Voler’s challenges Euros with classy Black Label cycling apparel
The Black Label features cuts for both men and women. Photo by Voler.
When it comes to cycling togs, the highest regard and price points seem to be reserved for a rarified few European labels. Marks like Castelli, Rapha, and Assos might well be the Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton of the bike world. And while Grover Beach, California-based Voler may not have the tony pedigree, their new Black Label line makes a compelling case for equal footing when it comes to quality and performance, while flat-out blowing away the Euros on price.
Well-known for their custom programs, Voler has been on the upswing the last couple years, tweaking and improving designs across their line, benefitting punchy racer types and more casual club riders alike. The non-customizable Black Label offerings level-up the high-performance package they designed for the likes of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, while removing the rolling billboard factor. The results are nothing less than a study in beautifully understated performance.
“Black Label is a departure for us in a number of ways,” said Voler eCommerce Director Aaron Barker. “We focused first on the fabrics, quality, and technical features, then went with a simple color-blocked design rather than a sublimated graphic.”
Indeed Black Label is available only in stealthy all-black, or black with red accents, and features a purposeful matrix of high-performance fabrics. The bib shorts rely heavily on Italian-milled Forza HC high-compression polyester as well as the more breathable Illusion fabric that’s used on the bib straps. Barker says the high-compression fabric offers both performance and aesthetic advantages.
The slim Genesis fabric side panel both provides a nice visual line as well as compliments the high-compression functionality of the rest of the bibs. Photo by Voler.
“High compression fabrics provide support to the upper leg for maximum performance and recovery,” Barker explained. “While it’s been a bit of an industry trend the last couple of years, for us it’s really more about what looks and feels good.”
The Black Label jersey uses an entirely different fabric to get the job done–Voler’s US-milled Genesis blend. The fabric is highly breathable and durable, despite being very lightweight, according to Barker.
“The Genesis fabric makes for a nice, lightweight but well-wearing jersey,” says Barker. “Our teams have been riding them for over a year and the durability has been excellent.”
On the road the Black Label gear performed as-advertised–perhaps better–despite some initial reservations.
Despite the use of black fabric, the Black Label fabric is sheer and feels no warmer than other colors.
The fit of the jersey felt a bit different than most on first try, but turned out to be a Goldilocks-like “just right.” Neither club fit blousey nor racer boy tight, the difference-splitting cut is presumably the result of much trial-and-error size testing on Voler’s part, and is accentuated by their use of flat seam construction, a scrunch-free full zipper, and the clean-finish waist which keeps the jersey edge pulled down.
The–let’s call it “micro-roomy”–jersey also allowed the addition of a temperature-regulating under layer without the stuffed-sausage look that usually comes along with it. So worn, it felt comfortable at temperatures in the low 60-degree range, as it did in the mid-90′s sans under shirt.
“For those who ride a lot, layering for the conditions is key,” Barker noted. “Most people prefer to start with a lighter weight jersey and adjust from there with undershirts and outerwear.”
Another notable perceived disadvantage–the presumably heat absorbing black-colored fabric–either did so negligibly or was offset by the jersey’s thermal management properties. Barker pointed to Team Sky’s success in black kits over the past couple years as evidence. His point is valid, though the respective 2013 and 2012 Tour de France champs Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins each spent a fair amount of time in yellow jerseys as well.
Continue reading for more on the Voler Black Label cycling collection and full photo gallery.