I have watching an incredible amount of people riding around Brooklyn on the new Citibike program without helmets, and starting to get a little concerned for their livelihood. With no protection offered by Citibike, and most people don’t happen to carry a helmet with them, there is an obvious problem to solve. Thankfully some people are starting to think of options. In the UK the Paper Pulp Helmet project has surfaced, a low cost recyclable bicycle helmet for use with London’s Bicycle Hire Scheme. The hemet is manufactured from recycling waste newspapers that circulate the London transport network. They pulp the paper and through an Organic additive they make sure the helmet is water resistant for up to 6 hours. They make the helmets in a number of sizes and add food coloring to allow color to be associated to size. Everything is fully recyclable, so when the helmet starts to reach the end of its life it can be put right into your recycling program. All round it is a really nice and thoughtful project.
For the days when you can’t make up your mind, because the weather can’t make up its mind, the Jossette jersey by Cafe Du Cycliste is a good option to get you out the door quicker. Now granted when Anton sent me the jersey to test the weather here on the east coast of the US should have been ridable wearing it, but we were still down in the low 30s most days. So the jersey sat in its nice gingham bag while I was still wrapped up in multiple layers. Fast forward and the last few days have seen us get what feels like the beginning of Spring, and perfect riding conditions to try out this kind of jersey. Why is the jersey different? well it sits somewhere between wearing a jersey with a lightweight wind shell or wind vest, but allows you to keep the layers down (with a base layer). It has a high quality membrane layer and waterproof zip giving you insulation against rain and wind, while vents in the armpits and back pocket allow you to open it up to breath when you need it. The fit is pretty snug (although that might have something to do with me coming off the hug of winter with minimal miles in my legs) so it feels like you are wearing a race jersey but with the protection of an added layer without the bulk. It could be the perfect mountain climbing jersey, opened up on the way up to keep you cool, and with a pair of armwarmers good for keeping you warm on the way down. It is no surprise that the guys at Cafe Du Cycliste spend a lot of time in the Maritime Alps, where the climate varies a lot and can be a little bit damp. I can see where the inspiration for the piece came from. This is a really good addition to the kit bag for those days that catch you by surprise.
It is at this time of the year I think I am most jealous of the pro’s life, as they return to the job of riding, refreshed and full of hope for the new season. Embarking on trips to Mallorca, Australia and Argentina to spend weeks riding on sun-kissed roads. Older team members rekindling room-mate relationships like old married couples. Showing up at camp carrying a little too much weight, but also just right, trusting their bodies that it will be gone in the next 6 weeks in-time for the classics. New team members sometimes riding in their old team kit looking for a career reboot, or nervous young riders putting shoes on next to stars they have admired from afar, who have maybe over-trained just a little too much to be “good at camp”, and make a good first impression with the new DS. But it is actually really none of this that makes me jealous. It is all that f*#king new kit! I love new kit.
Nothing makes me happier than riding a new build for the first time. Or slipping my arms into a nice new jacket, or a pair of shoes that are still perfectly white. So you can image how my jealously went to 11 when I saw not one, but two! kit cases that Rapha delivered to the team members of SKY. There is no disappointment to be had here my fellow kit therapy seekers. This is no Fuji-Servetto skin colored kit that made the riders look naked on the bike. There is no “what the f#*k is this…” moment here. Just a nod and a smile in the knowledge that every other team in the village and on the start line is going to be very very jealous. Yes the new Rapha Team SKY kit is nice. Simple, but not boring. Just enough design, to be well designed, but not brash. Not overstated in an Italian kind of way, but making a strong statement in itself with its minimalism. I am happy to see a British brand show the Italians and French how to do style, in a way that they have mastered and lead in fashion, product design and cars, but seem to be remiss in bringing to their cycling teams. Chapeau Rapha.
We are very happy to give a sling shot to some neighbors here in New York City, SURNAME. A company of two, who make everything by hand, and craft some beautiful components for your ride. Everything they make is made from reclaimed wood sourced here in the city or upstate New York. There is something nice in taking what is tossed aside by the city in the name of “progress” (or maybe storm damage now), and remaking it into something both practical and beautiful. Joists taken from renovated buildings, to the old boards of Coney Island, Surname have crafted a small selection of hand made products. They have a 1-2 week lead time and often do special batch runs of limited woods when they can get hold of them. A Fender, a Straight Bar and a Carry Basket (box). I am going to get a Straight Handlebar made of Ipe wood, not because I have any practical use for it right now, but just because it looks damn nice. More info on SURNAME here.
