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Health & Fitness The best cycling kit including Rapha, dhb, Sportful and more

19:40  24 september  2020
19:40  24 september  2020 Source:   runnersworld.co.uk

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a close up of a shirt: We've rounded up best cycling shorts and jerseys to keep you comfy on the bike © Ben Hobson We've rounded up best cycling shorts and jerseys to keep you comfy on the bike

Cycling is a fantastic way to improve your running; it’s a low impact form of a cardio that can not only increase your endurance, but your aerobic capacity too. Throughout lockdown, cycling has been on the up and is playing a significant role in the fitness regime for many (it may even be your new method of commuting to work).

In light of this, we’ve rounded up some of the best cycling kit out there to keep you comfy as you clock up the miles.

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An important note: the first version of this article focuses on men’s kit but will be updated with women’s kit when testing is finished.

Choosing the right cycling kit:

Ideally, you’ll be able to try some kit on before you buy, but that might not be the easiest thing to do right now, so how do you choose?

If you’re totally new to buying cycling kit, then arm yourself with a tape measure. Most brands will have a comprehensive sizing chart, but be aware that it’s often a comprise; you’re looking for a snug fit without discomfort.

For example, if you are tall with long legs, your inside leg and trunk measurements may be an XL on the chart, but your waist may well be a medium, so a large pair of bibs could be the comprise; too small a bib short will result in restrictive fit and uncomfortable strap length and too big could lead to an ill-fitting chamois and chaffing.

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Sitting comfortably - choosing bib shorts

If you only want to invest in one bit of kit when it comes to cycling comfort, some decent bib shorts should be first on the list. If you’re new to buying these, it’s best to focus on the straps and the chamois (the cushioned bit you sit on) as these will ultimately affect comfort. With the straps, placement and width are the two main considerations; some bibs have the straps towards the centre of the shorts, some more to the side. Going by your body shape, one may suit more than the other so try a few pairs on, but if like me you have a more pronounced chest, then the centre aligned straps tend to be more comfortable.

Strap length tends to relate to the overall sizing guide, but some brands also use straps that have a bit more give than others, incorporating elastic panels to allow stretch for taller riders and a greater degree of fit. If you have a narrow, unyielding strap (often found on cheaper bib shorts) then you’ll quickly find it uncomfortable on the tops of the shoulder.

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Chamois come in a variety of widths and thicknesses, the width of your sit bones will determine how wide the pad needs to be in relation to your saddle and though the vast majority will fall into the common sizing used, some brands do use a narrower chamois so it’s worth being aware. Thicker doesn’t always mean comfier - foam density (much like running shoes) plays a big part of how comfortable you will find each chamois. Most will have more foam towards the rear of the chamois as this is where you sit, tapering towards the perineum so that there is comfort without too much padding getting in the way as you legs move.

How to find the right cycling jersey for you

Again with a jersey, the ideal is a snug fit without discomfort. 'Jersey stability' is mentioned below and that refers to how the jersey fits, moves, sags and is built to handle pockets full of food/spares/phone etc; no one wants a jersey sagging down by their bum. The cut of the jersey comes into play here; race or aero cut versus traditional or classic cut can have a jersey move up and down in sizing too. You may be familiar with the size of a brand in its ‘classic’ fit, but the aero or race fit from the same brand might be too small if you’re at the edge of the sizing bracket already.

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Thankfully lycra is very stretchy and forgiving so once you’ve worked out your compromise, you’ll be all set.

It’s also important to remember that cycling kit is designed and cut to be worn in a bike riding position, so if you stand up straight in front of the mirror and it doesn’t feel totally comfy, this could be the reason why. Same goes for if it feels too long or baggy when stood up, when riding this will only get worse. A rudimentary way to gauge it is that the front hem of the jersey should sit on the top of the hips and overlap the front dip of the bib shorts (the bit by your belly button) enough so that it doesn’t leave a gap when you’re stood up. This means when seated and leaning over, you won’t have an abundance of jersey bunching at your midriff.

To help with sizing, my stats are below as are the sizes that I wore. The fit was always focused on being as form fitting as possible so if you prefer a more relaxed fit, adjust accordingly.

Ben’s stats

188cm / 6’ 2”

85kg / 13st 3lbs / 188lbs

Waist 84cm / 33”

Chest 100cm / 40”

In seam 87cm / 34.2”

CHPT3

CHPT3 is a brand created by former pro cyclist David Millar and uses the Italian cycling brand Castelli as the template for its designs. This means a couple of things; the kit is very much informed by the professional experience of cycling, (though designed for the recreational) and you have to get over any sizing ego you might have. 'I’ve always worn a medium' won’t work here, so before you buy make sure you read the sizing chart.

