Saying no to pink-Giro takes a New Road less travelled to women's cycling apparel

Photo courtesy of Giro.

"Shrink it and pink it" has long been the bike industry's approach to producing women's cycling products. Now with more women riding than ever, savvy manufacturers are getting sophisticated and delivering more than just lip(stick) service. Case-in-point-Giro's 22-piece New Road women's apparel collection. Introduced last month, the line of relaxed-fitting bike clothes eschews the spandex, sponsor-emblazoned racer look in favor of more earthly tones and tailored styling. Like the pieces in the company's men's New Road line launched last year, these "regular" looking clothes come with hidden technical features cyclists demand.

"The New Road idea is that you can have apparel that complements your personal style, offers all of the performance you need on the bike, and allows you to keep going when the ride stops," said Giro Senior Brand Manager, Eric Richter. "It's about helping you to make the bike a seamless part of your life."

With casual cycling and commuting on the rise, and road cycling events shifting from traditional racing and charity rides to something in between-gran fondos, dirt fondos, adventure rides and, ahem, gentlemen's rides-that include dirt roads as well as asphalt, the timing seems right for Giro's "New" direction.

Photo courtesy of Gerhard Gross.

But we have to ask, does this New Road Collection capture the cycling Zeitgeist or confuse its target market by looking "less enthusiast?" Is this women's line truly differentiated or just Mini-Me menswear? Finally, can this clothing line really be everything to everyone from amped-up racer types to laid-back latte sippers?

We kept these questions in mind on our test rides and-since this is a line that's "new" in more ways than one-tried to pay attention to how each piece made us feel, along with how it felt and performed. We focused on garments from three of New Road's four categories:
  • Foundation-base layers closest to the body
  • Ride-tops and bottoms designed to go the distance for riders who need performance
  • Outerwear-tops and bottoms that provide insulation from the elements.
  • Mobility-tops and bottoms that are closer to everyday street wear (not tested)

The Giro New Road Boy Undershort is Statue of Liberty approved. Photo courtesy of Giro.

Foundation: Boy Undershorts - $70

Made of Giro's Nycore merino wool, these shorts comfortably fit under any piece you want to throw on top and no one would ever be the wiser-no visible "panty" lines. We thought the "Triathlon Performance" chamois was an interesting choice and wondered if the sport-specific position of a time trialist would translate to other bikes. But it was comfortable enough, standing up to rides up to two hours long. The undershorts come in "glowing red" or "dark shadow," and the Giro branding on the band is so stylish, you won't mind if it peeks out.

How we felt: A fun, sexy spin on the chamois short, but we're not confident our lady-bits would approve after a long ride.

Bottom line: A great way to add comfort to your daily commute, casual cruise or coffee ride (without adding lines to your bottom).

Photo by Gerhard Gross.

Foundation: Base Layer Tops - $50-$60

The base layers available each do a few different jobs. You can get a three-pocket version that gives you options for storing snacks and tools on longer rides, or a no-pocket version that simply provides an extra layer of warmth and comfort. Both are thoughtfully cut to hit at the hips, where they won't bunch under bibs, or sneak out of the bottom of your jersey. And they look so cute, we'd wear them on their own, too. Just be careful when it's time to hit the shower-taking them off, we noticed they didn't like being stretched too far, as evidenced by the uh-oh sounds of threads breaking.

How we felt: Why is this top so short? Oh, we get it.

Bottom line: Essential basics for every ride. But handle with care.

Continue to Page 2 for Ride apparel and full photo gallery »

Photos by Gerhard Gross and Chris Wellhausen.

Ride: Overshort - $100

For us, these shorts were the crème de la crème of the whole collection. Instead of the typical small/medium/large sizing, Giro opted to use the much more precise dress sizing, from 2-12. They fit like a dream, and thanks to innovative paneling, they pedal like your favorite bibs. They're fitted enough that they don't flap around but baggy enough to hide all signs of your Boy Undershorts (and anything else you might want to keep to yourself). Traditional pockets decorate the front and back providing a place to put cards or keys if you walk away from the bike. And they both wash well and drying dry wrinkle-free. We loved them on the road, we loved them on the trail and yes, we'd wear them off the bike, too.

How we felt: All our mountain biking friends are going to be jealous.

Bottom line: Your new favorite shorts.

We liked the sportswear look of Giro's Crew Jersey, but too much gear makes for droopy pockets. Photos by Chris Wellhausen.