This is one well crafted pack, a fine combination of traditional materials and modern design. Made by Japanese brand Nanamica they use a lightweight and durable Cordura for the main material and leather straps with brass buckles to secure the top closure. The back has a padded back panel for comfort and padded shoulder straps for carrying. Two compression straps on each side keep the the pack close the body when riding. It comes in a lot of different color combinations, but really liking the blue and red above.
Probably some of the slickest shoes you could wear on the way to the office (or pub, or park, or coffee shop…). My first pair of racing shoes were drilled leather uppers with leather soles and nailed on cleats. The “Fixed” shoe above takes what was the best of that era of shoe design and updates the design with a few modern additions. The uppers are a natural tan leather and the soles are made of rubber (not disimilar to those on Camper shoes). The backs of the shoes have a nice reflective stripe. These are the sort of shoes that just get better with age as the leather gets used to your foot and starts to shape itself.
This week we will see another new cycling brand launch itself to the world and attempt to draw dollars out of our wallets. This brand stands a damn good chance of doing just that right out of the gate. This brand won’t be making the kit that you or I will see on our local group rides, but instead beautifully tailored technical clothes for the urban rider. The brand is called Upright Cyclist, and has been the labor of love and now full-time job of Philip Siegert. Upright believes that the bike is the best way to travel in the urban environment anywhere in the world. That what you wear while doing it should both serve the need of riding, and look just as good when you reach your destination and take off your helmet. I was lucky enough to spend time talking with Philip, and his story should be an inspiration to the lot of us who have a day job in design, and a passion that lies somewhere in and around bikes. Upright Cyclist is a story of how someone saw a need and coupled it with their passion, to create a brand that at first glance looks like it is going to do really well.
Philip’s background lends itself well to imagining and getting a new brand off the ground. He spent years in the agency world as a strategist working with some of the best brands in the world, Patagonia and Burton to name a couple. But you might have to ravel back further with Philip, to his time as a bike messenger in Chicago, to discover where his deep love of riding began and his understanding of how good kit can make a world of difference on the daily ride. All those hours in the saddle were essentially the start of his R&D process, and have influenced what he is doing at Upright Cyclist.
When asked about his influences, like a lot of us he mentions Rapha–but it is maybe too focused on the performance side of riding, and the price point for a lot of riders can be prohibitive. We also talked about what Levi’s is doing with their Commuter Collection. And how it leans maybe a little too heavily on the style and fashion side. And that is probably where Upright will sit, somewhere between these two brands. Clothes that look cool off the bike, won’t fail when you need them most when riding, and at a price hopefully we can all afford.
Above: Some of the early jacket prototypes out getting a road test (notice the one on the left is still held together with pins)
The design process has been a fast learning curve for Philip. He picked up a lot by watching the brands he worked with as a strategist, but as with most things like this you don’t realize what you don’t know until you try. He ordered yards of fabrics like waxed cottons and had seamstresses work up prototypes to test out on the road. He learned pretty quickly what was working and what was missing. Like getting baked inside a waxed cotton prototype because he hadn’t put in enough vents. From there he enlisted the help of some product designers in his hometown of Boulder, people he met out on the road, to get the first part of the lineup to manufacturing spec and into production.
Upright is going to be a thoughtful brand. As much as the Made In America movement and the resurgence of craft here is taking hold, it is hard for a new brand to foot the difference in the cost of manufacturing here versus Asia. Eventually, if they can get a foothold in the market, they would like to source and produce here, but until then they are finding ways to give back to the community. They will designate a portion of their profits from annual sales and select pieces to both national and local non-profit entities. I am just about to get some of the new products and will post more when I have had some saddle time with them, but until then it is just nice to see someone throw himself completely into creating something, and come out the other side with a great new brand and position. We wish Philip and Upright the best of luck and look forward to seeing their products on riders all over the US. Their site will be up live this week, so go check them out.
It is worth taking a look over at the HOWIES site. They are doing a limited time run of some of their classics from a collection of t-shirt designs that date back to 1995, including this one above “Ride Like Hell”. See more of the designs HERE
I love Trakke bags from Glasgow. Well made, and made local (well if you are in Scotland that is). They have done a really nice line extension in a partnership with Harris Tweed, one of Scotland’s most endearing and world famous brands. A combination of weave and waxed cotton the bags are aesthetically beautiful but also durable enough to survive a Scottish winter. And believe me if they can survive the streets of Glasgow in the winter they are pretty much suitable for anywhere. There are four bags in the line with their classics, and the addition of a new shape called the “Wee Lug” – what’s not to like about a bag called that. More info here.