Style Points and the Yellow Rubber Gloves

Yellow Rubbermaid gloves make an appearance at the Tour of California

I'd forgotten about this image. It's one of my favorites from this year's Tour of California. Jonathan Patrick McCarty riding for Ouch rockin' the Rubbermaids during Stage 2. I'm quite sure there was no mention of the kitchen brand on his jersey, and there's no photographic evidence anyone else in the peloton was volunteering to do the dishes.

Then there's Mr. Armstrong sporting a mtb visor on his Giro Ionos as he heads for the start line of Stage 3. I wonder if this was a simple re-purposing or whether the F1 team cooked this up in the wind tunnel.

Both challenge the established stylistic rules of the road, and while it's unlikely either will catch on, to me there's something confidently PRO about the choices. Wear what works for the conditions and carry it off with panache.

Lance wearing a mtb helmet visor

I thought about these two images last night as I responded to a question from a new convert to our collective obsession concerning shoes and pedals. In essence he wanted to know if wearing mtb shoes and using SPD pedals with a road bike violated the Velo-cratic oath. Flashback: You remember McQueen tossing the baseball over the trip wire in The Great Escape to see whether any of the guards would notice. "To cross the wire is death, you know that" Well like Hilts, I just want to get my baseball (and I'm not talking about bringing the Oakland A's to San Jose... though I'm for that too.)

NewtoCycling established he had decent taste by volunteering he'd be satisfied riding in Rapha's Touring Shorts paired with any of their jerseys. He wondered why I chose mtb shoes. I told him that premium mtb shoes (mine have full carbon soles and, except for the treads are indistinguishable from their road counterpart) sacrificed a few grams and possibly (depending on pedal choice) a small margin of platform integrity in exchange for a better contact point with the ground when unclipped, and the flexibility to walk normally for distances that you'd not attempt in road shoes.

I went on to say that for my riding I was happy with the trade offs and he should make up his mind based on his own routes and habits. Willy, Velodramatic regular, and randonneur extraordinaire echoed the sentiment and added a few practicalities of his own.

As I typed I also thought back to Andy, the inked, board-shorted, Vans-wearing rider on last year's Best Buddies Century or Erik, who Tim and I met at the top of Tunitas Creek... Rivendell, knickers, musette, Chuck Taylors and toe straps and then I drifted back to Portland, where every facet of bicycle culture thrives, cross-pollinates and resonates with individuality.

There is art in cycling, it takes years and thousands of miles to absorb its nuances and traditions. Lore is passed from rider to rider in a long, unbroken paceline. We share hard won secrets encrusted with sweat, stained by blood and tempered with suffering, and still there is room for self expression. Remember that the next time you pass someone in tubes socks and cyclo sandles perfecting his aero position on a TT-modified hybrid.

Velodramatic Images, 2009

28 Responses to Style Points and the Yellow Rubber Gloves

  1. stan says:

    MTB shoes and SPD/platform pedals are the way for me as I tour and want to be able to walk in my shoes without looking like a complete dork off the bike. The platform on the other side of the SPD also let me ride in my off bike shoes

    • Hi Stan,

      It’s fair to say the bespoke suit is more about “design collaboration” than mainstream kit. The chance to explore new territory with Saville Row’s Timothy Everest was (I’m sure) a treat for the design team, even if the result was completely out the reach of 99% of us. I’m expecting the collaboration to produce a jacket or two at a later date that’s still expensive but attainable. The big question in my mind is whether your riding habits or commute lend themselves to more formal kit. I know mine don’t. Maybe a big-city rider with a short 5 mile or less commute could wear a nice jacket. My price sensitivity starts to kick in at $300 and pretty much eliminates anything above $500 from consideration. Plus I’ve got to start saving for that next bike.


      • stan says:

        The folks at Rapha are treading a fine line as collaborations with Saville Row probably reinforces the image of Rapha as only for poseur cyclists with more money than sense. It might be fun to do such design projects, but they run the risk of becoming ridiculous in the eyes of many.

        Also while I like their touring shorts they are not ideally functional for touring as they need a couple of good pockets. I’d also like to see a version of the fixed knickers but with a leg length the same as the existing touring shorts.

