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REVIEW: Velocio Wind Vest

Velocio are a fairly new name on the cycle clothing scene. They don’t describe themselves as a women’s brand (in fact, they have some men’s stuff in their collection), but their focus is on creating performance cycling kit that is beautiful, functional and thoughtfully designed. It just so happens that the focus is on women’s clothing. I like the way their products are presented: a women’s-centric collection developed from scratch for women. Kit which is “in no way an adaptation of a men’s line.”

As a brand with such an on-point attitude to female cyclists, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it was started by a woman. Velocio was started by Kristy Scrymgeour – who owns professional women’s racing team Specialized-lululemon. The other name behind the brand is Brad Sheehan, a designer with a background in the cycling industry. In their own words:

We aren’t a women’s brand. We’re a let’s-look-at-this-differently brand.

Anyway, enough about the brand. Is their kit actually any good?

I tested a wind vest – in other words, a zip up gilet designed to be worn over your jersey as an extra layer on cooler days.

photo (c) Velocio

photo (c) Velocio

The fabric is windproof on the front and sides, with a mesh material to the back for breathability (is that a word?). The mesh has served it’s purpose on some warm but breezy rides – it didn’t give me that stifled, sticky feeling that some jackets do. The fabric is soft to the touch – not crunchy or anorak-like – and has a small but noticeable amount of stretch in it, meaning it fits over lumps and bumps comfortably. Being not particularly um, bumpy, myself – I conducted a scientific test involving stuffing socks down my bra – and the fabric coped well. I take this job seriously.

This item isn’t designed to be waterproof, but it does give a bit of protection if you get caught in a shower.

The colour of the vest is described as Herringbone. I’ll admit that I had to Google that word to discover it refers to the zig-zag pattern (like a kitchen floor…). The actual colour of the pattern is a light and dark grey contrast with a brownish/purpleish tint to it. It’s a warm hue that makes a nice change from black, whilst remaining neutral enough to go with most of my cycling kit. The herringbone pattern is barely noticeable from a distance but adds a nice depth to the design when seen closer up.

The lining around the arms and pockets and the zip are a contrasting white. The inside of the 5cm collar sports Velocio’s trademark colour combination: turquoise, a warm orangey red and dark magenta. Some might consider this a challenge to find matching kit in those exact colours… or not – whatever. The little tag on the back pocket also has these colours on it. It’s amazing how those little details can turn a bit of clothing from average to ‘really rather nice.’

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The vest is a bit short in the body for my liking – it fits fine, but I would prefer it longer to protect more of my lower back/arse from the elements.

Sizing wise this garment is verging on the Italian side of things. Which, seeing as all Velocio products are made in Italy, would make sense. I optimistically started with a size Small which I quickly swapped for the next size up. Velocio do warn you about this on their website:

The Wind Vest is cut to fit close to the body. If you prefer a bit more room, or like to layer under your vest, we recommend sizing up.

The Medium gives me a snug but comfy ‘race fit’ with a jersey and base layer on underneath. I’m a size 10, so I’m guessing that makes the S around a UK 8, and XS a UK 6. Meaning that XL is around a UK 14. It seems a shame that 14 is considered Extra Large, but that’s Italian sizing for you. This isn’t good news for big-busted or broader women, who are probably very bored of this problem by now. Still – Velocio have given us 5 sizes which is a good start for a brand that have just launched. I get the impression that they’re the kind of company who listen to their customers and would produce more sizes if the demand was there.

photo (c) Velocio

The wind vest has three decent sized pockets in the back. I’m an appreciator of pockets in vests – I like to keep the stuff I need quick access to in my top layer – not having to hoik it up to get things out of my jersey underneath. I managed to fit phone, keys, money, pump, tube, levers, some food and a multitool all in there. That said, a bit of stitching from the lining of the pocket has started to unravel slightly – but to be fair I did deliberately over-fill the pockets in the name of thorough testing. There is no zip pocket, but bearing in mind that I’d always be wearing this on top of a jersey, that isn’t a problem. In fact I think it would just add extra weight for no good reason. Speaking of weight, the vest is nice and light – I compared it to a Rapha gilet in the same size and they weigh about the same. The vest also folds up small enough to fit in a jersey pocket if you get too warm.

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This isn’t a high-viz vest, clearly, but it does boast a few reflective features: a strip on the back middle pocket, and two small reflective logos. If you want a more high visibility option you could opt for the Warm Red version of the vest, which is beautifully bright without looking like a builder’s jacket.

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A few more details then: There is a no-slip silicone gripper below the pockets to keep the vest in place whilst riding – and I didn’t have any issues with it riding up, even when moving between being bent right down in to the drops and sitting upright. The little guard that goes over the the zip is really soft and stops any kind of rubbing or itching on your chin. There’s another one at the bottom of the zip to stop it digging in or catching on whatever you’re wearing underneath, too.

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I’ve worn and washed the vest a bunch of times (at 40 degrees, against the label’s advice, as my washing machine is from c.1924 and has no 30 degree option) and so far there is no fading, shrinking or loss of shape.

In conclusion – this is a smart and stylish bit of kit that will fit in with whatever you’re wearing. It has a proper women’s fit and does it’s job of protecting you from the worst of windy conditions. If I could change one thing I would make it a little longer in the body. All in all: a really decent bit of kit which I will continue to wear lots.

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What I like most about it

The design (that colour pop that makes me go ‘oooh’), the soft feel of the fabric and the flattering women’s fit.

What I like least about it

There’s nothing I don’t like about it, but I would prefer a slightly longer fit.

Best for:

An extra layer of wind protection on Spring, Autumn and cooler Summer rides

The details:

Price: £95

Material: Polyester

Size: Medium (available in XS-XL)

Colour: Herringbone (also available in Warm Red)

velocio.cc

REVIEW: Donkey Label ‘Pack Animal’

Donkey Label design products for cyclists. They’ve noticed that keeping your mobile phone safe on a bike ride can be a pain in the ass*, so they designed the Pack Animal. You’ve probably noticed that there are a couple of products like this on the market at the moment, some of which have had some not-so-good press, and some which seem to do their job well.

(*I’m getting the donkey puns out the way in the first paragraph, ok?)

I was drawn to this particular case for it’s appearance – it’s rather nice looking, which is a lot to ask from a piece of plastic. This adds up, as Donkey Label claim to “feel a responsibility to improve the aesthetic of cycling”. A quick look at their other products makes me think they’re doing things right in that department. But looks aren’t everything (thankfully), so how does it perform?

The case I tested has enough space for an iPhone or similar sized device. It would still fit if you had a hard case on your phone, as there is a little extra room. It fitted fine in every pocket of 3 different jerseys.

The outside pocket, featuring a nifty little shield cut-out, has enough room for a couple of cards and some cash. The downside of the cut-out means that whatever you keep in the outside pocket is not protected from the elements – if it chucks it down with rain, or you get very sweaty, you’re going to end up with a soggy £5 note. Your cards will be fine of course, so maybe we just need to keep our cash somewhere else; it is a phone case, not a wallet, I suppose. The upside of the cut-out is that you can push your cards out of the wallet easily, whilst still keeping them snugly packed away, with no danger of them falling out.

Once closed, the seal on the case shuts securely and tightly. It can be a bit fiddly to open, but I found a knack after using it for a while.

I like the fact that the seal is on a shorter side – portrait rather than landscape, if you will. It feels sturdier than other cases I’ve tried (which have split) for this fact. The plastic feels stronger too – it is noticeably thicker than the case I had which broke after a few uses.

The clear side of the case allows you to use your phone through the plastic. I tested this out, and it does work – I made a call whilst the phone was sealed inside the case. It’s not quite as responsive as when you’re using your phone normally, but it does work surprisingly well. Perfect if you need to call your mum to rescue you when it rains.

Speaking of rain, there wasn’t any of any of the rides I’ve taken the case on so far. But I needed to test how waterproof it really is, so I did my own home testing. It involved paper, water soluble felt tip pens, and a sink full of water. After a lot of splashing/dunking/dipping/holding seal under a running tap I can conclude that the Pack Animal is waterproof.

£6.50 might seem like quite a bit to spend on a little bit of plastic. But not if it does it’s job. On the rides I’ve taken it on so far, it certainly has – and rather well.

What if it breaks after a few months of use though?

Turns out there’s no need to worry about that. In Donkey Label’s own words:

This is designed for spring, fall and summer use.  Winter use (extreme cold ) can involve some brittleness. Good news is [the pack animal] has a 100% guarantee,  so if it breaks we will send you a new one.

The Pack Animal is available in range of colours if you want to try and match it to your bike, or your jersey, or your socks. You can also get it in other sizes.

This product ships for free to anywhere in the world. Which is nice.

In conclusion: a simple but well designed little product, which serves it’s purpose very well.

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What I like most about it

The fact it protects my phone effectively and that I can get a new one for free if it breaks.

What I like least about it

Nothing really. Sometimes it was a little tricky to open, but I’d rather that than it open when it isn’t meant to.

Best for:

Protecting your phone from sweat and rain damage in your jersey pocket.

The details:

Price: £6.50 (with a free replacement if something happens to it)

Material: Plastic

Size: Medium (9cm x 15cm), which is suitable for an iPhone or similar sized phone

Colour: Blue and clear

ilsoigneur.cc

REVIEW: Stitch -Mi- Lane Snug Spectator Merino Hat

Stitch -Mi- Lane is a relatively new brand, founded by bicycle enthusiast and designer Stephanie Drake. Stephanie, in her own words, has a passion for homegrown design and manufacture – and this shows in the small but perfectly formed range of cycling apparel and home-ware that makes up the Stitch -Mi- Lane collection. All products are made in the heart of Scotland, including the Snug Spectator Merino Hat, which I have got my hands on recently.

When I took this hat out of it’s packaging I could tell it was a bit more than your average bobble hat. The double thickness merino wool which the hat is crafted from gives it more weight than you’d expect from your everyday beanie, and certainly makes it feel like a luxury product. It just feels really nice – the fabric is thick and soft…..and it smells nice.

We all probably know the benefits of merino now. You can’t have a conversation with a cyclist without somebody mentioning it. But in case you’ve been hiding in a hole, here’s an overview. Merino has excellent heat retaining qualities whilst remaining breathable, and wicking sweat. It also has a clever way of deterring bacteria and the subsequent odour it may produce, and, being a natural fibre, reduces chances of irritation and itching.

The design of the Snug Spectator Hat is Stephanie’s own take on a contemporary jacquard pattern and contains bikes and chevrons. The nod towards the traditional makes for a subtle but rather lovely design. Not to forget the large pom-pom, or bobble, or whatever you would like to call it. This is also made of UK sourced merino, like the rest of the hat.

If you prefer cream or pink to navy, the hat is also available in those colours.

The knitted fabric has a decent amount of stretch in it. I think I probably have a large-ish head for a woman (I’m going by helmet size here..) and it fits fairly snugly, but would stretch to fit on a much bigger noggin than mine.

I haven’t had any problems with the fabric being itchy, which can sometimes be the case with knitted products. That’d be thanks to the merino, as mentioned above.

The double thickness merino makes this hat very warm indeed. I have worn it out on cold, windy walks, a trip to the park, to the pub, and on some very chilly trips on the bike (no, I do not always wear a helmet) and at my desk on days when I cannot afford to top up the heating. It has kept my head and ears very toasty on all these occasions. Despite being incredibly warm, it somehow manages to still maintain breathability. Useful when wearing the hat on a chilly but fast ride to the pub, and not wanting to have a fringe which is stuck to your head with sweat by the time you arrive. Thanks again, merino wool.

