Chapeau! aim to create quality cycling kit, with a touch of quirky style you don't always get to see in cycling.
Bright and bold patterns are the order of the day from this brand, and that was certainly the case with their summer 2016 range - which is still very much in stock, as well as being slightly discounted in their current summer sale.
It was difficult to select a jersey from the wide range of options on the site (first world problems), but in the end we went for the short sleeved Madeleine Jersey (was £69.95, now £52.49) and Ladies Classic Bib Shorts (£70, reduced to £34.99 in blackmint) for our test.
Both bibs and jersey were thoroughly put through their paces - I tested them riding in moderate UK temperatures as well as under near 30 degree heat whilst climbing up some mountains in France.
Here's how they got on...
Cheapeau! Madeleine Short Sleeved Women's Jersey
Available in three colour options: blue, coral or black - the Madeleine jersey is certainly striking. When paired with the matching polka-dot design on the Classic bib shorts, Chapeau! have created a 'look' that's co-ordinated without being prudishly over matching. Perhaps it's a little stereotypical, and my perception has slight whiffs of onion-string-necklaces and berets, but the kit also felt quintessentially French as I donned it on holiday.
The jersey has - as you'd expect - been designed to fit a female form. Wearing the Small, I found it snug enough to feel flattering, without being restrictive - it's certainly not an 'aero speed machine' sort of jersey, more designed for casual rides or long days out where you'd like some breathing room and plenty of space to stuff the pockets.
The fabric is a little heavier and less flexible than some of the more racey options out there. Therefore, I was a little concerned it wouldn't be quite as breathable. However, donning it to climb to the top of the Pyreneesian Col d'Aubisque in the August sun, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't overheat, and sweat was sucked away from my skin as I'd expect from a quality garment, though I did make use of the full zip to cool myself down towards the summit.
The slightly heaver material wouldn't be my first choice for a ride in blazing heat, though it's perfect for more moderate temperatures when you don't want 'barely there' material and after several washes it proved to be considerably more resilient, with no pulls or bobbling.
At the rear, there are two full sized rear pockets, as well as two slightly smaller pockets either side and a zipped compartment. The four primary pockets are angled to aid ease of use when riding, and I loved the extra height offered in the large rear pockets which meant a mini pump felt secure and never at risk of slipping out.
Having four pockets enabled me to easily carry a packable, pump, tubes, tool, food and phone. However, the smaller side pockets curve round with the hips - which meant over-stuffing them risked making me look a bit round, so I mainly took to using the rear pockets and saving the side pockets for small items.
There is a 'Chapeau! tip of the hat' reflective logo on the rear pocket, and reflective trim for added assurance. The sleeves are nicely hemmed, but don't have an elasticated gripper as you might find on a top end garment. This said, the price point doesn't call for these touches.
Cheapau! Classic Bib Shorts
The Chapeau! Classic women's bib shorts are the cheaper of their two bib short options for women - they're designed for 'day-to-day' use, but I found them perfectly adequate over a 75 mile ride with a healthy 9,000ft of climbing
The bibs have slightly longer legs than many of those I'm used to, following a more 'euro' style which appeals to many. They also use multiple panels over the legs, to ensure a flattering fit that offers support without constriction.
By far my favourite feature on these shorts has to be the chamois pad. It's noticeably comfortable, and honestly that is the most important element when it comes to cycling chamois shorts.
Chapeau have used a zig-zag stitching on the pad, which they say offers more flexibility and doesn't shift as easily as the flatlock stitching used by other brands. The padding itself comes from 'Elastic Interface', and is their 'Fiandre women' construction. It's a three dimensional dual density pad, that has a raised surface at the centre designed to "guide" the rider's undercarriage as they tilt their pelvis. This allows for extra support for the pelvic bones in this rotated position, that often causes discomfort for women. Wearing these for over four hours, I was perfectly comfortable in the saddle, and more so than I had been on previous days wearing shorts designed by competitors.
The bib straps are a simple 'Y' shape, with no particular aids to make comfort breaks easier. At £70, this isn't unexpected, but was a little irritating for someone who has become used to the simple halterneck or 'hook-up' clip styles available elsewhere.
My only real criticism when it comes to these bibs shorts has to be the leg gripper. I actually tested these very same shorts last year, and don't remember having any such issues... but well, I've either been spending a lot of time on the track or eating too much cake - but I found the grippers did give me a bit of sausage leg this time around, digging in at the thigh to create a bulge. The degree of sausage leg was minimal, I've certainly seen worse - but I did feel a little self-conscious chilling out at cafe-stops. The difference in my perception between reviewing last year, and this year, might actually be down to the high propensity of brands creating shorts with lovely wide, stretchy grippers over the last twelve months. Being a key bug bear for women, it's worth Chapeau! joining in with this trend if they want to improve their offering.
A great value set of kit that has a quirky style and adheres to more traditional 'euro' characteristics. Both jersey and bibs are well constructed, and offer breathability and quality wicking fabric. The jersey doesn't have as much stretch as some on the market, but is a little more robust and doesn't cling to the skin - instead following the natural lines of your body but allowing for a little more breathing room. The shorts perform excellently considering the price tag, with a notably comfortable chamois pad - though the leg grippers leave room for improvement.
Interested? Check them out here.