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The greatest testament any editor of a cycling publication can give to a piece of gear is what he or she uses themselves. Here are the kits that our Ella contributors have been riding this season. Get your hands on these before the next season’s apparel lines come in.
Velocio Unity Jersey
By Anne-Marije Rook, Ella Editor
The Velocio Unity jersey checks all the boxes, combining a beautiful design and a high-performance construction with a philanthropic, feel-good message. The luxury cycling apparel company launched the Unity jersey last month to celebrate the one thing brings us all together no matter our differences: cycling.
“Our hope is that we can be part of different conversation around the fact that cycling has proffered more unity than separation and it is in that spirit that we offer this special release,” Velocio states.
This powerful message deserves a bold jersey and Velocio’s take on a rainbow is fun and bright yet elegant at the same time. It’s definitely a conversation starter that garners compliments wherever I go, and it’s been really fun seeing the jersey and people’s #VelocioUnity story pop up on social media. Velocio is donating 100 percent of the jersey’s profits to a charity of the customer’s choosing, with options that include the ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Council, and World Bicycle Relief.
Velocio has chosen to feature the Unity pattern on its performance-oriented ES jersey, which has been a great choice for hot summer riding with its ultra-lightweight fabric, excellent breathability, and snug fit. The fabric is also soft to the touch and highly stretchy for full freedom of movement. This latest version of the ES jersey has fewer seams and a more streamlined cut for improved aerodynamics than before, featuring longer sleeves and a lower collar. The rear pockets on this jersey seem to be improved from previous Velocio models, too, with an additional zippered side pocket and reinforced seams that keep the pockets from sagging and the contents from flying out when you hit a bump.
With its second-skin feel, stand-out design, and powerful unity message, this jersey is a favourite for me.
US$169 / €125.00
Velocio ES Jacket
Earlier in the year, I spent most of my rides bundled up in Velocio’s ES Jacket.
Warm, wind-blocking, water-resistant yet breathable, the ES jacket is a snug-fitting and highly versatile three-season outer layer that can be worn as a long-sleeve jersey or paired with additional insulation underneath for those truly cold days.
The jacket sports an Italian “Superroubaix” interior, which is warm and soft to the touch. On the exterior, Velocio relies on Polartec’s Power Shield Pro fabric to protect you from the elements while circulating enough air to prevent you from overheating.
The two-way zipper further helps with temperature regulation, and makes accessing any layers underneath that much easier.
Other features include a fit tailored for the riding position, an element-protecting tall collar, minor reflective elements, and three full-size rear pockets as well as an additional water-resistant zippered pocket for valuables.
While also available in red, I like the charcoal version as it’s easier to keep clean and somewhat different from the usual black.
With its soft brushed lining and highly stretchy material, I find the ES Jacket to be more comfortable than the comparable Castelli Gabba, but you do pay for it. Thanks to its versatility, however, you may also not need as many jackets and so it all evens out.
US$269 / €269
Machines for Freedom Long Sleeve Summer Jersey
By Anne-Marije Rook, Ella Editor
Blue is in fashion this season, and brands like Velocio, Ten Speed Hero, Ride Nomi, and Team Dream all sport some iteration of a bright blue top in their product lines. Machines For Freedom’s jersey is aesthetically beautiful with its dark blue ferns, two-toned dots, and black elements on a popping blue base, but what makes it unique is that it’s a warm-weather jersey with long sleeves.
Machines for Freedom uses a silky-soft and superlight polyester-and-elastane blend that’s arranged in a flattering feminine cut and offers the added benefit of built-in UPF 50 sun protection. Almost weightless, the jersey gives you full range of motion while still providing excellent breathability and wicking capabilities. All the necessities expected of other high-end jerseys are present here, too, like a flat-laying full zipper, three full-sized pockets, and a moisture-resistant, zippered side pocket for your valuables.
In all, this jersey invites you to enjoy those long summer adventures without the risk of overheating, getting sunburned, or getting new tan lines. It’s perfect for those long days in the saddle when shade is hard to come by.
IRIS’ debut kit
By Jeanine Laudy, Ella race reporter
For years, Dutch cyclist Iris Slappendel had to wear cycling clothes that she didn’t get to choose herself. As a professional cyclist, she wore the kits of her teams, which, covered in sponsor logos, were often far from fashion-forward.
