Back before the Internet, bike nerds must have had to crowd around well-thumbed copies of under-the-radar bike ‘zines at the LBS, squinting fitfully at blurry, black-and-white photos pirated out of Gazzetta dello Sport before coming up with clever things to say about how freakin’ ugly the new season’s kits were.
Can you imagine? Do you think fine details like the fake rivets and pockets on the notorious Carrera kits were even visible? Could they even tell that the Castorama kit was supposed to be a
grocer’s Home Depot-style apron, and not hip waders or overalls? I shudder to even consider it.
At any rate, I think kit design has improved quite a bit since the early 90s—certainly if people are nominating the comparatively staid Kelme kit for worst of all time in any sport, we’re doing OK. Riskier designs like Highroad and Garmin have taken some heat, but being distinctive and having single concept that drives the design aren’t bad things.
That was my main complaint about the Radio Shack kits—aimlessness and safe, corporate sterility—and for the most part, I think Sky’s admittedly understated kit avoids that. I don’t like it as much as Quick.Step’s reprise of last season’s underused design (which has a nice retro feel while remaining immediately recognizable) but it’s certainly better than Astana (red S on yellow sleeve looks a bit ketchup and mustard, doesn’t it?).
While I’ll readily admit that some of my favorite designs are simple patterns from the 1970s and early 80s, I think it’s a good thing that kit designers still try to innovate: good, new designs sell more apparel and drive interest to the sport, and the total flops make everyone else look better.