Fat Lad At The Back (FLAB) Jersey & Shorts Review

 

“You should buy this kit; it’s called Fat Lad at the Back”

“These shorts would be great for you; they are called Fat Lass at the Back”

“This top would suit you; you can buy it from Fat Lad at the Back”

 

IMG_6874People of all shapes and sizes often ask me for kit recommendations, but I am not sure if I can say any of those sentences out loud without losing friends, clients or offending someone!

Fat Lad at The Back was the nickname of Richard Bye, the founder of the company, and is a term of endearment. The company admit it is a touchy subject having the marmite effect – either you love it or hate it, but they bravely persevered.

Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is a sportswear brand born in Yorkshire, with the clothing manufactured by a family-run company in Italy. The Fat Lad brand was originally created for what their website calls “Mr Averages, MAMIL’s with a 44” chest and a 38” waist”, but it quickly became apparent that there were bigger cyclists so it introduced larger sizes including a Spare Tyre range for the larger build. A women’s range was soon created, which took into consideration women’s curves and comfort.

A Twitter conversation the morning of The London Bike Show suggested I should speak to FLAB at the show after a discussion about the lack of kit for women who are not “a flat chested size 8-12” with one rider asking “how can these new brands be “women’s” when the biggest chest size they do it a 14” and another saying “it is a huge barrier to women coming into the sport”.

I spoke to several designers of women’s cycling clothing at the show and did indeed find the largest size, called XL, was only a UK14-16. One designer I spoke with said unfortunately they just can justify the additional expenses needed to design, produce and hold stock of the larger sizes which are less popular.

Instead of just sizing up the clothing the FLAB garments have been redesigned so they properly fit and flatter different sizes of rider. Some items state the name boldly in large text across the garments, other are more subtle with just a small logo. I have to confess that having ‘Fat Lass at the Back’ across my bottom was a great training inspiration as I pedalled furiously to disprove the label!

IMG_6904I tried the Flabularse Shorts (RRP £49.99) and the short sleeved ladies Lanterne Rouge Jersey (RRP 49.99) both available from size 8 to size 26.

The shorts fitted well and had some nice details including a draw string for the waist and a soft stretchy panel across the tummy allowing you to pull them right up over the belly area. I normally wear bib shorts and think generally bibs are more flattering with smoother lines, but agree shorts certainly make toilet stops easier and mean there is no need to remove a jersey, which some riders may feel self-conscious about, especially if having to go al fresco! Unfortunately as there was no knot tied in the draw string it had been lost in the waistband prior to me wearing, but with a bit of fiddling I retrieved it. The shorts are black with flattering seams, a large logo on the leg and across the lower back. The pad was comfortable on long road rides, the mountain bike and on the turbo.

The jersey is noticeably longer than my other jerseys, this is great for us ladies who like to pull things down over our hips and bottom and there is certainly no chance of any bare flesh when standing upright. The colour changes gradually down the top with the darker, more flattering colours over the lower torso and brighter colours across the bust and shoulders drawing the eye away from the areas we are usually more self conscious about. The sleeves are loose and long with no restrictive bands. A zipped pocket is handy for your valuables and a full length zip is always a plus in jerseys of this price range.

Both items washed well and I would happily recommend them if I could find a polite way of doing so!

Fat Lad at The Back has become a community, not just a brand, with riders involved in the development of new products and social media filled with riders’ photos, comments and inspirational rides. The company encourages everyone to have a go, have fun and enjoy their sport.

Alastair Little 2Alastair Little 3

When former rugby player Alastair Little was forced to cut his 25-year career short after a life-changing neck injury, he was devastated and soon piled on weight as his life spiralled towards depression. He managed to turn his life around after discovering a love for cycling. Riding with friends at Fat Lad at the Back, Alastair took to the road and after a few months he started to see the results, losing more than five stone and dramatically boosting his confidence.

Alastair said: “It was the motivation and help I received from the guys at FLAB which really inspired me to stick at it and lose the weight and not only that, I enjoyed the social aspect to cycling, and suddenly sport was bringing me back to life again.”

FLAB introduced Alastair to other, likeminded riders who taught him that he wasn’t alone.

 

logo-1FLAB Sportive – 8th May 2016

In a bid to further welcome novice cyclists, FLAB has introduced a new 25-mile event alongside its 50 and 75-mile distance sportives, taking place on the Yorkshire roads in May and in the Chiltern Hills in October. Looking after riders will be experienced FLAMbassadors riding in the sportives to encourage and support riders on the journey.

