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Designed for speed: Going fast, changeable spring rides and the best new men’s kit for 2019

23 Apr 2019
Verdict:

Stay warm when it's cold and cool when it's warm with this look at some of the latest kit for speedy spring riding

Most spring rides aren’t done until the dirt, grit and grime are completely washed off. Until cold numb toes and fingers are sat inside sipping warm coffee and index fingers are properly able to scroll through Strava. It’s the punctuation mark put on a ride - akin to binning the banana peel out your jersey pocket before doing the wash - when you get home and stand exhausted under hot running water, feet still frozen. That’s when you’re done.

With so many spring miles ending that way, it’s no coincidence there’s tons of kit focused on mitigating the variability of cycling through unpredictable weather.

Let’s sift through some of the best of this year’s cohort, specifically with aerodynamics in mind - one’s that are particularly innovative, stylish or a combination of the two.

Jackets and gilets

Living in the mountains outside Zurich or riding through the flats north of London, jackets and gilets are the most useful bit of kit from March to May. Many of this year’s have one thing in common: a clear emphasis of cut and fit, minimising fabric to lessen weight, improve packability and cheat the wind wherever possible.

Two we like which we’ve come across recently are the L1 Essential Camo Vest from Q36.5 and PasNormalStudio’s Stow Away jacket.

'Aerodynamics for us has always been an inspiration - it is not just something to make you faster but a method of development, a philosophy to eliminate everything that makes you slower,' explains Luigi Bergamo, founder of Q36.5.

'You need to eliminate the superfluous and the unnecessary - that’s what you see in the L1 camo. Pure functional apparel.'

From our point of view, the L1 is the perfect combination of functionality and style. It is cut high in front and falls perfectly into position when riding, warming the core on descents, even in 10 degree temperatures. A higher brush-lined neck gives a bit of extra warmth while rear slits allow for easy access to items stashed in jersey pockets. On style, I mean, camo. ‘Nuff said.

More of the same in the Stow Away from PNS: made from DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treated Japanese fabric, it breathes on big efforts and cuts wind on cold morning club rides.

A word of caution on sizing: respect the PNS size chart (fits tight). The Stow Away is purpose built to be stuffed inside jerseys and taken out when the weather turns. As such, it is cut high in the front, slim throughout and fitted across the chest. There’s nothing unnecessary here.

A wind cheater, for sure, and one we’ve been riding in repeatedly since it arrived.

Jerseys

Spring jerseys are as variable as the weather and the places you ride it in this time of year. 'When you say spring, do you want lightweight summer kit that’s available in spring for the summer, or roadwear that’s perfect for riding on cool spring days,' asks Chris Puttnam, founder and owner of Velobici.

'If it’s the latter, it’s our Rene that’s available in short and long sleeve and is perfect for cooler rides.'

On Puttnam’s recommendation we tested the Rene jersey and the company’s version of a Roubaix bib for this article. Both are made out of 'performance fibre' (a meryl lycra blend for the jersey and poly elastine mashup in the bibs).

What we liked most riding in both are their weight and windproofness - desirable in anything where fit but also versatility and style are prioritised.

From the experience riding in a couple bits of VB kit, I’d say Velobici wears like a craft beer tastes - there’s a carefully considered, meticulousness to it.

The atypical, oversized pockets are easy to reach; there’s a closeness to the fit that is pleasing if you’re after speed; there’s also a distinctness to the heritage aesthetic which definitely appeals.

Some of the other cold weather, close fitting options we tested are PNS’s mechanism long-sleeve and the pro-team thermal from Rapha.

Both well-cut, slim-fitting, and great layers under gilets, jackets or standalones for training, featuring similar brush-lined fabrics, three-pocket designs with zippered stash pockets for keys.

These jersey types are the ones you’ll reach for on repeat. They’re warm (and jersey open) great for climbing mountain passes when the road’s still flanked on either side by snow.

Now if spring means riding in actual warm weather - and lucky you - there are jersey options galore built with close, wind cheating cuts in mind.

Q36.5’s short sleeve pinstripe supports musculature and is cut snug, but not tight, that’s been fun to ride in. Other favourites come from Australia and Slovakia by way of Attaquer and Isadore.

'Our race-fit garments minimise loose panels that catch the wind and cause unnecessary drag,' explains Stevan Musulin, a co-founder of Aussie brand, Attaquer.

'We spend a huge amount of time on product development to ensure all of our products properly contour and perform. Weight, compression, correct fit and comfort still currently rank higher than aerodynamics for most riders when selecting kit (in our experience) but with all of the ongoing improvements and focus on aerodynamics by bike manufacturers, there is certainly more emphasis on aerodynamic gains in cycling kit too.'

The company’s race line is a good demonstration of the effort Musulin describes. Available in a new red colourway for SS19, the Race Jersey is littered with details like mesh side panels, an elastic rear gripper - which does a good job keeping it from riding up. and longer sleeves for added compression and comfort - a feature that is even more pronounced on their Race Ultra jersey.

Of the two, the latter is the winner on account of an even better fit.