Ride: Crew Jersey - $80

This soft jersey is made of natural merino wool (the original technical fabric) and it easily stood up to our test rides, whether facing a chill off the coast, or super-heating on hill repeats. It kept moisture off the skin and regulated temperature beautifully. The snap button Henley-style collar made this piece feel a little more posh, and the subtle ruching adorning each of its three back pockets was a lovely feminine touch. However, the skeletal design Giro says adds structure to the pockets on this piece fell short against the standard items we put in them-phone, multitool, tire levers, CO2, snack and house keys. Once loaded, the jersey sagged in the back almost to the point of interference. A saddlebag, pannier or hydration pack would solve this issue, but so would stronger reinforcement in future versions of this jersey.

How we felt: Disappointed and a little dorky thanks to the sag. Close but no cigar.

Bottom line: Fashionable and functional, but be sure to travel light to avoid some serious sag.

Photos by Gerhard Gross.

Ride: Legging - $120

These equestrian-inspired leggings come in a sophisticated herringbone. They're a great layer for a cooler day and while they could pass as a regular pair of pants, they're packed with features that make them appropriate for the bike. A high waist means you can bend at the hip and pedal with confidence about your rear view. Faux pockets add a touch of class without compromising on fit (don't worry, there's a real zipper pocket hidden in the waist band for extra storage that won't interfere with your ride). And the stretchy, washing-machine friendly black material in the inner calf looks great while protecting you-and your pants-from any accidental bike grease "tattoos." You could put a pair of dress boots over top of these leggings, a fresh shirt and head straight out to dinner.

How we felt: A little shy. These are definitely "new" and might take some warming up to.

Bottom line: The kind of leggings fashion-forward commuters dream of-stylish at face value, but don't be afraid to race off the stoplights either. They'll keep up.

Continue to Page 3 for Outerwear apparel and full photo gallery »

Photos by Gerhard Gross.

Outerwear: Wind Vest - $80

The New Road wind vest has some old school features you'll be glad to have. A zipper cover keeps your neck free from chafing, reflective piping helps you be seen and its ventilated design means it breathes well, while protecting you from the elements. But Giro has added tailoring women will love-the shoulders are of a feminine width, and darting through the chest and back ensures a close fit. Throw it in your jersey pocket and it comes out wrinkle-free. Lightweight and available in three colors, this is a great piece to have for cool spring days, whether you've got a heavy group ride planned or a cross-town pedal to the brunch spot.

How we felt: Satisfied. Vests usually make us feel masculine but this one didn't.

Bottom line: A great fitting vest that seamlessly goes over any kit.

Photos by Chris Wellhausen.

Helmets, accessories to match

Giro also offers a full range of accessories that run the gamut from race-ready to recreational rider. We tried the lightweight Feather helmet that offered a little more protection to the back of the head, suitable for commuting or trail riding. Gloves, socks, shoes and eyewear are all available to mix and match according to individual budgets, tastes and needs.

Giro Women's Apparel Designer Karany Nihm, pictured here ride testing near Moab, Utah, is the driving force behind the new collection. Photo courtesy of Giro.

Giro New Road summary

When we go for a ride, we see all kind of cyclists wearing all kinds of fashion. There are running tees on the trails and board shorts pedaling home from board meetings. Racer kits zoom by cut-offs on cruisers and tank tops appear in spin class. Giro looked around and tried to create a collection that works for everyone.

"We saw that people were looking to do more with their bikes than just ride from point A to point B in a hurry," said Richter. "People want to get fit on the bike. People want to explore. People want to commute and not have to change when they get to their destination. They want to use the bike to get to their meeting and then roll straight to their workout or to their social times. And frankly, traditional lycra-based apparel can be a barrier to cycling for some people because it doesn't offer that kind of versatility or range."

While the genius of merino wool, the bulk of a chamois or the importance of pockets may not be fully appreciated by someone who hasn't already put in miles in the saddle, they will certainly enjoy the benefits, and hopefully that means they'll reach for their bike more often. Conversely, experienced cyclists can try New Road confidently knowing it meets their needs while adding fit and fashion ladies' (and mens') cycling has been missing.

How we felt: Optimistic. With the New Road line, Giro has shown themselves to be early addressers of a growing need we've sensed in cycling, especially among recreational riders and commuters. We're not sure Giro will get the attention of the Strava-chasing, town-sign sprinting group rider or racer. But maybe.

Bottom line: These fashionable, functional pieces are a welcome change to the pink flowers, green curlicues or purple butterflies women have had to choose from so far. Designed with the specific needs of a woman's body in mind, each piece fits cleanly and despite a few minor flaws, works as intended.

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