The rainbows bands are one of the most iconic images in professional cycling, but should the kit be worn by everyday cyclists?
Last week the UCI announced that a new range of Santini world champion jerseys and accessories would be made available through sports store Decathlon, with the news being met with very mixed opinions.
The rainbow bands, denoting the status of reigning and former world champions, are a prestigious visual with some of the biggest icons of the sport donning the multi-coloured strip.
But for some cycling fans the rainbows bands are a sacred design that can only be worn by those who have “earned” the right, while for others the bands can be a great way of spreading the love of cycling.
We asked Cycling Weekly readers for their opinions on this surprisingly controversial development.
One reader said: “To sell it like this diminishes the status of the jersey. Cycling has long held a tradition of respecting it’s trophies and riders only wearing what they have earned, it still seems the only respectful way to go.
“The rainbow bands are special and only a few will ever earn the right to wear them and I see nothing wrong with that. However these days this honourable tradition may not be in line with the need for instant gratification that seems to be creeping into everything.”
They added: “If you acknowledge how much work goes into earning the jersey then no one should dispute the right of the champion to be the only person to be allowed to wear it.”
Their words were echoed by Dominic, 28, from London, who said: “[It’s] pretty bad form. It is like wearing a full World Cup winner’s kit as if you played in the team. It is different with football, rugby etc – it is supporting your country or club so you may wear it to show support. But it is not like that in cycling, the jerseys are a recognition of achievement not a supporters jersey.”
Dominic added: “People suffer for the jersey. It is also a bit of a giveaway that whoever wears it probably does not know what they are wearing. It is disrespectful.”
The UCI announced its new range of world champion replica kit, including jerseys, shorts, gilets, and accessories.
Designed and manufactured by the Italian brand Santini, the UCI’s official clothing partner, the items will be available from March 2021 exclusively in Decathlon shops in Italy, Belgium, Hungary and Switzerland as well as via Decathlon’s website. The shops will have a dedicated UCI-Santini corner.
Matthew Acton-Varian, 27, from Stourbridge said: “There has almost always been an unwritten rule in regard to wearing any pro team kit and whilst standard issue race / training kit perhaps should be acceptable (despite in some eyes still not so), I don’t think the World Championships, National Champs or Maillot Jaune replicas are acceptable as riding wear. A champion replica jersey only belongs signed by a race winner, kept in a picture frame.”
But not everyone is opposed to the sale of rainbow jerseys, as some fans feel it lets riders and supporters show their love of the sport.
Alex Holton, 22, from Warwick, said: “I think they’re great – it allows more of the sport to feel accessible to people.
“Cycling is an expensive sport for many, but by moving into replica kit sold at a lower price you’re more likely to attract people who otherwise wouldn’t be as interested. Many sports sell replica jerseys of all sorts, including world cup ones and named jerseys.
“Surely it makes more sense to try and encourage cycling – not have elitist outdated views that you can’t wear this or that – let people enjoy the sport they are a fan of!”
Alex added: “Simply because they can’t tolerate the sport being opened out to a wider audience and cannot understand why people would not want to follow old outdated traditions. Sure, some traditions are in place for safety, but a lot of people would object to wearing replica kit and that sort of thing simply because they think it makes you look like too much of a fan. That’s not a great reason, I honestly cannot see how when not in a race wearing rainbow jerseys should be an issue.”
Joe Hyatt, 33, from Shropshire, said: “Good opportunity to reach new audiences. It’s a nice looking jersey so anything that can be done to appeal to more people and communicate the history of cycling is a good thing.
“[It’s] in built snobbery around the ‘rules’. Probably a good reason for cycling remaining a niche sport here for so long. Getting dressed up in lycra to go on a ride can be intimidating when starting out cycling and you don’t then need to be judged about whether wearing the ‘right’ kit.”
But some people still feel very strongly about the rainbow bands, like Chris, 46, from Kent, who said: “This is sacrilege and an insult to those that have earned it through training and victory in the World Champs.
“It is misleading to have amateurs riding around with the rainbow stripes.”