Autumn clothing: Craft - review
Smart and technical clothing - but the shorts let the overall package down
Bib shorts, short sleeve jersey, gilet, arm warmers and leg warmers: five essential items in any cyclist's autumn clothing wardrobe.
We've called in such an ensemble from Craft; a brand which impressed during our summer clothing test. On the whole it continued to build upon the Swedish company's growing reputation for smart and technical clothing, but the shorts let the overall package down.
Craft Performance Bib Shorts (£70)
These shorts are from Craft's second from top Performance line, below the Elite range. The difference between the Performance and Elite bib shorts (tested earlier this year) is noticeable, not only in the price (£70 compared to £109.99) but also the quality of the cut. The cut of the shorts just isn't quite right, with a bunch of excess material on the panels that surround the chamois at the front which, no matter how much you try and maneuver the shorts into position, is difficult to lose.
Otherwise, the shorts are made from a polyamide fabric which is a little coarser than many lycra fabrics but which is not uncomfortable on the skin. Flatlock seams sit next to the skin without any discomfort and the logo is in reflective print to add a little low-light visibility.
All good features but, ultimately, the shorts are let down by the cut. Craft make some excellent clothing but the Performance Bib Shorts, which are far from the most comfortable we've tried at this price point, aren't their best effort.
Craft Performance Tour Jersey (£55)
The Performance Tour Jersey is a relatively simple summer-weight jersey which, while not doing a great deal to stand out from the crowd, continues to perform well now we're into autumn.
With temperatures still, on the whole, clement, a short-sleeved polyester jersey remains the best option on most days, combined with arm warmers and a good gilet to keep the chill at bay, and thereby giving you the option to remove a layer if the temperature warms up or the pace rises.
The polyester fabric wicks away sweat well enough, while there are mesh panels under the arms and on the back to provide a little more ventilation in key areas. There's also a full-length zip at the front; ideal for summer, particularly when riding up long climbs, but which won't get much use now we're into autumn.
The cut, particularly around the arms, is more generous than that of pieces in Craft's Elite range, so consider going down a size. Otherwise, there are three rear pockets with an elasticated top, and there's a hole in the centre back pocket if you ride with headphones. There's also an additional zipped pocket for valuables, but it's small and a bit of a squeeze to try and remove something like an iPhone while riding.
Craft Elite Vest (£72.99)
The Craft Elite Vest - that's a gilet to you and me - is an excellent piece which, crucially, is both lightweight and windproof, with a good degree of water resistance.
The front half of the gilet is made from what Craft call a Vent Air Wind fabric. In short, it's extremely windproof, taking the edge of the chilly autumn mornings and evenings. It's also fairly breathable, but it's the back of the gilet, made from a mesh material except for on the shoulders, which is designed to move sweat away from the body and it does a very good job at preventing you overheating. A high collar provides a little extra protection from the elements.
The gilet is also water resistant - an important quality at this time of year. There's always a shower potentially lurking around the corner and this gilet does a good job of deflecting short bursts of rain when you otherwise might consider pulling on a lightweight jacket.
The fit is excellent, with the ergonomic panels closely following the contours of the body. While the front of the jersey is made from 100 per cent polyester, the rear is a 95 per cent polyester and five per cent elastane mix, which gives it a degree of stretch. As this is part of Craft's Elite range, the fit is closer than the Performance Tour Jersey but my usual size - medium - was ideal, leaving very little material to flap about in the wind without ever feeling too tight.
Craft 3D Arm Warmers (£22.50) and Leg Warmers (£27)
No autumn clothing ensemble isn't complete without arm and knee/leg warmers. Most are made from lycra, or a warmer, fleece-lined (Roubaix) lycra, but Craft's 3D Arm Warmers and Leg Warmers are made from a nylon-polyester knit which is very soft on the skin. Arm warmers are an autumn essential, when it's still too warm to wear a long-sleeve winter jersey but you want something to take the chill of your arms, while mid-weight leg warmers like these are ideal for chilly morning rides when temperatures are down to single figures.
The 3D in the product's name refers to the varying thickness of the fabric, with extra material places where it's needed most. The knit isn't as warm as a Roubaix-lined warmer which makes this a good mid-season material, ideal for this time of year.
I've worn knitted arm and leg warmers before and they have a tendency to slip down but these work better than most. Craft offer a range of sizes (XS-XXL for the arm warmers, XS/S and M/L for the leg warmers) and the fit is, on the whole, good.
The leg warmers remain close to the leg along their length - or until the ankle where my M/L test pair were a little baggy. I tucked them into my socks to hide the baggy material but would recommend ordering down a size unless you have legs like Andre Greipel as the material has plenty of stretch.
The leg warmers have silicone grippers at the top to help keep them in place; the same goes for the arm warmers, and it does a good job at holding them up, although I found the fit a little long for the material to stay entirely wrinkle-free.
Neither the arm or leg warmers are waterproof but they retain heat well enough when wet and dry quickly. On the whole, these are a good option for riders who want mid-weight arm and leg warmers made from a super-soft material.