Shimano Print Short Sleeve Jersey and Active Pedaling Bib Short$70 and $140 1 of 7
If you scoff at the likes of SRAM and Campagnolo, this jersey is for you. The Print Short Sleeve Jersey lets you proudly rep the Shimano blue as you enjoy your Saturday group ride. We found the jersey to be a no-frill, accessible option for both the performance and recreational cyclist. The jersey features the standard three back pockets, reflective materials, UV protection and a slim-cut--although it runs slightly larger than their European counterparts, especially in the torso.
The Active Pedaling Bib Short features a special material and updated cut designed to support smooth pedaling at the hip joint. It felt less binding compared to other bibs we tested, and the Elite 3D Chamois was suited best for rides under 55 miles. The lack of compression was a negative, as we felt like we needed more support on longer rides. We're almost certain this is a rebranded custom Pearl Izumi kit.
Bellwether Optime Elite CS Jersey and Bib Short$120 and $160 2 of 7
Bellwether isn't the first apparel brand to try to make bib shorts easier on women, and they certainly won't be the last. Unfortunately, few have perfected the combination of style and substance needed to make a women's-specific product like these bib shorts successful. Bellwether has gone the halter route with this particular design, featuring an adjustable buckle system in front that is intended to make the call of nature a bit friendlier. Sadly -- and in spite of an excellent chamois that kept us comfy for many miles -- the halter/buckle design is a total failure. We had difficulty getting the clasp to hook time after time, and the front closure means you still have to remove your jersey for bathroom breaks.
The good news is that, while the buckle functionality may need some work, the Physio Pro Carbon Chamois was tops among the women's bib shorts we tested. Padding is strategically positioned at varying densities and heights based on anatomy, and we suffered no numbness, reduced blood circulation or general discomfort over many miles in the saddle. Both the top and bottom are made with Coldblack fabric, which reduces absorption of UV rays and kept us cool on long, hot summer rides. Venting fabric under the arms and microfiber arm and leg bands added to the comfort level. If Bellwether can perfect the buckle design, they'll have one of the top women's kits on the market.
Twin Six The Speedy No Man's Land and Standard Bib Short$80 and $125 3 of 7
Twin Six is an American cycling apparel company putting as much emphasis on fashion as physical design. Like most kits in its collection, the Speedy No Man's Land jersey will make you stand out in your next group ride with its loud, sublimated graphics. Design-wise, the jersey comes with the standard features--a full-length zipper, three back pockets and soft polyester microfiber fabric. The race cut fit is true to size and was extremely comfortable, even on our longest rides.
The Standard Bib Short is just that: Standard. Its eight-panel flat-seam construction is soft and supportive, and the multi-density Italian chamois kept us feeling fresh. The bibs gave us everything we could ask for, no complaints.
Specialized SL Pro Boels Dolmans Limited Edition Jersey and Bib Shorts w/ HookUp$150 and $180 4 of 7
Speaking of brands getting it right in the women's specific realm, Specialized has really nailed it with the design of their HookUp bib shorts, which features a simple magnetic clasp on the back that allows you to quickly drop trou and get back on the bike. It was a relief to put on a kit that felt designed not just for a woman, but by a woman. The fold-over leg cuff didn't chafe as many with silicon grippers do, and they provided just the right amount of compression while still looking flattering.
The jersey, too, was snug in all the right places, and the VaporRize fabric kept it from getting soggy on a particularly steamy ride. This was also the kit that elicited the most oohs and ahhs from my usual riding crew -- the bright colors and excellent design will have you feeling invincible (or at least super professional) on your next ride.
Bellwether Optime Elite CS Jersey and Bib Short$120 and $160 5 of 7
One of the more pricey kits on our list, the Optime Elite is Bellwether's high-end offering for performance cyclists. The jersey features Techra-Lite fabric, designed for its lightweight and breathable properties. We found it to feel lighter and less restrictive than a traditional jersey while retaining the same UV and moisture-wicking properties. Despite being all black, the jersey excelled in the heat. The jersey also includes a 5-inch waterproof zipper pocket, perfect for protecting your phone from sweat and the elements. The jersey does, however, run large.
The Optime Elite CS Bib short features a Physio Pro Carbon chamois that was stiff and uncomfortable on the first outing, but after broken in, it was one of the more comfortable chamois we've tested. More padding doesn't necessarily mean more comfort, and the Opitme Bib Shorts protected vulnerable areas appropriately without feeling bulky and cumbersome. The Powergrid fabric had a good amount of compression for longer rides (like all compression gear, these bibs ran small), and the Coldblack fabric handled the Dallas summer heat superbly.
Voler Black Label Jersey and Bib Short$99 and $139 6 of 7
I wanted to like the Voler women's Black Label kit, especially since the black, red and silver color palette had me feeling a bit like Spiderman. The design looks respectably badass, like I might be snagging your QOM at a moment's notice. Reflective piping on the pockets is a nice touch, but the overall look couldn't hide the fact that this kit just didn't fit very well. The product description recommends sizing up due to the tight fit of their high compression fabric, but I ordered my usual size and found the jersey to be quite baggy and loose -- so much so that my sunglasses fell out of my back pocket on a ride. The Genesis fabric used in the jersey also didn't feel very breathable or lightweight.
The Black Label bib, however, fit much more snugly, and the longer inseam (half an inch longer than Voler's other models) kept them from riding up. The chamois was solid if unexceptional over many miles, and I liked the four-way stretch and dense foam build.