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Road Gear

The Clothesline: Six women’s summer kits put to the test

With summer at its midway point, we offer reviews of warm-weather apparel from Castelli, Rapha, and others

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This week marks the halfway point in the summer of 2013, the midway point between June’s green, blooming hillsides and September’s browns and reds, and the turning of the leaves.

Summer is the time of year when many of us get the bulk of our riding in. The days remain long and hot, with evenings that allow for rides well past 8 p.m.

As such, it’s an ideal time to present six women’s summer kits, ridden and reviewed over the past six weeks of summer in Colorado.

Summer means different things in different climates. In Colorado, it stays hotter and hotter as the weeks roll through August and into September; selecting the best kit for the day becomes all the more important. Sun exposure, humidity, temperature, and wind are all factors a rider must take into account when planning on a long summer day in the saddle.

We selected six women’s summer kits (top-bottom combinations) to battle the summer heat this season.

The range of the apparel was wide. Some were designed to be race-quality, while others were aimed toward more casual riding. There were various fabric weights, zipper lengths, and pocket configurations, as well as an even blend of three bibs and three standard shorts.

Each kit comes with its own unique pros and cons, and comparing one kit against another would be a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Instead, each kit was considered individually. They’re listed here not by price, or by overall rating, but rather in the order they were tested.

So read on, keeping in mind that though summer is half over, that also means there is still half a summer — and a lot of riding — that remains.

Capo Modena Donna jersey and (standard) shorts

The lowdown: Great all-around kit at an affordable price
Pros: Overall style is appealing; zipper is easy to use
Cons: Mediocre fabric quality; jersey fit a little off; thin chamois
Total price: $210
Jersey price: $90
Shorts price: $120

Capo’s Modena Donna kit became a go-to ensemble over the summer. When looking for something comfortable and breathable, we tended to reach for this combo. At just $210 for the jersey and shorts, this kit provides a lot of bang for the buck. It was a good choice on really hot days in the saddle. The light-colored jersey and lightweight shorts fabric made it an easy choice for a days inching up into 90-degree temperatures.

The jersey, while perhaps not made of the highest quality fabric, is comfortable, functional, breathable and stylish. It features an easy to use full-length zipper and deep pockets for stowing away the occasional rain jacket. The one drawback to this jersey is the sleeves; which fit loosely around the arms. The fabric is composed of Capo’s drop knitting, which helped with moisture management.

Though generally a medium top, we had to size up to a large due to Capo’s European sizing. The Modena Donna jersey is available in four sizes (extra small to large) in the following color options: white (pictured), cyan, blue, and black.

The shorts feature a crossover waistband, which hit the waist at just the right spot yielding a very comfortable fit. This was key on longer distance rides, when midsection chaffing can otherwise be a problem. The chamois is soft, but is a bit on the thin side. After long hours on the bike, you may find yourself shifting around on the saddle to get comfortable.

Rapha Souplesse jersey and women’s (standard) shorts

The lowdown: Great kit for a long, hot day on the bike
Pros: High-quality jersey; breathability and overall style
Cons: Jersey fit is very tight; zipper ripples; shorts a bit too long
Total price: $400
Jersey price: $195
Shorts price: $205

The Rapha Souplesse jersey and women’s short ranked high when planning an all-day ride in the heat. This kit caught our attention in terms of the fabrics used. The jersey features SPF 50+ protection, and the shorts are composed of durable stretch fabric.

Designed in London, the Souplesse jersey is a high-quality lightweight and breathable jersey. The streamline tailoring is evident, and the styled polka dot collar adds that extra touch of class that makes this jersey stand out from the rest. Rapha recommends customers go up a size in this jersey as it tends towards a race fit. We took their advice, but even a size up fit tight to the skin, almost like body paint; we strongly recommend trying this jersey on before purchasing. The fabric is thin and somewhat transparent, and as a result, performed great on the hottest of days. The front of the jersey could stand to be an inch or two longer; it rides up a bit, and needs to be pulled down every now and then.

The zipper is probably the Souplesse jersey’s worst feature. It ripples and struggles to lay flat when zipped up. The back outer pockets are functional, but the middle pocket is narrow, to accommodate the white contrast stripe. Fitting your usual cargo into this pocket was tricky, and sometimes impossible; the center pocket is the right size for a mini-pump, but not much more.

