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.
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
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“).
The 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%
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
Dispatches from Day 1… entry #1 Wednesday 28th August 2013, 9.15 AM
The intrepid Cycling Shorts correspondent.., ‘Our man in Germany’ sallied forth with sharp mind, keen focus and targeted questions designed to cut the cycling industry to the quick. Several minutes into the Euro Bike Show this highly trained, most hard-bitten of hacks became the very epitome of a small child entering Hamley’s on a ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Christmas eve!
Swamped in Dreamland… The Italian Pavilion – a taste of things to come? a doffing of the cap to the tradition of the sport?
With eyes narrowed I entered the fray determined to discover the ‘truth’ about this myth-shrouded business. What myths and legends have emerged from Italy. Such icons. In the minds of many Italian bikes demand all pretenders measured against their history; their aesthetics and their beauty. My eyes met stand 505 and Tommasini, they widened, the inner child took over, and all was lost (but in a good way).
Feasting upon the designs laid out in montage before me, guided by Mz Tommasini herself and trying not to become too lost in the sheer beauty of these still-made-in-Italy frames. The beauty of the paintwork and the balance of the designs owed more to fine art than to a gritty road race. yet they ride well, very well. Enough. Let the photographs tell all…
I have read many autobiographies about cyclists over the years, but none of them can be compared to this magnificent book by David Millar.
The story can be read on two levels. The first is the most obvious one: a review of one of the most important and decisive periods in contemporary cycling: the end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century (the controversial Lance Armstrong era), recorded by an insider. The second is more universal: it is the tale of the loss of innocence, the psychologically fully acceptable story of how a talented young person gets drawn into a world of corruption and foul play, driven by the hunger for success and recognition, and how this world makes this acceptable, because everybody is playing by the same “rules” and the “real world” is well hidden and seems reassuringly far away (a term recently used by Armstrong’s in his defence as he declined to fight his longterm battle with USADA, ‘I played by the rules of the time’). In David Millar’s case, the protagonist survives, and returns on a higher level, an advocate of stronger anti-doping regulations, which, sadly enough, can’t be said of many heroes in many similar stories.
For the real cycling fan, “Racing through the Dark” contains a tremendous amount of background information of how things worked in the pro teams at the time of the 1998 Festina Tour de France: we see how the Cofidis team was organised, we see how “stars” like Philippe Gaumont and Frank Vandenbroucke were behaving like real lunatics, taking drugs before major races, and getting away with it, as long as results were good…We learn how the practice of injections used for recuperation was omnipresent, and how one step leads to the other, as was the case for Millar when he was staying in the house of one of his Italian teammates, who is called “l’Equipier” in the book, but who, in my opinion, can’t be anyone else but Massimiliano Lelli.
We also get a nice insight into contemporary racing, because, luckily, Millar’s racing days weren’t over after he‘d got caught. There is the story of his meeting with the flamboyant JV (Jonathan Vaughters), his friendship with Stuart O’Grady, the Commonwealth Games in India together with Cav (Mark Cavendish), who is described in a very positive way, participating in the Tour de France with a young Bradley Wiggins, who comes across to me to be a rather selfish person, not a team player.
And then there is the second level, the extraordinarily intelligent and well written story of the fall and rise of a talented sportsman, originally from Scotland, who, after his parents get divorced, spends his youth partly in Hong Kong, and partly in England, where his mother and sister still live. We follow his story, how he comes to France to become a pro cyclist, how he reaches top level, winning the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, living the life of a superstar, dwelling in Monaco and Biarritz, how he gets caught for doping practices, and falls into depression, but, sustained by the help of his sister and a few good friends eventually crawls back, and reaches the highest level again, clean and more satisfied this time.
It is this story of “redemption”, as Millar calls it, that makes the book more interesting than the average autobiography of well- known sportsmen, it shows the reader how easily one can make the wrong decisions, how gradually a naïve ambitious youngster chooses the side of the cheating colleagues, and how living in a protected, small universe makes one unaware of what is morally acceptable in the “real world”.
