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by Anne-Marije Rook
August 29, 2015
Photography by Tino Tran
WOMEN'S CYCLING BROUGHT TO YOU BY ORBEA
This is part two. Read part one –featuring Velocio, Rapha, Specialized, Search and State, and Fondo– here.
Following up on the first round of kit reviews in June, I had the pleasure of riding through the summer months in a variety of beautiful new kit.
I reviewed them each by fit, comfort, style and utility.
Available for purchase online worldwide, dhb is a UK-based brand selling quality, Italian-fabric apparel for affordable prices. Their apparel is worn by the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team.
Looking through their product list, I was impressed with the range and affordability of dhb products. I find that for many women, the cost of quality gear is a serious hurdle to them enjoying cycling to the fullest. dhb seems to counter that with an extensive line of women’s apparel.
The dhb Professional line is a highly technical kit designed to meet the demands of elite level racing. Cut with an elite athlete and aerodynamics in mind, garments in this line are optimised for competition and identical in technical features to what the Wiggle Honda women wear.
Fit: There is no doubt that this is a race-style kit. Weighing just 114 grams, this is a super lightweight and stretchy but definitely snug top. With that said, it was still true to size. The jersey also features a silicone hem to prevent ride up, which does its job effectively.
Comfort: Made from very thin, silky and highly technical fabric, this jersey is great for warm-weather riding. Aside from a thin baselayer, this is not a jersey you’d wear with layers in the winter. Best saved for spring and summer riding. Seemingly weightless and stylish, this jersey quickly became my new favourite.
Style: Modern with a flattering black, teal and white pattern and fun details.
Utility: The jersey features three vertical drop pockets and one re-enforced zippered pocket for your valuables, which is always a nice touch. There is some minor reflective detailing in the rear, which seems more aesthetic than functional.
Fit: Light and race-ready, these bibs fit snugly but true to size. The wide silicone grippers do a good job keeping the shorts in place while preventing the dreaded sausage leg look. The material is very thin and in contrast, the chamois pad seems quite thick and somewhat awkward when off the bike.
Comfort: The shorts are snug but not too tight, and the thinness of the material give the shorts a second skin-like feel. The all-Italian seat pad was custom designed and shaped specifically for women, and while thick, it is comfortable while in the saddle, even on longer rides.
Style: While these all around good bibs, I don’t care much for the design. Grey side panels are rarely flattering, and while the design is a nice modern change from the common black shorts, they don’t necessarily add to the overall look of the full kit.
In addition to its professional, race-focused line, dhb carries an extensive a “Performance range,” designed to get the enthusiast outside and enjoying the sport all year round, whatever the conditions.
Featuring their biggest selection, the performance line still uses high performance fabrics and mindful construction, but emphasises variety in terms of colours and design, riding styles and weather.
Fit: While this jersey fits more relaxed than the dhb professional line, it is by no means loose. It still has a performance-oriented and feminine cut with silicone hem grippers to keep the back of the jersey from rising. The sleeves are snug and long-ish, which I like.
Comfort: This is a good quality all-around jersey. It’s got some substance to it, but breathes well. It’s also has a good cut and length. At the price-tag, it simply cannot be beat.
Style: I like the entire series of the Blok jerseys. With its vibrant accents and funky designs, they really stand out. Paired with black shorts and some matching socks, you’ve got a good look going. dhb states that the design provide increased visibility for low lighting conditions as well, which is a great bonus.
Utility: The jersey has pretty standard three rear pockets of descent size. It also has a side zippered pocket for storing valuables.
Here’s a pair of bibs I was excited to try as I had never worn a halter top before. I think Giro is the only other brand with a halter bib on the market at the moment. dhb’s take on the halter top is patent-pending and is designed to meet the demands of long endurance rides and making taking a nature break easier – a problem many brands are concerning themselves with at the moment. (See also: Specialized’s hookup bibs and Velocio’s Superfly bibs.) A single elastic halter strap is constructed onto the shorts, allowing you to pull the shorts comfortably down at the back without the need to remove the bib strap, your jersey or jacket. Alternatively, you could just pull the halter strap over your head and then pull down the shorts.
