Grand Tour season ushers in one of my favorite times of year as professional cycling’s stars and media descend on some of the most beautiful racing venues in the world. With that, comes the debut of road cycling’s latest product releases. Typically the spotlight falls on the new road racing bikes, wheels, and other tech as brands aim to make a splash by crossing the finish line first, providing fuel for the marketing copy that shows up in ads in the cycling media. This year’s Giro however has an unusual star, with an unorthodox approach to livery from a pair of cycling icons and a surprising outsider.
If you pay attention to road racing, or if you check in on any of the media outlets that cover road racing, by now you’ve probably seen the collaboration between Rapha and Palace Skateboards for EF Pro Cycling’s Giro d’Italia team kit and race livery. EF Pro Cycling’s livery has always been a challenge to road cycling tradition – from the blue, orange, and white argyle of the Garmin-Chipotle days, and the neon green and red “Christmas” kit of recent years to the hot pink of the current season – the American team has always stood out from the peloton with their non-traditional kit designs. If skateboarding culture isn’t your thing, Palace Skateboards might seem like a strange brand to be elevated to what is usually the spot reserved for the primary sponsor on a team kit. The London based skateboard shop’s identity echoes of the American brand Supreme and its path from core skateboarding company to fashion and cultural icon, where both brands have crossed over into popular culture thanks to recognition from many notable celebrities outside of skateboarding, as well as cross-genre publicity achieved through unorthodox marketing.
The nuances of the cultures behind the collaboration aside, the kit’s design eschews the traditional team kit’s “billboard” approach, which focuses on integrating sponsor’s logos in visible areas on the riders and equipment to promote the brands and product. Instead, the Rapha x Palace collection pays homage to street and skate culture with livery that embraces the aesthetic side of branding, with a backdrop that ditches the hot pink that EF Pro Cycling started the season with for a wild all-over graphical design that is anything but traditional. So disruptive was the debut of the new kit that the UCI fined each of the eight riders 500 Swiss francs at the Giro d’Italia team presentation for “non-compliant clothing during podium obligations.”
The collection includes Rapha Pro Team replica jersey and bibs, as well as an additional training jersey that omits the EF Pro Cycling logos while retaining the Palace embellishments and aesthetic of the race kit.
To complete the on-bike offerings, the POC Ventral helmet has been adorned with matching graphics. Sadly, the TT helmet the EF riders took to the stage one individual time trial featuring Palace’s iconic duck was not included in the collection.
In a nod to Palace’s history in streetwear, the collaboration also includes a lifestyle collection for off-bike wear. Included in the limited edition collection is a lightweight technical Gore-Tex rain jacket as well as wardrobe staples like a hoodie, long and short-sleeve T shirts, and button up.
Cycling cap, musette, socks, and a snap-back cap as worn by EF Pros at the Giro round out the line – all of which feature the iconic “Tri-Ferg” Penrose triangle and graphics from Palace. These items are much more in line with what Palace is known for, and the graphics and treatment are reminiscent of 90s pop culture influences and fashion, a departure from Rapha’s typically subdued and reserved lifestyle options.
Road cycling, simultaneously one of cycling’s most conservative and progressive disciplines, is often confusing in its push for the latest technological advantage while observing traditions that confuse the uninitiated. Even if the look is not to your taste, the Rapha x Palace collaboration embodies this juxtaposition and has drawn major attention to cycling from outside the usual viewership in a classic EF Pro Cycling way, challenging convention and bringing a unique perspective to the peloton.
Starting October 9th, every piece of the Rapha + Palace collection will be released for sale on Rapha’s website. Priority access will be given to Rapha Cycling Club members, and specifically those who were already a member on or before Sunday, October 4th. Pricing isn’t given, and Rapha states that quantities will be extremely limited – just like any hyped up collection these days.