Racing through the Dark is a must read for every cycling fan, who is not only interested in facts and figures, but also enjoys reading a fine story that makes us understand what was going on in the pro teams in the recent past, and makes us hope that there is still a future for cycling.
Racing Through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar
As the name suggests, this is described by the Italian manufacturer as a unisex helmet suitable for both road bike and mountain bike use, and has some features that would appeal to commuters too, but is it a case of ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’ ?
I have owned this helmet for 6 months, and wear it on my daily commute and on my longer weekend rides.
Light weight, it is the lightest helmet I have owned so far, weighing only 262 grams for the universal size (52-59cm). (MET state that the helmet weighs 270g)
Good ventilation, when riding on frosty/cold mornings I have to wear a warm cap underneath, I have never had to do this with any of my previous helmets.
Longevity, the box states that it comes with a three year warranty, and unusually its lifespan is between 8-10 years!
The advice given by most manufacturers is to replace a helmet after 2-3 years of use, depending on its exposure to UV and the damage that comes from handling. But MET have an initiative called Low Impact On Nature (L.I.O.N) that not only prolongs the life of the product but also reduces its ‘carbon footprint’ and waste during production. Surprisingly the helmet does not retail at a higher price compared with other shorter-life lids of a similar spec, so you save money too! (Also, last years models, as this is, are currently discounted in many outlets, for sale for only £29.99 instead of MRP £39.99, making it an even better deal).
MET offer a helmet crash replacement policy, which means that if your helmet is seriously damaged (due to a crash or serious fall) within three years of the purchase date they can offer an equivalent helmet at a discounted rate, providing you can supply proof of purchase, and the broken helmet.
Minimal exposed polystyrene, the outer shell which is moulded and bonded to the inner during manufacture (as most do nowadays, except for the very cheapest ones) covers the back of the helmet too. This feature adds to the look and feel of quality and must help to protect the inner from knocks and UV light.
From the picture above you will also see the integrated rear LED light, this contains four red LEDs and is operated by pressing the whole assembly, it has a flashing and constant mode.
This is also the ratchet tensioner which adjusts the frame that sits around the head:
From this internal view you can see the washable pads and see the insect net that is moulded into the helmets front vents, you will also notice that the whole helmet is an oval shape, so may not be completely comfortable with someone with a more rounded head shape, for me though it fits perfectly.
The straps and quick release clip are easily adjustable; in fact I had my fit set up within seconds, as I hardly had to adjust anything straight from the box. The straps don’t rely on a thin rubber band to hold the excess in place, which can easily snap and leave a long piece of strap flapping in the breeze, the strap is a loop and is retained by a sturdy moulded piece of rectangular rubber, a much better design, also the strap itself is not so long as to have any free to stick out, it is also finished by a plastic end that is easy to pull even when your fingers are cold or when wearing gloves.
In the past I have often had trouble in getting the straps behind the ears to sit close to my head, but with this helmet these are tensioned properly, matching the front ones, so making it a secure fit.
Styling: This is of course a personal opinion, but the overall style is more generic than other helmet brands on the market, nothing about it stands out as being uniquely MET, unlike some others who seem to add peculiar shapes and designs in order to stand out, I like the look of the pointed rear protrusions as they look very strong and therefore more protective than bare polystyrene. I chose this colour combination because the turquoise is very reminiscent of the famous ‘Celeste’ used by Bianchi, as I have one of their bikes, thinking that the Italian made helmet might be purposely designed to match the Italian marquee. (All MET helmets are designed, developed and manufactured in Italy, at Talamona, in the heart of the Italian Alps).
My only (minor) criticism is that the switch on the light often needs pressing several times to either switch it on or off, especially when the temperature is low, I have noticed that in this years model it looks as if the light has been moulded in a red plastic rather than my clear one, so this issue may have been resolved already.