SAN LUIS OBISPO, California (VN) — While aerodynamic cycling apparel is nothing new, the recent proliferation of it from every major manufacturer makes aero apparel the latest frontier in the exploration of purchasable speed.
Racers know tailored skinsuits can save precious watts, but what about the rest of us who lust for those same energy savings in apparel we can actually train in? This is the aim of Louis Garneau’s new range-topping Course collection, which strives to find that delicate balance between aerodynamic performance and century-ride comfort and functionality.
The Lowdown: The performance of a race-specific kit with the comfort for everyday training
Pros: Tailored fit, technical fabric with Coldblack technology and functional features
Cons: Bib shorts may be overly compressive to the point of feeling restrictive
Course Race Jersey – $199.99
The sticker-shock of a $200 jersey is tough to get over. But once you delve into the features of the Course Race Jersey, or perhaps compare it to the latest offerings from Rapha, the cost seems a tad more reasonable.
Three types of fabric are utilized, each with its own specific function. The entire jersey is also treated with a Coldblack finish, which reflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them. This means you can look super stealthy in your all-black kit in the oppressive heat of summer and remain as cool as if you were wearing all white. While we were not able to truly put the Coldblack fabric to the test (it is March after all), we do have quite a bit of experience with the technology and have found it highly effective in the past. Plus, the Course Race jersey is light and airy enough to handle the heat regardless of the Coldblack.
The main body of the jersey is made of a stretchy material that feels soft against your skin. It’s extremely breathable out on the road thanks to ventilation panels under the arms and on the back of the neck. This mesh does a fantastic job of wicking moisture to help prevent clamminess or overheating.
Speedtech material on the shoulders has a dimpled pattern to increase aerodynamics. As with most aero aids, there is no perceptible feeling of increased speed in this jersey, but the extended length of the sleeve hem and perfectly tailored, laser-cut arm opening makes you feel fast, and that counts for a lot.
The overall fit of the jersey is tight, but not restrictive. While the name does imply that this jersey was designed for racing, it’s perfectly suitable for everyday use. There are three back pockets, and the two side pockets are angled to make them more accessible. The shoulders have been shaped to fit while in the riding position.
Course Speedzone Vest – $99.99
This piece is perhaps the best representation of Louis Garneau’s ability to combine performance with functionality. The patent-pending design features a cutout on the back so that you can access your jersey pockets without having to reach under the vest. Sometimes the simplest designs are the most ingenious, and we love this unique feature.
The back opening can be appreciated on multiple levels. Yes, it’s easier to get to your jersey’s pockets, that much is a given. But the benefits of utilizing those jersey pockets, rather than pockets on the vest itself, become immediately apparent when it comes time to shed the layer: when it’s time to take the vest off, you don’t have to transfer your stuff from your vest pockets to your jersey. The Louis Garneau sponsored riders, which includes teams like Europcar, will love it because they can wear this vest over their jersey without covering up their numbers pinned to the back of their jerseys.
The lightweight, stretchy material blocks wind and sheds water, but doesn’t provide much insulation. Its main purpose is to keep the wind off your chest and it accomplishes this. One of our principal pet peeves with cycling outerwear is excessive wind flap as a result of noisy fabric or a poorly designed cut. Because of the light material and the well-tailored fit, there wasn’t a trace of wind flap. There’s one energy gel-sized pocket, and the side and back of the vest are made of mesh to allow heat dissipation.
Course Race Bib Shorts – $249.99
Like the jersey, the Course Race Bibs place an emphasis on aerodynamics, chiefly by limiting the number of raised seams. While the company’s aero goal seems to have been met, the comfort level isn’t on par with the jersey due to the use of overly compressive material.
At 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, this tester alternates between small and medium bibs depending on the brand. I had to squeeze into the medium Course Race Bibs, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. But out on the road, my hip flexors felt slightly taxed as I pedaled. I also wasn’t a fan of the longer inseam, which came down farther then the bibs I’m accustomed to. The best bibs are the ones you forget you’re wearing because the fabric and chamois fit so perfectly. That just wasn’t the case with the Course Race Bibs. The combination of the compressive material and lack of seams made for a somewhat labored riding experience. They might fit correctly on a taller, skinnier version of myself, but they didn’t butter my bread.
The upside to the bibs was Louis Garneau’s new 5-Motion chamois, which is quite comfortable, flexible and well ventilated. The meat of the padding is on the thin side, but its density provides substantial comfort. The Beveled Edge Molding construction design eliminates drastic drops from one area of the pad to another, resulting in smooth transitions to decrease the chance of chafing. The top layer contains carbon fibers to fight bacteria.
If you already have an aero frame, wheels and helmet, it’s time to start thinking about investing in some aero apparel to complete your kit. Louis Garneau’s latest, particular it’s New Course jersey, would be at home in any aero-minded rider’s closet.