That Rapha Team Sky mesh skinsuit: new pics & the origin story

Not actually a piece of fetish clothing after all

by John Stevenson   January 21, 2014  

Team Sky’s Chris Froome caused a social media sensation among cyclists and men’s underwear fetishists when he posted a pic of himself on Twitter wearing the new Rapha Mesh skinsuit.

Now the clothing manufacturer has released official pictures of the suit, modelled here by Salvatore Puccio, along with some details of how it came to be developed.

Hot weather is always an issue for pro cyclists, and Team Sky is no different. But if there’s a marginal gain to be had, Sir Dave Brailsford’s boys are going to look for it.

Rapha says the inspiration for the Road Race Mesh Skinsuit came from Sky’s experiences at the 2013 Tour Down Under and Tour de France.

In Australia, Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard’s feedback on Rapha’s Summer Bib Shorts led to a mid-season second-generation version, which was used at the Tour.

In France the team also had development prototypes of the Mesh Jersey, but on time trail days they chose a more conventional skinsuit for its aerodynamic advantages.

Most of the peloton chose skinsuits over traditional shorts and jerseys on the shorter stages of last year’s Tour too, including Pete Kennaugh.

But while a skinsuit is aerodynamic, it lacks airflow, and so throws up challenges managing the rider’s temperature. Rapha’s Team Sky design manager Piers Thomas decided the company must produce a suit that was both cooling and aerodynamic.

He joined a Mesh Jersey to second-generation Summer Bib Shorts to test the idea, and the Rapha product development team developed that prototype into the 2014 Road Race Mesh Skinsuit. Rapha says size Medium suit weighs just 196.6g.

Rapha says that the fabrics are similar to those used in the Rapha Pro Team Baselayer. The mesh upper and front thigh sections are designed for maximum airflow and evaporative cooling, while the panels in the shorts have ColdBlack and antibacterial treatments.

If you’re waiting for the punchline of onsale date and comment-inspiring stratospheric price tag, we’re going to have to disappoint you: Rapha has no plans to sell the Road Mesh Skinsuit in 2014.

That’s not unusual. A couple of years ago Team Sky had a skinsuit developed by previous clothing sponsor adidas that they refused even to talk about. This time round you know what you’re missing. Or is that worse?

33 user comments

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"I've just crashed and shredded my shorts, so I can't continue the race naked."

Shut up legs, you don't get a vote.

ridein's picture

posted by ridein [47 posts]
21st January 2014 - 18:33

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I know it's off brand, but if we're talking about marginal gains, wouldn't a white suit be better at keeping the body cool. While we're at it, those logos look a bit heavy.

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posted by dafyddp [142 posts]
21st January 2014 - 18:34

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Uses cool black fabric so the colour has very little to do with temp control....

And whilst we're on it, surely black would absorb heat away from the skin quicker anyway... heat transfer is a 2 way thing no?

posted by charlierevell [34 posts]
21st January 2014 - 18:43

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It has no sense... These suits don't help to cool down the body just provoques its dehydration.

Stupid PES mesh when you should use a humidity keeper fabric.

We are in a world of marketing and Rapha and Sky give us our dose.

Fat Birds don't fly, but we can ride a bike...

posted by Fat_Birds [24 posts]
21st January 2014 - 18:47

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" Uses cool black fabric so the colour has very little to do with temp control....

And whilst we're on it, surely black would absorb heat away from the skin quicker anyway... heat transfer is a 2 way thing no?"

What are you talking about??

1.-Cold Black is a brand from Schoeller, and this one is not that fabric.
2.-"Black fivers absorb heat away from the skin quicker.." are you kidding me? Heat interchange is a physical process, nothing to do with color. Black absorbs heat from the sun, and an open structured mesh dries faster...

You don't know what are you talking about.

Fat Birds don't fly, but we can ride a bike...

posted by Fat_Birds [24 posts]
21st January 2014 - 18:53

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Fat_Birds wrote:

1.-Cold Black is a brand from Schoeller, and this one is not that fabric.
...
You don't know what are you talking about.

The article clearly says "the panels in the shorts have ColdBlack and antibacterial treatments."

I have no idea if/how it works, but suggest you read first, type response later.

posted by velovoice [15 posts]
21st January 2014 - 19:08

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Fat_Birds wrote:
" Uses cool black fabric so the colour has very little to do with temp control....

And whilst we're on it, surely black would absorb heat away from the skin quicker anyway... heat transfer is a 2 way thing no?"

What are you talking about??

