London trip and new kit!

I love a good trip to London. It’s a nice change to get involved in the hustle and bustle of big city life for a few days, especially if you go midweek. Celebrating Charlie’s birthday we went to see a show, watch Queen with Adam Lambert, and do some shopping.

The last on the list is where the bicycle part comes in! One of my favourite little hangouts in London is Spitalfields market. It has a brilliant mix of shopping, food, atmosphere and architecture. And carefully woven into that shopping are a few outlets for us cyclists.

What cycle shops are in Spitalfields then?

  • Cycle Surgery
  • Evans Cycles
  • Swift Cycles
  • Cafe du Cycliste
  • Rapha

A couple of big chain bike shops, an independent, and two of the best cycle clothing brands. Enough to give you a little taste but not get you in trouble with your partner! (Unless they are as mad for bicycles as you are, in that case fill your boots!).

We were staying in Greenwich as it was pretty central to our plans, traveling about London is so easy from there. Now, whilst our trip to Spitalfields was sort of planned, buying new cycling kit was not. But on arrival (hopped off the tube at Aldgate and walked up) I saw Cafe du Cycliste. Now, like most, I’m not a massive fan of buying cycle clothing online as have done so in the past and regretted it. But I have been more than tempted to push the button with CdC. Now I had the chance to actually try it on.

But first we were there for the wife’s birthday and needed a drink so off into the market for some shopping and respite, stopping at the Grocer for a juice. Walking straight past Rapha, I was actual offered into the shop by Charlie so took full advantage! Quickly noticing their 25% sale and getting stuck into trying some gear on.

Having wanted some matching kit that fits for a while I was like a pig in muck. Quickly engaging in conversation with staff about what I was looking for. I prefer spray on race-esque style gear and was pointed in the direction of pro team bibs and training jersey. Also trying on the the new mid weight jersey. Bibs fitted really well, as did the pro team training jersey. They were a great match.

It was a tipping point. The moment when you release your inner feelings toward the Rapha brand and immerse. I’ve been anti (no that’s too strong) Rapha image because of the attached stigma for a while now but I’ve now succumbed. It all fitted really well. Maybe because it was the right size (now into small after my weigh loss) maybe because of the cut, maybe because of the materials. Probably a mix of all three.

But the day wasn’t over and I said to the guys in Rapha upfront I wanted to try Cafe du Cycliste before making my decision. So off there it was.

Cafe du Cycliste is tucked a road back from the main Spitalfields market on its south side. It’s a very cool little setup with a great range. I tried on the audax shorts and Francine Breton jersey. My goodness these were comfortable. I don’t just mean they were soft or well cut, I mean you could barely even feel them on you. It was like a gentle hug you would give to a newborn. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t fitted, I had no bunching when I got the sizes right, had to jump down a size of jersey over Rapha to an XS. This is probably down to the difference in materials.

Cafe du Cycliste has their target market at being the audax and long distance rider but with a racier style fit. I can’t fault it they have absolutely hit the nail on the head. Although some of the range may be just a little too lightweight for U.K. use, hence trying on their mid weight jersey, as it’s all designed and developed en le sud de France.

Weighing up the pricing. At full retail there’s not a lot of difference between Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste, and the equivalent models in each other’s range match pretty well to each other. So between the £300 and £350 for both complete kits. But Rapha have a 25% off sale. That made a massive difference. I wouldn’t put £230 for bibs and jersey in the cheap category, but I would say value for money at a 25% reduction.

So what did I go for? What was my personal preference? Rapha. The fit of the pro team gear was racier. The jersey had a lower collar and I preferred the compression of the bibs. Plus and extra £70 in my pocket spoke volumes as well. Don’t get me wrong, I reckon the Cafe du Cycliste will be the gear for me when the kids have left home, but for now I’m enjoying going fast. And the Rapha was the kit for that.

If you are in London and want some new kit at the upper end of the price range I can recommend checking out Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste in Spitalfields. You will easily get away with masking it as a shopping trip for your partner as well! But don’t let on!

Now I’m just dead keen to get out and try my new gear to see how it rides! Review coming soon then I guess…….


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