Sui Juris and I were contacted by Rock Racing to check out their new kits. Sui's original suggestion was that we get the clothes, try them on, and write a post entitled "Today we tried on some clothes." I gently suggested that the post might be more effective if we spiced it up a bit, and we eventually settled on a Salon-style email debate. Here's what transpired...
OK, we've closed the loop. How about if we do this like one of those Salon debates, like where the two Sopranos fans would email each other back and forth?
Sui Juris wrote:
That’s an excellent idea, and it may well start with this one. See, it strikes me that those on the West Coast are satisfied with a representation of reality (e.g., the Sopranos) whereas those of us on the East Coast are interested in actual reality (e.g., the Wire). I fear that when I pull on this kit it’s going to be more "got yourself a gun" than helping me "keep the devil way down in the hole."
You guys on the East Coast are only satisfied by things that can improve your place on the world pecking order. We're OK with representations of reality, if they make us smile. In response, you guys insist on "reality," so you can point to the West Coast and call us names. And we're fine with that =)
I think this thing is going to make me smile. Rock Racing is a vehicle for fashion. I love fashion. I love Cycling, despite the black hole of fashion it has almost always been. Rock may have their issues, but I can't believe clothing is going to be one of them. Time will tell. Has yours arrived yet? I'm still stuck at work.
This may take a while... on the flip!
Sui Juris wrote:
Speaking of my place in the world, I was standing in my front yard talking with my neighbor when the FedEx guy came up to us with a box wrapped in tape that said "WARNING" all over it. My neighbor reached out for it - she’s the one who’s a staffer on the
Of course, I did what any reasonable adult would do. I immediately excused myself and went into the house to rip the package open and see what was inside (even tho’ I was assured by the tape that everything would be there).
Despite the fact that I had just agreed to meet someone in Georgetown for drinks and am generally not a fan of wearing the kits of teams I’m not on, you know I had to try it on right away. So off with the "I Bike DC" t-shirt and Columbia camp shorts, and on with the skull-emblazoned black kit. There’ll be time enough to talk about fit later. For now, I’ll just relay the very first I thing I heard when I came around the corner to get M.’s opinion on fit (she didn’t know I was coming):
"You look fucking hot."
Perhaps not the finest assessment of performance on the bike, but there’s something to be said for that, no? on , after all – but it turned out to be for me. Well, because I’m telling this story here, you’ve probably figured out that it was a package from Rock Racing. sealed with "tamper-proof security" tape, contents listed as One Team Kit. Maybe they’re worried that someone was going to steal the socks and send me the rest?
Ifcould get any reaction he wanted from someone seeing his clothes, I'm pretty sure he would go with "You look fucking hot.". And he doesn't even know M.
My story so far, not unlike my life, lacks drama: my kit showed up after a few days, and had to sit on my bed til after the kids were asleep; household in order, etc. And my wife is back in your town. So it was just me and my new flashy kit, checking each other out on a dark, quiet Tuesday evening. It's important that I waited for the boys to fall asleep; if the last image of the day was dad in a neon skull kit, sleep might have been hard to come by.
As I've said, IMHO this kit is a fashion statement first and last, so it was nice to just soak it in a bit. But there are two elements to it: the look (duh) and the construction. The former, it speaks for itself. The latter... here's where it gets interesting. Souvenir kits are notoriously crap, and quality cycling clothing is kind of a separate industry. But this material... there's something very solid and interesting to it. The colors actually change a bit as my oversized frame strains the fabric, but the feel is very snug and sleek. And the chamois: is this available anywhere else? I definitely don't have one that solid in my collection.
That's first blush. Next, I'm going to ambush the Burke-Gilman Trail in full colors. Lates!
*** The Actual Review ***
The fit worked well for me. I’m 6’1, ~200 lbs.(that’s 1.85m and 91kg, for those of you who don’t appreciate the archaic), and I had the XL bibs and jersey. The jersey fit very well. The arms are cut a little longer than most, which bring tan-line management issues into play (the details and merit of which I will leave as an exercise for the reader). The back pockets are a little deeper than usual, too, which I see as a plus. The front zip has a RR-logo’d pull which I wish would find its way onto more jerseys.
This chamois – which is thicker than most, I’d say – has me reconsidering that stance.
There are only two things I’d change. First, the side tag on the inside side of the bib has got to go. It annoyed me enough that I started to wonder if I’d just cut them out of all my other bibs and just forgotten about it.
Nope – a comparison with my existing inventory of club, Castelli, and bibs confirms that none of them had side tags. Second, I don’t like the little rubber Rock Racing Research tag on the side seam at the hip on the bibs. Why? I just don’t.
Putting it all together (yes, socks showed up - fitted for left and right, even), it’s a very comfortable kit. While I’m still of the opinion that Ball could use some help in managing the team, he’s obviously picked the right people when it comes to design and manufacture of these.
And speaking of manufacture, both the jersey and the bibs are made in the US (the socks, they come from Italy). Are we at a point where I can joke about those smelly Italians?
Honestly, I think the kit looks fucking great, and the Brit version and Hamilton USNats one possibly even cooler. There are some nice touches, like the different subtle little patterns in the color panels, and the white lettering to give the chaotic main image some firm boundaries. Cycling isn't devoid of its own brand of fashion, but it was devoid of serious fashion. Not anymore, and I hope this starts a trend.
While people like me may slag the bright look-at-me! nature of the kits, I can tell you that they do serve a functional purpose – you rarely overlook a Rock Racing rider. As you know, I do some race photography on the side, and it’s much easier to pick out Freddie Rodriguez than a rider for another team in a white-background kit.
Finally, I have to say that while my aesthetic norms may not line up with Rock Racing’s, I do dig the way they produce special jerseys for different races. When I started writing this, you could buy special edition jerseys for the Austin, Harlem, and Manhattan Beach crits. And it looks like they’ve just added the Tour of Britain kits.
I refer you back to my opening statement.
I also took the kit on a three hour run down to Mt. Vernon, and the response from the general public was similar – a lot of head turning – but without the judgment (a reminder of how meaningless some of the views developed inside of the peloton are). I still got a few fingers, but it wasn’t about the kit – the old bird in Old Town doesn’t like me bombing down her cobbled street, and at least a couple of "east coast Type A stress cases" didn’t think I belonged on the George Washington Parkway. Do you think Michael Ball worries about the fingers I gave in return? Would he prefer that I gave the sign of the horns?
Shown: O.G Jersey in black ($180), O.G. Bib Shorts in black ($220), Team Sock in black/white ($15), Body Armor Jersey in Venom ($210), and Body Armor Bib Shorts in Venom ($230). Available at Rock Racing.