David Millar: a new chapter
Recently retired after 18 years in professional cycling's top tier, the Scot has turned his attention to clothing "the civilian cyclist". Welcome to Chpt.III...
David Millar is a man of many parts these days. Just one of them is his role in Chpt.III, the cycle clothing brand whose designs he conceived with VC Rocacorba club-mate Richard Pearce and realised with the production might of his former sponsor Castelli.
It’s easy to see why Millar is in demand. Intelligent, loquacious, and a survivor of 18 years at the top tier of professional cycling, with all the good and bad that might bring, he'd fit neatly in to boxes marked ‘elder statesman’ or ‘spokesman’, were it not for the fact that Millar defies compartmentalisation. Professional cyclists, retired or otherwise, are rarely straightforward characters.
Enough background. To the present. We catch up with Millar by phone as he drives from Gatwick Airport to his hotel, two days before making his debut as chauffeur, offering a lucky winner and a chum a lift in his Maserati Ghibli to the inaugural Rouleur Classic.
It is not Italian sports cars, or even Italian cyclists, that are on today’s agenda, however, but Italian clothing, specifically Castelli’s rendering of the aforesaid Chpt.III garments, now available in the Rouleur shop. Who better to ask for an insight into each than Millar?
We start with the Rocka jacket, a garment that Millar describes as “the statement piece for the whole collection”. It’s easy to see why. A reversible storm collar in striking red with matching cuffs contrasts with the muted grey body. Millar compares it to a hunting or cavalry jacket.
“It’s based on the favourite piece from my whole career: the Castelli Gabba,” he says. “But people forget that the Gabba is a pure racing garment. I wouldn’t wear it for the type of riding I do now. The lycra is so much heavier. In a race, we would have a follow car, but there’s too much material to roll up.” How times have changed.
Enter the Rocka, whose fabric is 20 per cent lighter than that used in Castelli’s game-changing wet weather garment (see Rouleur Issue 53) and so infinitely more stowable.
The 1.21 jersey is another garment equipped with a tailored collar, though this one seems to owe more to the Harrington jacket. A touch of Steve McQueen? Not quite.
“It’s like a racing overall,” Millar explains. “It’s a very traditional way of closing a high neck, for a motorbike or a racing car, and a bike is very much the same.” In our first conversation with Millar about Chpt.III, before the garments had hit production, Sterling Moss was a name mentioned frequently – clearly, with some justification.
The jersey is an intriguing mix of high style and high performance. To criticise the collar for its comparative impracticality is to miss the point, Millar argues: this is a garment for riders with time to take care over the fastening i.e. not those involved in a harum scarum bike race. “The material is so light, it can’t be used for racing: you can’t sublimate on it. It has an almost silk-like quality.”
The jersey has neatly concealed pockets for arm and leg warmers. As with the material used for the Rocka (light enough to fold), Millar has accounted for the absence of support car. If he no longer has the luxury of flinging abandoned warmers into a trailing vehicle, then Chpt.III’s constituency is still less likely to do so.
There’s a small note of triumph in his ‘you can’t sublimate’ quip. Chpt.III is Millar’s rebellion against years of being clothed as a moving billboard. As a “civilian cyclist”, he no longer wishes to stand out in the café, and so the colours of most of the garments are muted, all except for the parametric pattern on the 1.81 base layer, which ties into the idea of the gentleman’s wardrobe as much as the buttoned collars on the jacket and jersey.
“The collection has quite subdued colours for the exterior, which I wanted: it was my rebellion against all the garishness of the team kit,” Millar says. “With tailored menswear, the reveal is quite often on the inside. If you’re in the mood to show it, you can show it. If not, you can conceal it.”
Like the jersey, the base layer is an extremely light garment, but the combined weight is the same as a conventional polyester jersey, so no sacrifice of comfort in the name of style.
A word on the parametric pattern: it is an idea of Millar’s design partner, Richard Pearce, held over from the pair’s collaboration with Fizik on the various, special edition shoes worn by the rider in his final year as a professional (see Rouleur #54). Pearce was intrigued by the patterns that could be rendered from the data recorded by Millar’s SRM.
“A good pair of shorts is the most important part of your cycling wardrobe,” Millar says, and after nearly 20 years as a pro racer, it’s fair to say he knows a little on the subject. Significantly, however, the 1.11 short is another garment that challenges the “pros have the best” mantra so beloved of the cycle industry.
“The short is based on the favourite short of my pro career, which is the Castelli Bodypaint short,” Millar explains. “I helped to test the prototype, which I liked. They used a heavy lycra, which was not so practical for racing, but it gave a compression feel. I asked if we could do a non-racing version of the Bodypaint short.”
The “high density lycra” is a key feature of the 1.11 short, and Millar is pleased with the chamois, too (“as good as any, in my opinion”). The most stylish elements, however, have to be the exceptionally neat, straight-cut hems, and the single-seam construction. Very minimalist.
Increasingly, the fabric used for warmers is treated to make them water resistant, but Millar has eschewed such treatments – and the loss of elasticity that sometimes comes as part of the package – in favour of comfort. These are items to warm moving joints, after all, and intended to be pulled on and off.
Naturally, Chpt.III’s arm warmers have a reversible cuff, but there is substance to the style too: an extra flash of visibility (and perhaps extra flash, too), and besides, Millar would occasionally roll up his warmers during races “in those in-between conditions”.
Then there are the leg warmers, subject, Millar says, to the biggest, yet smallest change.
“We made the length [somewhere] between leg and knee warmers. I’ve always found leg warmers to be too long and knee warmers a little too short. So we created something in-between. Also, with the fashion of longer shorts and socks, there is not so much need for such length as there is little visible skin.”
Chpt.III’s Collection 01 is now available in the Rouleur shop.