I have been fortunate in being able to take an advance look at Aldi’s 2014 winter cycling clothing range for review which is in the shops from 25th September. For cyclists already “in the know” Aldi’s cycle clothing is regarded as being pretty good gear at a thrifty price. Here I am looking at just some of their range. Overall I’m pretty impressed and here’s why:
Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey
This one is my favourite so far and has some thoughtful touches all over the jersey. The black front panel is made from a kind of bonded fabric, giving a little extra protection from cold winds and yet it is still breathable. There are three back pockets, side by side, and these are plenty big enough for the things cyclists are likely to carry in pockets: spare tube, phone, a little food, waterproof top etc. These pockets are open, for easy access, although sometimes it’s nice to have one zipped pocket for those things you can’t afford to loose.
It seems to stretch in all the right places and the fit is pretty good. By that I mean the sleeves are nice and long, so your arms are covered when you’re reaching forward to the handlebars. Likewise the back is extra long, meaning your backside is still covered when you’re leaning forward. I did find, however, this would “ride up” around my waist after a while, even though there is a anti-slip hem. To be fair to Aldi, this is partly because I was wearing some smooth Lycra shorts and so it is more difficult for the anti-slip hem to grip onto it. Also if I had a slightly “fuller” figure this wouldn’t be a problem but I must emphasise the overall length is generous and exactly right.
I really liked the colour ways a lot and thought these were really smart. The white and yellow-green went really well with the black.
Merino wool base layer
You can see in the above photo, I’m also wearing the Merino wool base layer. This is really good although it is fair to say I haven’t worn it in chilly conditions as yet but according to my experience with the Merino wool, it will perform well. I think these should be an essential part of any year-round cyclist, runner or general outdoorsy type for keeping your body temperature well regulated – neither too hot or too cold. Not so good if you are a vegan (and arguably this is a fair point).
The fit is cycle specific, snug, skin tight as it is meant to be but still nice and stretchy so you won’t even know you’re wearing it. These tops come into their own when used as part of a layering system approach – when you have several layers of thin, close fitting clothing all working together by trapping in air while helping sweat to be wicked away from your skin. The nice things about Merino wool is that it doesn’t seem to accumulate that certain ‘whiff’ which many synthetic fabrics do. These are going to be sold at £15.99 which I reckon is a real bargain (plus I really like the mid grey colour).
Pro cycling jacket
Next up is the Aldi Pro men’s performance cycling jacket. The box says it is black / green, with a panel on the box showing a dark green colour which I can’t see anywhere on the jacket. There is some attractive piping but otherwise it is black, any colour you like providing it’s black.
Black might well be a fashionable colour but I question whether it is right for a cycling jacket, especially one deigned for the winter. Having said that, there are some nice reflective patches on the arms, front and a reflective strip on the rear facing pocket. I tried these out in the dark and they are very good indeed. The zip seems appears to be higher quality in use which is great and there is a zip “garage” feature too.
Storage is catered for with three pockets across the back and these are the usual kind of size and sufficient for most things you are likely to carry in them. Very helpfully there is a zipped pocket and I like this for things such as my iPhone and keys, the things you simply don’t want to lose.
The overall fit is good for me, as you can see in the photo. I like the close-fitting stretchy feel to this jacket as well as the extra long sleeves and the elongated tail over my backside which is a positive feature.
Thoughtful touches continue in the choice of materials. Like the jersey above, the fabric type varies according to what it needs to do and where it is needed. The front panel is a little thicker to keep some warmth in and this is reassuring as long descents make this necessary in the colder parts of the year. By contrast the side panels and the smaller back panel are less insulating and will allow for better ventilation. Seems to work alright although I am still undecided on the “3d Air Structure” description (sounds a little American to me) but it still works fine.
In use this jacket performs well in my opinion.
My overall view
Aldi have done well once again with their range. While the range isn’t huge, it is wider than what is reviewed here. I will be reviewing the performance cycling trousers very soon (although I have tried them on and cycled a little in them, it is probably not sufficient do review them properly and I want to compare them with last year’s).
If I had one criticism it would be about the sizes. I am an average size man (BMI 22) and use the smallest size – which is medium. There are larger sizes but none smaller (unless you have the women’s range) and this would seem to be tricky for cyclists who are fortunate to be slimmer than myself. Having said that, Aldi buyers aren’t stupid, surely they must have looked at how many different sized garments they sell, surely?
An interesting way of signalling the worth of the Aldi range is simply to see how many other cyclists who use Aldi gear – and some of the biggest Aldi fans I know are those that ride expensive bikes. By this I mean cyclists who happily spend £1000, £2000 or more on a bicycle but still use Aldi cycling gear. That says a lot.
Last year I drew some comparisons about people buying food in different supermarkets and attitudes towards this. You might like to check this out and learn why I too remain a convert to Aldi’s cycling clothing.