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I still have my first pair of ‘proper’ cycling shorts, they’ve not been worn for decades, literally, there’s a big old hole in them and the stitching is perished and unravelled, but I simply can’t bring myself to throw them out. Every time I rummage in the shorts pile they’ll emerge like spent ordnance from a long forgotten battle in a ploughed field, smiled at and returned to the mess.

These were my first lycra shorts, I’d had some touring shorts previously that looked like normal shorts but were tailored so that the seams didn’t all meet in an uncomfortable knot right where you didn’t want it to be, and this was at a time when lycra wasn’t as omnipresent as today by a long stretch and buying a pair of clingy shorts was a defining moment, a level of commitment to ‘cycling’ as opposed to merely ‘mucking about on bikes’, an overt show of nailing your colours, and several other things, to the mast

The colours that I was running up my own particular flagpole, as it were, where those of La Vie Claire. I’d plan my Summer afternoon rides to finish with just enough time to make a cup of tea and a sandwich before the Tour de France coverage started. None of this all-day extravaganza that we cloy on now but a scant half hour of highlights in the early evening, nectar nonetheless to this keen young man. At the time I was a mountainbiker, or I had a mountainbike, but I was getting titillated by road bikes, the speed, the elegance, the romance, the certain ways of doing things that the rebellious scruffy off-road culture just didn’t have, and even did it’s utmost to avoid. But I was intoxicated and it would only be a couple of years of saving before I was astride a custom built bright pink steel Roberts with full Campag Chorus.

The Mondrian effect design appealed to the artist in me so they instantly became my team of choice, it also helped that at the time Hinault and LeMond were smashing the Tour in those primary coloured jerseys. Little did I know the back-stabbing and intrigue that was going on behind the scenes, that knowledge would come later, back then I was simply giddy with Wonder, that bit where they rode together to the top of Alpe D’Huez and LeMond wrapped his arm across Hinault’s shoulder still makes my throat go lumpy.

The Christmas after the shorts I got the long-sleeved La Vie Claire jersey to match, even if it was a little on the large side I can’t remember much else about that day. Fast forward half a life and for no reason in particular I find myself buying a La Vie Claire cycling cap. Maybe it’s because continually fishing the shorts out the cycling dressing-up box and never wearing them is doing them some kind of treason, maybe because just seeing that little birdie logo rekindles the neophyte excitement in me, maybe it’s not some kind of retro cool and it’s just going to be nice wearing ‘my’ colours again.

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

16 comments

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Niall [38 posts] 5 years ago
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What a nice little piece for a dull Friday morning  1

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Coleman [335 posts] 5 years ago
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Uncomplicated, sentimental and entertaining. A good antidote to the gloom.

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el.dudino [73 posts] 5 years ago
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I'm not old enough for La Vie En Claire, but I have fond memories of my first cycling shorts. They were Rockriders from Decathlon but the "R" scrubbed off so they eventually ended up saying "Cockrider".

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notfastenough [3715 posts] 5 years ago
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Nicely written. My first jersey was the white Peugeot top with the chequerboard chest and back, secondhand no less. It itched rather more than all these modern fabrics.

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djm778 [31 posts] 5 years ago
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And guess what, if you want a new jersey and shorts to go with the cap check out good ol Prendas...

http://www.prendas.co.uk/details.asp?ID=2239

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TheHatter [770 posts] 5 years ago
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Nice. My first kit was Banesto in homage to Big Mig.
I'd never wear team kit now - I think once your past a certain age it just doesnt seem right.

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VecchioJo [400 posts] 5 years ago
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oh yeah, never wear team kit unless you're on the team, a cap's ok, and maybe socks, as long as they're in the same colour palette as the plain top and shorts

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ped [241 posts] 5 years ago
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I'm unsure. Does vintage kit negate the "never wear team kit" rule?

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VecchioJo [400 posts] 5 years ago
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you can wear vintage kit if you're on the correct bike for the team and the period  1

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minnellium [88 posts] 5 years ago
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My first shorts (and top) too. I remember laying them down on the seat next to my bed when I went to bed that night - I was so proud. I think it was sunny all that summer, and each time I rode my pride in my kit didn't decline one jot. Thanks for this lovely reminder.

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jackseph [17 posts] 5 years ago
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I first watched the Tour as a 10 year old in '86 and I too remember the battles between Lemond and Hinault in their awesome La Vie Claire kit. A couple of years ago I finally got my hands on a LVC top off Ebay, which I wore once and then promptly decided it was too good to be worn out. It now hangs on my garage wall, alongside a Z Peugeot, Marmite and (wool) Velo Club de Londres tops. Some things are better off displayed than destroyed.

As for not wearing pro kit, be it vintage or modern, who said that? What a load of garbage. Football fans wear their teams kit, why shouldn't we? I draw the line at wearing a Yellow Jersey or Rainbow stripes (they have to be earned) but lets not take ourselves too seriously here. No one else does.

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ped [241 posts] 5 years ago
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It's all in the rules, jackseph. We're just here to obey them …

jackseph wrote:

As for not wearing pro kit, be it vintage or modern, who said that?

Rule 17

jackseph wrote:

I draw the line at wearing a Yellow Jersey or Rainbow stripes (they have to be earned)

Rule 16

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daviddb [134 posts] 5 years ago
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snipping " oh yeah, never wear team kit unless you're on the team, " snipped.

Perhaps a tad harsh - for myself I think vintage is fine, good even if that's your style. As for me I really really want the Hoogerland : Population Heroes shirt.

I don't want to earn it though  20

Oh no!

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pwake [395 posts] 5 years ago
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The ill-fated ANC-Halfords jersey was my first and only team kit. Made by Assos; quality kit, still looks like new almost 25 years later (where did that quarter century go?!!) The great thing about cycling was, and probably still is the case, that I would watch those guys racing the Tour and about a month later be racing a town centre crit, as a junior, and they would be there at the side of the road, watching and waiting for the pro race. Very low-key and very cool.

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VecchioJo [400 posts] 5 years ago
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jackseph wrote:

Football fans wear their teams kit, why shouldn't we?

you answered your own question there  1

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Aching knee [15 posts] 5 years ago
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I always felt the bizz in my KAS kit. The first pro kit I owned. Then FAGOR and ANC. Pop, fridges and parcels - pretty cool.
My son wears my circa 87 Brixton/Bontrager shirt to his CycloX races - way cool.