When the Howies Slipstream Jersey first arrived - the packaging was definitely preaching to the unconverted. Knit jerseys generally conjure up ideas of L'Eroica for me - beautifully vintage, but not terribly practical for the modern day rider.
Howies have used a polyamide fabric, with 4% elastane to allow for a close fit. At first touch, the material felt quite thick and heavy - beautifully cosy and stretchy, but triggering visions of myself sweating buckets up the first hill.
Howies use specialist machines, capable of knitting yarn into one single tube shape. This means the body panels are formed from one piece, removing any chance of chafing or discomfort caused by seams.
Using these circular knitting machines also means that Howies can weave varying patterns into the fabric - meaning sections can be tailored to fit the contours of the body, and lighter fabric can be used where breathability is paramount.
Close inspection reveals that the fabric is indeed much lighter under the arms and on the back, whilst the mid section is thick and soft.
Pulling the jersey on, it felt a little bit like a really soft, cosy jumper - only with short sleeves. The highly elasticated, but still soft and knitted, hem sat around my hips, and the sleeves hugged my upper arms.
The material either side of the zip has been ruched, which created a flattering fit. I didn't particularly feel like I was wearing a cycling jersey - in fact I wandered around the house a while, made some dinner and fed the cat. There was no breathing in or restriction that you sometimes get with a lycra jersey.
The jersey has two rear pockets, and an extra zipped pocket, with high viz trim.
Riding in the Slipstream
I first tested this little number on a ride to local cafe - only five miles there and back, but up a monster hill each way. I expected to feel myself getting warm as I reached the crest - but no such feeling came, in fact I continued to feel perfectly comfortable.
The next test was the time spent in the cafe - I wanted to see if sweat began to cool on my skin, making me chilly (the things I do for you lot..). It didn't - in fact I was perfectly happy mulling over my coffee, and riding home.
Of course, testing was far from done. The jersey had proved it was wicking, and quick drying, and that it was up to a spin to the cafe - but what about an hour of intervals in the late summer sun?
I donned the Slipstream, and headed out to the base of a shallow hill, and rode up and down it five times (for training purposes, not just because I didn't know where else to go).
Interestingly, even during a hill reps session I felt cool and didn't overheat in this piece of kit. I then put it to the test over a longer Saturday spin, and again was surprised that I didn't feel myself to be overheating, and was kept perfectly cool and sweat free.
This revelation opens up a whole new world of jersey options - if knit jerseys can be as breathable and high wicking as lycra, then choice comes down to personal preference alone.
Personal Preference - Jerseys for Rides
The jersey is incredibly stretchy - and only available in Small-Medium, and Large-XLarge.
I found that though the fit was very "snuggly" - it was far from snug. I'm an 8/10 dress size, and even in a Small-Medium, there was quite a lot of breathing room.
This meant I felt pretty inconspicuous sipping my cappuccino in a coffee shop - just how I like it - but it felt a bit strange to be wearing something so casual looking for a training ride.
I might stick with more traditional lycra when hitting the road with a purpose, this just comes down to personal preference.The jersey proved it was more than capable of handling the vigorous of a more intense ride - perfect if you like to ride hard, but don't like lycra!
Howies create lots of cycling themed, hand printed t-shirts, too - we recently fell in love with this Queen of the Cafe Stop tee - check it out here.