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Seven Summer Cycling Kits Reviewed

These bib and jersey combinations were tested riding up Boulder's endless climbs to see how well they keep a rider cool on the hottest days.

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Summer officially kicks off this weekend, and in Boulder, Colo., the temperatures are already rising. We’ve been experiencing record high temperatures in the mid- to high 90s—perfect conditions to test summer cycling wear. I wore the following bib and jersey combinations riding up Boulder’s endless climbs to test how well they keep a rider cool on the hottest days. Since fit is a key, here are my measurements- I have a 38 inch chest, 10 inch arms and a 31 inch waist.

Castelli Climber’s Jersey FZ ($129) and Inferno Bib Short ($199.99)

Castelli-cycling.com

Developed for Team Garmin-Sharp for the hottest days, Castelli has put all of its cooling tech into these pieces. The shorts are a mostly white fabric that incorporates titanium dioxide to keep the sun from cooking you. Seven different fabrics are used throughout to provide a mix of stretch, compression and fit. The weave is slightly open but isn’t too revealing. On top, the Climber’s Jersey is made to match. It uses an incredibly lightweight mesh that excels at staying dry. While not quite sheer, Castelli does recommend wearing sunscreen under it. The mesh material used under the arms and along the upper back is very fine and may not prevent burns.

My size medium jersey fit was slightly restrictive up top, but not so much that I would want to move up a size. The honeycomb knit along the inside looked like it would irritate, but it was actually quite comfortable against the skin. That open knit also made this jersey one of the best at letting air come through. The wide elastic band in the arms is soft and kept them in place without being irritating. When I dumped water over my head to cool off, this jersey allowed the water to evaporate the quickest of the six tested. Of all the shorts in the review, these were my favorite. The fabric felt nice on my skin, and the mix of fabrics and panels provided me a great fit. I also felt that these bibs did the best at keep me feeling cool. The elastic leg grippers on the shorts was smooth and seamless and Castelli’s Progretto X2 Air pad is one of the best in the business. The slightly textured saddle area kept me from sliding around in the seat.

RELATED: Castelli’s New Tri Kit

Hincapie Edge Jersey ($130) and Bib Short ($140)

Hincapie.com

Hincapie’s Edge line uses a unique blend of fabrics that feature multiple layers. The jersey is constructed from an ultra-light mix of polyester and Lycra that also has a UPF 50+ rating. A mesh blending polyester and elastane also helps with cooling. The final outer layer features a reflective material bonded just below the surface that gives the bib short a reflective quality for visibility. The Pro Chamois is multi-density, seamless and has a center relief channel.

Both pieces have a slick, silky feel that makes them look heavier than others, but they are not—they actually feel cool next to the skin. It may have only been psychological, but when the temperature rose, the feel of the fabric made it seem cooler. When I dumped water on my head and the fabric was wet, it seemed to hold the water, though it was also heavier. The jersey is cut for performance with little fabric left flapping in the wind. My size medium was close to the body throughout. The sleeves were longer than on other jerseys. The compression in the short wasn’t too much, but I could certainly feel it. The wide band on the legs does not use grippers or elastic, yet the short stayed in place and never rubbed me the wrong way. The metallic-looking grayish black and red will make you subtly stick out.

RELATED – Video: Gwen Jorgensen’s Triathlete Magazine Cover Shoot

Mavic Helium Jersey ($120) and Bib Short ($180)

Mavic.com

In addition to boasting the lightest weight in Mavic’s clothing repertoire, the Helium line is also the coolest. Along the shoulders Mavic uses a sleek, shiny textured mesh pattern to spur airflow through the jersey, and it seems to work. On a 90-plus-degree day, I didn’t unzip the jersey at all. . The matching bibs use a very light and thin mix of polyamide and elastane. The saddle area is slightly textured to keep you perched solidly—I never slide or scooted around the saddle involuntarily. A wide soft gripper keeps the legs in place.

The medium Helium jersey had the best fit of the bunch for me and was my favorite of the group. It was close to the body without feeling tight. The open knit in front allowed so much ventilation even on hot climbs that I wasn’t pulling the zipper down much. It also dried out quickly after getting a soaking of water over my head. The fabric is pretty sheer, so I used sunscreen just to be safe.

The Helium short is equally performance oriented. Mavic’s six-layer pad was great for longer days, and the soft, wide silicone grippers were comfortable. One of the lighter shorts in the bunch, they were great when the heat was on. The solid black is a bit bland, but somehow it looks formal.

RELATED: Mavic CXR 80 Tubular Wheelset Review

Pearl Izumi Elite In R Cool Bib Short ($135) and Elite Pursuit Jersey ($85)

Pearlizumi.com

New in the line, the Pursuit Elite jersey utilizes the company’s Elite Transfer fabric, which feature In R Cool and Minerale technology. This fabric pulls moisture from the skin and transfers it to an outer layer, which disperses it for better evaporation. The In R Cool and Minerale enhance the fabric by speeding up the drying time. The short uses the same fabric, and the short also has a Coldblack treatment to keep it even cooler. Both pieces have a UPF 50+ rating.

