Editor’s note: The Clothes Line is an occasional column about clothing, shoes, helmets, and other accessories we’ve encountered. Clothing is possibly the most personal of all gear choices: two riders can try the same jersey and come back with completely different opinions. This is not meant as an extensive review (as in, worn until threadbare), but we simply hope to ride these products for as long as possible and report back on the basic fit and features. We hope you find it helpful.
The season for short-sleeve jerseys and bib shorts is on the way out, but it’s not completely over. And if you live in a warm climate, jerseys and shorts are a year-round staple of any cyclist’s wardrobe.
In any case, it’s not too late to have a look at some of the warm-weather cycling gear that I’ve used and enjoyed over the course of this past summer. In addition to the summer 2009 pieces that I’ve worn since spring, I recently got a sneak preview of a 2010 Descente bib short. Of course I’ve had less time with the newer short, but I’ll give you a preliminary report.
2009 Descente Lee Hill Chill Jersey ($100)
and 2010 Strata Endurance bib short ($160)
My experience with Descente cycling gear dates to the late 1980s, when I had a small collection of their early jerseys and shorts. At the time, in my eyes, Descente shorts were the best available (but since I was only about 16 years old, my experience was of course limited). In that era, the brand was famously associated with the 7-Eleven team of Andy Hampsten.
Descente returned to cycling clothing in 2002, after a hiatus of about a decade. Happily, my memories of outstanding fit and function hold true with the latest clothing I’ve tried out.
Of the jerseys I’ve worn this summer, the Lee Hill Chill jersey is one of my absolute favorites. It doesn’t carry forward for 2010, so if you see one, I suggest you snatch it up. (An equivalent jersey for next year will be called the Icefil.)
The fit feels classic to me: trim, but not ultra-snug like some modern jerseys. It’s perfectly cut across the back and shoulders, so it doesn’t bind in the sleeves and armpits. I love the light, airy, nonrestrictive feel, especially on hot days. The waist and sleeves don’t have grippers or elastic, aiding the comfortable, breezy fit. Additionally, the full zipper is a great feature in hot weather, as is the Icefil fabric, which is designed for maximal evaporative cooling. It’s a simply built, purely functional jersey. My only suggestions for improvement would be the addition of a small zippered security pocket, and perhaps a more robust front zipper pull (once or twice, I had trouble engaging it while riding).
Recently, I paired the Lee Hill Chill jersey with one of Descente’s new bib shorts for 2010, the Strata Endurance. Like the jersey, the Strata short rocketed to the top of my list with exceptional fit, plus robust compression. It’s got Aero-X moisture management fabric to wick perspiration, Wave compression fabric panels on the legs for support, and elastic leg grippers. The Infinity chamois is new for Descente, and lives up to its name as a thick (14mm), robust pad. I love the compression — the panels are well placed, the short fits tightly all the way around, and the pad stays snug against my butt. The bib straps are a light mesh, don’t pull too tightly, and combine with the cut of the lower legs to provide a great feel overall.
Generally I’m not a fan of thick chamois pads, but this one is perforated and shaped so it doesn’t feel obtrusive, and it’s perfectly placed under my sit bones. Combined with the supportive fit, the Strata Endurance is built as an all-day bib short, but I’d give it a top rating for short rides, too.
Capo Verde jersey ($120) and bib short ($160)
Of all the outfits I’ve worn this past season, I’ve probably spent more time in Capo clothing than any other brand. Capo’s custom program makes team and company kits, including most of the VeloNews team apparel worn on our noon rides. In fact, matched, colorful team kits inspired Capo’s distinctive graphic style, which finds its way into the standard collections each season.
I’ve worn various pieces from several of the collections, including the white/black Modena, blue/white Forza, and red/black/white Atlas. I like them all, especially the Modena and Atlas collections.
But for some reason I gravitated to the Verde outfit, which is mostly green and white. The green color is symbolic of the fact that the Capo ECO and ECO Lycra fabrics used in the garments include recycled materials and are produced with reduced water and energy consumption. The materials feel fine, and the green pattern is distinctive.
Capo clothing feels familiar to me because I’ve been wearing team apparel for years. I like matched outfits, and I don’t need complex clothing with extraneous features added on. The jersey has a very trim fit, with a full zip, three pockets, and a silicone waist gripper. Like the Descente jersey, it’s simple and functional. Early in the season, I thought it was a tad too tight, but I slimmed down by a few pounds and it was perfect. One complaint I have is that the pockets feel too small and not quite stretchy enough to fit a windbreaker or rain cape. But I like the full-length lockable zipper.
The bib shorts are perfectly comfortable, with silicone leg grippers and a multi-layer Corsa chamois pad. The pad is great — it’s not too thick and disappears under my butt. I’d prefer the hips and waist to be cut lower, so there’s less material around my torso, but that’s my only complaint.
What I notice about the Capo outfits is that I don’t notice them—they fit well, perform nicely, and do exactly what they are supposed to do. With just a couple of small exceptions, I don’t notice any obtrusive attributes interfering with my riding experience, and that’s exactly what I want from a team kit. Best of all, the prices are relatively reasonable.
Campagnolo Racing Bib C660 ($250) and Racing Full Zip Jersey C647 ($200)
Campagnolo clothing is new to me, but I’m quickly gaining an appreciation for the fine outfits available from this Italian company.
The Racing Full Zip Jersey is one of the nicest tops I’ve had the privilege of wearing. It’s a full front zip jersey with three rear pockets and a zippered security pocket. It’s more complex in construction than the others in this group, with multiple panels of material, placed strategically for fit and temperature control. Breathable mesh panels with in-woven carbon fiber are used on the sides and across the upper back, for temperature regulation. The majority of the jersey is made from a microfiber fabric that’s stretchy like Lycra, but much lighter and softer, almost like a T-shirt. The Campagnolo logos and red stripes on the sleeves are reflective.
What’s remarkable about this black Campy jersey is how cool it feels, even in hot, sunny summer weather. The mesh panels certainly help, as does the lightweight fabric. I also like the cut, which is exceptionally tailored to be form-fitting without feeling too snug. The natural stretch of the material helps it feel comfortable under the armpits and across the back, despite the trim fit. I would prefer that the sleeves be just a touch longer, but that’s my only complaint. The pockets are small but stretchy, so it’s not hard to fit bulkier cargo.
The Racing Bib is just as finely cut and sewn. Multiple panels of material are stitched just right, so the shorts feel tailored to fit perfectly. The bib straps are made from a light, breathable material, while tighter Lycra on the legs offers moderate compression. There are two pockets on the lower back, which (in contrast to some I’ve seen) are actually deep enough to be useful.
My favorite aspect to these shorts is the chamois pad, which is compact, firm, not too thick, and perfectly placed. I don’t think chamois pads have to be bulky or over-engineered to work well, and this one fits the bill as a simple but effective piece. My complaints are minimal. I’d like the legs to be a couple of inches longer, and when I bend forward (as in the riding position) the very front of the shorts isn’t as tight as I would like it to be. Even so, I will be keeping this outfit from Campagnolo near the top of my clothing bin.
Stay tuned for more editions of The Clothes Line. I’ve got items from Rapha, Pearl Izumi, Gore Bike Wear, Nalini and Craft in the mix for review.