Because of the thickness of the wool, I found the hat sat a little oddly at first – with the seams sticking out a bit where the fabric joins. This has become much less noticeable as I wear the hat more and it moulds to be a head shape, not a flat thing packed in an envelope.

I haven’t washed the hat yet (thanks once more, odour killing merino), but the instructions state that if you turn it inside out then it can be machine washed at 40 degrees celsius. Useful if you get splattered in mud wearing this whilst watching a race. Or if someone spills beer on it in the pub.

In conclusion: a premium product with a very pleasing design, which is seriously warm and snuggly. More than I would normally pay for a hat, but you are getting more than a hat would normally give you.

What I like most about it

The beautifully simple bike design and the double thickness merino which makes it incredibly warm and cosy.

What I like least about it

Nothing.

Best for:

Wearing whilst watching a cyclocross race in bleak mid-Winter.

The details:

Price: £32.00

Material: 100% Merino wool

Colour: Navy (also available in cream and pink)

www.stitchmilane.co.uk

 

 

REVIEW: Vulpine women’s merino V neck tee

The claret tee (click for high res)

The claret tee

This review began with a false start. I received my parcel from Vulpine (complete with complementary green Vulpine musette) with excitement, and decided to wear my new tee that evening for a road ride. The claret merino fabric matched the red on my socks and bib shorts, so it would have been rude not to put it to the test right away. When it came to leaving, I grabbed my usual assortment of necessities: energy bar, pump, inner tube, tire levers, keys, phone, money. I went to put them in my jersey pockets like I always do….and realised that I only had space for my phone, and maybe a bit of money.

Having realised that the tee isn’t designed to be used as a jersey (clue is in the name!), I opted to wear it for a 4 mile ride across the city instead. I usually take a satchel when I’m riding about town, so pocket capacity isn’t a problem.

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With arm warmers, for a cooler ride.

The beauty of this item (and I think the appeal of much of Vulpine’s gear) is in how it doesn’t look like ‘cycling apparel’, but has plenty of the technical features that make it great for wearing on the bike. Notably – it has a dropped hem at the back and a little reflective lining on the pocket. Then there is the fabric. Merino is brilliant – and this particular wool is very stretchy and very soft, which is a good start for comfort whilst cycling. I definitely noticed how much comfier it was than wearing a cotton t-shirt whilst on the bike.

Now for a few words on SWEAT. It’s something I do lots of, especially whilst riding a bicycle. It’s one of the reasons why I kit up in lycra, even if I’m only doing 10 miles. If I wear a “normal” t-shirt, it’ll be soaked in a few minutes. Enough on body functions – the point it, whilst the merino didn’t stop me sweating, it drew the sweat off my skin – eliminating that horrible clammy feeling. The tee also dried off quickly at the end of the ride, and once it did, the jersey felt fresh and didn’t smell. Magic.

I’ve since worn my Vulpine tee to work, to the pub, and to a BBQ. And haven’t had to worry about smelling. Thanks, merino sheep.

In Vulpine’s own words: “The Merino keeps you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. How so? Merino is hydrophilic, drawing water from the skin quickly and allowing it to evaporate, cooling your body. When it is cold merino traps warm dry air next to your skin, keeping you toasty.” 

There are also no labels – so no itching required.

The women’s tee is cut in at the waist and out at the hips, and has a slightly lower V than the men’s version. So it is actually a women’s top – as opposed to a men’s top in “women’s” colours. I have a size Small, and it fits me nicely (I’m a women’s size 10).

The current colour range

In conclusion: brilliant for short rides/commuting – but definitely not a replacement for your cycling jersey. Very comfy. Nice design. Gorgeous colours. Excellent at wicking sweat off your skin. A bit pricey perhaps, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. 

What I like most about it

The comfortable fit and stylish, women’s specific cut. The fabric, and it’s sweat-wicking, odour killing magic.

What I like least about it

The fact I can’t fit much in the pocket, which feels more like a decorative feature than a functional one.