Now that she’s retired from professional cycling, Slappendel finally gets to wear what she likes. What’s more, she decided to launch her own line of cycling apparel.
A designer by trade, Slappendel has previously designed kit for various organisations and brands, including the Dutch Cycling Federation, the UCI, and Milltag.
Now, with her own label, I R I S – which stands for “I Ride In Style” – Slappendel marries her sense of style with her trade and passion for cycling.
The I R I S debut collection consists of two men’s and two women’s jerseys and bibshorts for each gender.
For the purpose of this review, we received the brightly coloured Occhio jersey with solid black bibs.
A common expression in the peloton, “Occhio!” is Italian for “Look out!” and it’s a most fitting name for this jersey.
With its cheerful yellow and purple colourscheme and pattern of eyes – or irises – it sure is eye-catching. I get compliments from passers-by whenever I wear it.
Designed for performance, the top blends mesh and non-mesh fabrics for increased ventilation and has plenty of elasticity for freedom of movement.
It has a tailored race fit, featuring longer sleeve length, a low-profile collar, and a snug fit for comfort and aerodynamics. To prevent the showing of any midriff when posting up, the jersey comes in a standard and long fit –which accommodates those with a longer torso – and a silicone waist gripper to keep the jersey in place.
Other features include a flat laying zipper and three back pockets, including a zippered pocket for valuables – which to me seems like such a straightforward and easy addition to a jersey that I don’t get why every jersey doesn’t have one.
The popping colour and flattering yet performance-oriented top made this an instant summer favourite for me.
But it was the bibs that made me especially fond of this kit.
For someone who’s blessed with sturdy upper legs, bibs are always a bit of a struggle. Coloured bibs are rarely form-flattering, patterned bibs are simply a no-go, and even solid black ones aren’t usually as slimming or elegant as one might want.
Drawing on her own experience as being a taller woman, Slappendel seems to have find the sweet spot where saddle comfort meets performance and elegance.
The I R I S Signature bib shorts feature an intricate six-panel construction, using two different fabrics to provide the right blend of stretch, compression, and support. The design relies on a Cytech chamois for in-the-saddle comfort and laser-cut leg bands with no-pinch silicone grippers to keep the legs in place while preventing the dreaded sausage-leg look.
All around, I was very impressed with the I R I S debut collection and cannot wait for its expansion.
Occhio jersey, €99
Signature Bib shorts, €125
Specialized SL Pro Kit
By Anne-Marije Rook, Ella Editor
I have ridden and reviewed several iterations of this kit, and the improvements in the 2017 Specialized SL Pro kit were apparent from the moment I pulled on the bibs.
With a ready-to-race fit, lightweight premium fabrics, and a second-skin like feel, the Pro SL jersey was already one of my favourites and the newest version is even more comfortable.
The familiar VaporRize fabric is super stretchy, lightweight, and soft against the skin. The fabric breathes well, but going one step further in temperature regulation, the SL Pro jersey now features Specialized’s Cold Fabric technology, which reflects wavelengths of sunlight to reduce the surface temperature of dark-coloured fabrics. The jersey also sports the necessary three rear pockets, a zippered reinforced pocket for your valuables, and an audio port.
The bibs shorts make use of the same VaporRize knit fabrics and Cold Fabric technology as the jersey does, which keeps even the darker colour schemes plenty cool on hot, sunny days.
Finally, the SL Pro bibs continue to make use of Specialized’s nature break solution: a magnetic clip on the rear bib strap to allow quick bib removal without having to remove the jersey. Adding the clasp compromises very little in terms of compression and comfort – it’s practically unnoticeable while worn, but there when you need it.
Specialized SL Pro Jersey US$150 / AU$200
Specialized SL Pro Bib Shorts US$180 / AU$250
Liv Paradisa Jacket
By Anne-Marije Rook, Ella Editor
Liv has been working hard to extend their apparel lines over the last couple of years, and this year they’re offering its most extensive line yet. In partnering with the Spanish manufacturer, Etxeondo, Liv now offers various collections to speak to riders of all disciplines and fashion tastes.
For me, there is always at least one stand-out product that makes its way to the front of my closet. Last year, it was a short-sleeve base layer; this year, it’s the Paradisa wind jacket.
