Road Cycling Clothing

Rivelo Women’s Winter Cycling Clothing Reviewed

We sent multiple National Champion Maryka Sennema out to put this British designed kit to the test

Words and pictures: Maryka Sennema 

For the third winter in a row, I have been fortunate enough to have lots of weekday hours available for riding my  bike.  Forgoing the dark evening chaingangs and turbo sessions, I’ve chosen to ride lots of daytime miles in all weather. Great news for my base fitness and mental health, bad news for my winter kit!  It takes a beating with so much use on gritty wet roads and variable weather, and the fact that my tiny bike doesn’t fit mudguards well doesn’t help.

So when I was asked to review British-based Rivelo’s jackets and bibtights, I looked forward to the chance to put some quality winter kit through the paces.  The company itself comes across as proud to be British (notice the names of the garments) and understated in an elegant kind of way.  They are in the business of just getting on with making good solid kit, the kind of company that’s happy to let quality manufacturing and word of mouth do the talking for them, without resorting to gaudy designs or branding.

The clothing is listed on the Rivelo website at fairly premium prices, but when you click to ‘buy’ you’re taken through to the Sport Pursuit website, where prices are much lower – but you do have to sign in via email or Facebook to view the range or make a purchase.

Rivelo Monsal Tights

£130 RRP, £59.99 at Sport Pursuit

First up, the bibtights.  These are pretty standard at first glance, black roubaix-type material with zippered cuffs and bib.  There’s some tasteful branding (no screaming logos or letters) on the legs in reflective print plus reflective zippers. But the details are noticeable:  a gusset at the zippered ankle to keep the wind out; a soft mesh chest area for breathability and comfort, zipper garage at the top; with sewn-flat soft labels so there are no scratchy tags.

I took an XS and they were pleasantly snug and stretchy without being too tight, and the length was good even for my short legs.  The bib area was particularly snug and comfy, meaning nobody but me knew that I was opting for my preferred baselayer-sans-bra winter routine (sports bras seem to get more damp and annoying in winter than any other time!)  The mesh at the front of the bib means less overheating from the core and better moisture transport.

The legs and seat are treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating and in fairness it’s not supposed to withstand an absolute deluge (which I had the pleasure of riding in for 2 hours once) but I was surprised to see how well they held up to heavy road spray and showers.  Certainly my legs never got wet enough to get cold, even in the deluge – and as the Monsal tights aren’t windproof, I would have felt that cold if they’d been sopping.

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The pad is comfy and the material moved well with me. My only criticism is that I like my winter tights to have thicker material at the knees, so when the temperature dropped down below 5 degrees I had to layer some thin merino kneewarmers underneath.

Rivelo Coldharbour Softshell Jacket

RRP £215, £99 from Sport Pursuit

My quest for the perfect softshell jacket to suit my needs – long rides in cold and sometimes wet weather, occasional efforts but mostly low intensity and on flat roads (read: windchill) – seems to be neverending.

Past windproof (and not waterproof) winter jackets have made me overheat with the slightest bit of effort (despite breathable panels on the side and under the arms) and I hate that feeling of being hot in the body but cold in the hands/feet so much that I’d resorted to several baselayers, winter gilets and windproof armwarmers in recent years to better regulate my core temperature which isn’t ideal.

I’d pre-empted that the Coldharbour would not perform the way I wanted, as it’s windproof/waterproof material all over with only small venting holes at the armpits rather than zips, but again I was pleasantly surprised.  Wearing it in everything from dry just-below-zero to wet low double digits, I never once came close to overheating, despite that full windproofing.  If anything, I found it a bit chilly once it got down below 5 degrees, but that’s easily solved by another or a thicker baselayer, and in my case, a set of thin armwarmers between baselayer and jacket. Above 5 degrees and a single long-sleeved winter baselayer sufficed.

The fact that the heat can find its way out of the jacket when you’re working hard is the big selling point.

The water and windproofing definitely affects the breathability a bit, as I never came home with my baselayer bone-dry even after an easy effort, but the fact that the heat can find its way out of the jacket when you’re working hard is the big selling point.

The cut of the Coldharbour is “performance” but my XS fit fine even with the extra layer underneath. The arms were slightly long but not noticeable once on the bike.  Again, the attention to detail is noticeable:  zipper pulls chunky enough to grab with heavy winter gloves on (unlike another rather large and very popular Italian company’s winter jackets); the reflective pixel panel on the middle rear pocket; the waterproof front zip with zip garage at the neck; the subtle reflective logos and branding; the bonded label on the inside rather than loose tags.

The middle rear pocket is a lot bigger than the other two and easier to reach into, so best used for stuff you’d want whilst on the bike, like food or a map.  The left and right rear pockets hold stuff like a wallet, pump, cafe lock and other less-needed stuff securely.  The front zipped pocket is ideal for quick-access important stuff like keys or a phone.

I had one major problem with the Coldharbour and that was the cuffs at the wrists.  They are very tight, keeping the drafts out, but the double-layer makes the jacket hard to get on and off easily.  I struggled to get my arms out of it without turning the whole thing inside out.  And if you’ve got liner gloves to go underneath the cuffs, you pretty much need to put them on before you put the jacket on, and then put the outer set of gloves on over the cuffs.  Once I got used to this order of operations, it was fine, but I would have liked to see some kind of gusset or zip at the cuffs to ease the on-and-off, especially when dealing with the faff of winter gloves.

The only other thing that would be nice is to see more colours in the range:  black/red or black/black would not be my first choice for a winter jacket in dull conditions or limited daylight, though at least black doesn’t suffer the road-grime-permanency that brighter colours get.

Rivelo Larkstone High Performance Rain Jacket

£130 or £59.99 at Sport Pursuit

Having tried a fair few rain jackets in my time, there’s always been one constant:  the better they KEEP moisture out, the worse they LET moisture out.  For me, that means heavy rain comes with an agonising decision on the bike: leave the rain jacket off, get soaked but stay fairly comfortable; or put the rain jacket on and resign myself to sweating so much that I’m nearly as soaked as I might have been without it!

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So I was keen to try something that promised both waterproofing and breathability without the weight and bulk of a traditional Gore-Tex type material. I went out with this jacket in my pocket on a day when I was late getting home from a Boxhill ride, running out of time and energy, and the heavens opened.  My fatigue made it an easy decision to stop and pop the jacket on and even when the skies cleared I kept it on, never once having felt overheated.

Like the Coldharbour jacket, the Larkstone is a performance cut, where an XS is snug but not overly tight on me.  Like the Coldharbour, it also suffers from those tight wrist cuffs which in addition to the very stretchy material makes it even harder to get on and off in a hurry.  Again, I would have liked to have seen a gussetted velcro or zipped cuff opening to accommodate this.

Once on though, it’s comfortable and moves with you on the bike, catches very little wind and looks great too – that navy blue and red combination is a real winner.  A single rear pocket is deep enough to hold gloves or glasses or phone without worrying about losing them and a dropped rear hem helps keep the spray off your shorts/bibs on wet roads.  It also just falls into packable size, fitting into a small jersey pocket if you roll it tightly enough.  Little touches include an extra zipped pocket on the front, vents at the back and small reflective squares for visibility.  This is one that will get more use as spring comes and I’m riding in normal kit on milder (and often wetter) days, and I’m keen to see how it stacks up when those rides include harder efforts in pouring rain.

You can see the Rivelo range here.

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