1.-Cold Black is a brand from Schoeller, and this one is not that fabric.
2.-"Black fivers absorb heat away from the skin quicker.." are you kidding me? Heat interchange is a physical process, nothing to do with color. Black absorbs heat from the sun, and an open structured mesh dries faster...

You don't know what are you talking about.

Black is an awful colour for keeping cool in the sun. But I'm not sure about your logic on the fabric. Are you trying to tell me that this fabric actually makes you sweat more? I don't think this is the case, because it actually allows air to pass over the skin and cool it down, allowing the hot sweat to evaporate, taking with it the bodies excess heat - probably the most effective way of cooling, and very natural - holding onto your hot sweat against the skin does not cool you down -it only heats you up until you produce enough sweat for it too pool and cool down. But the top will do that too, since it's a bit like a string vest.

I have this (not the Wiggle exclusive one):

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/castelli-classica-team-climbers-jersey-wiggle-ex...

It's pretty much the same fabric. It's almost like not wearing anything at all which is a strange sensation - the Froome picture sort of sums it up. It's the closest you can come to wearing a t-shirt that is a string vest. It really does keep you very cool in hot weather, and especially climbing mountains. Much more so than a regular cycling top, so I would imagine Rapha's would do the same thing - in fact I'm guessing Rapha very much got the idea from the Castelli top. They seemed to keep copying Castelli's use of technical fibres these days, but who can blame them.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1083 posts]
21st January 2014 - 19:21

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the theory goes that black isn't a colour, it is that absence of it. Since we can't generate an absence of light in a jersey black fabric has a combination of colours to give the affect of black.

Given that white reflects all parts of the visible light spectrum, a combination of all the colours, black, will absorb the light and hence the energy, heating you up.

Having said that apparently this is all nonsense in terms of real world affect, but I can't find the article now...

posted by sam_bennett [54 posts]
21st January 2014 - 19:26

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I guess rule #7 shouldn't be encouraged, either.

dafyddp's picture

posted by dafyddp [142 posts]
21st January 2014 - 19:32

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sam_bennett wrote:
the theory goes that black isn't a colour, it is that absence of it. Since we can't generate an absence of light in a jersey black fabric has a combination of colours to give the affect of black.

Given that white reflects all parts of the visible light spectrum, a combination of all the colours, black, will absorb the light and hence the energy, heating you up.

Having said that apparently this is all nonsense in terms of real world affect, but I can't find the article now...

I know that I wouldn't want to stand barefoot on a black sand beach in blazing sunshine for very long. That's real world enough for me.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1083 posts]
21st January 2014 - 19:54

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Wow, some folks clearly skipped science class.

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posted by pedalpowerDC [202 posts]
21st January 2014 - 19:57

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Fat_Birds wrote:

We are in a world of marketing and Rapha and Sky give us our dose.

That would make sense if this was going on general sale. It isn't so doesn't. I'm pretty sure this particular behemoth of a pro cycling team with a heavy emphasis placed on tech knows what it's talking about.

I'm sure they'll listen to random man on internet forum though and abandon all their research and development.

posted by ajmarshal1 [257 posts]
21st January 2014 - 20:06

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Well Rapha have trumped the harris tweed cycling suit with this one! I guess time will tell whether it ever gets used and whether it provides the claimed benefits or if it's an attempt to gain column inches!

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posted by andy_schweiz [9 posts]
21st January 2014 - 20:24

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Slightly OT, but if you shave your legs, why wouldn't you shave your arms, or at least shave your upper arms to prevent Wookie in Lycra syndrome.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1186 posts]
21st January 2014 - 20:34

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Black absorbs heat in most fabrics. It's why old Greek ladies dressed in black stay in the shade. The black inner surface allows body heat to radiate outwards. White reflects heat. In theory, a white outfit with a black lining should be coolest.

As for mesh. At speed you stay cooler through evaporation. Stand outside on a windy day in January wearing a string vest and you'll get the picture. I suspect Brailsford's boffins have also factored in the golf ball effect versus solid fabric for wind resistance so it's a double package.

As for club cyclists. Rolls under mesh gave never been a good look. If someone as svelte as Froome looks that unsightly I hope I never see an amateur in one. Worried

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
21st January 2014 - 20:54

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I'm 100kg have a spare tyre around my waist, flabby under arms and a soggy bottom, I want one of these skin suits, I can't see a car coming within 5 metres of me, I'll be the safest cyclist on the road LOL

posted by mikeprytherch [207 posts]
21st January 2014 - 21:07

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
sam_bennett wrote:
the theory goes that black isn't a colour, it is that absence of it. Since we can't generate an absence of light in a jersey black fabric has a combination of colours to give the affect of black.

