Bikes and fashion have enjoyed a renewed romance in America in the last few years. From the Cycle Chic movement to the proliferation of bike fashion shows, there is a growing awareness of — and market for — clothes that are stylish and comfortable to bike in. Today I spent some time on yet another bike fashion front, custom-tailored (a.k.a. bespoke) cycling suits.
You might recall a story back in February 2009 when I announced Rapha’s collaboration with renowned tailor Timothy Everest. The Rapha/Everest designed suit sells for £3,500 (that’s about $5,500 U.S.) and Rapha offered one as the Grand Prize for the winning entry into the Constructor’s Design Challenge during last year’s Oregon Manifest.
After 27 entries from all over the country were raced and judged, one of Tony Pereira’s bikes won that challenge. He picked up his prize a few days ago and I visited his shop in North Portland today to take a closer look.
Everest lives in London, but Pereira met up with him at a posh hotel on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles to be measured and fit for the suit. Tony says he was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was Everest very cool and down to earth (turns out he was only staying at the posh hotel because his friend owns it), but he and Everest had much in common.
“Our businesses are so similar,” says Pereira, “He was as excited to talk to me as I was to talk to him… we hit it off.” Pereira learned that the bespoke tailoring business is the “same world” he works in. “We’ve got the same challenges of working with customers and staying true to our styles.” He also gained respect for the craft of custom tailoring as Everest took “much more detailed” and numerous measurements than Pereira does for a bike fit.
Like Pereira — a builder who has won national awards for his bicycles and has played a big role in a revival of custom bike sales in America — Everest is credited with reviving the bespoke tradition. Everest is also a daily bike commuter based in London who happens to be friends with one of the founders of Rapha Cycling Apparel, so the collaboration on a cycling suit was a natural partnership.
Pereiera’s new suit (detail photos below) is a seamless mix of fashion and cycling-specific utility. It’s got an expandable section across the back to facilitate outstretched arms, the front flaps button up to stay out of the way of pedaling thighs, the collar buttons up to keep out the cold, and the cuffs fold down so the sleeves still fit when you reach for the bars. The jacket and vest both have many pockets, including rear pockets that are conveniently placed for those of us familiar with bike jerseys. The material is a rain and stain resistant wool and the suit is lined in satin with hand-stitched felt on the cuffs and flaps.
But how does it actually perform? Pereira gives it high marks. Wearing it during a recent run of errands in 80 degree temps, he said it was very comfortable. During my visit to his shop, Pereira wore the pants and vest while he worked on a bike (replacing the jacket for a shop apron of course). He hunched over and bent down several times with ease and comfort.
Further weaving the bike and fashion fabric together, Pereira is working on a bike he says will complement the new suit. “It will have a similar color… I want it to go with the suit so when I’m all decked out, it’s the full package.”
Rapha has sold about 20 of these suits since they introduced the collaboration last year. At this price, I hardly think three-piece bespoke suits are the next major trend that will sweep over the bike world, but you never know. After all, with biking being “the new golf” and as more urban executives ride to work, they’ll want a well-made suit that looks good on and off the bike.
You can see Tony’s suit and his bike at the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show, which is coming to Sandbox Studios in Northeast Portland on October 9-10. If you want one for yourself, learn more on Rapha’s website.
See more photos in the slideshow below: