Temperamental climbs and climates: Kitwatch tests Q36.5 in the Dolomites

This content was produced by Hamish Kirkpatrick from Kitwatch, a Melbourne rider and aficionado with his finger firmly on the pulse of the finest in cycling kit. Kitwatch articles will feature kit reviews, trend spotting, tech updates and style advice featuring brands from all around the globe, with a focus on new, distinctive and innovative design.

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As curator and editor at Kitwatch I come across a lot of brands and a lot of kit, which often come with outlandish claims about technology, fabrics and fit attached. Recently, I’d been hearing stories of the Italian brand Q36.5’s crazy R&D and next level-fabrics. After hearing multiple glowing testimonials, my curiosity was aroused. However, when a trusted friend recently proclaimed “after wearing their kit, I have never looked at another brand” I knew I had to try them for myself, and check the range out in person.

June and July in Melbourne, Australia is wet and cold, so wanting to escape the grips of winter I planned a summer vacation, with bike in tow. I pieced together an itinerary, set on spending several weeks travelling through Europe with some serious time in the Italian Dolomites. I was going to be in the homeland of Italian cycling – riding some of the passes that had so often featured in the races I had spent years watching on TV.

Coincidentally, Q36.5’s factory is in Bolzano, a medium-sized city in a valley between the Alps and the Dolomites, and as I was in the area I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out more about this innovative apparel company. Before I knew it, I was getting a personal preview of their newest collection, with none other than the founder Luigi Bergamo.

Q36.5: Q is an abbreviation for Quaerere (research, in Latin), with 36.5° being the Celsius body temperature of a healthy body. 

Within minutes of Luigi beginning his demonstration of the range, I was blown away. One thing immediately stood out: these guys push and push for perfection, going over every detail with multiple fine-tooth combs. Every piece of fabric, every stitch, every cut is considered and reconsidered, tested and retested. They’ve even gone as far as to partner with a company that specialises in body heat analysis, using a machine that tests heat distribution over the body. This allows Q36.5 to modify their fabric structures and components to help even-out heat distribution, with a testing model that isn’t subjective, unlike if they were relying on rider feedback.

Luigi Bergamo has over 20 years’ experience in the industry, previously working as vice-CEO and head of R&D for bib short kings, Assos, which gives an insight as to why Q36.5’s bibs and kit are so good.

After some interesting conversations, learning specifics about their thermal bonding lamination technology in their chamois inserts, I was armed with a selection of their kit to put through its paces. I rode off into the mountains it was born in and created for; the Dolomites and the Alps. The timing of my trip saw me climbing these beautiful mountains in late spring/early summer when the passes had just started to reopen for the season. There was still plenty of snow and unpredictable weather around the summits, but near the bottom of the climbs and in the valleys, it was mostly sunshine and 30ºC.

The Hybrid Que Jacket

Versatility is the key word here. Q36.5 market this as a three-season jacket for men (warmer version for women), and it really will cover you through a range of conditions. I’ve worn it at the beginning of winter with just a base layer underneath, as well as with a jersey underneath. But what I love most is its combination of fabrics. Q36.5 use a very thin and lightly fleeced material on the front of the jacket that is wind-proof and water-resistant and combine that with a breathable panel on the back.

A perfect demonstration of the Q36.5 Hybrid Que Long Sleeve was when I tackled the Stelvio – without a doubt the most memorable climb I’ve ever done. Starting at the top where melting snow walls encroached on both sides, it was cool, about 10ºC and windy. Without a warm up I descended – a sure fire way to freeze to death if you’ve made the wrong kit choice. The wind-proof chest panel of the Hybrid Que jacket, as well as matching Hybrid Que Gloves which offer the same protection, kept me warm through all 48 switchbacks and ~25km of continual descending.

Hitting the bottom, ready to turn around, the sun was roaring at about 35ºC so off came the jacket. The long sleeve hybrid jersey-jacket weighs in at 200g and is easily packable into a rear pocket thanks to the ultra thin material.

It was a simple pleasure, but when you choose to wear technical kit like this that truly transcends cool to warm weather with such ease, it allows you to concentrate on your ride. The ability of the Q36.5 Que collection to handle temperamental weather means you’re almost daring mother nature to put you to the test. Well… almost.

The Salopette Dottore Bib Shorts

These bib shorts (for men and women) came into their own when I was ascending from the bottom of the mountain where it was very warm. With their heat and moisture transfer they kept me dry and super comfortable through the intense heat at the start of the climb.

These shorts are easily one of my favourites on the market right now, plus they’re virtually logo free and black-out black, so are easily paired with the rest of your wardrobe. On top of that, they feature laser cuts, with invisible grippers that make for a super clean look.

At ~160g for the bibs, the fabrics used are super lightweight, but they’re also compressive and supportive, featuring the trademark Q36.5 lumbar-support panel and silver thread throughout. The silver thread is not only antibacterial, but great for conductivity and transfer of body heat.

The chamois in these bib shorts is a real standout. Q36.5 put a lot of time and effort into their pads, and the one used in the Salopette Dottore is as good as they get. It’s a fusion of heat moulding technology and stitching, and multiple density foams. Take a look at my video for a breakdown of the materials and foams used. Both the men’s and women’s chamois have been specifically molded to suit each gender.

The bib straps are made of a soft mesh, with no seams. I love seeing bib straps done right, and this is a new and super effective take on an often overlooked detail which has a significant impact on comfort.

Q36.5 Base Layer 2 Short Sleeve

Knitted on the incredible Karl Mayer machine this base layer for men is a seamless base layer with a super-stretchy and close-fitting material. Personally, I’m just fascinated by the technology and the fact that it’s knitted in a single tube, but what really sets it apart is the variation in mesh structures and the considered way the base layer conforms to your body.

INNOVATION: About 80% of fabrics from Q36.5 are proprietary, meaning you’re riding in a one-of-a-kind.

Part of the beauty of climbing the Alps and Dolomites was in their diverse nature and climate, so removed from my natural cycling surroundings at home. But it was also a pleasure and a privilege to have a private tour of the Q36.5 headquarters – learning about their passion for innovation and technology and then getting to test this gear, seeing first hand how it handled these changing conditions. The constant quest for better fabric and construction technology, combined with the passion from those behind the brand, means I’ve found it easy to fall in love with this brand. I could go on and on about Q36.5 and their immaculate attention to detail, but trying to describe the nuances is perhaps best left to experience in person. – Hamish Kirkpatrick, editor at Kitwatch