Fit: The fabric feel less silky like most spandex and provides good compression. The shorts are surprisingly long — a good five centimeters longer than my current tan line, and I’m not all that short. They have a wide gripper band and stay up and in place really well, even without the help of the halter.
Comfort: I have to admit that the halter took some getting used to. Especially in a more aggressive position, I didn’t like the extra tension around my neck. I wonder how women with long torsos would fare. A few rides in though, I got more used to it, and it does make going to the bathroom a lot easier. The dhb Aeron Pro Halterneck Bib Short uses a CyTech Elastic Interface ‘Tour Air’ Chamois designed for long endurance rides, which appears relatively thin actually, but provides ample of comfort. The shorts themselves are great. I am not 100 percent sold on the halter yet though.
Style: They’re sleek and flattering, solid black bibs and no sausage legs. A bit too long for my liking however.
When Jennifer Hannon started to get serious about cycling, she became increasingly frustrated by how difficult it was to find great apparel. She reached her breaking point after a seriously hilly, 190km-ride. It wasn’t the ride that did her in, but rather, ill-fitting clothing cause several ‘issues’ that required her to take an extended break from her bike. Enough is enough, she said, if she couldn’t find quality ride wear for women, she would create some herself. The result: the still limited but beautiful Machines for Freedom line of women’s cycling apparel.
Style: I simply have to start with style on this review because Machines for Freedom (MFF) products are gorgeous. The jerseys are eye-catching on and off the bike, in a very classy kind of way. There are many fun designs on the market right now, but these jerseys are something else. They’re timeless –just as suitable for a 20-something fashionista as a 55-year-old weekend warrior.
I’m not a girly-girl in any way and I sure don’t like pink and flowery apparel yet when I first zipped up the GeoFloral Print jersey and looked in the mirror, I had never felt more feminine while wearing athletic apparel. And I felt good.
Their other jersey prints are just as unique and feminine, and I cannot wait to see what else they come up with in the coming years. This is the kind of jersey you want to be wearing walking into a coffee shop. Suddenly, my team kit feels like NASCAR.
My biggest style gripe with MFF? No matching socks (yet)!
Fit: It may look like this jersey is fashion first, performance wear second, but make no mistake about it: this jersey is made for mileage. It has a performance cut that’s snug in all the right places. Even the zipper lies flat! No zipper bunching while in biking position. With all that said, however, the jerseys are too long. They fold up at the bottom. I’d imagine this is especially a problem for shorter women.
Comfort: This is certainly a premium product. And it’s what you pay for. The high-performance European fabric is thicker than most jersey fabrics and has a bit of gloss to it. I have had multiple people come up and ask me if they could feel it. Despite its thickness however, it’s moisture-wicking and has good breathability. I have worn this jersey on a couple long rides (over five hours) and the fabric felt great in various conditions ranging from a rainy 18 degrees Celsius to a blue sky, 29 degree-day.
Utility: The jersey features three decently-sized back pockets with a side zip, moisture resistant, pocket for your keys and wallet.
Style: Glossy like the jerseys, these premium bibs feature several V-shaped panels for a slimming and flattering cut.
Fit: The first thing you’ll notice is that the shorts have a little less give than other spandex and offer quite a bit of compression without any sausage leg symptoms. They also have the largest silicone leg band I’ve seen on shorts yet. And they are short. Not triathlete short but definitely shorter than most bibs on the market.
Comfort: The Italian chamois is dense and comfortable even after five hours in the saddle. The compression of the shorts feels nice but the material is a bit slippery. I felt like I was moving around on my saddle quite a bit. Additionally, the shorter leg length doesn’t work for me. Even the super-wide band couldn’t keep them down.
A well-established name in cycling and triathlon, Pearl Izumi caters to the serious sport enthusiast with highly technical performance wear. A former supplier of the US National Team and current supplier to several major trade teams, they take pride in the quality, innovation and technical performance of their products.
Fit: This is definitely a jersey with high performance and aerodynamics in mind. It fits snugly as a result. The cut, however, is very flattering. The jersey has a lot going on as far as technical elements go but the most noticeable are the sleeves. Made from a completely different fabric (a polyester and elastane blend) than the jersey, they are very snug and feel like a skinsuit.
