Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Review: VULPINE WOMEN'S ALPINE merino cycling jersey

The big news in womens' cycling gear this week is the launch of Vulpine's long-awaited womens' range.

I hit Vulpine's website almost as soon as I heard the news and was gutted to find that the new cycling-specific jersey (the Alpine) had already sold out in my size and preferred colour (claret).

Fortunately Velo Vixen announced the next day that they'd just taken delivery of stock across the entire range. I quickly ordered the Alpine in claret.

It arrived this morning.

Straight out of the package (and full marks to Velo Vixen for careful wrapping and presentation), I was immediately impressed by the fabric. I have one of Vulpine's Merino Button Cycling Jerseys, the very first (and until now, only) women's item. It's lovely but the fabric is quite thick and frankly a bit coarser/scratchier than any other merino I own.

Up to now, SmartWool has been hands-down my favourite merino. The Alpine is right on a par, if not better, than SmartWool. This from a 100% merino fabric (SmartWool being a merino-rich blend).  This is wonderfully silky and featherlight. It promised to drape beautifully on the body.

I love the Claret colour too. I haven't yet been able to capture it on camera to my satisfaction and the Vulpine website doesn't quite do it justice either. Suffice to say, it truly is a clear, saturated but not dark, blue red. Not unlike claret, actually! (Well, you know how silly companies can get when naming the colours of their products - so you do wonder when you see something like "claret"!)

I've worn this jersey all day today, including about 15 miles on the bike and a strenuous 1 hour Pilates class! Nothing bugged me at any point (and I have something of a "Princess and the pea" disorder). The jersey is well-shaped and comfortable. Plus, on some level the whole day, I was aware that I was wearing a top in possibly one of the most flattering colours for me and that always makes a woman happy.

As to the fit, it's close but not tight. It does accommodate a real women's curves, as Vulpine aspire to doing with their new line. I particularly appreciated the sleeve length - no issues of being either too long or too short when wearing arm warmers. They don't ride up as some short sleeves do, nor is the armhole too tight or too baggy.

I cannot compete with Vulpine's lovely models (including Rachel Bonney, designer of the Michaux Club range of bags, looking svelte in the Astral Blue colourway) but think it may be useful to show what the jersey looks like in its largest available size (UK 14), on a middle-aged woman with something of a spare tyre! My point here is, no part of the jersey is stretched and no part of the jersey sags. It truly is designed for real women with real-life figures.

The zip has a 'keeper' inserted at the top, in the centre of the collar. This is just a little bulkier than the collar itself. I really dislike things feeling too tight around my throat. I'll admit that I was aware of the keeper but it did not bother me. (I reserve full comment on this til I've been on the bike 8 hours!)

There are three pockets across the back of the jersey, so I can't say how these will work in practice. (I am not yet a frequent rear-pocket user since, UK weather being what it is, I am often wearing a layer over my jersey. Today it was a sleeveless gillet for that extra bit of wind protection.) What I can say is that there isn't an irritating zip right across my spine. One curious features is the small loop of grosgrain fabric in the centre of the binding across the central pocket:  is it quite large enough to fit a blinky light to?  I aim to find out!

All in all, this is an impressive garment that I think will perform well. So far it certainly exceeds my expectations. It will probably be the jersey I pack for the Isle of Wight Randonnee this coming Sunday. 

I purchased this jersey from VeloVixen in the usual way. Current price is £80. Fortunately, I had both a promo code and a store credit to use!

This is the first time I've written a review for a garment of clothing so I have not formulated a rating system for this kind of item but I'm inclined to give this jersey a total score of 9.5 out of 10. Highly recommend for real-life lady cyclists everywhere. And if you haven't yet tried merino for cycling, this is the item to start with.

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