What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Reviews: CAPO Winter Kit!

We’ve been watching, using and reviewing the Capo kit for a few years now, and although only 4 years old, the brand’s success has been driven by presenting consistently good product for all seasons. Their latest Winter kit is a nice evolution, with almost every piece getting an update.

The originally named Capoforma line was launched into the mid- to high-end cycling apparel market because the company’s founders – Gary Vasconi & Rob Carbone – believed they could offer viable alternatives to the high end Eurokit that existed, but was often not styled, or cut to meet the needs of the North American customer. They went straight to Italy and found a select few suppliers willing to produce kit to their specs, and since both Rob & Gary came from big biz world of enterprise software, neither were encumbered by the ‘traditional’ thinking so prevalent in the world of cycling.

Their fresh approach has paid off, the brand is thriving, and the only downsizing they’ve suffered as late was to lose a few letters off the name, going forward simply as “Capo”. And ever keen to present rider-focused top tier kit, they’ve branched out from their Italian-made roots, to offer a number of pieces for 2010 made at home in the USA.

While the manufacturing costs tend to be higher Stateside, they’ve sourced fabrics from Italy and Japan that they consider the best they’ve seen for specific uses, and saved a bunch on the import duties designed to support homegrown goods – to deliver a line of high end kit at prices that will fit a lot more budgets.

So, as PEZ HQ enjoyed an unusually sunny October, the November rain & cold has hit with a vengeance. We’re between storms as I tap these words, and while the sun is shining, there’s snow on the local mountains, and another storm is set to soak us all weekend. The good news is the Capo winter kit landed just in time.

On tap for this review is Capo’s LE – Limited Edition line of winter kit – jacket, long sleeve jersey, bib tights, arm, knee & leg warmers, skull cap, gloves, & booties.

LE Jacket – $199.00 MSRP
The LE jackets come in three colors – black (here), blue with black trim, and red w/ black trim. There’s no sublimation – just understated designs with enough ‘cool’ built into the cut to fit in on pretty much any ride, and any coffee shop. It’s not a full on thermal jacket, but has enough warmth to work as an outer layer over a base or jersey, or bulked up over a base + long sleeve jersey for colder fall or Spring days. Of course I’m basing this on coastal temps at the 49th parallel, but for guys who live a bit further south , this could be the ideal winter jacket.

The cut is a tapered cycling specific fit, so it’s gonna hang right on guys who are built like cyclists. I’d say it’s nicely in between the racer- and club-cuts we see in North America.

The breathability – and wind-resistance, are controlled through 3 different fabrics:
Windtex Dream on the front and rear shoulder panels which is windproof & water resistant, Super Roubaix around tummy and sleeve backs and back to allow some airflow and keep it fitting snug, and Capo Sphere – a 3 layer laminate with brushed back made to Capo’s secret specs and sourced from Japan – on the front, sleeve tops and collar. Capo reports it’s been tested as more breathable than comparable fabrics sourced from Europe, and offers excellent stretch, wind and water protection.

The two way zip on the front is big enough for long finger glove access, and locks nicely in place at the bottom to prevent that annoying zipper creep. They’ve added a zipped chest pocket which is very handy. The zipper is placed near the center of the chest for easy access, and the liner has a slot to run your mp3 headphones wire.

The zipper is backed by a full length strip of Roubaix, which rolls over at the top to prevent neck chafe.

The back shows 3 roomy pockets, plus a 4th zipped pocket. My tester was a size medium, and although I would normally choose a small, this felt very comfortable on.

LE Long Sleeve Jersey – $169.99 msrp
Just like the jacket, the long sleeve jersey is made in the USA, to Capo’s specs for pattern, materials, and construction. The jersey front is made from Capo Element 4 fabric – which offers up a combo of breathability, weather resistance and lighter weight with Super Roubaix on the back.

Here’s the all black jersey – even if it looks like an off gray, that’s just the PEZ photo-studio lights playing a trick, which actually better shows the different fabrics.

The sleeves are a combo of the same, with a strip of Element 4 running down the outside of the arm, and three other panels in Roubaix – two of which become black style elements on the blue and red jerseys. I rode these on a chilly day (10C, 52F) with a long sleeve base, and found my arms still got chilly as the wind got through. I’d like to see the Element 4 strip on the sleeve made a lot wider, or dumped all together for climates like mine, but I’m told that it’s been very well received by retailers in warmer winter climes like California.