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Girona jersey (large)

The Girona collection is touted as CHPT3’s everyday kit choice and you can feel why with the first pull on the zip. The jersey’s cut isn’t spray-on tight, it strikes a confident balance between being aero and, well, everyday. The length is slightly more generous than the norm, ideal for taller riders or those with a longer trunk, plus a bit more material around the midriff means those feelings of self-consciousness are reduced, something cycling kit has a premium on if you don’t have the same build as a pro cyclist. Sleeve length follows the ‘aero’ trend of covering the upper arm, with a nice wide cuff to help keep the jersey in place across the shoulders.

BUY NOW - £90

Girona bibs (XL).

Everything about these bibs feels sturdy; the material has a strong elasticity to it that gives your legs a reassuring squeeze when you pull them on and the near three inches of robust rubber grip that circumnavigates each thigh means nothing is shifting when you’re ready to roll. Built with the Catelli Kiss chamois, comfort wasn’t not an issue when it came to the bottom half of these bibs (pun intended).

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The only point of deliberation with these bibs comes with the straps. If you like straps that have limited stretch, then you will find these complete the package as a set of sturdy bibs shorts that you will want to wear over and over. However, if you’re after a bit of give, then these might not be for you. Also, the seam placement where the two straps join sits right on the top of the shoulders and is not a flat seam, meaning it was more noticeable then perhaps it should have been. Sizing up here could be an option depending on the rest of the measurements as this would give a bit more strap length.

BUY NOW - £100

dhb

A brand most runners will be familiar with, dhb have been making bike kit for many a year now and much like with the running kit, the aeron kit is the more refined and R&D driven offering. The aeron speed collection offers a nice middle ground between the standard offering and the all-out race range.

Aeron Speed jersey (medium)

The two tone sleeve and body of the jersey is the first thing that you notice and it eludes to a style associated with more expensive brands and dhb do a good job of pulling it off. The jersey is made from a semi-sheer material, with a perforated panel down the spine and under the arms to help keep you cool. The speed part of the name is a nod to the fact that this is more race aligned in cut and appearance and that’s apparent when wearing it; it’s tight. Sleeves are held in place more by the fabric rather than small elastic cuff but the chunky band along the bottom of the jersey is significant enough to stop the jersey shifting about when the pockets are full. For the price, it's a great option for anyone after some race orientated kit on a budget.

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Buy now - £45

Aeron Speed bibs (large)

The way dhb have pieced together these shorts is a testament to how much improvement has been made in recent years from the Wiggle owned brand; these shorts have the look and feel of something twice the price. Yes, there are a few scrappy seams and the finished polish isn’t quite as shiny as others perhaps, but these bibs were great to ride in. The blurb says they’re designed for ‘Everyday Aero’, which you can happily ignore and just go for ‘everyday these perform well’. Going all in on comfort the straps are like braces, with large elasticated straps extending from the front to the back. This is needed as the aero influence on the lower leg means they’re tight and compressive. If you’re sitting on the sizing boundary with this kit, sizing up probably wouldn’t be a mistake if you want just a little more wiggle room. They just need to get rid of the little orange tag on the bum. Again, great performance kit for those on a budget.

Buy now - £60

Sportful

Another Italian giant of the cycling world, Sportful began as ski brand before entering cycling in the 1980's to much fanfare, providing kit to some of cycling’s most famous teams and riders. This continues with the Bora-Hansgohe team and Peter Sagan.

A lightweight, block colour jersey that will suit warmer days, the almost oversized silicone waist band and sleeve cuffs mean the jersey very much follows the tight is right approach to fit and adheres to your body, sitting where it needs to sit. The cut of the collar is particularly comfortable on this jersey, with the zip finishing just at the base of the throat, between the collarbones. This means no unzipping irritating collars that can feel restrictive and warm, especially if your neck size doesn’t match the rest of you. Much like the Italian influence on the CHPT3 kit, Sportful sizing can come up small so check the sizing chart, especially if you’re choosing between some traditionally sized and the Body-Fit range. The rear pockets were smaller than some others on test, still plenty of room for your phone, a layer and some snacks but not much beyond that.

Buy now

BFT classic bibs (large)

Despite being called a classic bib, Sportful have snuck a number of pro features into these shorts. The chamois is from it Bodyfit range (bit more refined than the standard ones) and there are some compressive panels on the side of each thigh that Sportful claim help muscle support and aerodynamics. What they really do is make things a bit more comfortable, especially on long rides. The straps were slightly thinner than most of the others on test and thus were more noticeable when riding, but the difference was negligible. Like the CHPT3 shorts, the joining seams on the straps aren’t flat but they are positioned at the back of the shorts between the shoulders so caused no issue with comfort. For £85, these bibs really do offer a lot for the money.

