Despite the title, Chris Sidwells' book, Cycling Jerseys, is not just about the jerseys, but more about the history of cycle racing at the time they were in use – as confirmed by the subtitle: 'Iconic designs and the stories that made them'. In other words, the jerseys are not necessarily the star of the piece, but are really there to provide an introduction to the many wonderful stories relating to cycle racing over the years. This is unlike some other jersey-themed books where the garment takes centre stage.
Sidwells is a prolific and knowledgeable author; many of his stories are familiar, but by starting with a jersey Sidwells can give a slightly different perspective to anecdotes that you may have heard before. The jerseys, and therefore the stories that surround them, are grouped into categories such as Grand Tours, Champions, Nationals, and also various decades.
The book starts with a history of cycle wear, which for the first recorded race was 'plus fours and a shirt and tie, with a buttoned jacket...topped off with a shallow, open-crown round-brimmed hat', but it was not long before specialist (and more practical) garments were available – for men at least.
Some of Sidwells' stories do relate specifically to the jerseys, which is what you might expect from the book. We learn how the World Championship jersey colours were taken from the colours of the Olympic rings, which in turn were chosen to include the colours from the flags of every country competing in the 1912 Olympic Games.
I had always understood that when the yellow jersey for the overall race leader first appeared in the 1919 Tour de France, the colour was chosen to match the colour of paper used by organiser L'Auto's newspaper; it turns out that editor Henri Desgrange took so long to decide on a colour for the jersey that yellow was the only colour available in sufficient quantity from the supplier in time for the race.
There is a good explanation of the change that Nivea introduced into pro cycling, 'the first company from outside cycling to become the headline sponsor of a professional team. Nivea also stands out because of the lovely irony that the star of the team, just about the toughest rider in cycling, was publicising a moisturiser.' That was surely the start of the disconnect between a main sponsor's products and what the riders might actually use themselves.
For me the book loses its 'usp' when it uses images that I'm sure I've seen before – and may not even show a jersey, or the design is invisible. This doesn't make the resulting story any less interesting, but the jersey is now a secondary part of it. In fact, of all the images, a straightforward jersey-only shot is in the minority – and that includes the final two pages containing images of all 2016 World Tour team jerseys.
It always surprises me that there are not more books that feature cycling jerseys, because there is a fresh supply of colourful designs and related stories to talk about each year. Go beyond professional cycling to the lower leagues, or into other disciplines, and there is even more to work with.
This book is not the definitive book on cycling jerseys, as if such a thing could ever be achieved; it uses the history of cycling jerseys as a starting point to cover loosely related stories about professional cycle racing in an entertaining manner.
A different perspective on the history of cycle racing, based around the evolution of cycling jerseys
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cycling Jerseys by Chris Sidwells
Size tested: Hardback
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Thames & Hudson:
A unique, lavishly presented history of the most iconic item of cycle wear: the jersey
Cycling jerseys represent many different things. For a cyclist they must be functional. For team sponsors they must stand out, and in doing so they must increase brand awareness. For cycling fans they help pick out their favorites or a race or competition leader. Jerseys show who is a world or a national champion. And in some races, jerseys tell of a competitor's nationality. But cycling jerseys have evolved into something bigger than all those things.
Some jerseys are iconic, others stylish, and some are beautiful. They can evoke good times or bad times, success or failure. Above all, jerseys mark the great occasions of cycling, they speak of its history, its personalities and its style. And all jerseys have an element of art in their design.
'Cycling Jerseys' celebrates the cycling jersey in all its forms. With stunning pictures and snatches of history, this is the story of the cycling jersey told in 192 gorgeous pages. From the first simple garments that early cyclists raced in, to the technologyladen jerseys top riders use today. This book looks at the iconic jerseys associated with great riders and with great teams, the jerseys of champions and nations, and the jerseys that leaders wear in the most famous races.
Chris Sidwells is the author of 'A Race for Madmen: A History of the Tour de France', 'Tour Climbs: The Complete Guide to Every Mountain Stage on the Tour de France', 'The Long Race to Glory: How the British Came to Rule the Cycling World' and 'DK's Complete Bike Manual'. He is a keen collector of cycling jerseys.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Title: Cycling Jerseys
Author: Chris Sidwells
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Some great insights into the history of cycling jerseys.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Many of the stories seem to have little relevance to any jersey...
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I feel that the book slightly over-promises on the cycling jersey content – although the stories are still entertaining and informative.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding