Winter kit that makes you feel like the absolute business is winter kit that will get you out on the bike, even when it's miserable outside - and Zappi's women's set didn't fail to tick that box for me.
The brand say they speak in a "language [that] comes straight from the heart of Italian road racing heritage". Unfortunately, that does bring with it a bit of a boys-first mentality, and the women's range currently consists of just one pair of bib shorts, one long bib set, and a long and short sleeved jersey each. This said, the kit that is there really impressed with its fit, style and performance.
Zappi Women's Classico Long Sleeve Jersey
Designed in Britain, and manufactured in Italy, this jersey is a winter option with a brushed lining that makes it perfect for wearing on its own on cold to mild days, but could be layered with a windproof or waterproof in the depths of winter.
Zappi have affectionally added in some lovely little details which set this jersey apart - silky smooth cuffs printed with the stripes of the Italian flag, a wide silicone gripper along the bottom to keep the jersey in place and a reflective logo roundel at the right rear pocket (next to the zipped valuables compartment).
On the left rear pocket, stitched in black, is the phrase: "passione senza contratto" - which according to Google Translate means "passion without contract". Read that as you will - we decided to take it to mean we could be passionate about cycling, but didn't have to be contracted to completing every long ride we had planned... (we're not sure the guys at Zappi will agree!)
All these details certainly add up to a high end garment that makes us feel it warrants the £105 price tag. But how does the jersey perform?
Made from a mixture of polyester and elastane (85 per cent to 15 per cent) you know you're getting the quick drying, wicking capabilities of polyester and the added stretch of its partner. Designed for 'club rides and racing' I tested this on outings when I knew there would be efforts and hills - and I certainly felt it was breathable enough to work hard in and didn't collect sweat. On a slower jaunt, you might want another layer handy up until around February, unless you're quite a warm blooded bod.
The added elastane certainly does provide plenty of stretch, hugging to form as it should to prevent cold air filling up the fabric and creating an aerodynamic, race centered garment. I was a bit unsure initially if I should have sized up to cater for an Italian fit, but the sizing appears to be closer to a British estimation. The Small fitted my 8-10 frame well, I expect due to the fact the range goes right down to XXS and up to XL.
Both garments have printed labels sewn into them - something most of the cycling clothing industry seems to be moving away from as of late. This makes them a bit behind the times - but to be honest I wasn't in any way aware of the labels, and they didn't chafe or itch.
Zappi Women's Bib Longs
Continuing in the theme of classic Italian styling, the bib longs (also £105) provide simple performance, with a few aesthetic details: a jazzy 'Zappi' logo on each quad, an Italian flag print on the left leg and another reflective roundel on the right.
Made from a nylon and elastane mix, these bibs are definitely a winter pair for cold weather riding. The inside is fleece backed, providing breathability enough for cold days, but you probably wouldn't want to go climbing in them outside of winter.
The stretchy fabric snaps to fit your legs exactly as it should and the tight knit is designed to keep out wind and road spray - sure enough when riding on days when the tarmac was still wet from the morning's abuse I was kept warm and dry in the lower body department.
This more simplistic approach does reduce the awkwardness of trying to find the correct body size for various different women with individual proportions. Generally I'm a big fan of a bib-with-body when it's done right, but this really will come down to personal preference and many women will like the 'Y' shape.
I did find that on me, the Small bib longs had quite short straps - I felt I could have done with a little extra length when walking around. However, when on the bike I wasn't aware of any resulting discomfort which is the most important thing.
The straps are made from the same fleece lined fabric as the rest of the bib - unlike some designs which provide a meshed fabric to aid breathability - but considering the thin width of the fabric this isn't going to cause any overheating unless you've found yourself in the wrong gear for the conditions.
The pad on these is a fairly dense, with targeted thickness for 'maximum protection'. This makes it ideal for longer endurance rides rides, but thicker than I might choose to go for when aiming for a quick 90 minute higher intensity ride. It's also yellow - I'm not sure I've ever worn a yellow chamois before - but it did make the bibs easy to spot amongst my collection.
All in all, the women's winter kit from Zappi really impressed me. The classic Italian style looked and felt great, and I was confident riding hard in wintery conditions in both garments, though I'd advise an extra layer on the top half on slower rides or mid-winter trips. The attention to detail is impeccable, without being overcrowded - I only hope the women's collection will grow in the months and years to come!
Both garments are available in XXS - XL, and are priced at £105. Check out the range here.