Is Cycling the New Yoga?
If Lululemon changed the yoga game, perhaps aspirational Cafe du Cycliste in the South of France can do the same for cycling?
Do you remember hearing about goat yoga? That might have been the moment when yoga, at least as I perceive it, jumped the shark. To be fair, fitness trends come and go all the time, but until Lululemon launched in the late 90s in tandem with yoga’s explosion in popularity, this was a unique example of sport and fashion merging into lifestyle. Suddenly yoga pants, tops, water bottles, headbands and bags (for carrying your mat around) became not just the norm, but the thing. What you wore on a daily basis, told the world you were a devotee. And, it’s not that yoga has faded: As recently as 2016, the yoga market was valued at $16 billion in the US and $80 billion globally. Running has also blown up in a similar manner but so far, no goats.
Which brings us to cycling. If you live in any major city with not enough transit and plenty of roads, you’ll know paths have become either a battleground for tension between cyclist and driver or a joyful, utopian bikescape for the urbane few. Cycling is an activity that breeds a type of passion that can sometimes go beyond a ride to the corner store for eggs or milk; much like running can escalate into marathons, bike passion grows with every churn of the wheel.
But, the reality is, well, mosts cyclists look a little silly, as if going onto a ravine trail requires attire intended for the Tour de France. Rémi Clermont, noticed this too so he launched Café du Cycliste, to create cycling gear that was technical yet beautiful. His brand’s new lookbook and website is the kind of vision we see so rarely these days. Beautiful subtle images taken around the world that don’t scream cycling yet are deeply entrenched in the ideal. Having just picked up a new bike bell and basket, it got us thinking that cycling might be the next physical activity to cross over into fashion and lifestyle.
We spoke with Rémi Clermont, the co-founder and creative director of Café du Cycliste about cycling life and style.
What made you think there was room for something different when it come to cycling dress?
I wasn’t a professional cyclist, only someone who rides a bike from time to time, so for me, the main issue was the very limited choice of apparel. All the brands were competing to be the one that was and looked the most technical, but not the most stylish. As a customer your choice was very limited. There was no alternative.
These pieces are very fashionable. What were some of your influences?
There are many sources of inspiration, but most of the time I look far away from the cycling world. It can be other outdoor sports, it is also the French Riviera where we are based and places where we travel to ride our bikes. And of course, the long heritage of French garment-making that brings a lot of ideas and directions such as Breton stripes, which is now one of our best-selling jerseys.
When did cycling become such a lifestyle?
I started to feel it happening when I started Café du Cycliste nine years ago but it was only the beginning and we are still at the early days. I love to think that this lifestyle can spread much more worldwide and that we have not seen anything yet! The benefits for everyone (health, environment…) would be amazing and I am talking about way more important things than the growth of Café du Cycliste’s sales.
Can you identify three of your favourite bike routes in the world?
a) Le Col d’Eze, France: Our daily ride above Nice city. I ride it at lunch break when I can escape the office for an hour, I ride it on my way to Col de la Madone or on my way to a longer ride. It is perfect and warm in the winter as its facing south, so I ride it all the time. And still I can never have enough of the sea view, the special light on the morning and the evening, the pure French Riviera feeling.
b) Sutton Region, Quebec, Canada: Gravel riding paradise. No big climbs here, just rolling hills and very nice gravel roads to be enjoyed with wide tires. I am sure it’s good all year long but riding there in early October at the peak of fall foliage was very special. The peaceful atmosphere and intensity of the leaves’ colours make it a unique experience.
b) Road 307, Morocco: From Ouarzazate to Demnat it is 140 km of pure Atlas mountain beauty. I rode it for the first time with my dad in 2014. Some sections of the road can be in bad condition (sometimes very bad after a rainy day) but the scenery and landscape are likely one of the best you can find in the Atlas mountains on a road bike!
Tell me why you decided to use the Breton stripe so heavily in this collection?
Alongside the beret and the bleu-de-travail working man’s jacket, the Breton striped jumper is one of the most recognisably French items of clothing. Our Claudette Jersey has been in the collection since the very beginning and they became the signature design of the brand. I like the idea that it started in 1858 with navy seaman in Brittany. They inspired Coco Chanel and later Pablo Picasso made the stripes famous wearing them in his French Rivera studio. And now we see them on sweaty cyclists all over the world!
Why does your website look like a travel magazine?
This is our approach to road cycling. We are based in one of the best places in the world to cycle and being outside in those landscapes is extraordinary. We want people to travel the world to cycle. It’s not only about the effort or the fitness level, it is about riding with friends and enjoying a stunning sunset. As Creative Director, I am the eye behind the pictures, I make the final selection and guide most of the shoots. It’s important to me that we work with a very small number of photographers, all passionate cyclists. They have amazing skills and experience but the key is that we live the same passion. We are as happy to go riding with them for a day as we are jumping on a plane to head to a photo shoot.
What item do you think is best for the casual road biker who commutes to work but might not race?
Heidi jacket is without any doubt the best for that. It is a very technical jacket, perfect for the winter with its windproof panels. It is a real road cycling garment but it looks so casual (it could be a prêt-à-porter jacket if you look at from the front) that it’s great for commuting and non-cycling activities.
What are your favourite pieces from this collection?
Without any doubt, my favourite piece is the Alphonsine jersey. A modern version of the traditional polar fleece. Our fleece is made of merino wool and the outdoor spirit of this garment brings the road cyclist mind away from just riding a line of tarmac. It brings him where he belongs: the great outdoors!
Do you still find time to ride?
Not as much as I’d like to but I am lucky to be based in Nice where I can escape for a 90 minute lunch break and ride some epic roads that the entire world dreams of riding one day! So this is my lunch break and a good number of my business meetings take place on the bike!
See some of our favourite cycling looks from Café Du Cycliste: