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Café du Cycliste Francoise jersey & Martine tights review

Cafe du Cycliste Francoise jersey
15 Feb 2016

The Café du Cycliste winter combo of the Francoise & Martine match style with versatility.

Cyclist Rating: 

First it was wool. Then Castelli came along and it was lycra, then Rapha happened and it was wool again (but blended with Lycra this time), and now Café du Cycliste is here to tell us about silk (blended with wool again) in its new Francoise jersey (£145). So what do we get for stepping another rung up nature’s ladder?

According to Café, ‘the addition of silk to the merino enhances the natural characteristics of the wool to provide even greater breathability and thermoregulation’. Sounds good to us.

Cafe du Cycliste Francoise review

I don’t have an environment lab here at Cyclist, but I do have the great outdoors and out in the cold winds of a British January the Francoise is fine bit of kit. The softness of the silk gives the jersey a lovely feel against the skin, unlike some wool products that have a tendency to be a little itchy when you warm up. The Francoise also imparts quite a lot of warmth despite the material being incredibly thin (to the point I was nervous about wearing it out). Combined with a long-sleeved base layer and a gilet, I could just about manage single digit temperatures as long as I kept the effort levels up.

I also took the Francoise on a press camp in Calpe, where the temperatures hovered around the high teens. With just a short-sleeved base layer underneath, the Francoise was almost perfect first thing in the morning, although I did begin to overheat on the post-lunch climbs.

As nifty as the thin fabric is, it does have a tendency to sag a little when you fill up the pockets. By Café’s own admission, the fabric has been ‘constructed with additional stretch’ but I think it’s a stretch too far. The solution of course is to just stick everything in a saddlebag and not worry about it – which is exactly what I did.

Style is personal (I happen to think the Bomber style rocks) but the low, ribbed neck does allow quite a bit of air in – great if you want to keep cool, but not so if you don’t. Despite its flaws, the Francoise is a really lovely jersey that’s ideally suited to short spring jaunts into the countryside. 

Martine tights - £145 

Cafe du Cycliste Martine tights review

I’ve always got on well with CdC shorts, so I was keen to try out the Martine winter tights. First up, let’s get the padded/unpadded discussion out of the way.

The Martine tights are unpadded, which I think is better for a few reasons: you can use your favourite shorts, there’s a double layer of fabric surrounding your lower half, your money is being better spent on the tight fabric, you can use them for other things (such as running) and, if you commute, you can use them a few times in a row and just rotate the shorts. [Café du Cycliste now also offer a padded version of the Martine, for £162, if you disagree with me entirely.]

The Martine tights are lined with a fleece-like material, a claimed evolution of SuperRoubaix, that insulates nicely without ever becoming too hot. If it was to get seriously cold, you may struggle but perhaps at those temperatures you should reconsider riding at all.

Cafe du Cycliste Martine tights

The material is also very stretchy, so the tights contour nicely to the legs without bunching up like some tights made from heavier, wind-proof material. The panel construction of the tights does feel a little odd off the bike, as I also noted with the shorts, but once you’re on the bike any feeling of oddness simply disappears.

The stirrups at the bottom of the leg are a contentious issue. Stirrups help keep tights in place and form a nice weather seal in the shoe but they look a little clumsy over the top of socks. To combat this, you have to put your socks on over your tights, which make you feel like a footballer. It’s a personal thing but I’m not a fan.

As it is, for me at least, the stirrups spoil what is otherwise a near perfect pair of winter tights, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming my go-to pair, such is the quality of the fit.

£145 each

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