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The $200 cycling clothing challenge

Let’s face it: cycling kit can be stupidly expensive. Like really, really bloody expensive. The top-end kit is nice (most of the time), but if you’re planning on kitting yourself out each season with the latest and greatest clothing, you would need to be thinking about either selling kidneys or sending your kids out to work.

With the influx of new cyclists out there, it got me thinking, how little money can you spend and still get quality items that firstly have high performance and comfort, and secondly don’t look terrible.

So, I set myself a challenge: Could I kit myself out, with stuff I’d actually want to wear, for US$200? Helmet, shoes, shorts, jersey, undershirt, socks, gloves – the lot. For 200 bucks. (That’s €175 / AU$290 / £160).

Is it even possible? I’m used to the good life, kit-wise. Have I gone too soft?

I recently tooted up just one of the lovely kits that I often throw on to roll out the door. I had a near cardiac arrest when I realise than my calculator wasn’t lying to me. For shorts, jersey, undershirt, mitts, socks, shoes and a helmet all from premium brands would have dented my wallet for over a thousand euros. A thousand damn euros, do you know what I can buy with that? A new sofa would be a start as mines well overdue for replacing, I’d still have hundreds of euros still left over to get a new TV, so I could sit on that new sofa and watch my “quality” YouTube videos. I could even buy a decent frame for the money.

We’re fortunate here at CyclingTips as we get on occasions bits and bobs from launches and through the post to review. So if I’m honest I’ve only had to buy a few items to finish my cycling wardrobe off in the years I’ve been with Wade and the gang.

I remember the days when I had to kit myself out; I’d usually acquire hand me down items when I first started. The best being a full summer and winter wardrobe from my dad’s friend, Tim Hall, a UK pro who raced for the UK Ambrosia pro team. Looking back it was a shocking looking kit with a custard producer as title sponsor, but I sure thought I looked the part back when I was 13 years old even if it was several sizes too big.

Clothing back then wasn’t really great, but we didn’t know any better. Plus the UK scene wasn’t what it is now; there weren’t many big brands about that seemed to forge a path in technical know-how and style. With the change in cycling culture and the explosion of the scene, brands started to up their game. That’s when technology and design really changed the way we looked and performed on the bike.

Brands like Castelli and Rapha were trailblazers as such. Now there’s a heap of fantastic clothing options out there. And much of that technology and innovation has slowly trickled down to lower price items. The crazy money top end kit is always a treat to throw on. Currently, my favourite would be some beautiful items from our friends at Sportful and, surprisingly, Scott. But both come at prices many can’t or aren’t willing to pay.

For this challenge, I had to turn away from premium brands, where $200 wouldn’t even get me a single pair of bibs. I turned toward Decathlon, that ubiquitous big-box sports store here in France, and toward more affordable brands like DHB.

The question is, did I manage, and was it any good. Well, you’ll just have to watch the video. Sorry!

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