Three kits that will make you want to race unattached
BOULDER, Colo (VN) — The three kits below are acutely focused on performance, using the best materials, the latest cuts, and the smartest features to make your riding faster and more comfortable. They’re all cut slim, fitting up to three sizes smaller than most American-sized cycling clothing options. Consider them inspiration to ditch the beer gut.
They’re expensive, yes. But they’re also almost guaranteed to be far nicer than your old team kit. They fit better and flap less, are far more breathable, more comfortable, and, perhaps best of all, you don’t look like a rolling billboard when wearing them.
Rapha is easy to make fun of. Goodness knows I‘ve done it. But what I love about this (determined to become—ed.) iconic British company is that they can take the joke, and they actually have a lineup of quality products to backup the over-the-top marketing we sometimes chide them for. They simply make good stuff.
The Pro Team jersey and shorts are their first attempt at high-performance racewear. There’s no wool to be seen, only stretchy, techy Swiss fabrics cut into a slim figure.
Pro Team jersey – $170
Rapha uses mesh panels in all the right places — down both sides, under the pockets, and at the collar — for above average breathability. The fabric uses Coldblack technology, which apparently absorbs less heat. The three pockets are well placed and easy to get into and include a zipper valuables pocket. The collar is cut nice and low, so it doesn’t squeeze your neck even when pulled all the way up.
Cut is slim — even slimmer than Rapha’s other gear. I wore a small and it fit snug and aero. The sleeves and shoulders are extra stretchy and form fitting, and do a pretty good job of eliminating wrinkles and flaps. The bottom of the jersey is lined with silicon to help it stay in place around skinny mid-sections.
I wish the color was true white, rather than cream. And the black armband felt a little like I was riding for a fallen comrade. But the style — if it’s your style — of the kit as a whole is undeniable.
The jersey is also available in black (which gets a white armband).
Pro Team shorts – $220
Chamois placement is vital, and Rapha has hit it dead on, particularly for those with a more aggressive riding position. The pad is likely too far forward for comfort on your beach cruiser, but you’ll appreciate the extra cush up front when you’re on the rivet.
The material is relatively supportive, though the legs are somewhat short. Silicon thigh grippers do a great job of keeping the legs in place on bare skin, but didn’t hold onto my Pearl Izumi leg or knee warmers very well. As a result, the legs would ride up a bit over an hour or so, creating some bunching around the chamois. Not super comfortable — but easy to fix.
Cut is on the slim side, but not as tight as the jersey. I was happy with mediums, as I am with most bib shorts. Thankfully, you can only get them in black.
I recently raved about Castelli’s Sorpasso bib tights. They were the best bib tights I’ve used in recent memory. Castelli’s Body Paint shorts and Aero Race jersey left me with a similar impression.
Body Paint bib shorts – $250
These shorts are different from any other I’ve used. While other manufacturers tout their anatomic panels and comfortable stitching, Castelli just ditched both. The Body Paint shorts are made with a single piece of Lycra, with the same Progetto 2 chamois I loved in the Sorpasso tights. Putting them on is like slipping on a body sock (That’s really the best way I can think of to describe it.) No bunching, no poking, no scratching. The comfort is exceptional.
The bib straps are wide, elastic Lycra, and the back panel is mesh for ventilation. Each leg has a reflective logo, and the leg grippers are stitched right into the bottom of the shorts so they lay completely flat.
Sizing is tiny. I wore a large (I almost always wear medium, occasionally small) and they were still tight enough to be virtually wrinkle-free.
Aero Race jersey – $160
The Aero Race jersey available to the public is the same as the one used by Garmin-Cervélo in the biggest races in the world. It’s designed to fit as closely as possible, eliminating drag-inducing material flaps as much as possible. In fact, Castelli claims it can save as much as 10 watts at 25mph.
The open mesh back allows for excellent ventilation, the best out of all three jerseys in this test. There is also some funky mesh under the armpits for further breathability, which seems to work well. However, the version I used was only three-quarter zip, which drove me nuts when climbing in the heat. There is no full-zip version available, which is nearly a deal breaker for me.
The pockets are easy to access, and are made with a stiffer mesh so they don’t sag.
Fit is astoundingly close. The shoulders and arms fit tight, even on my T-Rex like frame. It felt like I was wearing a skinsuit, and I became so used to the lack of flapping material that going back to regular kit was a bit of a shock. I didn’t realize how loud my regular jerseys are until I rode in the utter silence Castelli has developed.
Fit is, unsurprisingly, tight. I wore a medium and it fit like it was glued on. This isn’t a jersey you want to buy if you are at all self-conscious about your upper body (or lack thereof, in my case).
Mavic has upped its clothing game recently, pouring a bunch of R&D time and money into creating a better high-end lineup. The result is Infinity.
Infinity jersey – $180
Mavic has included a number of smart features in its Infinity jersey. The material is designed to stretch around the body, but is firm when pulled up and down, which makes getting things in and out of the pockets much easier, while retaining a nice close fit.
With an eye toward ventilation, the armpits are perforated and light, airy material is used down the sides. The pockets use more mesh, and feature a nifty little bag attached via an elastic tether to store a phone or wallet. It seems gimmicky at first, but really does work well at those mid-ride snack stops.
Fit is not quite as tight as the Castelli or Rapha jerseys. I wore a small jersey (as I usually do) and it fit just a bit tighter than most.
The Infinity jersey is also available in white.
Infinity bib shorts – $220
The Infinity shorts provide the most compression of the three pairs tested here, though they aren’t particularly long. Chamois placement is good, too. However, the chamois took a few rides and washings to “break in” and become comfortable. The first time out it wasn’t particularly compliant.
The shorts breath well, thanks to a nearly see-through fabric used on the side panels designed to quickly wick moisture and heat away from the skin. Below this fabric are Mavic’s Ergo Grip leg grippers, which use silicon printing on the inside of the leg to keep everything in place. The wide band is comfortable, and does its job well.
The bib straps are an open mesh, and are extremely comfortable. The wide, stretchy straps conform well to the shoulders, and don’t hold in much heat thanks to the large mesh holes.
Fit is spot on — I wore U.S. mediums (EU small) and was very happy with the sizing. The legs are a tad short, though.