Friday, April 18, 2014

Review; Voler Black Jersey & Bibs

As mentioned in my ride report for L’Etape du California I wore the new Voler Black kit. This is not the first ride in this kit, nothing new on race day and all that, but it was by far the longest, and given the intensity of the day it was a great opportunity to put it through its paces. The photos in this post were taken not take during L’Etape but on a different ride when I could ride up and down the road getting decent photos.
Black is bold move by Voler to introduce a premium line that avoids the fanfare of team or sponsorship logos and is targeted against other brands where the cache is the brand/badge/logo of the manufacturers, think Castelli, Hincapie, Santini and the like. It’s a limited line in terms of items of clothing currently only offering bottoms; bibs and shorts, top; undershirts, jerseys, vest and jacket and thermal booties. It combines all the elements found in their proven team kits and serves them up in a highly functional and cosmetically simple but satisfying formula.

The kit itself lives up to its name and is only available in all black or black with red trim. Both have a reflective accents and there is a mix of technical fabrics to ensure maximum breathability, moisture transfer and sun protection (UPF28+) 
The Jersey; there is no doubting the quality of the fabrics when you slip the jersey out of the bag, it’s super soft and amazingly lightweight, if it was any lighter I am sure Newton might roll in his grave as gravity is denied. There is a full length zip (YKK) and a two piece collar, the newer fashion of abandoning a collar might be neat in the Pro peloton but I like a proper collar and it keeps the morning chill off my neck.

At the back you have the customary three pockets and the added benefit from a small zippered pocket, ideal for a Credit card or cash and handy when reaching behind you grab a gel and don’t litter the road with all your valuables. There is some reflective trim on the back too. At the bottom there is a silicon strip to stop the jersey from riding up etc.
The side panels and the panel at the base of your neck are made from a moisture wicking and heat dispersing fabric, this works very well in letting you cool off.  While the day may start cool this time of year in California we are still seeing temperatures in the 80F range and black may not seem an obvious choice of color for a fabric to wear in the sun but on all three of my rides well over 100 miles in total I had no issues with heat management.

The most noticeable feature on the jersey is in the sleeves, specifically the Power Band which are dotted with tiny gel dots to ensure gripping to your arms. Now while I do not have a shoe lace arms of a Pro cyclist or the muscle laden ones of a body builder this feature was really nice in making sure the sleeves stayed in the right place. They also did a great job of holding onto my arm warmers during the early hours of L’Etape to avoid that 1” gap between jersey and sleeve where all the cold air accumulates! The sleeves are also a little longer than usual but I am tall so that wasn’t a problem. Every seam on the jersey is flat so there is zero chance of chaffing or rubbing!

The jersey is pitched as race fit, at 6’1 and around 175lbs it was the perfect length but it was a bit loose in the body. I am at the lower end of the weight scale (170-190) and the higher end of the height scale (5’10-6’2) and had a size large, so a medium would have been snugger but too tight across my shoulders and too short for sure. I have other Voler jerseys (Hammer and 53X11 Coffee) and they are all large so I think the large was best for me. Without going custom made one this is the curse I have to carry!

The Bibs; if you ask any cyclist bibs vs. shorts you will pretty much find that 99% of people prefer a bib. While they might look unsightly they are a world apart in terms of comfort and the Black bibs reinforced this. Similar to the jersey when you slip these out of the bag you can feel the quality. Silky and soft but with an awful lot of strength inside. Made from compression fabric that just wants to love and hug you these bibs feel super comfortable. The chamois is new chamois for Voler; the Comp Hp. Made by Cytech. This is the description from Voler’s website which does it much better than I can;

The Comp Hp is the evolution of the Multi-D Comp, one of Cytechs most successful pads. This updates version features pre-molded wings and an integrated top for a smooth, seamless look. While the overall dimensions are almost the same, the ultra-high density foam inserts have been enlarged in order to deliver a greater degree of comfort during longer rides while in the road bike position. While keeping the minimalist, flat design of the original pad, the central channel has been slightly modified to provide more relief along the perenial area. A reduced usage of the back liner makes the pad even more lightweight and breathable, allowing greater freedom of movement”.
Wow well there you go!

Actually what this means is that it’s really comfortable, I mean really, really comfortable, it’s not like sitting on telephone directory (unlike some I have sat on!). It’s very body fitting and it can stretch so it moves with you as you move on the seat or stand up. The different thicknesses of padding is really effective in ensuring you have the right thickness in the right place, it doesn’t bunch or fold! Rated for long rides (6 hours) I can certainly see this being the case as my L’Etape ended after 4:30 and I was heading out for another 90 minute loop without any issue!  Like the Jersey the bibs also have FS (Flat Seams) too…flat what you ask, I’ll let Aaron explain;

What you need to now about FS is that it's a good thing! Similar to the sleeves the bibs have a Leg Power Band in lieu of the usual grippers, I really like this feature as it provides the right amount of support and it doesn’t drag on your legs or give you sausage leg and you don’t get those really nice tram line indents that last the rest of the day! it’s a much more professional and quality look.

Overall I really liked this kit. There is something to be said about the understated less is more look. It’s not always necessary to have the look at me jersey and bibs and to be honest I shy away from replica team kits.
Things I liked;
  • There is no doubting the quality
  • It manages moisture and heat really well
  • The Power Band leg grippers
  • The little zippy pocket on the back
  • The understated look
  • Super comfortable all round and a ride all day chamois
  • Price $129 for the bib, $99 for the jersey which is less that comparable quality products
Things I didn't like;
  • The jersey sizing is not quite right for me
  • The fabric is textured and could be prone to snagging
Yup that’s it! So in conclusion, if you’re looking for something that is understated and want to add a classy subtle kit to your collection that’s going to turn a few heads for a good reason and don’t want to lay out over $300 for the entire kit then look no further!

Black is made in Grover Beach USA in fact 99% of what Voler make is made in the USA. The name may sound French (it’s pronounced “Vol-lay”), and the style may err on the side of the Mediterranean but the elbow grease that goes into them is good old fashioned USA!

This Product was provided by Voler. See previous gear reviews in the Reviews tab above. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me

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