Words by Katherine Moore
Kitting out a number of professional racing teams from Drops to Trek-Segafredo, Sportful’s contribution to developing technical clothing for cycling dates back over thirty years. The Italian business had built their impressive reputation with cutting-edge ski wear, so it was no surprise that when the family turned their focus to cycling they had great success.
With the growing intrigue on the off-road gravel and adventure bike movement, Sportful has decided to focus on producing the best clothing for the job. If there are road cycling and mountain bike specific clothing ranges on the market, why should gravel and adventure be any different? Emphasis falls on comfort over rough and varied terrain, options for changeable weather conditions and the clever use of technical materials and practical features to take you where you’ve never been before. Sportful has catered for these needs with their new Giara women's range, and we've been putting it through its paces.
Let’s start with the basis of any new kit, the shorts. Here Sportful has opted for waist shorts only, whilst the men’s Giara kit features bib shorts. It’s a matter of personal preference for women, although there’s no denying that waist shorts are a lot easier when it comes to using the facilities! The waistband is elasticated and well contoured to fit in this area, although I confirm that after many miles in the saddle I will not be converted away from bib shorts.
The ‘Infinity pad’ chamois in the Giara shorts is the thickest of all the Sportful shorts, with 15mm of shaped foam padding exactly where you need it most, and cut away where you don’t to reduce bulk. The upper layer is very soft and certainly comfortable in this delicate area.
The construction of the leg pieces involves a single panel for each side, reducing seams for comfort by using a high stretch material to achieve the level of contouring around the thighs. At the bottom of each leg, six rows of elasticated thread are sewn into the hem. This works well to hold the shorts in place, although the durability of this elastic is questionable, with some wear showing after just a few uses.
In terms of design, the Giara shorts are relatively simple, with a thin coral band around the left leg and a silver Sportful higher up on the same side, visible from the back. Although this band looks good, and doubles up as a reflective area for night-time riding, due to the lack of stretch in this material it’s quite restrictive. You might have heard the term ‘sausage leg’ when leg warmers are involved; here I had this unfortunate bulging nearer to the knee where this non-stretch band cut into my thigh, despite the shorts fitting well elsewhere. Although I didn’t feel that this compromised my performance, it was unsightly, and if I’m honest, a little embarrassing.
The Giara jersey is a relaxed, loose fit as there’s little to gain by being aero off-road. The shoulders of the jersey are a heathered grey, which feels soft against the skin. A Sportful logo in silver is very subtle on the chest, which is repeated on the back middle pocket. The main, lower part of the jersey is constructed from a black, slightly chequered fabric with a great deal of stretch. Between these fabrics we see the signature Giara stripe in coral, running across the chest, across the upper back and around the left arm. A full-length plastic zip gives you the freedom to keep covered or unzip, perfect for changeable weather or for extra ventilation up tough climbs.
As seen in the shorts, six threads of elastic run along the hem of the jersey to keep it in place over your hips. The Giara jersey is longer than conventional road jerseys or race cut jerseys which can feel quite short over the stomach. Fear not, there’ll be no chance of overexposing yourself here! Sleeve length is moderate too, neither too short nor too long, but extending halfway down the upper arm.
There are three main pockets across the lower back of the jersey, each a generous size, with plenty of space for a rolled up lightweight jacket, for example. I’m really glad to see that Sportful has also added a zipped pocket on the right-hand side too, perfect for valuables like keys or loose change.
Although the design is simple and stylish and efforts have been made to make the Giara jersey a comfortable one, there are just two things that could be improved here. The stretchy black fabric and looser cut across the middle does cause some issues when climbing out of the saddle. With pockets laden, the weight of tools, snacks and extra layers pulls on this stretchy, loose fit area, causing your stowed items to bounce up and down across the back. Secondly, the taped coral stripe can be a little restrictive across the upper back, as seen with this same material on the shorts.
The Giara jacket, although very thin on the first inspection, provides great shelter from the wind. It’s loose fitting without being too flappy, and gives good coverage much like the jersey, extending well down over the hips. Cuffs and the waist hem are lightly elasticated to keep the worst of drafts out and hold the jacket in place, without pinching or causing any restriction to movement.
The full-length plastic zip is easy to operate whilst riding, as this clothing item comes in particularly useful for the changing seasons or weathers. The lightweight jacket rolls up to be very compact and fit in a jersey pocket, on hand for whenever you need it again. A single large, zippered pocket across the lower back is perfect for stowing larger items, like an extra layer or more substantial snacks!
