What's Cool In Road Cycling

Sportful EVO Jersey & LTD Bibshort review

Sportful’s EVO Jersey and LTD Bib-Short are aimed at racers, but I found work equally well for almost any ride where I’m concerned about fit, comfort and performance.  Here’s my field test and full review.

You may know Sportful as the clothing sponsor for riders like Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan – the Italian marque has been in performance clothing biz for decades – but started making competition wear for equestrian and cross-country skiing.  As a brand they recognized the importance of product development with input from the top riders in the sport, and have evolved into one of the best brands you may not know about.  While their marketing presence might seem low here in North America, the quality and performance of their gear has been consistently high for several years in my experience.

You’ve possibly seen the Sportful “S” logo on Bora-Hansgrohe riders for the past several seasons, and indeed both of these pieces are issued to the team.  I’ve found both are great for everything from daily training to race day intensity and both are available in Sportful’s custom collection.


Rare archival shot of me attempting conversation with team owner Oleg Tinkov riding stage 14 of the Tour de France.  He had a thing for riding every day on the stages ahead of the race.  He wasn’t chatty and eventually dropped me on this climb.  His clothing sponsor Sportful has evolved nicely and remains at the top tier of cycling clothing brands.

The Sportful EVO Jersey – US $135
Light weight, breathable, form fitting – a straight forward piece of kit for hot days. I’ve been getting a lot of wear from this jersey as we pass the midway mark on the hottest driest summer I can remember.

While the design is modelled after the popular raglan cut, the style here has been updated – no small task – to articulate the sleeves forward to fit correctly in the riding position. This is a good thing because traditionally raglan cut garments do not lend themselves well to being bent over and reaching forward – you’ll often see a jersey bunched up at the back of rider’s neck – which is a tell tale sign the jersey wasn’t articulated correctly (because that reaching motion pulls the jersey up, hence the bunching).

But it’s clear in these photos how the EVO jersey sits nice and flat at the shoulders, while my arms reach forward.   THAT is how a well designed cycling jersey should fit.

That small fold of fabric is evidence of an articulated sleeve.

A Straight Forward, Simple Design
The EVO jersey, despite its close form fitting cut, is surprisingly comfortable, no restrictions on range of movement, panel construction complimented by cut keeps all elements of the jersey positioned / seated without riding up.

 

The waist area has been recut for 2021, with separate panels reaching from the back of the hips around to the front, intended to hold the front flatter and in place while riding.

Inside it’s easy to see the multi-textured fabrics – large-vented mesh at the back for lotsa airflow and heat management,  smaller honeycombed fabric on the side and front panels to pull moisture away from the body and add a little structure and durability.

The YKK zipper features bigger teeth than I’ve seen on other lightweight summer jerseys, but I appreciated the easier movement they provide.

Sleeves feature lazer cut edges and you’ll see there’s no silicone of elastic gripper inside.  The natural stretch of the fabric works well to keep the sleeve profile nice and slim, offers maximum ventilation, and eliminates the often annoying habit of a sleeve riding up above the bicep.  These stay down where they’re intended.

Around back, three pockets are deep enough to stuff a few items – long enough for a modern phone, and set off the back panel so whatever you stuff in there won’t yank the jersey down like some other designs.

The back of the waist uses just a small strip of silicone centered in an elastic gripper to hold the jersey in place.  It works without being annoyingly grippy.
LTD Bibshorts – US$170

Maybe I’m a kit snob, or maybe I’ve just evolved into a guy who gives a damn about how I look – but I’ve found myself consciously matching brands when I kit up – bottoms and tops for sure – socks and baselayer too if I have ’em on hand.   Sportful offers several different models of bibshorts – from training specific to full-on race wear to multi-terrain adventure riding.

They call the LTD Bibshorts a “The race short par excellence”, I call ’em damn comfortable.  Let’s add “damn good looking” too.

Overall, I’ve found Sportful bibs to be really comfortable across the line up and through several seasons.  As their top-line race short, they’re made with a pretty keen intent – that’s to perform at the highest level, and deliver durability and comfort so you don’t have to think about your shorts on those long hard rides.

I’m a fan of the multi-panel design as I’ve seen it allows for better fit options than some designs with fewer panels, which often rely on fabric stretch to pass as a snug fit.  Sportful relies on excellent tailoring AND the right fabrics to perfect the fit – tip o’ the hat to their Italian roots.

 

The multi-panel design features higher compressions side panels (they’re textured) made of AeroFlow fabric – the key take-aways for you readers are that this fabric offers nice compression and breathability.

The fit on my size Medium testers is a tad longer in the leg than other brands, which I really only notice when I pull ’em on, and like any good short – they seem to disappear once they’re on. I’ve also found Sportful bibs to be a tad snugger fit, generally with slightly more compression – all things I like in a bibshort.   For reference I’m tipping the scales at 138lbs these days.  This means I’m usually a size Small by US standards – but a Medium for Euro sized brands.

The straps are a wide mesh that stay in place and provide enough ventilation that I have nothing to complain about here.

Even if you’re not packing a race radio, the radio pocket is a handy place to stash some cash or keys.

The pad is Sportful’s own TC Pro (Total Comfort) pad – which indeed works as advertised.  It’s actually made of two layers of padding – one of which is tapered to be thicker in the rear and thinner in front for a better overall fit and comfort.  The other layer is a multi-density pad that adds cushion.

 

The pad is dimpled and perforated to provide good moisture management – the dimples allow airflow where the pad meets your skin, while the perforations allow airflow and moisture transfer through the actual fabric. 

Side panels are a textured fabric that is slightly higher compression

Leg grippers are nice and wide – held in place with al those little silicon dots.  I’m not usually a fan of silicon, it’s a great place to trap sweat and generate hot zones – but I’ll say right up front that this evolution of spacing out the dots works well to both ventilate and hold the legs in place.

One pro tip from the Sportful guys is to roll the leg bands back before pulling the bibs on – to avoid your foot getting stuck in the leg, which inevitably leads to a risky one-legged hop around the bedroom a la a fast getaway like that time you almost got caught in your high school sweetie’s bedroom…

So while Sportful says they’re designed for racing, I’ve found both the EVO jersey and LTD bibshorts feel great no matter how long or intense the ride.  Bottom line is that these feel so good on – I ask why not wear them for whatever ride you like?   I may be a kit snob – but I’m not beyond doing what feels right – like wearing kit that fits, in fabrics and cuts that do the business on rides from my short “Executive loops” that just stretch my legs, to those big Saturday 4+ hour excursions with the local chain gang.

• See more at the Sportful.com website

 

 

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