After hundreds of miles of testing, here's how seven cycling kits held up.
Lulu Lemon$128/$158 1 of 8
We wanted to love this new men's combo from Lulu Lemon, a company that has specialized in women's workout apparel. The digitized reflective material in the front of the jersey looks cool and is functional if you plan on riding when daylight is sparse. The large mesh panel on the back and sides breathes well, and the tailored fit is comfortable both on and off the bike. The material, as you might expect, is high quality and feels like it will last forever.
As for the shorts, they utilize the same digitized panel on the legs and the same Lycra that makes the jersey's fit and feel similar to a top-of-the-line option. Our lone sticking point concerned the chamois. While the pad itself is plenty comfortable and provides a good amount of cushion for its thickness, it just doesn't feel like it's in the right spot. This may ultimately prove to be a personal preference, but we found the comfort lacking, and it didn't match the excellent features of the jersey or bib.
Search and State S-1 A$140/$215 2 of 8
You won't find too many apparel manufacturers who still make their clothing in the U.S. Almost 100 percent of cycling apparel is outsourced, which drives down labor costs for construction and the price of fabric. New York's Search and State are proving companies can manufacture on U.S. soil while keeping costs reasonable, and their latest S-1 A jersey and bibs were a real hit with us. Simple, understated styling is clearly the concentration, and the kit does look as good as it feels on the bike.
The bib shorts, in particular, were our favorite of the two pieces. The chamois is close to being the best of the bunch—so good that you won't mind spending all day in the saddle. As for durability, we've thrown them into the wash at least 20 times in two months and they still look exactly the same—not a single thread has come loose. The fit of the jersey is on the relaxed side, so those looking for a racing cut might need to look elsewhere. Our only qualm was the overlap of fabric on the zipper side of the jersey, which caused some irritation when pulling the zipper up and down during a ride. Overall, though, there's so much to like about both pieces that it easily quantifies the price.
Skins Women's Tremola Jersey and Bibshort$119/$189.99 3 of 8
Skins, a company known for compression recovery clothing, uses similar technology in its new line of cycling clothes designed to improve performance on the bike. According to Skins' own lab results, the gradient compression reduces muscle fatigue and improves circulation—but this was admittedly harder to prove during our own testing.
What we can say is Skins made the shorts and jersey with high-quality materials that are meant for racing and high-mileage training. Designed and engineered in Italy, The Multi-D Elastic Interface Technology chamois is every bit as comfortable as those you'll find in other high-end cycling apparel options. And because of its durability and classic styling, we think the reasonable price will make it an attractive option for most.
Pearl Izumi Elite Jersey/P.R.O. In-R-Cool Bibshorts$100/$180 4 of 8
The elite jersey has a semi-form fitting cut that suits a more crouched position on the bike because of its short front section. We also found the neck a bit tight fitting and the rear pockets too shallow, which made it hard to fit larger items like tire levers or a micro hand pump. However, the material is high quality, and the EIite Transfer fabric was probably our favorite option for wicking away moisture and keeping you comfortable and dry on the hottest of days.
The Lycra of the bibshorts is thick and sturdy, which we liked for durability but can feel bulky and restrictive when pedaling. The 4D chamois is one of the thicker pads you'll find. This can be good or bad depending on your preference, but we think it's a good choice for longer training rides when you might need a little extra cushion. The inseam is also on the long end of the spectrum, which is perfect if you're a cyclist who prefers modesty rather than the slim and short euro cuts.
Hincapie Power Kit$120/$130 5 of 8
Performance cycling apparel usually falls in one of two categories — stylish or performance driven. Not only has Hincapie managed to do both with the Power kit, but they've also kept the price reasonable, making this one of the better buys of the bunch. The Aerator Max fabric used liberally in each panel of the jersey is one of the cooler options for temperatures rising near triple digits. The fit was not too tight while remaining snug enough to cheat the wind. This jersey is perfect for long, relaxed Sunday rides when you might not want a tight jersey hugging your skin.
Hincapie's bibs use a coldblack finishing technology to reflect heat away as the temperatures rise. The AT2 Force Lycra, like the Aerator Max Fabric used in the jersey, feels light and airy, making it perfect for long miles when you want maximum comfort. The chamois is serviceable and of good quality, but we won't give it the award for being the best in the bunch. Overall, though, if you're looking for a bit of style to go with generous amounts of comfort and performance at a bargain of a price, the Power is a good pick.
Sugoi RSE Kit$200/$230 6 of 8
The RSE Kit is for road cyclists who have racing in mind. For aerodynamic purposes, the fit through the torso and arms for aerodynamics is extremely tight, but the way it cuts through the wind will surely impress you. Beware though that the slim fit will show off any extra weight if you're not in tip-top form. Featuring flatlock seams that reduce irritation and Revoflex mesh on the shoulders, underarms and back paneling, the jersey's construction is of high quality.
The FXE chamois is one of the better we tested at wicking away moisture on hot days, and the lack of inseam and bulk made this model comfortable during prolonged hard efforts. The silicone panels in the legs of the bibs replaces the more traditional elastic often found in cycling shorts, which we felt improved comfort during the pedaling motion. Although it is built with solid construction, the price of the jersey in particular was a bit above our range at $200 and might not be the best value for consumers not at the elite level of the racing spectrum.
Santini Interactive 2.0$148/$224 7 of 8
Santini, an Italian company known for quality and style, gets our pick for the most creative kit of the year with their new Interactive aero jersey and bib combo. The jersey connects to the back of the bibs with an internal zipper to keep your jersey from riding up on your back when your position moves down into the drops. The jersey is a second-skin material that is tight-fitting while maintaining a good deal of comfort. The high collar seems to be a nod in the direction of their skinsuit—and the result is a pro-level option that is as fast as it feels. Wicking properties and the huge mesh panel on the back keeps you surprisingly cool for a form-fitting aero jersey, and the three rear pockets and full-length zip supply practicality that full skinsuits don't provide.
Mesh straps and anti-slip Lycra hems were nice features that aided in the comfort department, but the gel core in the MIG3 chamois insert was the bibshorts' standout feature. Light, super comfortable and far from bulky, this was our pick for the best chamois of the bunch. Although this kit is one of the more expensive options, the durability is excellent and shows no signs of wear through half a season of use.