We called in a selection of Craft kit – the Elite Jersey, Elite Attack Bib Shorts and Cool Tee Base Layer – as part of our summer clothing test and it’s proved itself to be high quality, technical clothing ideal for warm weather riding.
Craft Elite Jersey (£65)
The jersey is part of Craft’s Elite range, developed in conjunction with the firm’s sponsored teams, including the Schleck brothers’ Radioshack-Nissan-Trek squad. The words “raised to race” are printed on the inside of the collar and give a firm hint as to the jersey’s DNA: this is top-of-the-range, performance-focussed kit.
Pick the jersey up and it’s super-light, put it on and it hugs the body like a second skin. The jersey is cut close with a narrow front section and a high number of panels (well into double figures) which work to create an ergonomic fit which leaves no excess material to flap about in the wind. The Elite range is designed for racing and this jersey fits as such without feeling restrictive; the key is the excellent cut and panelling.
The jersey is made from a polyester ‘hexachannel’ fabric (fibres with a hollow structure) which feels soft and silky to touch and which does an excellent job at wicking away sweat – ideal for the few hot summer days we’ve experienced this year – with bodymapped mesh inserts on key hot spots around the body (arm pits, shoulders, sleeves, back of the neck, mid-back and the lower quarter of the front, where the jersey overlaps with bib shorts), which also help to keep you cool.
The two-tone, tie-die colour scheme (with flashes of fluro yellow on the inside of the neck and arms, and on the silicon gripper) is bold at first glance but looks good on the bike and is a refreshing change from the raft of high-end black jerseys.
The jersey’s got all the features we’ve come to expect: three rear pockets (with a headphone port inside the middle one) with an additional zipped pocket for valuables, a little reflective print on logo and a silicon gripper which runs the length of the rear hem, plus the full-length zip (more ventilation) is concealed. All in, it’s an excellent summer jersey, well thought out and executed, racy but comfortable enough for regular riding.
Craft Elite Attack Bib Shorts (£109.99)
The Elite Attack bib shorts share many of the characteristics of the jersey; they are from the same range after all. Again, they’re extremely lightweight (Craft say the use of a CoolMax fabric makes for a lighter construction) and the fit is superb. Pull on the shorts and they grip your legs like a skin suit; the material follows the contours of your legs so rider and clothing feel as one.
That effect is helped in part by the use of flatlock seams which sit close to the skin without irritation, while the wide elastic bands at the bottom of each leg are extremely thin, so the transition from shorts to skin is almost seamless. That effect is mirrored at the top of the shorts, with welded seams on the bib straps. It’s worth noting Craft use a lot of silicon print on the inside of each leg (a thick band accompanied by silicon repeats of their logo) which mean the shorts grip your skin unlike any other I’ve used – they’re locked in place and it works well with the body-hugging make-up of the clothing, but some may find it restrictive. There’s also a line of silicon print on the outside, in the shape of a mountain range accompanied by the words ‘hors catégorie’.
Importantly, the Craft Elite Pad, which is made up of variable density padding and gel inserts at key pressure points, remained comfortable on all rides I used the shorts for (up to four hours), and the shorts proved a good choice on one 30 degree July ride, when the polyester construction and light weight combined well. The shorts also use a Coldblack fabric at the back which Craft say reduces the absorption of heat and protects against UV rays.
The Elite Attack bib shorts are accompanied by a premium price tag but, like the jersey, they’re an excellent piece of kit: light, breathable and comfortable.
Craft Cool Tee Base Layer (£25)
Finally, the Cool Tee Base Layer isn’t part of Craft’s Elite range and that’s immediately noticeable in the fit. The cut is more relaxed, with a size medium a touch baggier than what I’d normal expect from a base layer, but it remained just about close enough to the body to fit under bib shorts comfortably – and, of course, to perform the wicking duties its designed for.
On that note, the polyester construction is, like the Elite Jersey, complemented with mesh inserts on the back and sides, and that combination works well to draw sweat away from the skin on warm days, while the material is also light and soft to touch. The Cool Tee has proved a good companion through the English summer, when temperatures have rarely passed what we’d consider hot but, in recent days when the mercury has nudged 30 degrees, I’ve found myself reaching for a sleeveless, mesh base layer, which gives the skin a bit more opportunity to breathe.