_D3X2319Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who has 20 years’ experience cycling many of Yorkshire’s most recognised routes, said: “This year we have added a 25 miler as we hope to inspire some new riders who may fancy a sportive, but have never thought they could!”

“The food stops are also legendary and include black pudding scotch eggs and lots of other stuff which our fat Lads and Lasses like, as well as the usual fruit and flapjack based options. We also have a BBQ afterwards which went down really well last year,  this means people hang about and chat and share rather than just getting in their cars and leaving.”

Richard went on to say “Since founding FLAB we have been overwhelmed by how many people have come to us saying how much confidence they’ve gained with our support”

You can enter the sportive here and can find FLAB on the web http://fatladattheback.com/ on Facebook and on Twitter

Colouring the Road – Drops Cycling & Prendas Thermal Jersey Review

There’s nothing like taking some new kit out of it’s packaging, the smell of new Lycra setting the cycling taste-buds alive and giving it the initial once-over for new features, technical materials and over-all design.

Like a little girl at Christmas, I was excited and very privileged to open the colourful Drops team issue* long-sleeve thermal jersey designed by their kit sponsor for 2016, Prendas Ciclismo and produced by the well known Santini. My wardrobe is actually pretty bare when it comes to seasonal attire (or embarrassingly shows how much of a fair weather cyclist I am!) so it was particularly welcoming to receive some new winter kit.

Drop Cycling Kit

Deep pockets for the essentials

Just like the new women’s UCI team, the Drops kit makes a bold statement. Their slogan, #colourtheroad is met enthusiastically by the rainbow stripes, featuring predominantly across the back and accents on the sleeves and on the inside of the collar, one of my favourite features. This is no doubt, down to Prendas’ determination to “ensure that the Drops Cycling Team is the best clothed and best dressed women’s team in the UK, if not Europe”.

On initial trial, the thermal jersey seems thin and I was sceptical as to how warm it would keep me. Although the sun was finally shining on north Devon and willing me out on my bike, it was still a cool 4 – 6 degrees without the wind chill in consideration. But my arms, back and chest didn’t complain once on my 20km ride and the jersey was surprisingly snug. It didn’t “over perform” as I picked up my heart rate on the sharp Devonshire climbs and kept the wind chill on my chest to a minimum as I whizzed down the other side at 65kmph. This is all thanks to the fleece-backed AcquaZero treated fabric which is also welcomingly water repellent, perfect  should you be caught out in the schizophrenic English weather!

Like most, the jersey features the standard 3 pockets across the back. These come a lot higher than most jersey’s I’ve tried before. Given my short body and arms, I did think I’d struggle, however once used to the concept, reaching in to grab my phone, a gel or stuff some gloves or my gillet in was done at ease. The zipped mini pocket was also great to store my British Cycling ID and some emergency money, often used for a cheeky hot chocolate on route.

 

2016-02-23-10.41.09The sleeves, although slightly long on little me, feature elasticated Jacquard bands as does the waist. These were great at reducing movement and keeping the cool air where it belongs; although I personally could do with losing my winter weight for this to fit perfectly, as noted that the kit does come up small, so consider one size up for a comfy fit if you’re looking to buy.

Overall, not only does this kit look great and the design put a smile on faces of those I passed, it performs fantastically in the cold weather too. I can’t wait now, for the warmer, longer days when I can unzip the packing and get exploring in the new summer kit!

Do you want to #colourtheroad and support Drops too? Get your summer kit orders in on Prendas webshop before it races off the shelves.

*Unfortunately the Drops thermal jersey isn’t available to purchase in team colours. However it is available in generic colours and will still work great with the team issue bibs.
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I wore a size Small. I am 5’2 with a 34cm chest.

Pros:
– Performs well in low temperatures yet still breathable
– Looks great
– Roomy pockets and one to keep valuables safe

Cons:
– Waistband is a little restricting – if I went a size bigger the rest of the fit would be too big
– Arms are long… but then I’m short!

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Review – Shutt Velo Rapide Isobel Jersey

Shutt Velo Rapide are fast become a household name in the peloton, known for their bold designs from British based designers.  The lastest to their growing portfolio of women’s clothing, the Isobel jersey is exactly what you’d expect – colourful and eye catching.

