CycleSport.org | Le Col Clothing
When the batch of Le Col clothing first hit the Cyclosport.org desk, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard of Le Col, but only because I've had my ear to the ground. A few months have passed and Le Col hasn't had a dramatic launch, but I have noticed some more Le Col-clad individuals lurking in the South East.
Le Col has the style and ethos to mount a challenge to the big players. But it's a relatively small set up, headed up by former professional cyclist Yanto Barker. What Le Col does have in its favour, is years of clothing assessments through Barker's many thousands of hours of training and racing.
When you put the clothing on and venture outside, you feel like you're wearing something that people are intrigued by. I usually look for good functioning, no-nonsense and sensibly-priced cycle clothing, but Le Col won us over. It feels exclusive, without being excluding. Stylish clothing snobbery can be a slippery slope, so I was keen to ensure that Le Col matched the sort of clothing quality I'd experienced from brands like Assos, Endura and Giordana.
There's no doubt that Le Col kit is well styled. There's gold, but not enough of it suggest you're an Olympic medallist, or enough to warrant a baseball cap and an ASBO. It's tasteful gold, highlighting the all-black range of kit. From zips to stitches, the brand image is consistent and desirable.
One of my initial concerns was the fit of the jackets. I've been used to chunky and relatively relaxed fitting winter jackets; the Le Col jackets were restrictively tight around the shoulders. After a quick consultation with brand owner, Barker, I was assured it would free up while in the riding position. And it did.
The Le Col Winter Jacket is a heavyweight piece of kit designed for the coldest of conditions. I guess it was lucky that we've had one of the coldest winters in a while; the bitter conditions are an ideal testing ground in many respects. The upper part of the jacket and the arms are wind proof protected, with a similar material I've worn previously on the Assos Airblock 851 jackets. Le Col have fitted the breast section of the jacket to avoid common material 'flapping'. It certainly made me feel slimmer too; choosing the right size is key with these tight-fitting jackets.
Le Col claim the winter range is designed to be well-fitted and eliminate the need for layering up. Previously, I'd used an Assos 851, which I usually wore with a long-sleeve winter base layer. I kept the same base layer, and used the Le Col Winter Jacket; the result was similar, the Assos feels slightly warmer around the neck, but as I usually wear a buff during the winter, so this isn't a huge issue. In the cold spell we've had, combining it with a gilet would instantly improve warmth for long training rides. It's quite well priced for a winter jacket you'll use most days, at £159.99, it comes in around £35 cheaper than the Assos 851 offering.
The jacket has a neat security zip on one of the back pockets, as well as having one on the inside of the jacket, which is a nice touch. The back pockets are stretchy and provide ample room for fuel and valuanles. There are also two reflective strips on the back, but some will still be put off by the fact that the range is almost entirely black.
Yanto Barker has gained a bit of a reputation for putting in the miles over the winter, so it's fitting that the Le Col bib tights performed perfectly on my longer training rides. The pad is one of the best I've used; it fits perfectly and doesn't feel like too much of a cushion, whilst just getting on with the job. My respect for the tights caused me to feel reluctant in choosing them for shorter rides; they rapidly became the 'special occasion' item of clothing that every cyclist has in their kit bag. They were saved for those gruelling, long rides where you need all the help you can get.
The material used is thick enough for cold temperatures, and never did I feel uncomfortably cold. The fit was perfect for me, with the bibs sitting well around my shoulders and the medium size just being right for my 32" leg length. The waist area is high enough to keep my stomach warm, without feeling restrictive. At £139.99, they're the most expensive tights I've used, I'm accustomed to the £60-£80 mark, there is a noticeable difference, but whether the quality and style is worth the extra cash is a personal choice.
In terms of longevity, the tights did get a fair bit of usage and stood up to it. The gold stitching had come away by the ankles; I suspect this may be because the tights are very well-fitted around that area to keep in warmth. Unfortunately, however, when you take the tights off it can be a bit of a struggle, hence the pull in the stitching.
Le Col also provide a range of accessories, the Le Col head band and socks were sent to Cyclosport.org to try out. The headband is quite pricey at £16.99, and personally, I prefer skull caps as they provide better all-round warmth, although, the Le Col band did do the job it was supposed to. The socks were good, but whether they were £12 good, I'm not too sure; not at one point did I think the price tag justified the functionality, as they didn't feel any different to the £6 cycling socks I'm used to. They're stylish, but whether they're twice-the-price stylish would certainly be the buyer's prerogative.
Overall, the Le Col range is certainly something to watch out for. The development put into the clothing really shows; it's well-thought out and Barker hasn't got too far to go to perfect the range. Barker has made it clear that he's taken on praise and criticism and can refine the range slightly for the future. The clothing is premium, but most of the items tested fitted by expectations for the price tag. After all, Le Col is marketed as cycle clothing for the discerning, which cycling has proven there's a market for. The garments perform, whether they're something that you desire and aspire to is, ultimately, up to you.
Le Col Winter Jacket: £159.99
Le Col Tights: £139.99
CYCLOSPORT.ORG RATING: 8/10
We Like: Stylish, warm and well-fitted
We Don't: Clothing is almost completely black, it may not be the safest in dawn/dusk
Where to Buy: www.lecol.netÂ