Elsewhere, two handmade jerseys from the Velits brothers - both former professionals - stand out. There’s Isador’s Signature Jersey 2.0 and Climber’s Jersey - both redesigned for 2019, that are near-perfect interpretations of classic design.

The Merino fabric gives them great variability when it comes to temperatures, while the Climber’s Jersey blends style and functionality expertly, as one would expect, trimming weight and warmth from the arms and chest for when the road turns up.

Bibshorts

'When we talk about designing something new, we always start from an aerodynamic point of view,' explains Guiseppe Ribolzi, product developer in Assos’s Advanced Creative Design Centre.

'Two years ago we went back to BMC Racing with the challenge of building a better bib, and the result if the S9 racing fit system. This is one of our best shorts yet.'

Well, leave it to Assos to work with an idea for a better bib and to actually deliver it. This is a year-round short, says the company, thanks to the thermo-regulating fabrics from which it’s made, but aero-heads will like the new S9 for different reasons: fewer panels and less stitching equals less drag.

From our test ride in the new shorts, the biggest thing to note is their consistent comfort. Startlingly the brand seems to innovate on this one aspect at which it already excels.

Other bibs standouts from the class of 2019 include:

PNS Mechanism Shorts in Bronze - a great compressive fit  
Q36.5 Salopette Dottore L1 - incredibly lightweight at 160grs  
Isadore’s Medio Bib shorts - smooth-feeling fabric and slightly longer for muscle compression; very comfortable  
Attaquer’s Race Bib Shorts - race ready in medium  
Velobici’s Rene Thermal Bibs - comfortable and best-suited for cooler, transitional riding  

Shades, shoes, and so on

Two of the best looking, best performing pairs of sunglasses we’ve seen so far this year come from Rudy Project and Smith.

Rudy, arguably, has been stuck in the doldrums style-wise since we bought our first pair in 2007. But with the Defenders, the brand cements its already well-known reputation for quality and announces its return to frames you’d be happy to wear on hot laps around Regent’s Park.

Same with the Smith Wildcat. Technically, they might be a pair of MTB shades, but in line with the broader trend in cycling for oversized frame design (which as a contact lens wearer is valued), these look insanely fast on the road; the ChromaPop lens makes road vision crystal clear.

Lastly for those looking to ride up grades in upgrades, check out DL Killer’s KS1 road shoes in bright white. These are cook-to-fit kicks, borrowing from ski industry pioneering available in select cycling shoes.

For wider feet, the extra breathing room in the toe box is a welcome reprieve; toes have room to splay out rolling through each pedal stroke.

This is as stiff a shoe as you’ll find; a highly responsive, aesthetically pleasing piece of footwear covered in real leather - a nice touch and definitely a niche piece of kit.

Kit list

Jackets and gilets

Q36.5 L1 Essential Black Camo Vest, £149

https://www.swinnertoncycles.co.uk/clothing-c119/gilets-c124/q36-5-vest-l1-essential-p56462/s126636

Pas Normal Studios Stow Away jacket, £174

https://www.pasnormalstudios.com/commodity/1195-stow-away-jacket-burned-orange

Jerseys

VeloBici Rene jersey, £158

https://velobici.cc/shop/rene-thermal-jersey-a-w-s

Pas Normal Studios mechanism long-sleeve, £180

https://www.farfetch.com/uk/shopping/men/pas-normal-studios-mechanism-jersey-top-item-13843004.aspx

Rapha Pro-team thermal from Rapha, £106

https://www.rapha.cc/ch/en/shop/pro-team-long-sleeve-thermal-jersey/product/PTH01XX

Q36.5 short sleeve pinstripe, £110

https://www.bikeinn.com/bike/q36.5-pinstripe/137127007/p

Attaquer Race Ultra, £145

https://www.sigmasports.com/item/Attaquer/Race-Ultra-Short-Sleeve-Jersey/IVE2

Isadore Signature Jersey 2.0, £110

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/isadore-long-sleeve-jersey-20/

Isadore Climber’s Jersey, £133

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/isadore-albula-climbers-jersey/

Bibshorts

Assos S9, £175

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/assos-equipe-rs-bib-shorts-s9/

PNS Mechanism Shorts in Bronze, £198

https://www.pasnormalstudios.com/commodity/1158-mechanism-bib-bronze

Q36.5 Salopette Dottore L1, £175

https://www.bikeinn.com/bike/q36.5-dottore/136909233/p

Isadore Medio Bib shorts, £133

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/isadore-bib-shorts/

Attaquer’s Race Bib Shorts, £179

https://www.rutlandcycling.com/clothing/legwear/giant-race-day-bib-shorts-blackblue_373000

Velobici’s Rene Thermal Bibs, £162

https://velobici.cc/shop/rene-thermal-bib-shorts

Shades, shoes, and so on

Rudy Project Defenders, country specific pricing

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rudy-Project-DEFENDER-BUMPERS-Sunglasses/dp/B07HKLRBVT/?&tag=cyclist0a-21

Smith Wildcat, country specific pricing

https://www.wiggle.co.uk/smith-wildcat-sunglasses/

DL Killer’s KS1 road shoes, £325

https://dlkiller.cc/shop/dl-killer-ks1-classic-white

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