Making His Mark

The Stylish Persona of Taylor Phinney

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The style and aesthetic of cycling is a bit of a mystery to those who don’t participate in the sport. However, fashion is central to those who love to ride. We’re honored to have renowned cyclist, Taylor Phinney give us an insider’s look at the stylish world of pro-cycling.

You’re from Boulder, Colorado, not exactly Paris or Milan. Where did you develop your sense of style?

I’m from Boulder where crocs were invented, not exactly a fashion hub. My family and I moved to Italy when I was 12 and lived there for 3 years, so I began to understand my sense of style from there. When I came back, I understood that jeans were supposed to fit.  I credit my initial understanding of fashion from that time of my life. When I was 20, I turned pro with BMC and lived in Tuscany, Italy. I was being paid well and began to explore the fashion space in Italy. It’s a form of personal expression that I still enjoy to this day.

You’re an athlete, but also an accomplished artist. Why is self-expression important to you?

Self-expression is all you have as an individual. The world is very complicated, yet beautiful and simple. Every single human on the planet is unique and has their own way of expressing themselves; it reflects how you see yourself and how the world sees you. I believe that everyone is constantly expressing themselves at all times whether through their body language, or the way they speak… I’m more reflective now of that, it gives me satisfaction to discover my place in the universe. In that way art gives me satisfaction because it helps me figure out where I fit into the grand scheme of things.

Coming back from the accident, from an athletic standpoint and personal standpoint, what was your world like at that time?

I’ve learned a lot about myself during recovery. I’ve always been an expressive individual. After the accident, when I had my biggest form of expression taken away from me (my body), and I was “trapped” on a couch, I found that I naturally gravitated to finding some other type of artistic expression. I started flying planes at first because I missed the adrenaline rush. The greatest form of human mobility is being able to fly, and that helped me rediscover my love for just being able to ride my bike. I don’t know if I always had the appreciation for it, but being able to get back on my bike really helped me analyze all my thoughts and feelings on the open road; I had the ability to go anywhere. Along with that, I started painting and drawing which really took over my life. It’s just something I started doing and couldn’t stop. I’m satisfied by making something on a canvas that I like- it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes it. I just wanted to be able to share it with people in my life. For a while life was just about survival and passing on genes but now self-expression is all that’s really important.

How do you approach races differently post-accident?

It’s been both difficult and exciting. Any pro sport is its own bubble, and for cycling this is definitely the case. I came back into the cycling world feeling like I had just taken my mind and split it in half. Everyone watches what they’re eating and cared so much about these little races, and I was like, guys there’s a whole world out there! What are we doing? What mark on we leaving on the planet?

Through that questioning I rediscovered my love and passion for sporting events that take place on the world stage.  Events like the one we’re competing in now (hint hint), it’s the ultimate sporting event. Really for any athlete. I’ve always had a love for it – especially with my parents’ athletic success. (Taylor is the son of former pro cyclists and Olympic medalists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney). They literally stop wars for it. It really brings the world together and stops the world for a second – each respective country comes together to cheer on their racers. It’s easy to see the bigger picture in competitions like the Tour de France and the Classics. It’s more difficult to do the little races, all the dangers, taking the risks… So to answer your question, 1) It’s helped me rediscover my passion for big events and 2) It’s made it difficult to wrap my head around these little races that are dangerous.

The reboot for me post- accident was really reconnecting with the time-trial. It’s very painful and you’re by yourself and you get into this really intense crazy headspace where you’re just going from up to down… left to right, but there’s a real beauty to it that 99.9% of the population wouldn’t be able to understand. I’ve been doing a lot of meditation to help focus. You can learn a lot about yourself during the time trials, just as you do when you create something.

Art is a lot less painful than biking (laughs) but you still learn a lot about yourself.

Is there a transformation that happens when you put on your team BMC uniform?

Yeah, it depends on the intensity of the event. For example with the Tour de France, the National championships, I’m less talkative, I feel nervous. I’ve been trying to analyze what those nerves mean. For most of my career, I was trying to move away from nerves, but now I do the opposite and embrace the butterflies in my stomach. I’ve found that if I just feel them and try to digest them, that feeling isn’t bad. It’s a reminder that I’m alive and that what I’m doing is important and that I’m doing something that I care about.

Do you have any race-day fashion superstitions? (Example: Colored socks, bracelet?)

Not really – I think there is power in having some sort of trinket but I’m a forgetful person so I try not to rely on anything and go with the flow. I have my essentials, and that’s what I’m racing in. 

What do you eat/drink during a long cycling race?

PowerBar mix  in my water bottle, a couple of gels, and the OG PowerBars (Performance Energy). If we have some rice cakes I’ll eat those. Not a lot of people make good rice cakes though.

There is a lot of media surrounding major cycling tours. After a hard day on the bike, how to you remain presentable, or do you care?

Well the scripted answer would be that they don’t influence me – but the real answer is that outside influences affect all of us. When I’m talking with them, I try to make a connection, I look at them in the eye. I’m relatively unafraid with media and interviews. I understand their purpose and value in my own growth within the sport. They can be annoying and repetitive but I understand that interviews don’t matter much. You can be in control of the agenda and storyline that’s being asked and be true to your experience.

Do you have a go-to post-race outfit?

I usually want to get comfy and slip into my LuluLemon sweats. I like to try and bend the rules of how I can dress post-race. I get in trouble all the time in how I present myself. I try not to get into too much trouble…

What are some of the current fashion trends in the cycling community?

There’s a cool crop of cyclists who are starting to pay attention to style instead of mix-matching kits. For myself personally, I saw this in LA but there’s a good push of mixing biking clothes and casual active wear. If I go on a bike trip off the grid, I’ll wear a Hawaiian shirt or plaid shirt and black shorts. I realized it’s more comfy and you look less like an alien to the outside world. It helps you blend in when you show up to a coffee shop after a ride in the desert.

You’ve ridden with cyclists from around the world. Which cyclists, in your opinion, have the best style?

The Morton Bros (Lachlan and Gus Morton). They’re my go-to guys for any cycling inspiration fashion-wise. There’s a good group of people in LA like the She Wolf Attack Team – they’re this team of ladies that look pretty badass. Golden Saddle Cyclery in East LA – they look cool.

Do you think cycling apparel makes a difference in performance?

 Yeah for sure – when you’re racing, aerodynamics makes a huge difference. The equipment we race in is of the highest quality. If you’re going out for a casual ride I don’t think you need to go all out in performance wear.

Do you have a go-to outfit when you are off the bike?

Not really a go-to outfit, depends on the weather. At the end of the day it’s about what you like, and not what you think you should be wearing. I gravitate more towards things I think are funny like funny t-shirts. I love denim shirts, vintage. I like a bit of a western flair. Lacroix jeans with some Chelsea boots.

We love your hair. How do you deal with helmet hair?   

Yeah that’s an issue for anyone that has to wear a helmet but you just have to embrace the fact that you’re a badass and that you’re an athlete and you just rode your bike for a long time. Basically just rock the fact that you have helmet hair and you’re going to be ok. Wait… I take that back. Just take a shower.

We’re going to ask you a couple rapid fire questions:

  • Carbon frame or steel frame? I’d like to say steel, but carbon
  • Skin suit or kit? Kit all the way
  • Sports drink or water? Water…maybe PowerBar sports drink hahaha
  • Clinchers or tubular? Clinchers
  • Power meter or heart rate? Neither
  • Tall socks or short socks? Tall
  • Wool Kit or Lycra Kit? Technology wins. Lycra
  • Mountain stage or flat stage? Mountain stage. I’m not going to win, but I enjoy it