On first appearance, the jersey is very well made with a heavier lycra suitable for chillier autumnal rides. Featuring a full-length reflective zip, mesh side panels, reinforced pocket design, a zipped fourth pocket for valuables and a reflective hem trim, the Isobel packs a lot of features.

Purple spotty design of the Isobel jersey makes for a bold statement

Purple spotty design of the Isobel jersey makes for a bold statement

The bold design was well received by many a jealous rider as we set out for 100km hilly ride. If you like to hide in the middle of the peloton, then this jersey is definitely not for you. A warm purple colour with a spotty panel across the front and back, and a nifty spotty fold-down collar, the Isobel certainly helps you stand out from the standard blandness of blacks and reds of a social ride. By the end of the ride, it was the boys who were most envious of the bright and bold colours which are often not available to the the men.

As a petite (5ft2), but fairly curvy (size 8, 34/36cm bust) cyclist, I’m never surprised when a jersey doesn’t fit perfectly and unfortunately on this occasion the Isobel fell into the disappointing pool, hugging in the wrong places and baggy in the others. The length of the jersey was a little too long for me, and although the elasticated waist band is great at keeping the jersey in place whilst riding, it unfortunately gave too much fabric on the stomach creating a bulge (and if you’ve a bit of a bust like me, a white spotty panel may not be the best feature). Plus, the high foldable collar annoyed me slightly on a long hot ride, although it was pretty sharp on the eye when enjoying my cream tea.

Unlike many male cyclists with a broad back and pockets to match; packing for a ride needs military procession. The pockets on the Isobel are plentiful, with 3 open pockets across the back and an additional zipped pocket to keep the valuables in, providing many storage options. Unfortunately, the elastication on the pockets doesn’t provide a flat

IMG_4584

collar

IMG_4583

centre back zip pocket

finish which resulted in a baggy fit, especially on the middle pocket, which resulted in me leaving my pump at home and hoping one of the other riders would come to my rescue if I needed.

The weight of the lycra mentioned previously does mean you lose some heat control functionality on a hotter day, which also likes to hold on to the sweat produced on a tough ride (it also took more than one wash on my usual 30 degree kit wash to rid it of the smell too). That being said, this jersey is perfect for the ‘sunday social’ cyclist who wants to be seen at the local cycling coffee stop or out to a pub lunch; this jersey is full of style and all eyes will be on you alone.

 

As a social Sunday ride and coffee jersey Isobel scores 74%

jerseyShuttVRIsobelReviewRatingAs a race jersey Isobel scores 65%

 

Pros: 

– Fabulous bold design

– Heavy weight quality lycra for chilly days

– Zipped pocket to keep hold of valuables

– Draws attention to the bust

 

Cons:

– Slightly long in the body for shorter riders

– Lacks breathability and took more than one wash clean

– Baggy pockets

– Lumpy zipper issue

– Draws attention to the bust

 

The Shutt VR Isonel Jersey retails at £79.00 and available from the Shutt VR website.

Hayley road tested a Shutt VR women’s size XS

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Review – Kreis Clothing Range

KreisRangeReviewKreis is a relatively new brand to the UK market and comes at it with the angle of offering limited run Club orders. Their designs are very modern and striking and give an opportunity to have a coordinated wardrobe for not too much money. The clothing is made for them by Kalas, a Czech company that have enabled Kreis to bring their designs to the public.

The overall emphasis from Kreis is on creating your own statement and having them help you realise it. Most of the designs are size customisable too, offering a great deal of flexibility for every shape and size of cyclist. Emphasis is placed on the ‘pre-order’ stage of purchase where the details of what you need can be tailored to you.

KreisEchelon-GipfelRenntrikotJerseyFrontKreisEchelon-Gipfel RenntrikotJerseyBack

Kreis Echelon-Gipfel Renntrikot Jersey

The design of this jersey and indeed all the kit we had for review certainly turned heads. This jersey was of simple construction with a lycra front and sleeves, and mesh panel rear. This gave a great amount of breathability from the rear portion and the modern aero design most riders now seek. It fitted very snuggly and was comfortable in the classic cyclist tuck, without any flapping. Importantly the three rear pockets were accessible and deep enough to carry usual cyclist needs. Renntrikot has a full length zip which worked easily and gave flexibility when venting is required in warmer temperatures.  In long term testing it washed well, it’s light colours remaining clean.

