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  • Writer's pictureNicola Graham

I think Rapha may have thrown up on me!

"Fashion! Turn to the left Fashion! Turn to the right Oooh, fashion! We are the goon squad and we're coming to town"

David Bowie

Release: 1980

Bike: check, Shoes: check, helmet: check, cuts & bruises (thanks clicky shoes): check. Ok now comes the fun part, and clearly an important part of any women’s priorities, clothes, accessories & colour matching!

SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to gender stereotype and disclose guy secrets #sorrynotsorry

Its incredible to see guys in a bike shop! My entire life, of dragging men around shops and talking shoes,or asking their opinion whether this top suits this colour skirt etc.

I don’t think I’m alone here ladies, but the guys I tend to know, seem to zone out and have absolutely no interest in what print design on a scarf suits your complexion most.


WELL all this time I thought it was a stereotypical trait … sorry to reveal the truth chaps, but Ladies, they’ve been having us on. Guys do know patterns/colours/styles/shapes! If you want to see guys ‘come out’ with their shopping habits … simply take them into a bike shop, stand back and watch the magic begin … you will witness your own Gok Wan burst out like a butterfly from a cocoon!“

"What do you think about this pink, right shade ?? Nah mate, I reckon get these cerise pink socks, they’ll match better with the top … ooooh lookie, it’s the Shimano RC9 in Blue”

I promise you its something to see. I absolutely love it! I take a bunch of blokes into Sigma Sports, or Rapha and that’s it, we are there for hours. Discussing colours, trying things on and proving that were bad influences on each other. Pssst Bank managers you can thank me later for my mates increased credit card spend. In fact, I have to admit, I enjoy cycling shopping with guys SO much. We head for a ride, stop for a coffee at Sigma, perv over the bikes, then encourage bad spending habits. My mates, have helped me buy some really good gear, and what I’ve loved the most is their advice with size fitting and colour matches (my stylist would be proud).

So, I took a while trying to discover the brands that I like the most

Note: this is not by far finished, as I enjoy discovering good brands all the time #bikeclothingmodelavailable and what I can tell you is that cycling gear is such a personal thing.


I’ve made several purchase mistakes, from leery outfits that make me look like a 80s throw back who am trying to kid, I was designed for 80s!, through to brands that have a cut not suited to my body shape.

My first purchase started with Castelli and whilst I love the look of this particular kit, I don’t overly like the fabric its ‘rougher’ so I refrained from more purchases. Also the bib shorts are quite tight, so as a woman with big quads, I always end up with a band mark which looks like I’ve just starved my poor feet from blood for the past hour.

I moved onto Assos after this, firstly, even if you’re not intending to buy Assos … be sure to visit their store next time you’re in Piccadilly Circus. I find the layout very simplistic and easy to shop in, and just worth looking at the design of it.

I once made the mistake of dragging a (non-cyclist) first date into Assos (I know how to impress them), and just to look like I knew what I was talking about, I regretfully asked the shop assistant a question. Before I blinked, I was invited into the back dressing room, with an assistant insisting that I try what felt like the entire stores outfits on and then, testing the comfort by using the watt bike they had set up! This poor guy, endured an hour of watching me come back and forth from the changing room and straddle the bike, all whilst trying to look interested.

“ ah yes that’s great … I think that shade of yellow is definitely better than the other 2 you tried … shop assistant do you offer alcohol?"

By the end of the shopping experience, I was a scruffy haired, sweaty puffy faced mess, and £400 odd pounds lighter. At which point I then continued on our first date with the poor chap, who spent the evening in my not so elegant presence.

Now, the good part about the Assos bib shorts, is they fit well and the discreet branding means that are versatile with other branded tops. As a marketing mans dream, I fell for the bibs that have the clip so you don’t have to strip off when going to the loo, but, truth is they just cut across your cleavage, giving you some weird boob wedge, and THEY don’t work … I still strip naked most times to use the loo! I found their tops were for more slight ladies than myself, and I don't wear my top much anymore as it rises up lots (thanks big hips)

So, Sammy has a lot to answer for in our friendship … but the main finger wagging I'll give him, is the introduction to Rapha!