In keeping with the Giara theme, the jacket is a solid black, all in the same ‘Protec Stretch’ material with the exception of breathable mesh panels for the underarms and pocket lining. Don’t despair about visibility at night though, with the reflective coral stripe across the chest, left arm and upper back as in the jersey and small reflective tabs on the lower back too making sure you stand out.
As part of the collection, this jacket is a valuable additional layer for changeable conditions, but if the weather really takes a turn for the worse you’ll need to think about an outer shell that’s more substantial. With only light water and wind resistance, choose the Giara jersey when the forecast is good, and supplement with your favourite waterproof jacket when rain is on the cards.
I’m so impressed with these ‘over-shorts’ from Sportful that we’ve been almost inseparable since they arrived at my door. Unheard of for a road cycling collection, they’re more akin to ‘baggies’ that you’ll find in every mountain biker’s wardrobe, but with a few key differences. These looser fitting shorts, worn over padded lycra shorts or just on their own for casual wear seem to be becoming more popular, especially with long distance cyclists or when touring on road bikes.
One of the best parts about these over-shorts is the fit and stretch. The polyamide/elastane construction gives generous stretch across all directions and teamed with the loose fit around the thighs down to just above the knee, they are supremely comfortable and don’t restrict movement, whether you’re in the saddle or not. This fabric is also treated with durable water repellent (DWR), helping to keep the worst of the elements and road muck from ruining your ride.
The waistband is well constructed, complete with belt loops if you’d like to add a belt, and internal elasticated pulls secured with velcro allow you to adjust the fit to suit your shape. The shorts are fastened with a sturdy popper and zip which makes changing really easy. On the rear of the shorts, a mesh panel across the lower back aids ventilation and works very well to keep you cool and feeling fresh.
The second fantastic feature on these shorts are the pockets. With a generous pocket on either side of the front, lined with a strong but lightweight breathable mesh, there’s plenty of space for your phone, keys, purse or snacks, so you can pop out in just a t-shirt without jersey pockets if need be. On longer rides, they simply give more choice on how you arrange your kit. On the left-hand side, again denoted by the signature coral stripe, a zipped pocket is perfect for credit cards, cash or other valuable items - a really useful idea from Sportful here.
Despite being baggy, these shorts give a flattering cut and the dark grey colour compliments the rest of the kit well. Again we see the silver Sportful logo, printed on the rear left hip. The only criticism I can find is that the inner velcro tabs that secure the waistband can sometimes irritate the skin; a problem that is soon solved by employing a lightweight base layer or tucking in a t-shirt. I look forward to a summer in these shorts, putting their long-term durability to the test.
If being matchy matchy is your bag, then you’ll be pleased to hear that Sportful has also designed coordinated gloves and a cap to complete the range. Fingerless gloves are well padded across the palm with foam inserts for all-day comfort over varied terrain and feature grippy silicone areas too. There are also handy tabs between two of the fingers to help you remove the gloves easily.
The matching cap from Sportful is rather different. Unlike traditional cotton caps, it is made of a lightweight mesh constructed from polyester and reinforced with a plastic peak insert, with the intention of providing shelter from the sun and light rain without compromising on breathability. You can barely notice it is there, being so thin, giving the perfect solution for those of us that would usually have to ditch the cap when it gets too hot. The fit was a little generous on my small head, but once under a helmet, it wasn’t a problem at all.
The whole Sportful Giara collection would set you back £350 for all the items reviewed above.
There are some areas of true brilliance in this collection, yet also some places where I feel let down. I would love to see a set of bib shorts in the collection, and the use of the coral band in a material that doesn’t stretch is disappointing, leading to an unsightly bulge in the shorts and a slight restriction across the shoulders in the jersey. However, I am convinced that the over-shorts are a stroke of genius!
The men’s collection is available in two different colourways, this grey and black combination with a lime green stripe or a blue combination. It’s a shame that there isn’t a choice in the women’s range, especially as the colour pink seems to divide opinion so much.
Overall, I’m pleased to see Sportful pioneering a range of cycling clothing aimed not at the racer, but for the cyclist with an adventurous spirit. The Giara collection copes well with a diverse range of terrain and conditions and also features a subtle design which can be dressed down to easily blend in at the coffee stops or for casual rides. However, I’ve yet to be convinced that the quality of this kit justifies the price tag.
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