        • Stan,

          I’ll pass on the suggestion about Touring Short pockets, it’s a good one. Someone else made the very same comment to me offline today.

  2. William says:

    Thanks for your info about the sizes of Rapha touring shorts.
    Got mine yesterday and they fit great. Also picked up a Winter
    White club jersey & fixed backpack.
    Thanks again.
    From the streets of Toronto.

    • willy in pacifica says:


      Why did you pick the fixed backpack over the new large Fixed Backpack? I have been considering getting one of these or the Mussette but none of the picture on their website put any of these next to a known object so I can tell how big or small they are. Anyone know where there are any picture of any of these three items with a good size reference?

      I will tell you that I have ridden 250 miles in the touring shorts but I think after this past weekend I will limit it to 150 at a time.


  3. Kurt says:

    In my youth with money scarce, I used whatever I could to combat the elements during a 50 mile round trip commute.
    Ivory color cable knit sweater, black wool tights, bandana to cover the face, a yellow cinelli cap and of course, polyrpo base layers. Not bad on the style points. As the temperature dropped to – oh yeah – 9 degrees plus snow fall, I dutifully rode my commute. The addition of a navy blue down vest, black ski gloves, a navy wool baclava and black neoprene ski mask improved my cold weather tolerence. Oh, and let’s not forget the ski goggles with amber lense (Oakley did not exist) and bright blue booties. The addition of plastic sandwich bags on my feet kept me from frost-bite. Polypro undergarments and the neoprene ski mask were high tech for the time and came from my downhill skiing wardrobe.

    Rubber gloves….wish I thought of that.

  4. willy in pacifica says:

    If you ride your bike for 24 hours straight you will find out what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, the lightest or most esthetic items don’t always make the cut. But if you use these items you will look fantastic while off your bike on the side of the road working out the kinks as others roll by.

    Tortoise and the Hare, Baby!

    My long distance bike weighs a ton once you add everything I need to get me thru the ride. I do not have a team car nor would I want one so I have to carry everything I cannot find out on the road. But the only time this weight comes into play is on uphills or if I am trying to accelerate. I have been known to carry an extra tire and on my last ride I even carried a brand new chain. But at least I have a beautiful bar bag in which to carry everything so I really do look fantastic even carrying it all. Plus, it gives you another excuse to get a new/different type of bike.

    willy in pacifica

  5. BR says:

    I go Cross Country skiing in cycling bibs, jerseys, etc. I also wear $6 safety glasses when I ride. There I said it.

  6. kaiko says:

    ahhh i’m about to go clipless too. no more rides in chucks and toe straps!

    although i’ll always try to rock the tube socks.

  7. Richard says:

    Another great article. And for what my opinion is worth, a rider confidently carrying off the evolutionary result of a carefully thought out personal set-up is infinitely more PRO than a rider that has deep pockets but a shallow understanding. Six dollar safety glasses being a perfect example – PRO.

    All my bikes wear Egg Beaters. And I wear MTB shoes. That combo’s worked for me for years and I doubt I’ll be changing any time soon.

    I dig riders who are out there simply for the saddle time way more than the Mobile Disco Latest Gear Weight Weenies barely topping 20kph on the flat. Surely there’s nothing LESS PRO than a full replica team kit struggling on a super-bike?

  8. NewToCycling says:

    I’m flattered to see that my questions have prompted further discussion. With your help I am currently narrowing down my choices and hope to buy pedals and shoes pretty soon. I’m still riding around in New Balance running shoes (black ones at least) and toe clips. The shoes I buy will probably not be the lightest road-specific shoes…and I think that’s okay. Your comment about figuring out what works for you is spot on. Furthemore, having just started to ride, I doubt that the bottleneck in performance would be the shoes…perhaps my legs, lungs and a million other things should be addressed first.

    Seeing the picture of the kitchen gloves made me smile, and made me think of the many wealthy cyclists who could never approach the levels of performance that it takes to ride the ToC, and yet would never dare be seen in anything but “the very best”, expensive, cycling-specific gloves. If there are any other pictures or stories of pro “violations” of cycling style, I would love to see them. We can all learn from their practicality.

