ONCE CYCLING gear had come and gone as high street fashion, it was a short step to the cyclist being targeted as a potential fashion victim.

There was a time when cyclists merely ogled each other's bikes to establish their bona fides, status and wealth. Now, however, if the next man or woman at the lights is wearing a pair of Oakley M-frame Mumbos splatter hand-painted in red, blue or black with iridium lenses, there are two possibilities: they work in a bike shop or they have serious money.

It is possible, of course, to pick up a pair of 'frogskins' for a mere pounds 35, but the hand-painted Mumbos, imported from the US, come at just under pounds 120.

But if the specs are bright, the shades are less so. Fashion-conscious cyclists in London are rejecting primary colours. The coolest jerseys, according to Colin Bath, of Condor Cycles in Grays Inn Road, are Italian- made Coolmax in pale purples and blues, costing between pounds 25 and pounds 60.

Coolmax is also a strong contender in the shorts market. Its padded thigh-huggers look like Lycra but take perspiration away from the skin. This property makes them water-resistant and expensive: only 5p change out of pounds 40. The cognoscenti wear Ventoux helmets, made by Giro, costing pounds 95 and said to have the best ventilation available.

Gore-tex fabric remains the leader in outerwear. There are cheaper alternatives (a plain cycling jacket starts at pounds 100) but the Freestyle close-fitting hoodless cape is a strong seller. One of its strengths is pockets at the back, the only place that cyclists can reach them.

Lower down, toe-clips are increasingly being replaced by cycling shoes which fix on to specially designed pedals. Pedals come at pounds 67- pounds 140 for a pair and the shoes start at pounds 40, rising to pounds 160 for lightweight carbon soles.

Those of us who still wear bike-clips (even reflective bike clips) are beyond salvation. 'More people are buying the clothing because it is designed for riding the bike,' says Mr Bath. 'Everyday clothes just aren't as good.'