Given that white reflects all parts of the visible light spectrum, a combination of all the colours, black, will absorb the light and hence the energy, heating you up.

Having said that apparently this is all nonsense in terms of real world affect, but I can't find the article now...

I know that I wouldn't want to stand barefoot on a black sand beach in blazing sunshine for very long. That's real world enough for me.

I think the research that sam_bennett may be referring to looked at why nomadic tribes in places such as the Sahara often wear black and whether it had any significant effect on body temperature. I remember the conclusion was that, when airflow from wind (externally generated and not from the subject) was considered, the effect of the fabric colour was negligible to point of being within the error range. The point is that the airflow is several orders of magnitude more significant, so comparing feet on a black sand beach (zero airflow -they soon cool down when you lift them up) to the airflow over a cyclist at Worldtour time trial speeds is not at all 'real world'.

posted by pwake [280 posts]
21st January 2014 - 22:00

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I am known for my hate of all things Sky and Rapha...BUT, I quite like the skin suit and the idea's behind it, I still wouldn't wear one, it would require waxing the chest and I am never going through that pain again Devil

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posted by Gkam84 [8685 posts]
21st January 2014 - 23:40

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It's rather simpler -

Fabrics normally reflect visible & uv (heat) in the same proportion i.e. black reflects almost nothing of either, and white most of both.

With a Shoeler coldblack(r) finish, the uv reflection is independent of the fabric colour. So a black fabric can reflect uv & the wearer remain as cool as beige.

Simples

I love my bike's picture

posted by I love my bike [40 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 0:54

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Ha! It's gonna produce some wicked weird tan lines!!!! "Burn baby burn...." Laughing

posted by IHphoto [83 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 2:02

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gareth2510 wrote:
Bunch of poofs these days...They coped in wool on steel bikes, 1 gear and an innertube wrapped around them back in the day.

the wool clad, steel single speed riders with a tubular (inner? PAH!) wrapped round them would have been over the bloody moon had you appeared in a time machine and given them modern kit.

posted by Al__S [489 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 7:49

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gareth2510 wrote:
Bunch of poofs these days...They coped in wool on steel bikes, 1 gear and an innertube wrapped around them back in the day.

They also rode trains and jumped in cars for stretches.

posted by alexholt3 [51 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 11:22

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alexholt3 wrote:
gareth2510 wrote:
Bunch of poofs these days...They coped in wool on steel bikes, 1 gear and an innertube wrapped around them back in the day.

They also rode trains and jumped in cars for stretches.


But no team bus, play station or clemmy steaks.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1186 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 13:37

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I'm sure the same thing was mentioned on QI

posted by Steve Jarvis [3 posts]
22nd January 2014 - 16:00

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Al__S wrote:
gareth2510 wrote:
Bunch of poofs these days...They coped in wool on steel bikes, 1 gear and an innertube wrapped around them back in the day.

the wool clad, steel single speed riders with a tubular (inner? PAH!) wrapped round them would have been over the bloody moon had you appeared in a time machine and given them modern kit.

100% this. Bicycles happened because of technological innovation, just as cycling is improving by technological innovation. Literally couldn't give a damn what they look like, if the technology is cutting edge and real creativity and effort has been made in to experimentation and implementation of new stuff, then that can only be a good thing.

I bet guys in slacks mocked the guys wearing woolen shorts back then for being poofs too.

I just feel a bit bad for poor Froomey, anyone see his sunburn pic? Don't think they thought that bit through Confused

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
23rd January 2014 - 13:09

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Would have helped if Froome hadnt been so daft as to leave off the sunscreen.

Not very bright.

posted by Sim1 [57 posts]
23rd January 2014 - 13:54

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bikeboy76 wrote:
But no team bus, play station or clemmy steaks.

Who needs dodgy steak when you're taking that much in the way of amphetamines and opiates?

posted by Al__S [489 posts]
23rd January 2014 - 14:03

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pics coming out from south africa show lack of UV performance, marginal gains or not...

1014917_764029443625356_1254929701_o.jpg

posted by quinton [1 posts]
23rd January 2014 - 15:34

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Sim1 wrote:
Would have helped if Froome hadnt been so daft as to leave off the sunscreen.

Not very bright.

Did he leave it off or just not get a chance to reapply?

It is still a bit of a concern that while riders may put suncream on during the pre-race ritual, the ability to maintain that protection throughout long stages is basically non existent.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
23rd January 2014 - 15:43

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I've tested Cold Black side by side with identical fabrics, one treated Cold Black and the other without treatment. Doesn't do anything.

posted by smitty [3 posts]
25th January 2014 - 22:38

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