Ridden and Reviewed: Le Col HC kit
Le Col offers its take on the recent trend toward pro-level, understated road kit, courtesy of pro racer Yanto Barker
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Professional road racer Yanto Barker started Le Col in pursuit of performance-driven cycling clothing with stylish, understated designs. It’s a story we’re seeing more and more in the cycling world: as a wider swath of the population becomes interested in cycling, style plays a more significant role for high-end riders and the loud, logo-mad kits of the past are fading away. But performance cannot be sacrificed in the pursuit of simpler design, so Le Col features race cuts, pro level chamois, and a host of other touches that make the everyday rider feel pro. Made in Italy, Le Col’s HC line — which stands for hors catégorie — combines European style with all of the race-proven features you’d expect from a clothing line designed by a pro racer.
HC Jersey $249
The most notable design aspect of Le Col’s signature jersey is the Meryl fabric used throughout. It’s thicker than Lycra, which immediately made us worry about baking while riding in the 90+ degree heat. Those worries turned out to be unfounded, as the material manages heat well, but there was another problem with the material that did end up being a bit of an issue: sweat build-up. The jersey could become waterlogged, and on fast descents, the now-heavier, wet material began flapping in the breeze.
The jersey is otherwise very comfortable, and the grippy, Gummy Lycra Shield sleeves help keep the jersey in place even when wrestling the handlebars through tight mountain switchbacks. The grip material extends all the way up the sleeve onto the shoulders, a nice performance touch for a fit that moves with the body.
Embroidered logos, a rear reflective strip on the pockets, and a zipper pocket for your phone top off a solid design.
HC Bib Shorts $289
Le Col certainly isn’t short on style, and their Zebra pattern is eye-catching without being obnoxious, just like the corresponding jersey. A thick gel chamois is well-placed for road-riding; it might be a bit too forward for mountain biking, though (disclaimer: Le Col markets themselves as a road company, so mountain bikers, buy at your own risk).
Laser-cut bib straps lie flat against the shoulders and don’t bunch up as your body moves. Look for this design in any new bibs you’re considering purchasing, since this is a common place for hot spots to develop over the course of a long ride. Flat straps help prevent this, and Le Col’s laser-cut straps go one step further by providing just a little more venting where it’s needed. The high mesh back helps keep the straps from working their way outward on your shoulders too.
Gel leg gripper dots help keep the shorts in place. These are perhaps the most divisive elements of any bib shorts, besides chamois: some riders swear by leg grippers while others bemoan the pinching sensation they cause when thigh skin moves against them. They weren’t very noticeable on most rides, but if you’re not a leg shaver, you might feel some hair tugging every once in a while.
There weren’t many opportunities to field-test the Gilet in the 90-degree heat of Colorado’s summer, but on a few cool mornings, it was just the ticket for some protection against the morning breeze. It breathes well enough, though you’ll want to take it off and tuck it in your jersey when temperatures creep high enough for you to really work up a sweat. It’s shower-proof enough for morning drizzle.
It stows small in a jersey pocket when the mercury rises, and it’s light enough you’ll barely remember it’s there. Simple, clean aesthetics and a mesh back panel make it an ideal choice for those shoulder season rides when the weather can do anything and everything.
The Undervest does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it fits snugly and moves moisture away from the skin to keep the rider dry and comfortable. It’s made from Coolmax mesh, which is quick-drying too. The collar is wider than most baselayers on the market, which made for a more comfortable fit around the neck and shoulders. The sleeves, too, have a unique cut: they’re cut higher than most short-sleeve baselayers but are longer than a sleeveless baselayer. It took some getting used to, but this cut works well in conjunction with the gripper sleeves on the jersey and wasn’t noticeable out on the tarmac.
The bottom line
Le Col offers a high-end fit and technical performance, and the price tag is right where you’d expect it to be for a kit of this caliber. Simple, understated aesthetics make this an easy kit to reach for on everyday rides, and the bibs are comfortable enough for even all-day gran fondos and centuries. While we enjoyed the cut of the jersey, the material is a bit too thick and tends to hold moisture, which leads to a clammy, flappy feeling on descents we found distracting. Overall, it’s a worthwhile kit for your daily ride and even a race or two, though keep an eye on the thermometer: in high heat and humidity, the jersey might be a bit stifling.