I think after hearing me moaning about the boob bulge (Assos) and circulation cut off cold toes (Castelli) , he took me to the Rapha store!

"no one warned me about was the invisible layer of glue you walk through when you enter the shop!"

Something odd happens and basically if you touch anything, it sticks to you like that sticky weed we all use to taunt our friends with as kids, rendering it impossible to get off! Now I’ve been to exotic countries, with toxin burning plants and crocodiles on beaches. There are signs people, signs, warning me of the dangers

"ENTER at your own RISK, DON’T touch anything!"

Why, oh why do they not put these signs on the Rapha doors? "Warning Rapha customers, you will deplete your monthly spending allowance on entering … ENTER at your own RISK, DON’T touch anything!" The guys in the London store, actually now know me by name, even when I’ve asked a mate to collect something for me! They know what coffee I like, my size and even my bikes!

Yes I am officially known as RAPHA Girl! If you ever find yourself in Richmond Park and want to say hi (I’m there a lot), look for a woman wearing Rapha, if she has mantas rays tattooed on her arm, and a big smile … that’s me! I’m usually the one greeting everyone in the 'morning game' I like to play Spoiler alert: blog about the morning game coming soon.

So why Rapha ? Simples:

"The clothes were designed for my shape, they are soooo comfortable, fit like they’ve been sprayed on me, wash well, and pretty much some of the best customer service I’ve experienced"

Yes you pay for what you get, and an outfit can be quite expensive … however here are my top tips for Rapha buying:

  1. Get the RCC membership. As well as free coffee in the clubhouses, decent bike hire and access to club rides, you are able to buy RCC member kit. The advantages (specifically as a woman with this) is that when the sales come out, there are surplus kit available in decent sizes and you can pick up some real bargains for RCC kit. I believe I made my membership back in savings on first purchase.

  2. Look for the bundle deals. Rapha offer a bibs and top for a bundle price, which pretty much gives you the top for half price.

  3. Take a visit to their outlet stores … the prices are really reduced there.

  4. Appreciate that the quality of kit means that their gear really does last (I use this kit most days, 7 days a week and my first bibs fit and look as good as they did!). Also, may you never need it, but Rapha offer free repairs if you crash, and discounts on replacements if you change size.

  5. Be winter smart, I use my bib shorts year round, but have some thermal leggings that I put over for extra warmth which gives me extra use of the money I’ve spent. Also, don’t bother with a jacket, get a gilet, good thermals, gloves and a rain mac, you can easily transition from autumn to winter.

  6. Get a credit card!!

Hopefully it has become apparent by now, but I tend to learn as I go along, so here are some etiquette & top tips I've picked up along the way, may they be useful:

  • Invest in good quality cycling shorts – don’t scrimp on these at all, the padding really serves its purpose after hours on a bike

  • Screw what the MAMILS say, use any good sports under layers for warmth

  • Arm warmers are your best friend, especially when you're climbing, you can pull them down quickly (so they are on your wrists) and then pull them up for the colder descents.

  • Socks – I find it incredible how warm my feet get if I enter a summer ride with thicker socks, and equally how cold they get in autumn. Thin and thick socks (merino mmmm) are absolute must haves

  • Shoe covers - yup, I use toe covers for autumn and full on shoe covers for winter. I happen to like my toes skin colour, not purple, so invest.

Chopper alerts:

If you’re trying to look the bees knees on the roads, and impress the cool kids at the park, here are particular rules with clothes:

  • Sock length - should be half way up your calf in length.

  • Colours – let your bike scream attention, keep the colours coordinated, and subtle (unless its PINK then go for your life)

  • Match the kit brands

  • Keep shoes clean, especially white shoes

What not to wear:

pssst … my final tip … don't learn the embarrassing way like I did, you're not supposed to wear underwear with your bib shorts!

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