Sportful have a new flagship clothing collection straight out of the Italian firm’s Research and Development department.
Sportful say the R&D range was the design team’s chance to start and bring together the “ideas of tomorrow” with “design facets which will be incorporated into product lines in seasons to come”.
We’ll be testing two items from the R&D range over the coming weeks – and, on the face of it at least, it’s some of the smartest kit we’ve had arrive at RoadCyclingUK HQ for a while – as well as two other pieces from the Sportful catalogue: the Hot Pack Ultralight Vest and Thermodynamic Lite Sleeveless Base Layer. Let’s take a look at each piece before testing begins.
The R&D project has been led by the Dolomites-based company’s Race Performance Director, Andrea Peron, a former professional cyclist who finished tenth overall in 1999 Tour de France. Peron has used his experience as a cyclist, together with Sportful’s relationship with Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team, to develop the range.
Peron’s most obvious input is a lack of silicone grippers across both the jersey and bib short. Peron disliked silicone grippers while riding as a pro, to the point that he removed them from his jersey and shorts.
“While the silicone grippers served a purpose, they only caused a distraction,” says Peron. “When you ride you don’t want these kind of problems, they only serves to distract. The removal solved the latter but caused both the jersey and the short to ride up.”
Sportful R&D SC Bib Short – £130
The result is a ‘double step opening’ on the leg of the Sportful R&D SC Bib Short. The lycra fabric on the leg is overlapped by a lightweight mesh material and Sportful say that combination holds the short securely in place without causing any irritation to the rider. The ‘raw cut’ edges also mean there’s no elastic, while the mesh itself is highly perforated and designed to improve airflow while minimising transparency.
The lycra itself is what Sportful call a Sensitive Power fabric. They say it offers a supportive, compressive fit, while remaining soft next to the skin and UV resistant, with a matte finish and high breathability.
The shorts use Sportful’s plush TC Pro chamois. It’s based on the Total Comfort pad which we enjoyed using so much in the shorts of the same name, but with a little less padding. Sportful say it’s particularly suitable for long rides by trained cyclists. It’s still a plush, high-density pad, 14mm at its thickest (compared to 18mm for the Total Comfort pad) and with a dimpled surface to improve breathability. Other features on the shorts include a low-cut front and super-wide mesh bib straps. If they’re as good as the same straps on the Total Comfort shorts then we’ll be pleased.
The Sportful R&D SC Bib Short costs £130 and is available in seven sizes from XS to XXXL.
Sportful R&D SC Jersey – £100
The Sportful R&D SC Jersey, meanwhile, is also absent of silicone grippers. The arms are finished with the same Air Mesh fabric that features on the short, and that mesh is also used beneath two area of laser cut ventilation holes on either side of the chest. The red and black contrast is a smart but subtle detail on what is a very easy jersey on the eye.
The rest of the jersey is made from three fabrics which Sportful call Sensitive, Zero G and Dry Pro Lite. What does that mean in the real world? This is a jersey designed for warm riding conditions, with a soft, UV resistant and fast-drying matte fabric used on the front of the jersey, and a super-light mesh on the back. Sportful say that while the mesh Zero G fabric is seemingly transparent, it still blocks out 90 per cent of UV light.
Out back there’s the usual three-pocket arrangement (though no zipped pocket) with a reflective outline. Continuing the no silicone theme, a welded seam with a little stretch is used for the waistband, which, Sportful say, makes for a clean transition between the jersey and shorts. Finally, as far as the jersey is concerned, there’s a full-length zip, which has a black cover to hide the white zip and continue the clean aesthetic of the jersey.
The Sportful R&D SC Jersey costs £100 and is available in seven sizes from XS to XXXL.
Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight Vest – £100
Not part of the R&D range but included in our test kit for the coming weeks is the Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight Vest. The Hot Pack range has been around since 2001 and covers jackets and gilets designed to offer wind and water resistance for riding in variable conditions.
The Ultralight Vest does what it says on the tin. It’s incredibly light – down to a claimed 39g for the 2014 model – and incredibly compact, and can be scrunched down (or stuffed into itself) to take up very little space in a jersey pocket. Considering our ‘variable’ weather, a gilet is an essential piece in any British cyclist’s wardrobe in spring and summer, and, despite the low weight, Sportful say the vest (or gilet, as we prefer) remains wind and water resistant. We’ll find out.
There are mesh side panels to help help maintain breathability and the elastic arm holes are designed to ensure a close fit and keep the wind out. There’s also reflective seam taping around the small rear pocket.
The Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight Vest is available in seven sizes from XS to XXXL and costs £100.
Sportful Thermodynamic Lite Sleeveless Base Layer – £18
Finally, we come to the Sportful Thermodynamic Lite Sleeveless Base Layer. It’s a super-light mesh base layer designed for warm conditions – here’s hoping we soon have just that and summer swings into action.
The anti-odour fabric is said to be quick drying and breathable to wick sweat away from the skin on hot rides. All seams are flat-locked to sit comfortably next to the skin.
The base layer costs £18 and is available in eight sizes from XXS to XXXL.