The Ekoi Elegance outfit consists of the Elegance Jacket together with the Elegance Bibtights. The outfit is black, but there’s a choice of either ‘black chrome’ or gold coloured logos. These are Ekoi’s top of the range Winter items with loads of impressive features which I’ll take you through below. Ekoi work with Pro-cyclists to develop their products, such as Pro riders from AG2R Mondiale, Bouhanni, Kittel, Kristoff, Aru, Boonen and Gilbert.
The Ekoi Elegance Jacket is full of features. I’ve found for the most part, the size guide on the Ekoi website works for me. In this case, the jacket had just enough room for an extra layer or two if needed without looking baggy. The water-repellent coating works. You can actually see the rain and road spray bead up into droplets on the surface of the jacket.
The high collar keeps out the wind and the rain, and the soft edging strip helps seal the gap between your skin and the collar without rubbing at your neck. As a result I didn’t use my neckwarmer as much. The collar is effective without being too restrictive.
The Elegance Jacket is quite light, and the material feels very thin despite the brushed lining. I’ve worn it down to -3 degrees with only a long sleeved base layer underneath with no problems. On several cold rides, with the guy on the front pushing the pace, I’ve felt the need to open the chest vents on this jacket. The zips for the chest vents have quite small pull tabs, but I found that once I knew where they were, they’re easy enough to locate and adjust whilst riding. The jacket is windproof, and that goes some way to helping you stay warm inside.
The sleeves finish off with a lycra cuff, which does a great job of sealing against your wrist without being tight. There is some stretch in them, I find they pull over my Winter gloves easily so you can wear your gloves in or out.
Generally you see a zip ‘garage’ at the top of a zip to protect your neck. The Ekoi Elegance Jacket also has one at the bottom to protect your bibtights from catching on the zip. At the front of the jersey there’s a wide stretch panel at the bottom which helps with the general fit of the garment. A line of silicone print on the inside of the hem stops the jacket from riding up as you cycle.
There’s only 3 pockets at the back of the Ekoi Elegance Jacket, 1 at either side, and a zipped ‘waterproof’ one in the middle. This middle pocket has the chrome logo on as well as a reflective strip to aid visibility in the dark. These 3 pockets have a neoprene outer fabric, similar to the ankles of the bibtights. This stops the water from absorbing into your pockets and keeps your lower back dry and insulated from the cold. I think this is one of the reasons the jacket feels so warm. The only problem with this is that sweat gets wicked away from the skin and gets trapped in the pockets by the neoprene outer layer. Even the zipped middle pocket tends to get a bit damp because of this. Although, I’ll take a bit of sweat over a damp, cold lower back any day!
The Ekoi Elegance Bibtights, similarly to the jacket, have some impressive features. The Bibtights have the same Durable Water Repellent Treatment, windproof material and brushed lining as the jacket. The lazer-cut shoulder straps are comfortable and sit flat under a jacket. I found the size chart worked well again, but in comparison with the jacket I was tempted to try the next size up from recommended to see if I could get an even better fit.
The first thing that struck me when I saw the Elegance outfit dressed on a dummy at the NEC, was the neoprene at the bottom of the legs. I’ve not seen this on bibtights before and there’s two big advantages to this feature. Firstly, shoe covers are more likely to seal against the neoprene to prevent water getting in; Secondly, there’s no zip. If you wear shoe covers, at some point you’ll have found that the zip of the shoe cover and the zip of the bibtights often sit on top of each other and can cause discomfort. I find the Elegance Bibtights slightly more awkward to get on because the ankle openings are more restricted, but I’m not talking Velotoze levels of difficulty, it’s manageable. The neoprene they use is more like a swim cap than the thick wetsuit material your overshoes are made from.
On my travels I’ve been fortunate not to have too much torrential rain, but I’ve stayed dry whilst riding through standing water and the odd shower. I’ve tried putting shoe covers inside and outside the ankle cuff and have concluded that outside is easier and less likely to stretch the neoprene. Although this only works if the shoe cover has a nice tight seal against your ankle. Similar to the Jacket pockets, the neoprene layer does introduce a barrier that keeps sweat in, and you need to consider this when you’re layering up. I’ve managed to keep trapped sweat to a minimum, but I’ll settle for a bit of sweat against a puddle of rainwater in the bottom of my shoe.
Check out the way the seatpad is sewn into the bibtights. A quick google revealed only one other manufacturer that has attempted something similar. Basically, instead of attaching the seatpad to the inside of the bibtights, the seatpad is used as a material panel, therefore reducing the number of layers in the seat area. This took some getting used to, as it feels totally different to wearing conventional bibs. The fit of the seatpad feels much improved, it’s like wearing a pair of leggings/ thermal underwear/ lycra running shorts. The pad fits like a second skin. From behind, it does look a little like you put your bibtights on inside-out though, so expect someone to ‘helpfully mention’ that at some point.
I was worried the single layer of the seatpad might result in a cold posterior. The seatpad panel feels slightly rubbery, and is clearly windproof. Sometimes it can get a bit sweaty, but it’s definitely not cold.It’s really hard to describe how it feels to ride with this seatpad as it feels so unlike a regular seatpad arrangement. It hugs the contours of your body a lot closer, and the slightly rubbery feel gives you a more direct grip between your butt and the saddle. It’s less ‘flying by the seat of your pants’, and more ‘flying by your seat’ I guess? I like it and I’m curious to see if this technique can work effectively in Summer bibshorts too.
In conclusion, I’m very impressed with the Ekoi Elegance Jacket and Bibtights. They look good and keep me warm and dry, despite being very thin and light. Even when I wore the jacket in slightly warmer weather the vents and the wicking effect of the materials helped to prevent me from being too sweaty. The Bibshorts have some interesting features that work really well for me, but I think it will depend on what type of riding you do and how set in your ways you are. There are some slight compromises, but to me they far outweigh the benefits. I’d like to see a higher waist on the bibtights. I didn’t feel they left me exposed, but on a Winter outfit I’d have liked the extra assurance and support to hold my Winter stomach in. As for zips, I’ve been wearing these and the zipper-less overshoes from Gripgrab and my ankles absolutely love it. In previous Winters I’ve had blood blisters and pinch marks from using certain combinations of bibtights and overshoes before I found these.
I’ve now crashed in the Elegance suit and I’m even more impressed. I came off on ice and apart from a slight friction burn on my bum (and really aching muscles from being hit by a van after I got up) I’m completely unharmed. There’s no indication that the bibs have been down the road, not even a slight bobbling. The seat panel always looked like a weak point, but it didn’t rip, and actually the rubbery material might have stopped me sliding as far as I might have!
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