The Souplesse jersey is available in five sizes in the following color options: light blue (pictured), dark blue, and mauve.

The Women’s short was by far the most comfortable short tested. The high waistband features a front panel that is folded over, rather than stitched together, rendering a smooth crease point — ideal for those hours spent hunched over the bike. The Cytech chamois, designed specifically for women, is soft and has the perfect thickness, especially for longer rides. The women’s short was the longest pair of shorts we tested, and while style is subjective, we prefer a more feminine short- to mid-length cut. The long cut on the legs was especially odd given the short cut on the arms of the Souplesse jersey.

Castelli Gisele jersey and Palmares Due bibshort

The lowdown: Best summer kit for the price
Pros: Overall fit; bibshort strap configuration; eye-catching jersey style
Cons: Jersey features only a quarter-length zipper
Total price: $190
Jersey price: $100
Bibshorts price: $90

The Castelli bibs-jersey combination was hands down the highest quality kit for the price. For under $200, you can have a stylish, functional and well-constructed kit that’s perfect for the summer months.

The Gisele jersey got an A+ for fit, though we made sure to size up due to Castelli’s European sizing. Everything from the feminine cap sleeves, to the length in the front and back, to the contouring seams was a perfect fit. Made of Softflex fabric, the jersey is both stretchy and breathable. The fabric hugs the skin yet still provides ample room for movement, and was quick drying. Even after a long climb with significant perspiration, within minutes of the decent, the fabric would be nearly dry. Our biggest gripe about this jersey is the quarter-zipper length; it makes it hard to ventilate on really hot days, and became a deterrent when considering the forecast pre-ride. A full zip is always appreciated, even for us girls. The Gisele jersey is available in five sizes, from extra small to extra large, in navy-white-wisteria- cyclamen (pictured), white-coral-wisteria-anthracite, and white-flourescent yellow-pink-ocean. (Note: There is a matching Gisele short option, however the combination wasn’t to our style preferences, so we opted for a different Castelli short.)

The Palmares Due bibshorts are composed of Softflex RS fabric and are incredibly soft and supple. They are also very lightweight and were great when the temperature rose to 100 degrees. Because of the hassles involved with removing bibshorts for a mid-ride nature break, women’s views on bibshorts vary. In terms of comfort, the strap configuration is ideal — the straps sit very far to the sides of the chest, rather than crossing into the midsection like other bibs do. Overall, they feel more like standard shorts, but with the form-fitting benefit of bibs. However, to remove the bibshorts, it’s necessary to remove the jersey first, to free the straps from your torso.

Sugoi RSE jersey and (standard) shorts

The lowdown: High performance, race-quality kit
Pros: Fabric quality; overall fit; aerodynamic shape
Cons: Thinness of fabric too revealing; shorts are extra long
Total price: $360
Jersey price: $180
Bibshorts price: $180

Slipping on this kit, it’s immediately evident that the RSE jersey and shorts are made for race day. The fabric quality, clean edges and attention to detail make this the perfect kit for a summertime crit or hill climb, however the constricting shorts may only be appropriate for the leanest of riders.

The first thing to notice about the RSE jersey is Sugoi’s REVO fabric, which is designed to reduce surface friction and resist water penetration. The construction of the jersey is impeccable; the seams lay flat and the edges of the sleeves are snug on the arms, for a comfortable overall fit. The thin material, combined with the mesh paneling and wicking capability, make this jersey a good choice on a hot and humid day. That said, it’s arguable that the fabric is almost too thin, edging close to transparent. This isn’t for everyone, and is something to consider, and possibly try on, before buying, especially as we had to size up due to the race fit. Unlike other jerseys in this review, the RSE jersey comes only in white (pictured).

The RSE short is new for 2013, and was designed to go along with the RSE jersey. The designs on the jersey cuffs coordinate with the pattern on the thigh bands, giving the whole ensemble a professional feel. The chamois is very soft and provides great comfort and ventilation. These shorts didn’t rank high on our list, however, due to the waistband design. A high waistband isn’t usually a deal breaker, but the top of the RSE short rises to well above the belly button and is constricting. This aspect, along with the fact that the shorts are a bit long for my taste, had me reaching for other shorts.