The three pockets in back are deep and stretchy enough to stow some bigger items like a rain cape, and there’s a zipped sub-pocket on the rear right, which is great for keys and coins. Access to the pockets was great – no probs while riding, but I’d like to see em with a bit more elastic at the opening, so they stay snug against the body.

LE Wool Windproof Base Layer – $99.00 msrp

Nothing beats a good wool base layer to keep you warm and feeling dry on even the longest winter rides. This bad boy is a nice option for guys who don’t want a heavier outer layer that’s full thermal or even a wind blocker.

The Merino wool is pretty much standard among high end sports wools, and they’ve sewn on a full chest panel made of the Element 4 to really block the wind. I rode this on a really cold day in November (8-9C, <50F), under a long sleeve jersey made of 100% Super Roubaix (ie: breathable and warm) and the LE Jacket. I stayed warm for sure, but noticed a different feeling while placing the wind barrier only one layer off my skin, and under two other layers. Proof on my warmth were the tiny beads of moisture on the outside of the base layer chest when I stopped for coffee. I can see this being a great item for Fall and Spring rides where you want lighter layers on top. LE ROUBAIX BIBTIGHT – $259.00 msrp

I’m a huge fan of the winter bibtights – they’re standard ride gear for me from December through mid-March. While the basic cut remains the same as previous years, these are updated for 2010 with some nice fabric additions that keep out the cold, and improve the fit, for me at least.

The fit of the legs seemed snugger than earlier models, and especially at the knees which are noticeably more … snug.

The entire inside is brushed fabric to really add warmth, including the insides of the shoulder straps, which start from a high cut waist – adding even more warmth.

Butt protection is Capo’s Multi-D Anatomic chamois, it’s essentially is two crescent shaped halves joined by a seam down the middle, which curve around the body to reduce bunching and improve fit. It’s a fairly generous insert, which means good coverage and a little added warmth – all good. Some guys will notice the center seam – especially on harder saddles, but then again, a lot of guys won’t.

The ankles are zippered for snug fit and they’ve even added some gel gripper to pretty much ensure these stay at your ankles and don’t ride up. The fit on mine was so good – so snug – that I’m not sure the gel gripper is even needed.

LE ROUBAIX ARMS, KNEES & LEGS – $59.00, $69.00, & $79.00
Capo used the Element 4 & Super Roubaix combo on all three limb coverings.

Each one is cut and stitched to the curves of the elbows and knees, and right and left specific. The all black look works with everything, and the anatomic cuts work well here, since the Element 4 has a little less stretch than the Roubaix. This could be a problem if the fabrics were placed differently, but Capo has been doing anatomic cuts for a few years, and know their way around the curve of an elbow or knee.

The front panels are Element 4, which really does do a job at blocking the wind on these pieces, while the back of each is Super Roubaix – for both warmth and heat venting to regulate the temperature.

The MILANO Skull Cap ($39.00) has long been my go to piece to warm the winter bean, and I thought it was perfect, until now. The updated model for 2010 features a new pattern, Element 4 on front, and more elastic that last year’s. The elastic runs around the entire edge, which better held the sides over my ears, eliminating any errant cold air sneaking in. And if you like a little breeze on yer lobes, just push the sides up a bit, and the elastic also holds the sides in place there too.

It may be called the LE Wind Glove ($69.00), but these are plenty warm for a lot more than just wind. I’ve been wearing various versions of this made in Italy glove for 4 years, and the Windtex Elastic construction has proven to keep me toasty and dry in all but the coldest (near freezing) days. Updates for 2010 include a palm padded with Capo logos, and a snug fitting wrist to ensure wind and rain stay out.

That non-stretch reflective strip on the inside of the wrist is a nice feature that doubles as a tab to better pull on the gloves.

And you can’t enjoy the ride if your toes doth protest, and the LE Wind Booties ($79.00) have established a place alongside those gloves as mandatory gear for my winter days. The Windtex Elastic keeps you covered in the windblocking areas, and the brushed inside adds a little warmth. They snug up tight with a reflective zip in back, and Velcro flap around the ankle. The white Capo logos around the bottom aren’t reflective, but do add a bit of visibility, and a lot of snaz appeal.

See more gear at Capo’s website: UplandSG.com

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