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.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 31, 2013
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?
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.