Our Test model was sized ‘4’. This was in modern terms a ‘race fit’ i.e. tight and was in the realm of a small/medium. As with all brands your own size and fit differ from other manufactures sizes.

The Jersey is listed at £85

Jersey: 4.5/5

 

KreisEchelon-GipfelTragerhoseShortsKreisEchelon-GipfelTragerhoseShortsLegKreis Echelon-Gipfel Tragerhose Shorts

Shorts are in modern terms one of the biggest areas of discussion amongst Cyclists of all persuasions. Each contact point with the bicycle has to be perfect or your ride is going to be very short indeed. Kreis offer gender specific inserts to provide the comfort and they actually are pretty comfy. Quite a few rides gave plenty of confidence in the chamois. Fit is the secondary area of comfort for shorts, any ruffles or bagginess will soon become a problem but the Tragerhose are made of a nice weight of lycra that is soft and solid enough to help their panelled structure to fit well. The only negative for us was that the leg ‘gripper’ arrangements were baggy on our test item. This is probably down to the simple fact that the test shorts were size 5, which equates to an XL on the Kreis sizing chart. The grippers have their silicon band cleverly embedded in the fabric itself, meaning that the old fashioned ‘just above knee elastic line’ is totally eradicated. A smaller size would have given a better fit here.

The shorts are listed also at £85

Shorts: 4/5

 

KreisEchelonArmwarmersKreisEchelonRadlerkappeKreis Echelon Accessories

We also tested the Echelon Armwarmers which are made of a ‘roubaix’ (brushed lycra on reverse). These proved to be lovely and snug in cooler conditions. They have a silicon top gripper to keep them in place and were longer than most modern styles giving less chance of a chilly gap at the top. At £20 these compliment the rest of the Echelon range nicely without breaking the bank and could be worn with other clothes as they are mostly black with just a few details.

A Radlerkappe was also sent for our enjoyment, that’s a cap to you and I, and although with helmets being solely the order of the day the cap was called into service on a couple of low sun evenings to prevent dappling light affecting the eyes. There is a functional mesh panel within its structure that prevents any overheating allowing a good point of ventilation.

The hat comes in three sizes and we tried the Medium which was perfect for a ‘normal’ head. £15 buys you the perfect piece to finish your pro-rider designer look.

CyclingShortsKreisRangeReviewRatingThe Armwarmers are listed at £20 and Cap at £15

Armwarmers: 5/5

Cap: 5/5

 

Summary

For someone on a modest budget this range could be ideal and with a bit of input even unique to you. A lot of modern riders wish to have their own identity in a crowd and this could help them get there.

CyclingShorts.cc gives the Kreis Range 93% and a star buy rating.

 

Range available from:

www.kreiscycling.bigcartel.com

Sportful BodyFit Pro Kit Review: Developed by Women, for Women

Sportful Women's BodyFit Pro Kit 2014


With a history steeped in textile spinning, Sportful was founded in Italy in 1942 as an undergarments manufacturer, before developing its first cycling specific garments in 1985. Come 2002, Cipollini rode to become World Champion, one of the Italian cycling team members to be wearing Sportful kit in the professional peloton for the first time. It’s fair to say, the 60 years of working with professional athletes and distributors is testament to the quality of their products. And this year’s range looks to set the benchmark even higher.

I’ve heard raving reviews about Sportful from various different cyclists and when looking for new kit for the coming season their designs seemed to stand off the page with some pretty impressive supporting statements. With distinctive white, black and orange bursts of colour, I was excited by the idea that I may finally stand out on the Sunday club run. Plus, with a statement as bold as Developed by Women, for Women, I can’t possibly go wrong.

Sportful Women's Kit 2014

4mm layer of Poron – does my bum look big in this?

The first thing I noticed on unpacking the BodyFit Pro kit, was the attention to detail. Developed by Italian garments designer Linda Bellio, this year’s kit really is designed by a woman for women. Breaking the pieces down, Linda and Sportful have looked at every element and individual panel in a bid to make the ‘best performing kit’ for women on the market. Forget the ‘pink and shrink’ strategy, with insight from their sponsored Women’s team, ASD Top Girls, Sportful really have developed a kit to suit our womenly bodies.

