Conundrum: if a design is, by definition, ‘classic’, how to reinvent it?
The all-black cycle kit is timeless for a reason. Sleek, uncluttered, and flattering, its appeal is obvious. The challenge for the manufacturer is to create something new while remaining within such clearly defined parameters.
Velobici’s Victor kit is at once classic and original. Crucially, it is woven, from a fabric spun in Nottingham and cut in Leicestershire. We are not dealing in the common realm of polyester, sublimated print, and Far Eastern production.
The Victor is woven from Velobici’s proprietary VB Pro/V1R fabric: a blend of nylon and meryl, at the lighter end of the scale. While all of Velobici’s roadwear garments are made from a nylon-meryl mix, the fabric chosen for the Victor is a 190g weave. This is kit for summer.
How can this be? To quote Nigel Tuffnel, there is none more black. For Chris Puttnam, Velobici’s head honcho, and a man who grew up in the clothing trade when Leicestershire was the capital of the knitwear world, cooling owes more to the quality of the fibre than colour.
Velobici is in small part Puttnam’s attempt to restore the East Midlands to its former status, but principally a vehicle to produce high-quality cycle clothing. When we speak, he has recently returned from a visit to the factory in Nottingham that produces Velobici’s bespoke fabrics, which come in four weights, from 190g to 300g, depending on season and purpose. The 300g weave used for the long-sleeve Van-Chilli, for example, is one for winter: its loopback stitch provides a pocket to trap air.
Fabric is king in Puttnam’s world. He acknowledges that cut is important too, but dismisses the mantra that adding more panels to shorts, for instance, is a panacea for greater comfort. Get the fit around the hips right, he believes, and you are most of the way there. Velobici will tailor the strap length, if required.
The heavier fabrics with the loopback stitch accommodate the Velobici jacquard, a subtle detail, but the Victor short is intentionally plain, save for the woolen VB logo on the right leg: a nod to cycling’s golden age. The same logo appears on the jersey, in the centre of Velobici’s trademark ‘swoosh’ pocket, and there’s an embroidered logo on the left sleeve, too.
The sleeve cuffs are finished with reflective detailing and a gripper band. Lazer cut hems strike Puttnam as unfinished. He does not do ‘faddish’, relying instead on a combination of high-quality fabric and classic design to deliver longevity. Puttnam, who presumably can have as many of his company’s garments as he likes, says he is still wearing Velobici kit from four years ago.
This column has previously questioned the peloton’s status as a technical showcase for the bicycle industry. Cycling’s top-tier has lagged behind the market in matters mechanical in recent years, and while polyester and its suitability for sublimated printing is a given for teams obliged to display its sponsor’s logo, the paying customer can choose from a broader portfolio.
Velobici’s minimalist Victor kit is a world away from the mobile advertising hoarding that is the uniform of the salaried rider, and its woven fabric far removed from humble polyester. The professional does not always have it better than the amateur.
High quality bikes deserve high quality cover