Black-owned cycling apparel companies
There’s no better time to draw attention to these cycling apparel pioneers than Black history month.
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While Black riders have been setting styles since Kitty Knox broke the color barrier at the League of American Bicyclists (then Wheelmen) in 1895, these companies are the first to step into the kit space as brands.
Clipt’n – This is the only brand on the list to feature drop tail bibs, let alone drop-tails with four pockets. Launched in 2021 by Sheldon Freeman and the late James Moten Jr., Clipt’n’s, Mr. Freeman revealed to me, “We’ve sold more women’s [bibs] than men’s.” Their club-fit jerseys have nicely tapered torsos, all in calming prints in current color palates, but the bibs are the real stars here.
Kings Rule Together + Queens Rule Together – This brand was kickstarted by riders behind the Philadelphia-based cycling club of the same name. KRT’s summer jerseys are highly elastic and have all the right features: good sleeve length, a zippered pocket, aero fit, and a minimal collar. The prints are reminiscent of Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste. As the youngest brand on this list, I look forward to watching KRT set industry trends.
Varlo Apparel – Soj Jibowu is a collegiate D1 runner who dabbled in triathlon before launching founded Varlo. He used his experiences and insights as a multisport athlete to inform some of the kit features and designs. While the brand is a product of a multicultural team, Varlo has in-house designers to help teams with custom kits, as well as create public designs for Varlo. The brand sponsors pro triathletes, which means in addition to cycling gear, it offers swimsuits, tri kit, and running gear. The silhouettes trend modern, with long aero sleeves and low collars, while the prints are familiar and certainly inoffensive.
BeYou4Life – BeYou4Life sells triathlon, cycling, and casual gear for after the race. They stand out on this list for their bold prints that use classic patterns like polka-dots and chevrons The Brand was launched in 2017 by a female figure competitor, certified group fitness Instructor, certified spin instructor, marathoner, duathlete, and Harvard grad Sandra.
Knights of Mobay – Founded in 2008, this brand features cycling kits that are culturally significant to the Black diaspora. They make an “Irie” kit with the red, green, and yellow stripes, as well as the Howard University cycling kit. The jersey is club-cut in most cases, with a few women’s ¾-zip jerseys.
Major Taylor Cycling Wear – Proceeds from the sale of these cycling kits go to the descendants of Marshall “Major” Taylor. The brand offers club-cut jerseys and traditional bibs, featuring the famous Black bike racer. Major Taylor Cycling Wear sponsors the St. Augustine University cycling team, and the blue and white kit can be found on the cycling team’s website.
Podium Bound – Podium Bound offers apparel for the widest variety of sports on this list, including a John Singleton Boyz in the Hood tribute baseball jersey, in addition to gear for other popular sports like soccer and football, as well as less “traditionally popular” sports, like bowling.
Cycling Out Loud – The North Carolina-based, body-positive Black woman-owned company specialty is skin suits at reasonable prices. The brand also offers matching socks, gaiters, and caps.
Clubs and honorable mentions
These clubs and foundations sell their gear, but use an existing cycling kit manufacturer like Jakroo or Cuore, and may only sell to members. But it’s good to know so you can keep an eye out for it if you like!
Bahati Foundation – The Bahati Foundation introduces youth from underserved communities to competitive and non-competitive cycling, as well as provides STREAM programming. The founder, professional road cyclist Rahsaan Bahati, is a fixture in the cycling community and an inspiration to many. The Foundation kit designs change by year and are only available in limited runs, so join the mailing list and follow Rahsaan on social media to know when the next one drops.
Getting It In – I wholeheartedly believe there are people who joined this club just for the kit. They have a range of bright colors and fades, and it can be argued they make good-looking hi-viz kit. Somehow, the brand took the 2000s pro-style and made it look cool. The catch is: you likely have to be part of the club to get your hands on any of these Starburst-colored kits.
Black Watts – The New Jersey-based club’s designs shock some new life into the local scene, with a talented designer at the helm. They offer kit and casualwear — from caps to clever socks — but keep an eye on their site for new releases as the jerseys tend to sell out quickly.
Major Taylor Iron Riders – The author’s own club partnered with Champion Systems for limited runs of Black Lives Matter kits with proceeds to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The BLM kits feature the names of people who lost their lives to police violence as well as important figures in movements for social justice like Martin Luther King, jr. Keep an eye on their social media for releases.
Level Up Cycling Movement – Miami-based Level Up throws amazing rides including Ride with the Pros, featuring Justin Williams and Rahsaan Bahati. They also have limited-run kit designs from companies like Jakroo, that you can grab through the website. Expect modern cuts with cool designs for the local club and beyond. Their order system is a great deal – the more orders placed the cheaper the price for everyone, including people who already placed their orders.
Black Cyclists Network – A clever play on GCN, the UK-based club has a kit that is by now famous in the community. The yellow print utilizes an African unity symbol. DHB contributes a portion of the proceeds to BCN’s ongoing efforts to increase BAME representation in cycling. The jerseys are relaxed fit and the design is iconic.
One Love Cycling – The club has four components: club rides, race teams, training camps, and the store. One Love puts on an amazing cycling tour twice a year in Jamaica. Their kits, specifically no-profile collars, and tank tops are perfect for rides in hot climates. And if you’re looking for a “Jamaica” kit, look no further.
Messenger841 – Kurt Boone, AKA “Messenger841” is a writer, artist, published poet, and of course NYC messenger from the halcyon days before delivery apps took over. He partnered with brands for limited releases, as well as selling his own gear on his website. Don’t look here for roadie kit, but check it for cycling caps, bags, books, one-of-a-kind art, and more.
L39ION of Los Angeles – Last but certainly not least, the Black-led racing team is committed to revamping the sport of cycling in America. Their impact on style is undeniable, and their limited edition Rapha jerseys sell out in record time. The team teased the latest Rapha jersey in January, but limited sizes of the women’s blue and men’s gold training jerseys are still available as of the time of this writing.