    Perhaps next time I begin to worry too much about style, I should quietly chant the following mantra to myself:

    Visor, yellow kitchen gloves, visor, yellow kitchen gloves

    • At this point I should confess to being a hypocrite or at least wanting to have it both ways. Love my Rapha, and nice things in general, but I hope I don’t lose sight of what’s really important. The longer you ride the more you appreciate real passion, and the humility that comes with every hard effort we make. Styling and style are two different things.

      I’m glad to be associated with anyone who sees the difference (Rapha clearly gets the distinction) and wants to share a few miles heading in the same direction whatever they’re wearing.

      • stan says:

        I use my Rapha gear on day rides and when I go touring. The fixed shorts are great on tour as they have good pockets and protect to below the knee. I’ll be testing the Stowaway on tour this summer as a replacement for an O2 jacket, if it rains too much I usually stop and find shelter or put my umbrella up. I haven’t bought any Rapha jerseys yet as I ride in long sleeve Smartwool zip T-shirts. They are very nice and half the price of the Rapha.

        For shoes I use Shimano SH-M033 an old and basic MTB shoe with recessed cleats and Shimano M324 SPD/platform. Remember I’m not going for performance here, but durability flexibility of use on tour.

        Finally Walz Wool Worsted cap.

    • Brian Ignatin says:

      See Low Budget Superstar on BobkeStrut for more great “violations”.

  9. BR says:

    N-T-C, I pop into the comments from time to time with some random historical blabbing so thanks for the great questions and observations.

    I can still hear rhythmic the slap-slap-sslap-slap-sslap-slap-slap of the Alfredo Binda toe straps as we all wound up for finishing sprints. Clipless pedals really turned us on our heads in 1984 but I could happily slip into my circa 1982 SIDI Revolutions with that new fangled Velcro and head out for a friction shifting ride wearing my Oakley’s and a Bell V1-Pro helmet. We could talk about how some of the guys are using this new invention of powdered energy drink stuff called Cytomax. I even heard the other day that an American entered the 1984 Tour!

  10. Jordan says:

    gotta give props to Tim Johnson for fully owning the rubbermaids as elegantly captured by Jeremy over at Embrocation Magazine:

    • Thanks Jordan,

      I’ll have to look again at my stuff from Bonnie Doon Road. I think I have a shot of Tim on the last climb. He probably just ditched the gloves earlier when the skies cleared for a good portion of PCH South of Highway 84. The gloves might be perfect for a little Livestrong branding.

  11. Brian Ignatin says:

    I think the Rubbermade Gloves were team issued. Embrocation Cycling Journal’s blog has photos and video of Tim Johnson sporting the same gloves. See Post 35 on February 17, 2009 at:

    While I am sure these kept the rain & wind out, I wonder how wet their hands got from sweating inside these gloves. I’ll have to try it some day.

    And of course if their hands get chapped, they can always insert some Dawn dish washing soap, since it softens your hands while you do the dishes…

  12. You’d be all over those rubber gloves if Rapha made a pair! As for me, I wouldn’t be able to afford them…

  13. Christopher says:

    While the kitchen gloves seem good in theory, I think the 0% breathability outweighs any waterproof benefits. (At least for me it would) As for the MTB shoes…personally I wouldn’t wear them, but thats only because I never have to walk in my cleats. Also, I find the whole Rapha style intriguing…as a racer who is always sporting a team kit, it would be nice to wear something cool but understated for a change (my kit is black w/ white pinstripes so I always stand out). Any recomendations for a first Rapha piece?

    Chris (Portland, OR)

    • Hi Chris,

      I’d have to go for a Rapha jacket… with plenty of opportunities to wear one in Portland, the new Stowaways are great and I’m partial to the red Lightweight Softshell, which is in the sale section of the Rapha site. $200 is not everyone’s idea of a sale, it’s a very nice piece of kit though

      Black with white pin stripes sounds classy.

  14. sam says:

    do you happen to know what type of gloves the other pro’s were wearing? the black ones as seen here:

  15. stan says:

    So what about this? If it isn’t a joke it’d surely is ridiculous

    I reached my limit with the Stowaway, sure it’s nice, but $250 is pushing it. Has Rapha gone off the deep end completely?