Assos SS.Lady jersey and T.Lady_S5 bibshort

The lowdown: High-performance, durable kit that will stand the test of time
Pros: Fabric quality; bibshort strap configuration
Cons: Price
Total price: $470
Jersey price: $190
Bibshorts price: $280

The Assos jersey and bib shorts combo is one of the more comfortable kits tested. Everything about this kit screams high quality, even down to the packaging; opening an Assos product provides a similar experience to opening an Apple product. The Swiss apparel company is known for going the extra mile to make their clothing last. Every detail is considered during the development process; Assos claims to put a product through 50 to 100 prototypes before pushing it to market. This process adds to the exorbitant price point, and is truthfully the only strike against this kit, but at nearly $500, it’s a major consideration. You get what you pay for with Assos apparel; whether or not it’s worth so much more than some of the very good yet more affordable options is widely subjective to your tax bracket.

The SS.Lady jersey scored high marks in the comfort category, though it’s not for a hot summer day — even Assos only recommends it for a “warm spring or cold summer day.” The Assos SuperLight fabric did a great job of wicking away extra moisture, and the spandex shoulder composition made it easy to move around. The pocket system is constructed a bit differently than the traditional three-pocket configuration. Instead of three equally sized pockets in the back, the two outer pockets utilize a side-loading orientation for easy access on the bike. The middle pocket contains an outer fold over a smaller safety pocket for storing keys and cash. While these side-loading outer pockets may work for a smaller cargo load, when packed full, items are more likely to spill out. On one occasion, a well-stuffed rain jacket began flapping around, requiring special attention. All in all, the side-loading pockets make for uneasy storage. Along with most of the jerseys in this review, the SS.Lady jersey required sizing up due to its European cut. The SS.Lady jersey is available from extra small to extra large in the following color options: red (pictured), black, white, blue, and yellow.

The patented T.Lady_S5 bibshort was by far the most distinct bib tested. The strap configuration was the most unique and functional out of the bunch. The Y-panel design runs the strap down the middle of the torso instead of to the sides and was comfortable and practical, making the occasional nature break easier to accomplish. The bibshort utilizes the ASSOS ABC Closure System, which allows the user to select from three closure hooks. The ability to select individual strap length is a phenomenal and unique feature. The iceColor technology reduces heat absorption, and provides UV 50+ protection — an important consideration on a long day in the sunshine. The softness and breathability of the custom fabric chosen for this bib stands out; so, too, does the $280 price tag, which is $75 higher than the next-highest priced short in this review, and more than several jersey/kit combinations.

Road Holland Aalsmeer jersey and Breda bibshort

The lowdown: Casual, retro-style kit, mediocre fit
Pros: Appealing jersey design; soft fabric
Cons: Loud branding; bib strap placement not ideal
Total price: $225
Jersey price: $105
Bibshorts price: $120

The Road Holland kit is a nice all-rounder, and at $225, it’s a reasonable buy-in for a comfortable, stylish kit that can tackle the summer heat. The fabric quality didn’t stack up to some of the other brands tested, but for the price, it’s a good value. It’s also worth mentioning that Road Holland’s products are made in the USA, a rarity in the cycling apparel industry.

The Aalsmeer Jersey is a great top for the casual Sunday ride. The white stripes on the armbands give it a retro, old school look. Don’t let the 100-percent polyester fabric scare you away; it’s quite soft to the touch. The wicking quality is probably where it suffers the most — as temperature (and perspiration) increases, it can get a bit swampy inside. The pocket system is a great feature on this jersey with three fully functional, deep pockets, as well as two exterior zipper pockets for carrying along your cash and house key. The Aalsmeer jersey is available in seven sizes, from XS to XXXL, and in three colors: Nantucket red (pictured), bright white, and road black. Also noteworthy, the Road Holland jersey was the only one that fit true to size, and didn’t require sizing up, likely due to the brand’s American roots.

Road Holland is new to shorts construction. The Breda bibshort is their first attempt, and they still have some work to do. The bib strap configuration is not ideal for the female anatomy, cutting straight down the middle of the torso. Strap removal requires removing the jersey first, which was a hassle at times, mid-ride. The overall look and feel of the Breda bib is so-so, however, the branding was a bit loud, with two large graphics — one on each leg. The chamois is the best element in this bib; it’s soft, perfect in size and, as Road Holland claims, its Open Cell technology prevents compression for those long days in the saddle.

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