When you’re in the gear testing business, a lot of cycling kit passes through HQ. Some of it good, some of it great, and some of it downright garish and gross. The three kits below – in our opinion, at least – reside in the second category. Each combines appealing style with high-level functionality, making them a solid choice for quick-hit lunch rides or those all-day epics when chafe or discomfort are simply not an option.
Just this week, in fact, we pulled on the Louis Garneau Course Race jersey and bibs for a six-hour slog up Colorado’s foreboding Red Mountain Pass, peak elevation 11,044 feet. And while the legs didn’t always cooperate, the ultra-snug-fitting Course Race tops and bottoms were flawless. Here’s a closer look at these three kits we like:
As the name implies, this sharp looking jersey and bib combo is made in the USA, save for the chamois, which comes across the pond from Italy. The kit is actually a collaboration between Boulder, Colorado-based Alchemist (which also makes custom kit) and JLVelo, a California-based manufacturer. Both companies strive to be environmentally sensitive, even powering their offices and manufacturing facilities with solar panels.
The design itself was the creation of Team IMBA (as in, International Mountain Bicycling Association), whose riders sported it at two iconic Colorado cross-country races, the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge and the grueling Leadville Trail 100.
“Our goal is to deliver products that people want, but also do it in a sustainable way,” explained Alchemist marketing maven Claire Lochridge. “We started out using overseas suppliers, but decided that wasn’t the direction we wanted to go.”
Both jersey ($120) and bibs ($180) are race-cut snug and constructed from 88 percent recycled polyester and 12 percent Lycra. The material is also some of the softest we’ve encountered. I just wouldn’t want to take a digger in it.
The full-zip jersey’s three rear pockets stow everything you need for long haul rides, flat-lock stitching keeps you comfortable, and the jersey’s Light DryWick fabric has plenty of stretch, so if you want a snug fit but don’t have a “snug” body, you wont feel like you’re wearing a sausage casing. The bibs have a seamless inner thigh, flat-lock stitching, and if you opt for a custom kit Alchemist will even customize the inseam. Personally, we’d like a slightly tighter fit in the backside area, but that’s in part because we don’t have much of a backside.
Lightweight and aero are the main drivers for the stealthy – and ultra snug-fitting — Louis Garneau Course Race jersey ($200) and bibs ($250).
The jersey’s shoulders and sleeves utilize strategically placed Speedtech fabric, which Louis Garneau claims is the most aerodynamic fabric on the market. And while we’ve obviously not dragged this kit into the wind tunnel, fit certainly feels wind-cheating. Even at high speeds on blustery days, there’s been no perceptible flap at neck, arm or leg openings.
The shoulders are also pre-shaped, further improving aerodynamics. And both top and bottom are treated with something called Coldblack, which is supposed to better reflect the sun’s rays. An SPF 50 rating means you wont sunburn through the paper-thin material. A full length zipper allows you to open up when you do heat up. The three back pockets are angled slightly outward, improving access, though we did inadvertently lose a gel pack on one ride due to this feature.
The jersey also has a multimedia pocket, so if you want to rock out on your ride you can route headphone wires on the inside. A wide silicone gripper at the bottom of the back keeps the jersey from riding up.
Features of the bibs include what Louis Garneau calls a 5 Motion Chamois with 3D pre-shaped wings and a deep split at the back bridged by vented mesh to allow for multi-directional motion and enhanced comfort. That’s a lot of marketing speak, but we can vouch for the comfort part. On our aforementioned 5-hour ride up and down both sides of Red Mountain pass, our backside never put up a fuss.
Bib straps utilize two different kinds of mesh, stretchable at the bottom, anti-static higher up. The thigh hem is lazer-finished for a precise, snug fit. And there’s a nifty nature-call opening so you don’t have to be a contortionist to go to the bathroom.
Another entry into the burgeoning aero clothes arena, Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O. Leader jersey ($200) and bibs ($200) are constructed from a form fitting blend of nylon and elastane (91 to 9 for the jersey body; 66 to 34 for the bibs). The net effect a snug fit, though we have noticed that air can sneak in the neck opening on occasion.
Like the Louis Garneau option above, Pearl’s aero offering utilizes Coldblack fabric to better reflect the sun. There’s also a full-length zipper to accommodate traditional cooling strategy.
The jersey’s main highlights are on the back where an elasticized gripper keeps the hem in place, a trifecta of pockets (plus sweat-proof pocket) provide ample storage, and a “structural element” is bonded on to increase pocket support. That “element” looks sort of like Spidertech tape (and may be a little much visually for some), but we can vouch that even when overloaded with a smartphone and foul-weather gear, the jersey doesn’t sag or bounce around during out-of-saddle efforts.
Finally, besides traditional size options, Pearl Izumi also offers the P.R.O. Leader jersey in Small/Medium and Medium/Large, making it easier to find the right fit if you happen to be a tweener size.
The P.R.O. Leader bibs have sublimated graphics, and utilize In-R-Cool® technology and a seamless 4D chamois for enhanced comfort. Multi-panel anatomical design means a snug fit. Reflective elements keep drivers aware. Available in four sizes and four colors.