The Tweed Run fast approaches. We’ve been bidding and been outbid on eBay for tweed jackets, plus fours and paisley ties for weeks as we desperately try to coordinate our retro outfits for that uniquely British event. For spring not only heralds those serious, brutal, gritty Classics like Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, the snow and hail of Liege-Baston-Liege, there are more sedate affairs to be contested here.
As the pros tackle the toughest Tour of the seaon, the Giro, for us lesser mortals, we’ll be pottering around Central London, maybe even getting up to a light canter here and there in between tea stops and a reward of cocktails at the end. We’ll be on steel framed bikes of another era, dressed in our finest, competing, not for the Maglia Rosa or King of the Mountains, but the prize of best moustache, best bike or even, best decorated bike.
I can’t wait to feel justified to wear my tweed cycling cap. Finally. It’s been hanging on the bed post since March. And, while I’m unashamed to wear dead man’s clothes, I know that I won’t get the same ribbing, come Saturday, that I received when I turned up to the local with leather arm patches more in keeping with a 1950s Geography classroom than a South London boozer.
But one piece of retro apparel that’s had almost a daily and unashamed outing since I got them a month or so ago at Bespoked, that wonderful cycling show of independent frame builders, is my footwear. For I am the proud owner of a pair of classic, beautiful cycling shoes by REW Reynolds.
We first met the first rate gentleman that is David Smith, Managing Director of REW Reynolds way back in the winter darkness of December. I remember sniffing the aroma of leather of his (unworn) cycling shoes over a table at the trendy Rapha store in Brewer Street.
It was love at first sight. Not for you, David. Sorry. As I said, you’re a gentleman through and through. But it was the sight and smell of the wonderful, elegant cycling shoes that he makes in the heartland of British shoemaking that is Northampton that quickened my pulse and had me drooling. David displayed his samples of the Goodyear welted race shoe, the SPD brogues and, of course, what Reynold’s are famous for, the Classic Road Shoe, a piece of master craftsmanship that has been going since 1921.
It needs no further elaboration. In my opinion the REW Reynolds Classic Road Shoe is just that: classic. You can get something similar from Dromarti for a lot more money. Quocpham do some nice stuff but in artificial materials, and Giro’s new retro lace up has gone down a storm. But Reynolds just drip class. British class. Classically made. So when it comes to understated looks, heritage and quality I don’t think there’s any competition. They come in either brown, black or celeste green leather and you can choose from a range of stitching. Mine are black with red stitching. Nice.
These shoes are designed to be worn with toe clips, and Brixton Cycles (another wonderful British institution) had the perfect ones with leather toe protectors that complement my 1970s Bianchi perfectly. Thanks BC!
After a couple of weeks the initially unforgiving and stiff leather began to soften, and four weeks later I can feel these shoes begin to mould into the shape of my feet. The padded tongue offers such comfort that slipping these babies on in the morning is almost a sensual pleasure that I look forward to under Mrs Ride Velo’s jealous eyes.
So, performance? These shoes may be based on a 95 year old design, but there’s nothing sluggish about these. They’re stiff and, without wanting to appear rude, I’ve always felt stiffness was a prerequisite to a good performance. If you let him, David will spend a long time describing the forepart of the sole, the fluted steel shank and how one’s stroke, pedal stroke, that is, is efficient and comfortable as a result. Couldn’t agree more.
So, come Saturday, as I don the ridiculous tweeds and hysterical long socks with the embroidered pheasant emblem (honestly!), perch that tweed cap on the head for probably it’s only outing of the year, there’s one item that won’t be making such a rare appearance. Those shoes are going to be worn a lot this year. For many years, I expect. And I’ll be proud that I’m wearing a pair of British shoes with nearly a century of history behind them. Tally ho!