Best for:

Riding to the pub. Commuting to a city job (you won’t feel gross when you change back into it at the end of the day because of the magic merino wool)

The details:

Price: £55.00

Material: Merino wool

Colour: claret (also available in fern green and grey)

www.vulpine.cc

REVIEW – Velobici Van-Abel Jersey

velobici2

I’ve had my Velobici jersey since before Christmas, and it continues to be one of my most worn bits of kit. My first thought on receiving the parcel from Velobici was how beautiful the packaging was – it did feel like Christmas. Fancy gift wrapping comes as standard with all Velobici orders – and whilst that might seem unnecessary,  I love it (that’ll be the designer in me.) The good news is, this attention to detail is consistent in the clothes themselves.

The fabric of the jersey is incredibly soft, comfortable, and a little thicker than usual. This garment is knitted in Nottingham and made in Leicestershire – there is a lot to be said for keeping the whole process within the UK, which Velobici do with all their products. Admittedly this means prices are at the higher end of the spectrum – but you are getting the quality you pay for.

In terms of features, the jersey has a full zip to the front, and a drop back hem. There are five pockets, two of which can be zipped shut (and kept my phone dry on a wet ride). I rather like the different, asymmetric design of the rear pockets, though it may not be to everyone’s tastes. The sleeves and rear hem are edged with reflective piping, and the cuffs and hem have silicone grippers (helpful for keeping up my escapee arm-warmers). The jersey is made from a Meryl/Lycra mix which must be what makes it really soft and comfy. Having been through my washing machine loads of times now, the fabric is just the same as it was when new. I have an crap washing machine that only washes at 40, and it hasn’t been a problem.

The jersey is unisex, though the Velobici website doesn’t make it too clear that this is the case.  I would say an XS would fit a 6-8, S a 10-12 and so on. A size small fitted me perfectly (I’m normally a size 10) with a close fit but not ‘race tight’ – after all this is more of a Sunday jersey than something for competing in.

I’ve worn this out on countless rides now, and feel very comfortable wearing it for a cafe stop – it’s certainly the most stylish bit of cycling kit in my wardrobe. So much so that it gets hung up with my dresses and shirts, instead of living in a drawer with the rest of my kit.

What I like most about it

The elegant design and soft fabric (which has been through the wash a LOT and not been affected).

What I like least about it

The price tag

The details:

Price: £140.00

Material: meryl/lycra knit

Colour: black and red

REVIEW – Giro Monica Gloves

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Giro say that the Monica is the most full-featured glove in their range; designed for high-performance and high-mileage riders. I’ve worn them out on a couple of 50+ mile road rides, and haven’t been disappointed by their performance. The gloves retail at £34.99, and I was a little worried I might be paying for all style and no substance – but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I wont lie, the thing that attracted me to these gloves was how damn good they look. And the fact they match my shoes. I love the mixture of black ‘lace’ and leather. Bad ass? I think so.

Before getting these gloves, I’d been riding either in my SealSkinz Winter gloves (far too hot) or some fingerless merino gloves with no padding. After a long ride in the unpadded gloves I ended up with really painful hands, and a very odd pins & needles sensation running through my palms. Clearly I was in need of some decent summer gloves – and these from Giro fit the bill. The upper part of the glove is a lace-effect mesh, which lets your hands breath, and the palms have a number of well placed micro-gel pads which take the pressure off. I have a size medium pair, and they fit perfectly. The fit is tight, which is comfortable, but means they are a bit tricky to take off.

Overall, these look and feel like a pair of high quality gloves, and they have been comfy and breathable on long rides.

What I like most about them

The way they look and the incredibly comfy padding on the palm.

What I like least about them

That I can’t be lazy and throw them in the washing machine with everything else: they’re hand-wash only.

The details:

Price: £34.99

Material: Pittards® vented leather palm, mesh upper, microfiber wiping surface

Colour: black and dark pink/purple (available in other colours)