Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Part 2 of our Blast from the Past series (featuring the June 1984 premier edition of Cyclist magazine, remember) is this half of the full-page Avocet spread featured inside the front cover.

I find this amusing/interesting from a 2010 perspective only because it gives us a glimpse of Round One of the Great Fabric Wars. Reading the copy, it would seem that in 1984 the world of cycling fashion was being crushed under the dirty hoof of Big Wool. Meanwhile, mad scientists in tiny labs (with beakers, flasks, and oddly colored liquids) were crafting spunky little synthetic fabrics in the vain hope of taking a tiny mutton-flavored bite out of the Sheep Syndicate.

Of course, here in 2010, we know that the plasti-fabrics won that round and have since rewritten the history books to make wool the itchy, moth-bitten loser. These days, it's the wool folks bleating quietly in their tiny pastures, desperate to convince a plastic world to go merino. As Smartwool, Icebreaker, Woolistic, Kucharik, Wabi Woolens, and countless other shepherds gain momentum, will we look back on the late aughts as the next turning point in the sheep vs. science battle?

Aside to my younger readers: You probably don't know who Avocet is, but in my day, they OWNED the saddle world. Their touring models were some of the first (I hesitate to say THE first, since some snarky weasel like me will undoubtedly quote chapter, verse and Daniel Rebour scan from The Data Book to prove me wrong) to feature anatomic bumps under your rump. In the 80s, I convinced myself that I would ride NOTHING but their Gelflex models, the ones with some kind of magic snot under scary-slick Lycra covers and plastic bumpers on the corners. Brilliant engineering there... the bumpers were always placed right next to the spot where your saddle would actually get torn, so you'd give them credit for trying as you bought yet another new saddle.

Avocet also made tires... in two models: with tread and without (don't let the seemingly live site fool you -- they're gone, gone gone). And the dang things worked. But this "sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't" marketing approach -- without 87 different SKUs to encompass a dizzying array of colors, rubber compounds and tread patterns for every condition ("bummer, dude, I've got my 'wet dirt' tires on, but this trail looks like mud") -- obviously meant that they couldn't survive.

1 comment:

Steve Fuller said...

Polypro retains no sweat, just all of the stink. ;) One reason that I tend to live in my icebreaker merino baselayer from about mid september through mid May. I need to snag another lighter short sleeve version for the summer. I do have my fair share of plastic clothes too, but if money grew on trees, I think I'd cover myself in merino.