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Tech review - March 2, 2004
Campagnolo Metal Series Winter Wear
Campagnolo has always been known for its top-notch components, but what about clothing? This winter, Cyclingnews' Chris Henry had the opportunity to put Campagnolo's Metal Series garb to the test, with four items up for evaluation: the C200 winter jacket, C201 long sleeve jersey, C202 bib tights, and C203 winter gloves.
Metal Light Txn X-S Waterproof Jacket
Pure and simple, this is a warm jacket. The first few times I tried this jacket on the bike, I found myself overdressed, but pleasantly surprised at just how well the jacket kept out the chill. On colder days when the temperature hovered around freezing, the combination of a long sleeve polypro base layer, Campy's long sleeve jersey, and the jacket was quite effective. Although the number of base layers can always vary, this jacket is perhaps best suited for when the temperature drops to around freezing.
The neutral silver/grey metallic colour is also a plus. Not every piece of cycling gear needs to scream at you with some obnoxious colour combination, so it's nice to see Campagnolo can extend its sense of style to the clothing line. That being said, to wear the gloves, tights and jersey as an ensemble means to risk fading into the grey winter sky. Individually, however, the items look cool.
The C200 Metal light Txn jacket gets its warmth from the combination of a reasonably breathable outer shell made of Textran, which is fully waterproof and a great wind-stopper too. The removable lining, made with Campagnolo's X-Static silver fabric, is soft and warm and thin enough to keep the jacket from feeling like a puffy winter coat. The main front zipper also has a good wind flat behind it to keep out the chill, and at the neck this flap keeps the zipper from touching your skin.
The jacket features a unique silicon gripper around the waist that does exactly what it's supposed to do, keeping the bottom of the jacket in place. A large central pocket in the back is closed by zipper, covered by a flap and reflective piping, also featured on the sleeves. The back pocket is big and roomy, but perhaps a bit too big. The mesh pocket lining, when holding any sort of accessories, sags a bit too much in the back of the jacket, somewhat compromising the nice snug fit.
Metal X-S Wool Long Sleeve Jersey
Campagnolo's long sleeve C201 jersey is made from Merino wool, with X-Static fabric on the side panels and the insides of the sleeves to release just the right amount of heat. The jersey has a half-length zipper and slightly heavier, fuzzier material at the neck to help keep out the chill. Two rear pockets provide plenty of room to carry a spare tube, food, etc., and on the left side, a third zippered pocket features a waterproof lining.
I found the jersey to be quite comfortable, and the fit was almost perfect. As with the jacket, my one complaint is that any weight in the back pockets does cause the jersey to sag a bit too much. Nowhere else did it feel too big or baggy, except at the back pockets. Otherwise, as a base layer or on its own on a chilly spring/fall ride, the jersey is a nice addition to the wardrobe. After repeated trips through the washing machine (but air-dried), it has not lost any of the softness of the Merino wool.
Metal Light Txn XS Bib Pant
For me, of the four items tested, the tights were the weak link. There is no question they are maintain the same quality and technical advantage of the gloves, jersey and gloves, but I never came to like them, as I did the other pieces.
The main aspect of the tights which I did not like was the removable padded insert. For me, it simply didn't feel comfortable. The pad itself is not the problem, but more the undershorts, which snap into the tights. They felt too short, with a waist band situated rather low on the hips. Perhaps part of this is an adjustment required when you're used to wearing bib shorts, or bib tights with their own pad and no insert, but it was an odd combination of the insert feeling too small while the rest of the bib felt normal. I think the tights would function better with an integrated pad, although Campagnolo does make a number of other bib tights with conventional pads.
However, since the insert is removable, wearing normal shorts under the tights works just fine and for me is a more comfortable alternative. With this change made, the tights lived up to the rest of the ensemble. They were warm and blocked the wind nicely, again without being too heavy. The ankle zippers help for easier on and off, and the quality of construction is excellent.
A design note: the front of the bib extends fairly high, i.e., almost to the bottom of the rib cage. A thin zipper in the front would be useful, because without it, stops to heed the call of nature on a long ride are... well, tricky.
Aside from the insert, the final remaining nagging point I have with the tights is the thick stitching around the knees. Part cosmetic and part structural, the large seams situated right at the knee caps create just enough friction to be noticeable, and therefore a little annoying throughout the ride. The styling is interesting, with the two seams moving from the hip down to the inside of the thigh by the knee, but the horizontal seams across the knees could be better placed either higher or lower.
Metal Thermo Txn Waterproof Glove
The final components, the Metal Txn gloves, are excellent. They are very warm and yet not too bulky. For someone like me, whose fingers and toes are very susceptible to the cold, the importance of a warm winter glove is paramount. The only gloves which I've found to be warmer than Campy's Metal Txn are the 'lobster' style two-finger gloves, which offer a solution for warmth but at the expense of some dexterity. Campy's gloves are windproof and waterproof, up to a reasonable point. Steady rain will start to soak through eventually, but a light drizzle or snowfall won't get past the outer shell. My riding climate here in France is not typically too cold, but the gloves and clothing have been tested on plenty of days with the mercury hovering just around freezing, and the results were good.
Like most of Campagnolo's clothing items, the gloves are cut small, meaning that my typically 'medium' hands fit nicely in a size large glove. Obviously hands differ, but I did find in my experience that the index fingers on each glove could stand to be just a bit longer, as the tips of my index fingers would often press against the end of the glove, something which quickly becomes uncomfortable, particularly in cold weather. This was thankfully not noticeable all the time, but it did just enough to prompt a little discomfort on occasion.
The grey/silver colour is once again a nice neutral look, and the materials used are durable. The entire palm area is reinforced, with a thin but effective pad to absorb shock on the outside of the hand, opposite the thumb. Riding in an urban environment means frequent brushes of tires to clear off bits of broken glass, and the gloves are holding up nicely to the abrasive friction on either the palm or fingertips.
Finally, the gloves extend just far enough past the wrist to overlap a jacket sleeve, creating that nice winter seal between hands and arms. The velcro wrist closure is not terribly important, as the gloves fit nicely over a sleeve without letting air in, and I am able to remove and replace the gloves without bothering to under/refasten the velcro at the wrist.
All in all, very high marks for Campagnolo's foray into winter clothing. This is a domain where function is much more important than style, but Campy's sleek silver colour scheme still provides a simple but stylish alternative to the colour-overload of most cycling clothing. Personally I might opt for tights that feature more black than grey, but otherwise the ensemble looks great and keeps out the cold.
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