Comfort: Despite this jersey is largely black, it performs well in heat thanks to the coldblack® technology, which reflects sun for optimal cooling. The jersey also features laser-cut vent panels for ventilation. Finally, the stitch-free mesh panels add to the breathability and eliminate any chafing or irritation. The compression in the sleeves and the overall snug fit is very comfortable, even on long rides.
Style: The modern black and white design is highly slimming and flattering.
Utility: This jersey sports Pearl Izumi’s patented “3 ‘n 2 back pockets,” which are highly confusing. The hidden zipper and stash pocket is nice but there is simply too much going on. Pockets all over the place! Mid-ride I just want to reach and grab. The pocket on the side panel is a nice touch. It’s the perfect place to stash your phone for a quick ride selfie.
Bibs: Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O. In-R-Cool® B ib Short is specifically tailored for women, featuring a front closure that ensures bib straps stay comfortably in place and “unique back separating hooks for convenience when nature calls.”
Fit: The shorts are form-fitting and offer plenty of support. The silicone leg gripper does a good job at keeping the legs in place. The bib straps feature a small clip to connect the two across the chest. Having worn the bibs with and without the clips connected, I’m not sure if the front closure adds anything. The hooks in back of the straps, intended for an easier nature break, do allow one to customize the tightness of the straps across the shoulders, which is nice for those with particularly long or short torsos.
Comfort: Like the jersey, the bibs uses Pearl Izumi’s In-R-Cool® fabric powered by coldblack®, providing optimal cooling and reflective sun protection. Also, with minimalist seam construction, there are no hot spots or chafing issues. The seamless chamois offers ample density for a comfortable ride. I wore these on a 300-kilometre ride and had no problems.
Style: Flattering, straight-up black bibs. Downside (or upside depending on who you ask): they’re pretty short – a good three centimetres shorter than most of my shorts, causing neopolitan tan lines.
Utility: Joining the trend of potty bibs, Pearl Izumi’s approach is essentially a set of horizontal bra hooks in the back of the bib straps, allowing you to undo the hooks without getting undressed. Downside is that they’re bra hooks. They’re not easy to undo, let alone reconnect.
Ten Speed Hero:
Ten Speed Hero (TSH) is a small “friend-based company” out of Chicago that’s been making a name for themselves with their bold and vibrantly coloured, hipster-friendly designs. Their socks have grown a following akin to Portland’s The Athletic and they’re avid supporters of anything that will raise awareness and bring equality to women’s cycling. “It’s really core to TSH and we strive to achieve a better future for women’s cycling everyday,” the website states.
Fit: The jersey is more relaxed than most performance wear, yet features a form-fitting, women’s cut. The length of the jersey and sleeves are just right – not too long and no risk of showing off your belly during a victory salute either. The jersey sports a nice, tall collar and a 45mm silicone gripper in the back of the jersey as well as on the sleeves –a nice touch for those of us who might wear the jersey on a cyclocross or mountain bike ride.
Comfort: Made from a lighter weight, technical fabric, the jersey is made for performance with high breathability and freedom of movement. I liked the looser fit and with the right layering, this is the kind of jersey you can wear year-round.
Style: I’m a big fan of the bold designs of TSH products. This one is no exception. Designed by Lauren Ayers, the Armor – Amour jersey is bold and bright. The blue and orange really pop while the pattern, when observed closely, is a nod to femininity with a continuous string of geometric hearts – a reminder “to kill the competition with kindness.”
The matching socks are a nice touch, too.
Utility: The jersey features three pockets, but I found them to be too narrow for an extra jacket, bottle or anything else bulky.
Fit: Made from premium Italian, high compression lycra, the shorts are certainly snug fitting and provide a lot of support. And with a 19 centimeter inseam, the length is just right. They sport a wide silicone gripper band at the legs to keep the shorts in place and sausage legs at a minimum.
Comfort: Built with a highly breathable titanium mesh and thermotaped ultra thin straps, the bibs performed well in a range of temperatures, and the straps didn’t cause any tension on the shoulders. The women’s specific chamois used for their team bib is more dense than what is used in their club shorts, perfect for those longer rides.
Style: They’re solid black bibs. You gotta have at least a few of pair of those in your closet. These are tight in all the right places and the length is just right, too.