Over the last few years, the visibility of road cycling as a lifestyle choice has dramatically increased. A growing number of tour companies are leading riders through iconic landscapes across the globe.
Wherever you live, there are probably more clubs and regular rides to choose from that are about pedalling rather than racing. There is also a marked increase in the number of premium clothing companies moving away from a race aesthetic while claiming to give no compromise on performance and fit.
Café du Cycliste is a brand aimed at cyclists who are likely to be motivated more by the lifestyle or by a sense of adventure than by extreme competitive urges. Born in the south of France, the classic styling of the range tips its hat to cycling’s sporting history; with a testing ground in Nice, on the Côte d’Azur, it's been designed for conditions ranging from warm rides along the Mediterranean coast to long ascents (and descents) in the mountains above.
The spring/summer 2015 range was released last week. It includes both staple garments and enough accessories and mid-cool weather additions to – in theory – keep you covered in any weather. There's ample choice in the men’s and women’s lines, with most products designed in size specific options and colours across ranges for both genders.
Below are our first impressions of some of the signature pieces we’re testing.
Antoinette bibs and base layer
Both the men's and women's feature a large built-in zippered base layer instead of bib straps. The women's bib features a large pocket out back
At €180 the women’s Antoinette bibs are competitively priced for a product that, out of the box, impresses with both fit and construction. The CyTech chamois is used by several brands on the market, but Café du Cycliste has opted for a thicker density model, which is a welcome addition for long days in the saddle.
The men’s Antoinettes (€180), like the women’s, use a striped pattern on the built in base layer – a nice, flattering touch for riders who like to ride with their jersey open in the heat. We found that our samples in size small, in both men’s and women’s, were on the large side, so order down a size if you’re in doubt.
Women's Violette jersey in Raspberry Red
The women’s Violette jersey is likely to get some love from riders looking for comfort, performance and year-round versatility without looking like they’re on their way to a race. The price – €125 – is about what we’d expect to pay for a mid-weight merino jersey with this level of detailed attention to pockets, construction and functionality. The relaxed sleeves, and red and white checkered print on inside seams, are classy elements and add to its appeal.
'French Blue' Lucienne jersey
We are also testing the men’s Lucienne Jersey (€130). Similar to the Violette, it has deep pockets that fit the latest generation of oversized smartphones. The inclusion – in both jerseys – of an elastic loop for a pump and a zipped pocket for small items points to these being well-thought out garments. The Lucienne jersey is a medium weight, which should suit multi-season use – with the exception of extreme conditions.
The Heidi jacket is a distinctively styled garment that we're looking forward to putting through its paces
Another item with a name and features shared across size specific men’s and women’s ranges is the Heidi Jacket (€185). The windproof, quilted panel at the front keeps chills out on windy rides or long descents. Mesh is used on the inside of the rear pockets and the shoulders to keep moisture at bay, while small zips on the shoulders offer additional ventilation. This one is perhaps best suited to Southern Hemisphere readers looking for a well-constructed jacket for the fast approaching cooler months.
Our first impressions of the above gear back up Café du Cycliste’s claimed commitment to style and performance – each stitch and piece of fabric seem like plenty of care has gone into making sure they're up to the task. While the items all have a nicely timeless look about them, the materials and functionality should mean that the only thing you’ll miss from your pro team replica kit are the big, flashy logos and having to apply sunscreen to your torso.
We’ll be testing the kit over the coming months to see whether this young French brand's wares deliver durability, performance and comfort in the longer term.
Café du Cycliste will ship globally, however, pricing is currently only available in Euros. See our gallery above for a closer look at this new kit.