A few months ago I was asked by a reader what cycle bag I used. I apologise for not answering sooner. The reason was partly forgetfulness and partly the fact that I knew Rapha was coming out with its full range of bags soon, and I couldn’t write about bike bags more than once.
Now, I use a bridle leather one from Bill Amberg – the Double Truffle. It is a beautiful bag but hopelessly heavy; any longer than my 20-minute commute and it would give me shooting pains. I also saw the Brooks leather bags recently, on visit to their factory up in Smethwick (they aren’t made there of course, though I’m glad to say they are now made in the UK). They are much lighter and more practical.
But by far the most practical bags are those from Rapha, particularly now the range has expanded to include a weekender-sized race bag with slots for road shoes and – at the other end of the serious cycling spectrum – a simple tote for popping into town (above). Other pieces include two sizes of shoulder bag and a really funky little saddle bag that rolls up and fastens with an adapted toe strap in the Rapha signature white leather.
All are made in a black Cordura nylon, which is very hardy while remaining lightweight. The tricky problem Rapha has of making high-viz gear in black is overcome with a series of subtle reflective dots on the side panels. Rather like Guy Hills’ Dashing Tweeds, these really don’t shine until hit by direct light.
Apparently two pieces where weight is less of a concern – the race bag and the wash bag – will at some point come in a lovely thick black leather. Speaking of leather, I had an interesting chat with founder Simon Mottram about new Rapha cycling shoes, which are leather yet very lightweight by virtue of using yak leather. It’s just as thin as kangaroo, says Simon, but harder wearing. I kind of wish they were still made of kangaroo.
I’m pleased to see that the rest of the Rapha Autumn/Winter collection expands the range of merino wool that has been so feted here on Permanent Style, to include more base layers, tops and underwear. Apparently the merino padded boxers were so popular that Rapha decided to make some without the padding – an interesting overlap with The Underwear Project perhaps?
Elsewhere my recommendations for the stylish cyclist about town are the hooded jersey and the beautifully cut long-sleeve polo shirt, which now features cycling-inspired paisley on the collar – a considerable improvement on last season’s pink gingham.
And an interesting technical item is the Polartec Pro Team Jacket in yellow (or Chartreuse). Apparently the duller, non-fluorescent colour is actually picked up by the eye better than fluorescent yellow, and the softshell material is a lot nicer and more malleable than your standard commuting jacket.