Of all the jerseys, the Elite Jersey had the loosest fit. The size medium match my arms well, but left room through my chest and back. I didn’t mind this up front, but the back came down too far for my liking. With items in the back pockets it sagged over my hips and became annoying. That said, it was incredibly comfortable next to the skin. It’s an ideal match for athletes looking for a little more spacious fit through the torso. While all of the jerseys in this review are low on mass, this one had the lightest feel, and it quickly dried after a soaking. The arms had no elastic and were a good medium length. The Elite In R Cool bibs were comfortable and, though they have bit thicker feel, they didn’t get too hot. The fit was good, but the leg grippers felt the most restrictive.

RELATED – Shoe Talk: Pearl Izumi Road N2

Assos SS.corporate S7 Jersey ($199) and T FI 13 s5 Bib Short ($369.99)

Assos.com

The designers at Assos continue to innovate and bring more technology to their products. The SS.corporate s7 jersey is new for 2013 and uses only two fabrics, Assos’ new light and airy Type 151 fabric and a textured, vented mesh in the underarms. Though it only has two materials, Assos used 24 separate panels to create a contoured, detailed fit. In addition to its 50+ UPF rating, it has increasing moisture transfer as you sweat more, and when you cool down, it slows down. The six-panel FI 13 short weaves polyamide, elastane and even carbon together for a mix of compression and stretch. As the company’s lightest short, it has a lower volume than others in the line.

This jersey was the tightest of the bunch, so consider moving up a size. That said, the 24 panels do a great job of providing plenty of stretch, plus the jersey was the softest of the bunch, so I didn’t mind the tightness as much. When temperatures went up, I was impressed at how cool this jersey felt, considering the material wasn’t as sheer as the others. I also liked the zipper garage at the bottom of the jersey to keep it from rubbing on the shorts. As for its drying properties, it was on par with the others. When a pair of shorts cost this much, they need to perform well —and these live up to the shocking price. They had the most compression of those that featured it, which I liked. Even though they seem a bit old-school, the standard elastic leg grippers were comfortable. With the larger area and ergonomic cut, this chamois was a top performer. A thing layer of soft fabric independent from the rest of the chamois covers the primary padding and sticks to the rider, allowing you to scoot and wiggle around the saddle without bunching the pad and creating irritating hotspots. The nearly all-white look is something you can either pull off or not, so decide if you are OK with being “that guy.” (I am.)

RELATED: 2012 Triathlete Gift Guide

Bellwether Optime Jersey ($119.99) and Newton Bib Short ($119.99)

Bellwetherclothing.com

Overlooked by many, Bellwether has stepped up its quality in recent years. The Optime Jersey is a great example of what Bellwether can produce. The Newton bib shorts use a fabric with some compression, and a finish that reflects the sun’s rays. The knitted grid surface is used to improve airflow. Its chamois uses a carbon yarn for better drying properties.

I went with a size large for the Optime Jersey, and I was glad I did. Bellwether calls the cut of this kit “Aero Fit,” meaning it is tailored to sit close to the body. It wasn’t restrictive but I have no doubt a medium, my typical size, would have been too small. In the heat, this jersey wicked away sweat and kept me cool on hot climbs. The sleeves are a bit on the long side; Bellwether uses elastic grippers on half of the arm-band to keep them in place. The back drops down a bit longer than I like, but with its close fit, there was no bouncing when I had items in the pockets. The zipper garage was another nice feature.

The Newton Bib Short has even compression throughout, and I felt it helped after hours in the saddle. The knit looks like it would hold water, but it doesn’t, and it does a good job of wicking moisture away. I liked the black/white/red combination, though it may be overused for some.

RELATED – 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Bikes

A.J. Johnson has completed 14 Ironman races and countless other triathlons, runs, mountain bikes and other endurance adventures. He lives in Erie, Colo., just outside of Boulder where he routinely gets passed by professional triathletes and cyclists. A USAT Level 1 coach, he has worked with D3 Multisport helping athletes achieve their goals. You can reach him at aj@d3multisport.com.

Louis Garneau Course Race Bib ($249.99) and Jersey ($199.99)

Louisgarneau.com

Creating a chamois that is sufficiently cushioned and doesn’t create friction spots by scrunching up is a delicate balance, and the Course Race bib shorts do exactly that. The pad provides plenty of support, and the sturdy fabric used in the shorts keeps the pad perfectly in place by pulling it taught. It stays comfortably in place for hours. This sturdy fabric may be less breathable than some, but the tester couldn’t perceive the difference. These shorts did not feel excessively hot, even on 90-plus degree rides. Instead of having a bulky cuff at the end if the short, the material in the Course Race bib is simply cut. While many such cuffs degrade, this one has lasted more than six months without showing any signs of wear.

Intended to form-fit a trim upper body, the Course Race jersey also stays firmly in place through long rides. Breath ability is excellent–it simply doesn’t trap unwanted heat. The fabric isn’t sheer and offers ample protection against the sun.

RELATED – Review: Louis Garneau’s Course Collection

Louis Garneau review by Aaron Hersh.

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