Svelte Cycles Heritage Jersey
Svelte Cycles Heritage Jersey
Review of Svelte Cycles launch top, the Heritage Jersey
There are many companies that offer merino wool cycling jerseys. To stand-out you need to either produce something special which implies expensive, or go mass-market and undercut your rivals. Cycle clothing upstarts, Svelte Cycles, reckon they have got both of those bases covered with the Svelte Heritage jersey…
With the launch of the very first Rapha jersey in about 2005/2006 – the black one with white arm strip and the free arm warmers with the reflective stripes – Rapha could quite justifiably claim to have started the whole cool, cycling-chic thing. It may seem odd to mention the juggernaut that is Rapha in an article about a new, Kickstarter funded outfit like Svelte Cycles, but whilst Svelte is not breaking new ground the way Rapha did, the similarities are there. Both were started in London by an entrepreneurial cycling enthusiast. Both view cycling as a fashionable enterprise rather than just a sport. Both launched with a high quality merino jersey that would appeal to the growing band of style conscious sportive and fitness/leisure riders. But of course Rapha is a huge, runaway success while Svelte is still in its infancy and only time will tell if it is similarly successful.
The Svelte Heritage jersey comes in plain colours. Much of the growth in cycling has come from ‘sportive’ riders who don’t want to ride around in team kit but want to look good whilst riding on, or at the cafe off the bike, and this jersey is aimed at that market. It should also appeal to many other cyclists, including racing cyclists when commuting, even those more comfortable in team kit, attempting to look like trendy-around-town types rather than a sponsored racer, lost in the metropolis.
Rapha gave cyclists fashionable performance garments that made cycling more attractive to the mainstream; no garish branding, no sponsor’s logos, just a clever blend of colour and quality materials. The Svelte Heritage is very much in that mould, but the founders made a point of emphasising that they believe such cycling garments to be too expensive, so claim one major advantage: price. Admittedly at just £90 the Heritage is two-thirds of the price of the equivalent jersey from Rapha but is still not cheap, and there are a number of other purveyors of merino tops that come in at this price point, so is the Svelte Heritage actually any good?
Initial impressions are very positive. It does feel right, with everything about it pretty much on the money. The weight of the material, the cut of the jersey, the quality of the stitching; all are good.
Consequently this jersey is not lightweight. The Merino wool and polyester mix, sourced from Denmark, give it a weight that shouts ‘quality’, not ‘racing’. Put it on and that weight of material hugs you reassuringly, even feeling good against the skin, though obviously as with anything merino it’s best worn with an undershirt. It is very comfortable and looks really good when on, providing you are in good shape; if you are carrying excess weight, this is not a top that will hide it away for you.
Modern race kit is paper-thin and so breathability is a given. The Svelte Heritage’s weight gives the impression that it will lack breathability. I had to test it somehow. So the first test was to get into the sweat box and onto the rollers to see just how breathable the Svelte top is; time to get as sweaty as possible and determine just how well it would cope.
In that torture chamber, hammering along at over 30mph with no fan, it was hot. Get the air moving though and the jersey was a surprisingly good companion, working well in conjunction with the cooling fan to regulate temperatures and help me soldier through a hard workout without thinking twice about it.
Compared to the lightest of race kits, the Svelte jersey is a more varied conditions jersey that will see you right on all but the hottest of summer days, but even then you’d be OK as long as you keep moving at a reasonable pace. The only place you may suffer in this jersey would be on a long hot climb, though you’d have few complaints once over the top and hurtling down the descent…
Whilst the jersey may not be the lightweight race jersey that team riders crave, the cut is definitely ‘race’. As such it is tailored to slim built cyclists rather than everyday folk and the less elastic nature of the material means that athletic builds may have to get one size bigger than usual.
The fit did cause some issues. The medium size is perhaps a little long at the front, so curls up where it meets shorts and this contributes to the whole jersey riding up slightly. The grip strip to the base of the Svelte’s rear didn’t seem to grip my shorts at all due to the looseness of the waist band. This seems odd. Given that I am of a stocky build and could easily have worn a large, the excess length of the medium suggests its best suited to tall, slim riders – the stereotypical cyclist perhaps – but the generously proportioned waist band would work even less well for them. A tighter waistband, shorter front and longer tail would not go amiss.
In use I was continually dragging the jersey back down over my back side and of course this has a knock on effect; the pockets are accessible until the jersey starts to ride up, when they are too high. The more I packed in the pockets the better the jersey behaved.
The pockets themselves are of excellent construction. The brass button on the small outer pocket is a nice feature but you have to wonder for how long it will remain as such on future Svelte jerseys, as it cannot be a cheap addition. In use it’s actually fairly easy to use the button once you have the knack and makes that pocket quite secure for whatever is important to you.
However, there is also another outer pocket on the right hand side of the jersey which features a zip, even safer still but less accessible when riding, and is presumably for your most valuable riding paraphernalia, such as cash.
So the Svelte jersey is far heavier and warmer than the wafer thin modern race jerseys, yet it’s still breathable and the cut is proper cyclist, racer style. It is an ideal jersey for British sportive riding in all its varied forms and is also good-looking enough to be the perfect commuting companion no matter where you have to go. In fact I think it’s easily cool enough to wear with a pair of jeans down the pub without raising an eyebrow.
There’s much to like and little to criticise. For a new brand it’s a highly accomplished first design which bodes well for their future. Would I buy one? If I commuted everyday or I wanted a plain jersey to look good riding in sportives, then yes.
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