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Apparel & Accessories

Cycling kit Review: Café du Cycliste Laurence unisex jersey and Sophie halter bib short

Best for long, cool-weather gravel rides off the beaten path.

Pros

Laurence Unisex Gravel Cycling Jersey:

Generous pockets,
Interesting fabric pairing


Sophie Halter Bib Short:

Supportive mesh bib upper

Cons

Laurence Unisex Gravel Cycling Jersey:

Sleeves proportionally too short

Sophie Halter Bib Short:

Front clip positioning requires a certain type of bra to stay centered


Our Thoughts

Cafe du Cycliste takes risks with fabrics choices and I respect them for that. Its apparel has small but unique details which are great, most of the time. The Sophie bibshort is definitely one of the “cool girls” while the Laurence unisex gravel jersey is good, but a bit more awkward.


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Sophie Bib Shorts

The Sophie bib shorts ($260) draws my attention because it’s a drop-tail bib. The straps are a halter top so a rider can use the bathroom without taking off their jersey. The usual problem with this type of short is that the strap saws into the back of the rider’s neck, or doesn’t provide enough support through the body of the garment. The Sophie does not suffer from such weaknesses. The elastic mesh body comes up around my ribcage to support the bottom of the bib and keep the chamois in place. The only downside to the strap is the center-front clip can slide side to side depending on the type of bra underneath. Anything with a solid front panel like a sports bra is going to allow it to slide around.

The Café du Cycliste Sophie halter bib offers ample support so the chamois stays put. (Photo: James Brosnan)
The Café du Cycliste Laurence gravel jersey is an artistic experiment in gravel gear. (Photo: James Brosnan)

The material itself is soft and lightly compressive. Since I’ve crashed-tested it, and come away with only a small hole, I’ll say I’ve had worse tears, so the durability is at least satisfactory. The leg grippers are integrated into the leg panels, reducing the seams and adding to the sleek, comfortable feel of the shorts. The chamois is excellent and correctly placed. It’s the best halter bib I’ve ever ridden in.

The Laurence unisex gravel jersey

I’ve always thought of Café du Cycliste as a luxury cycling clothing brand that wouldn’t stray far from typical construction and materials. The first part of that is true, but I was totally wrong about their sense of adventure when it comes to fabric selection and format. Their line is an artful combination of classic sportswear and cycling chic, with the occasional splash of whimsy in a ribbed velvet finish. The Laurence hoodie ($250) is an interesting artistic experiment in gravel gear.

To start at the top, the hood: I am a fan of a huge hood designed to go over the helmet. Unfortunately for me, this hood is designed to fit next to the head. I know this is better for heat retention, but the helmet chin strap interferes with the collar and the bottom of the hood. So, personally, I wouldn’t wear the hood under the helmet unless I was freezing. But it’s nice to have it for stops and the high front collar is welcome, too.

Café du Cycliste Laurence gravel jersey has a hood meant to be worn under a helmet. (Photo: James Brosnan)
Café du Cycliste Laurence gravel jersey sleeves length is fine as long as I did not use the thumb holds. (Photo: James Brosnan)

The jersey torso has a well-designed feel and is comfortable in the riding position. The substantial fabric is something I haven’t come across often in cycling kits, and does a good job blocking the wind, and with its zipper, it’s something between a jersey and an athletic hoody. That versatility makes the Laurence interesting.

The sleeves are a fine length, as long as you don’t plan to use the thumbhole. They were a little too short for me to use the thumbhole without the fabric trying to amputate my thumb. I generally wear gloves, but if using the thumbhole I was faced with shoving the sleeve into my gloves, wearing it over the gloves like a weirdo, and possibly abrading the sleeve material against the bars, or neither. I inevitably chose neither. The thermal sleeve fabric reminds me of my favorite jersey from another brand – I just wish the length was a bit more generous. I can even tell from the photos on the Café du Cyclist website that the sleeves are too short to use the thumbhole comfortably. I could size up to a medium, but that would add space in the garment body into which air can penetrate.

Verdict

Overall, I like Café Du Cycliste’s willingness to experiment with different fabrics and clothing patterns. The quality lives up to the image of luxury they’ve advertised. The Sopihe bibs are fantastic, and the experimental Laurence made me curious to try the brand’s more traditional pieces.