I’ll admit that my initial liking of this jacket was purely aesthetic. The fashion-forward black base and colourful Bird of Paradise floral print design really spoke to me, and would be suitable off the bike as well.
That doesn’t mean that the jacket doesn’t perform. The ProTextura fabric seals out chilly wind, and the water-repellent finish and sealed seams will keep you dry in a spring shower or fall drizzle, too.
While the fabric may be high-tech, the jacket itself is as simple as it is aesthetically pleasing. There are no pockets, no vents, and no two-way zipper. But it is pretty packable, so you can easily roll it up and carry it in a jersey pocket.
My only real critique about the jacket is that the fit is a little boxy, though hardly noticeable while riding.
Price: Not yet available
DNA Biofit Kit
Utah-based but Italian-made, DNA Cycling is mostly known for its high-end custom apparel. While once limited to only select teams and events, DNA apparel is becoming increasingly available to the consumer market, and I have worn a range of DNA-made kits now.
The founders of DNA – which stands for Dirt and Asphalt – supposedly “get nauseous at the thought of mass production,” and so each garment is hand-made by a small team of Italian craftsmen and women. This enables a near-limitless customisation from all-over print to a specific cut, and there are some really fun graphics on the market.
As we’ve come to expect from a quality Italian-made kit, DNA’s fabric checks all the boxes: it’s superlight, silky soft, breathable, wicking, and has four-way stretch. What sets DNA apart is the subtle details.
The jersey is made up of several ergonomic panels and a variety of different fabrics. On the front is a slightly thicker and more elastic material for a bit more protection; the sides and back sport a much thinner, and slightly perforated, polyester fabric for more breathability.
The extra-wide arm and leg bands are laser-cut for seamless and pinch-free comfort. Additionally, the jersey features two different types of silicone gripper bands on the bottom to keep everything in place. The integrated reflective elements are a nice touch as well. Offering more visibility than most tops, the Bio Fit jersey sports a reflective arm cuff and another band below the rear pockets.
The jersey also had the industry-standard full-zip, three full-size pockets, and an additional sweat-resistant side-zippered pocket.
The bib shorts feature nice wide straps, extra-wide 6cm silicone gripper bands, and a radio pocket. While previous models had more of a painted-on feel, the new model features noticeably more compression. The chamois is quite minimalist. Among the thinnest chamois I wear, DNA calls it a “4-hr” chamois and I do limit my ride time while wearing these.
Bontrager’s Maraj Halo tops
Safety is the number one deterrent that keeps people from road cycling, and for women especially. As people on bikes, we are among the most vulnerable users on the road and all too often, the onus is on us to make sure we are seen. The more you stand out, the more likely drivers and other road users are going to see you and take caution.
There was a time where black bibs and a neon yellow top was about as cool as clipping a mini rearview mirror onto your cycling glasses, but luckily, safety apparel is becoming more stylish.
These neon tops are in stark contrast to the fashionable Velocio and Liv tops reviewed above, but as a long-time bike commuter, I can appreciate what Bontrager is trying to do with this line of high-vis apparel and accessories. For night-time or low-light riding, the Meraj Halo jacket and short-sleeve jersey are my go-tos.
Bontrager’s Halo line uses a combination of fluorescent colours, distinct patterns, and reflectivity to be as visually disruptive as possible. It’s definitely loud, but without being overwhelmingly obnoxious.
Its clever visibility traits aside, the Meraj short sleeve jersey is the most performance-oriented jersey in Bontrager’s women’s line, featuring highly technical fabrics and a streamlined, on-the-bike body fit with a dropped tail and silicone grippers at the waist to help keep the jersey in place.
The Meraj Halo jacket looks like little more than just another yellow cycling jacket in daylight, but it completely transforms at night, making it one of the coolest cycling jackets I have. When hit by light, the entire jacket – not just a few accents as is usually the case – glows with reflectivity.
Visibility aside, the jacket is a performance-oriented top with a snug, jersey-like fit, a wind- and waterproof exterior, and a soft fleece-like brushed interior. It also features three full-size open back pockets and two zippered security pockets.
Meraj Halo Short Sleeve Jersey, $174.99 USD
Meraj Halo Softshell Jacket, $299 USD