The BodyFit Pro technology uses the same ergonomic lightweight materials as ridden by the Tinkoff Saxo team. The bibs have straps like no others I’ve seen before. With a flat no-seam design and elasticated flex, they mold perfectly to the body whether you’re on the bike or stopped for a coffee.  Plus, a bonus to the flat-flex design means they fit perfectly around the bust for seamless aerodynamics (I could probably do with loosing the bust if we’re to really talk aero!)

The same BodyFit Pro technology is again bought into the leg with AeroFlow, to provide a tight compression fitting that supports the muscles.

Moving further down the body to an area I have the majority of my problems with when buying comfortable kit, I notice quite a thick padding on the sit bone area of the chamois (con), but a highly flexible middle section (pro). Although they felt rather tight, these proved extremely comfortable. According to Sportful, the Infinity Seat Pad features progressive damping with softer foam on the top surface, medium foam in the middle, and in the most important sitting area, a special 4mm layer of Poron that gives shock absorption and is lightweight, breathable, and avoids heat build-up. I didn’t feel as sweaty as I normally would at the end of a ride, but only warmer weather and a longer session will prove this.

AirMesh one piece shoulders with raw cut sleeves

AirMesh one piece shoulders with raw cut sleeves

Both the bibs and the jersey feature seamless, non-grip, raw-cut edge sleeves and legs. Every cyclist has a preference, but with a slightly bulkier thigh, there’s no chance of the horrible ‘sausage’ effect or irritation, yet enough natural grip in the fabric to stay in place for those crisp tan lines. Lovely!
Both the jersey and bibs have clearly been designed for the warmer weather, featuring a breathable AirMesh in the single-piece shoulders and underarm of the jersey and the sleeves of the bibs for maximum airflow . This not only helps keep the body temperature down, but also makes for an extremely soft feel on the skin, yet with holes small enough to not appear see-through (and hopefully protect from a”Froome-tan“).

JerseySportfulCSReviewRatingThe only silicone grippers you’ll find on the kit is on the base of jersey, helping keep three full back pockets in check whilst on the bike.

 

All over, this kit is comfortable, looks and feels great on, and it performs. Definitely not cheap, every bit of kit is designed for perfection and well worth the investment.

Cycling Shorts gives the Sportful BodyFit Pro range a Star Buy rating of 95%

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Review – Women’s Castelli Leggera Gilet

Castelli Gilet

Okay, I will admit it, I have been eyeing one of these up for quite a while. In fact, ever since I bought the full sleeve (rain cape) version in 2012.

The gilet comes with a small bag that means that it can be folded away into a compact size and put back in your pocket – a great idea for those of you wanting something that you can take on and off without worrying that you haven’t got space in your back pocket to keep it.
Leggera GiletBeing 5′ 7″ and a size 10, I struggle with a lot of women specific cycling clothing as it tends to be too short and I often end up “borrowing” my husband’s cycling clothes as they tend to fit much better. Not so with this gilet. It is fairly long in the body and has a scooped elasticated bottom on the back of the jacket to ensure a snug fit.

Sometimes, jackets can be quite tight around the neck, which means that you never end up doing the zip right to the top. Again, there is enough room within the design to ensure that this is not a problem.

It is windproof and breathable, and is great for keeping the chill off at the start of a ride. It is small enough to be packed away until you need to put something on to keep you warm on that descent back down into town.

There is one improvement that I’d look to make – there is no back pocket so it can be a bit difficult trying to get food out of your jacket pocket. Not a major issue, I admit, but with gloves on it can be difficult. Also, the RRP is £55 which could be seen to be quite expensive for a gilet and therefore not a “needs must” purchase but a “wish list” purchase instead. However, the best price we’ve found is at ProBikeKit who are selling them for less than £40, at the moment, which makes them a bit more affordable:

http://www.probikekit.co.uk/sports-clothing/castelli-women-s-leggera-cycling-gilet/10756878.html

 

CastelliGiletReviewRatingIn Summary

    • Fit – 89 out of 100  the gilet fits well, and the elasticated bottom means that it stays in place
    • Quality – 95 out of 100 – I would expect a market leading brand to be high quality, and I wasn’t disappointed
    • Price – 70 out of 100 – £55 for a gilet may prove too expensive for some
    • Value for money – 80 out of 100 – ultimately, high quality doesn’t come cheap but I liked the fit, quality and think it looks great.
    • Overall that’s an impressive 84 out of 100!

 

Would I recommend this gilet to my cycling friends? Definitely!

 

 

 

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