While some of the offerings from these manufacturers won’t appeal to everyone, those that appreciate attention to detail and classic lines (with the income to participate) are sure to pause and take notice. Merino wool has seen a resurgence in performance cycling wear for its moisture wicking qualities as well as comfort, and unlike many synthetics has inherent antibacterial properties thanks to the lanolin in wool. The most interesting detail though, is how apparel companies are using it in conjunction with other materials to take things to a whole new level.
Giro recently introduced their new “New Road” line, and like a number of other clothiers, have heavily featured merino wool as the material of choice. Merino by itself doesn’t always hold its shape, and I’m finding some of my jerseys developing holes. Giro’s new apparel line addresses these drawbacks and features a merino poly blend, presumably to take advantage of the best qualities of both materials.
The best part of the jersey has to be the clean classic styling, as we’ve never been fans of promoting ourselves as billboards. The Ride jersey has all the features you’d expect on a road jersey without feeling like you’re lining up for a race. Since we’ve also been taking to wearing more road jerseys on dirt rides based from the house, it looks pretty dang appealing for the dirt as well, in dark colors that should look decent dirty.
I’m a fan of the asthetic Giro is promoting with casual looking performance wear- especially with their shorts. They’re designed to be a system you pair with their bib knicker as the base layer. The bib features a front fly so you can actually take a pee mid-ride somewhat discretely, (while wearing an overshort) as well as rear pockets for carrying ride essentials.
Although for longer, extended rides a lycra kit still makes sense, for shorter rides that involve a beer in the park and/or a stop at the coffee shop this is seriously good stuff. Unless you like looking like a spandex-clad cycling dork all of the time, in which case, more power to you.
Although we have a number of road and urban bike setups for commuting, riding in the dirt is and will always be our true passion, and have been dying to get our paws on a pair of the new Chamber shoes from Giro. A skate-style DH shoe, it not only features a grippy Vibram rubber outsole, but reportedly has a shank set further back than any other SPD shoe on the market. If you ever have issues with foot numbness, (I do) the common solution has been to get your shoes custom drilled for a more reward position of the cleat and alleviate the pressure that way. The Chamber is the first shoe we’ve seen that actually addresses this issue, and could potentially be a new favorite/ go to shoe for a lot of riders.
New clothing company startup Kitsbow also features wool heavily in their product line. Like Giro, they start with Merino wool for its softness and other performance enhancing qualities and blend it with nylon and spandex for additional functionality, as well as to address some of the durability issues with wool. Although focused more on the off-road side of the spectrum, their classic lines would look good while riding anything with two wheels.
As mentioned in a previous post, I’m especially enamored with their Sastan Jersey. Although it’s priced out of the range of many, (including myself) if you’re rolling a $10k build on your new carbon wonderbike, why stop when it comes to your kit? At Sea Otter I had the chance to finally get some hands on the pieces and you really have to see them in person to appreciate all the touches and thinking that went into the design. The jersey has a durable Cordura outer woven to an inner merino wool fabric. Who knows where they sourced it—as far as I know they asked a mill to do it for them custom, which would directly contribute to the high cost of the garment. Either way, it’s a nice piece that fits really well, and there are nice little design touches everywhere. They also had a full zip follow up version on hand (not for sale quite yet) that lacked the quilting (my personal favorite detail) based on feedback from testers and their demo days, as well as a few new short models with adjustable waistbands (featuring a slightly different fit) also based on user feedback.
Although the Kitsbow stuff is super pricey, all the little details and features are amazing and for a (admittedly new) textile geek like myself it’s somewhat mind-blowing. Whereas most manufacturers design around a price point, subtracting features and simplifying products in order to hit margins at said price points, Kitsbow’s philosophy is to instead make the nicest piece possible and then find a customer for it later. They’re striking a unique path in the market, and the start-up mindset is evident here.