough of us out there willing to part with our money for the ‘latest’ team kit or pair of shoes. I can see the whole football fan mentality being repeated within cycling, and I wonder whether, at over £100 a shot for the latest Sky jersey and shorts, this is a good thing. However; each to their own!
And so to my point. Another increasingly popular and increasingly pricey theme seems to be ‘retro’ kit – witness the number of Italian shoes and jerseys now for sale at boutique prices. But, if you’re shrewd and conspiratorial, you can get quality at bargain prices, and that, frankly, is what this article has come to tell you about.
Woolen jerseys first of all. This is a well documented love of mine, because they’re warm when it’s cold but keep you cool when it’s warmer. Cycle specific manufacturers at the higher end, such as Rapha proffer undoubtedly high quality goods, but I’m personally not willing to pay £140 for a cycling jersey that is going to end up sweaty and muddy after the first time I ride in it.
I’ve remarked several time about my fondness for Shutt VR, as they offer good kit for half the price of Rapha but still manage to provide high quality.
And here’s another thing I found. Get yourself down to John Smedley’s factory shop – in fact there are two of them, one in Derbyshire, the other over the border in South Yorkshire. Here, you’ll find a wide selection of his merino wool jumpers and shirts for bargain prices – and some styles are perfect for cycling. They make various collared long and short-sleeved jerseys which I find to be great for riding in; not specifically cycling styled but very cool and discrete, and mine cost £30 each, whereas the shop price is easily three times that.
Next, Gloves. Yes, I know that you may be lusting after that pair of Dromarti leather gloves for £100 to give you the classic touring look. Well put those dreams aside and go to Southcombe Brothers online shop, and get yourself a pair of leather driving gloves for £22. I did this years ago, and they now get used for cycling when it’s warm enough to put the thermal gloves away.
Southcombe are another rather obscure British manufacturer, hidden away in the depths of Somerset and catering for the specialist end of the market such as Firefighters, Police and so on. You might be tempted to buy a pair of ‘Crowd Control’ gloves, whatever they might be!
I’ve already talked at some length about another of these fantastic British companies selling quality kit at bargain prices, this being Tudor Sports in Lutterworth, providers of cooler weather jerseys and leggings.
Tudor is the clothing you will see adorning that Audax-hardened veteran whom you pass on a Sunday morning, as he cycles his mint condition Mercian tourer fitted with a faded Carradice saddlebag and well-worn Brooks saddle happily along the road. It’s unashamedly old-fashioned, allowing not the slightest concession to tiresome modernity; it’s also priced in a different league to most other popular cycling clothing.
So, here endeth today’s lesson, which is that saving money and looking/feeling good are not mutually exclusive. Let me know of any other sources you want to share!