pretty much every sport or activity has a perceived price of entry. what that means in terms of a diminishing bank balance depends partly on your own perspective, but quite frequently on that of your peer group. for instance, there's little doubt that playing golf with friends or colleagues who have a motorised caddy, a complete set of carbon clubs and a rather neat line in pringle sweaters is going to set you in a highly different frame if you're using borrowed clubs and a howies sweatshirt.
cycling is really no different. it may only take one guy in the sunday peloton to arrive on carbon decorated with electronic gearing and suddenly you're all clamouring to read this week's comic in order to find out just how cheaply you could manage the same on your old steel raleigh. perhaps i exaggerate; most cyclists of my acquaint are perhaps individualistic enough not to let such frivolities bother them to the extent of having a quiet word with the bank manager.
nonetheless, peer pressure aside, there's still a cost involved and often a bit higher than a first look might have led the newbie to believe.
the rather obvious starting point is the need of a bicycle. carbon is not a prerequisite, but to be honest with the efficiencies of far eastern manufacture, it can be cheaper to buy the black stuff than it is to search out steel or aluminium. taking the long-term perspective, if it's carbon you ultimately desire, it might be cheaper in the long run to bite the bullet and start at that point. but no matter the type or state of that first bicycle, suddenly a whole phalanx of opportunities to spend opens up after only a few rides.
for starters, there are few cyclists i know who would be happy riding even a few kilometres without wearing an appropriate pair of padded shorts. or, if weather conditions demand (remember just how many folks get a bike at christmas) perhaps a better choice would be padded tights. couple that with the scarily inept breathability of the average cotton t-shirt or sweatshirt as opposed to a bona-fide cycle jersey and there's a couple more items that it might be prudent to put on the list.
and then there's shoes.
looking back over several of my past reviews of current cycling apparel, there are no jerseys costing less than £110, with shorts or tights often costing considerably more. though i'm expressly discussing the requirements of road cycling, i very much doubt that offroad or cyclocross are any more bank account friendly. in which case, perhaps we ought to be thoroughly grateful that those who have already been there, done that and bought the merino baselayer have raised the profile cycling in the uk well beyond its former obscure status.
for this new found popularity appended to cycle sport in britain, has meant that those outside the box have started to think in terms of two wheels. one of the more recent higher profile adherents is that of german supermarket brand aldi, well-known for their stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap method of retailing. aside from their regular foodstocks which rarely alter, every now and again, aldi feature special buys, promoting items that remain on offer only as long as stocks last.
cycling fits neatly into this category.
i recently received a large cardboard box of aldi promoted cycling items, including the items described here: long-sleeve jersey, windproof cycling tights and a pair of cycling socks. there's no denying the wallet friendly prices, but the latter is of little import if the quality fails to impress. the big boys will not be left shaking in their ivory towers on catching sight of aldi's cycle clothing, but to expect such would be to miss the point. the criteria here is just how good can a jersey priced at under £10 actually be?
as it turns out, it's actually remarkably good, no matter what the cost on the price ticket. on the medium-sized example reviewed, the sleeve length was very well judged, while the quarter length zip was stopped in its tracks by a fully formed zip garage. the capacious three rear pockets are augmented with a fourth zipped security version, all sat above a drop tail. the back features a full length, centred reflective strip, matching one or two on the sleeves to aid visibility.
the jersey is let down a bit by its fit. though i'm a medium in pretty much every brand on the market, i've a notion that an aldi small size might have found greater favour. though i experienced only mild flappage during my velocipedinal excursions, when the rear pockets were filled with a rain jacket, coffee money, compact camera, mini pump and spare pair of gloves, gravity pulled the whole lot far closer to the rear tyre than pragmatism and sartorial elegance would have wished. though size may have been a factor, it would be also true to say that the lack of heft in the polyester fabric seemed every bit as much to blame. you can possibly see that to which i refer from the accompanying photographs.
their winter cycling tights, however, were far more impressionable. though devoid of the more usual bibs that we have come to expect, these were kept in place by an elasticated, drawstring waist. however, what i hadn't expected for the price of only £13.99 (not a misprint), was an italian made seatpad; no need to wear shorts underneath. the front panels are both windproof and water-resistant, perhaps not quite as flexible as i'd have liked, but pretty darned good nonetheless. having gone cyclocrossing by way of providing a more rough and ready test, they remained firmly in place even after a good two hours of scrabbling in the undergrowth and avoiding a post van.
the legs feature calf-length zips on the outer sides, ostensibly to allow pulling on over footwear, but i found i'd to unzip just to get them on over the pair of aldi cycling socks. however, this provides the added advantage of removing any propensity to ripple in the wind. it would be a fib to describe the fit as impeccable; around the knees there was more fabric than i'd have liked, but in mitigation, i have owned far more expensive bibtights that displayed similar features. when in motion, you'd never notice unless you ride always looking down like chris froome.
aldi's cycling socks are of the ankle fit variety, perfectly comfortable and worth every last penny of their £2.99. i also received an excellent quality, long-sleeve baselayer which retails at less than £20, but the current climate, even in the hebrides, is still a tad on the warm side to wear beneath a long-sleeve jersey. too many long-sleeves at one time. however, if we might hypothetically move on a month or so, arriving at the checkout with all four items in your basket would cost you a few pounds less than £45.
perhaps the least attractive feature of aldi's cycling gear is their odd system of offering it for sale only at specific times of the year. currently all the above was available on 24 and 27 september, with the next tranche due this thursday, 1 october. and unless i'm very much mistaken, though all items are detailed on their website (see link below), there seems to be no option to purchase online. if i were you, i'd pop along to your nearest aldi supermarket tomorrow; there's bound to be some stuff still available.
aldi's cycle clothing might not be state of the art, but nor is it deserving of any snobbish derision from the financially better off. there are all sorts of initiatives to get more people on bicycles; this may be one of the most pragmatic and cost-effective i've seen.
i was also sent a bright yellow waterproof jacket and black waterproof overtrousers aimed more at the commuter, a pair of winter gloves, a complete bicycle toolkit in a plastic case which proves excellent value at only £19.99, and a set of bicycle lights. i will be reviewing all these items in the fullness of time, but the oddity of aldi's retailing means thay might not all be available in store at the time.
smonday 28 september 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................