Buy now

Café du Cycliste

A hot contender for the best-looking kit on test, Café du Cycliste have married premium kit to bold designs with great success. That’s not to say they don’t do black bib shorts and less vibrant jerseys, but they also do a completely floral kit too, so if you want to stand out on the bike, these are well worth checking out.

Fleurette jersey (medium)

Aside from the striking yellow to blue polka dot fade, the light feel of the Café du Cycliste jersey was one of the most noticeable things upon first wearing. Being a brand born out of the climate of the cote d’azure, it’s easy to see why lightness and keeping cool is important and this kit really excels in that task. The entire jersey is made from a perforated fabric (see sleeve pic for detail) and this is what gives it a lighter-than-air feel. The actual weight of the jersey isn’t particularly ground-breaking, but if your bike riding is at the point where you’re looking to save weight in a jersey, you’re probably reading the wrong round-up!

However, with light fabrics comes the issue of structural integrity and pocket sag. This has been remedied with a thick elastic band that runs across the rear of the jersey, just above the pockets, and a rubber gripper along the hem to keep everything where it should be. On the pockets, the angled cut of the side pockets is a nice touch, making it easier to rummage mid-ride for that much needed snack.

Buy now - £129

Marinette bibs (large)

Where some of the short on test have multiple panels for varying degrees of compression or support, the Marinette bibs (much like the jersey) offer a lightness and ease of movement that comes from the simple construction used. Simple in no way denotes a lack of quality however; the fabric used feels soft and welcome against the skin and there is an unrestrained feeling to the kit compared to others that can feel compressive. The chamois also give the illusion of feeling quite thin, but was comfortable on all occasions, even when venturing off on some gravel paths.

The back of the bibs features a ventilated panel that runs down the spine to aid cooling, as do the straps that are wide and perforated. The straps are not as forgiving as some others on test, but this actually aids fit rather than creates discomfort due to the free moving nature of the fabric. The front panel is also nice and high on the stomach, supporting the bib through the waist and lower back.

This is a kit that thrives in the heat and the only issue with that, is the lack of it in the UK, but when it does arrive, you’ll be thankful you have it (plus that’s what layers are for).

Buy now - £186

Rapha

There are two offerings from Rapha included here simply because they are very different sets of kit, but equally very good, so it would be erroneous to not include both. The Core range is Rapha’s more multi-faceted and affordable option, with the Pro Team range suiting those who want that pro level, race set up.

Core jersey (medium)

Comfort is key here and that begins with the cut. Form fitting but without the overly svelte fit of the Pro range, the core jersey is perfect for commuting as it is for longer rides. A big gripper runs the length of the back panel and is joined to the front by robust elastic.

The sleeves are shorter in length (they sat mid-bicep) and have a minimal cuff to them, which will be a positive for those looking for a less racy aesthetic and feel. Detailing is minimal with the trademark band on the left sleeve and branding on the left lapel and below the pockets on the rear. Previous versions of the jersey had the band as the same colour as the jersey, which created a cleaner look, but less obviously Rapha jersey.

Buy now - £60

Core bibs (large)

A simple build pulled off really nicely, highlights of the core bib shorts are the open panel at the back to help keep cool (this is the same on the more expensive classic bibs and brevet bibs but also the strap material is quite thick and a full panel would be warm), wide leg grippers and build quality that you’d expect from Rapha. Branding is kept to just the logo on each thigh, so you’re not making any great statement when riding about in these. Pair these up with some legs warmers when the temperature drops and you’ve got as close to an all year round pair of bib shorts as you can get.

Buy now - £85

Pro Team Training jersey (medium)

In stark contrast to the Core jersey, the Pro Team jersey is all about speed. The sleeves and front panels are made from a lightweight, perforated fabric to keep weigh and temperature down with the back panel being slightly thicker and less stretchy to help retain some structure and shape. There is more weight saving with no forth zipped pocket because zips are heavy (in relative terms) but the pockets are a good size and the hem features a thick rubber grip throughout (detailed with the pro team stripes). The sleeve cuffs are robust, which is worth mentioning as those with larger arms will immediately notice it, but it's not a cause for concern.

Buy now - £85

Pro team bibs (large)

It’s hard to fault these bibs; the multi panel construction means they are a fantastic combination of snug and easing moving, the chamois feels refined yet and will favour those who like a bit more cushion, but it doesn’t feel bulky by any stretch of the imagination. Often an issue with multi panels is seam placement and irritation, but there is none of that here.

The straps sit nicely across the front the body and don’t deviate to the sides once in a riding position and the two mid-strap panels stitched in are silky soft, meaning extra comfort across the collarbone; a plus in itself but even more so as a common cycling injury is a broken collarbone, meaning scars and sensitive skin. This level of consideration is what makes these such a reliable pair of bibs; when considering kit for a long day out, you can't go far wrong with these.

Buy now - £140

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