Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Santini kit review: Italian dash in Essex

Santini. The very name oozes Italian style. It says panache, it says speed, it conjures images of a little Italian rider named Pepe, or maybe Francesco, dancing his way up a dolomite on a vintage Colnago or Pinarello.

And since Santini was founded back in 1965, it would be fair to say that plenty of little Italian riders, maybe not necessarily named Pepe, have indeed conquered mountains wearing Santini.

This is a brand with a heritage which others would give their eye teeth for. Santini jerseys were on the back of Bernard Hinault when he became world champion in 1980, Marco Pantani when he won the Giro in 1998 and Cadel Evans when he took the world championship in 2009. And we haven’t even scratched the surface. 

Santini is such an integral part of cycling that it has been a partner of the Giro d’Italia since 1993 and has been the official supplier and sponsor of cycling clothing to the UCI since 1994. 

It’s surprising the brand hasn’t made more use of these facts, worn them on their sleeve, so to speak. But rather than shout it from the rooftops, Santini has taken the rather more refined, Italian approach and let the clothing and its pedigree speak for itself.

All this history mattered not one jot to me on a minus-one degree morning at the beginning of April. All I could think was that this time last year we were basking in a heatwave.

By some miracle, given the time of year and the promotion of the new spring-summer collections, the kit was sent autumn-winter kit to review - a fact that did not escape me as I sailed past the frosted car roofs at the beginning of a four-hour ride. I will be forever thankful. 

My outfit consisted of a fleece-lined long sleeved jersey in bright blue, a windproof gilet, fleece-lined bib shorts, a Polartec beanie, oversocks and socks. I wore the lot, as well as a long-sleeved base layer and an additional pair of thick wool socks. I was that cold. 

And as I coasted out I remember thinking that it obviously doesn’t get as cold in Italy as it does here. There was a bit of cold penetration through the beanie and the three-quarter length bibs would have left me with frozen shins if it wasn’t for the wool socks. But I wasn’t as cold as I thought I would be, especially seeing as I was only wearing a gilet to keep the wind out.

The thing with cycling is that it doesn’t take very long to get warmed up. The first ten minutes are going to be teeth clenching even with an arctic parka on when you’re doing 20-odd mph in the open air. It’s the bit after that which sets decent gear apart from the rest. You need to reach a temperature and maintain it. If you get too warm you need to start de-layering and then you’re looking for places to stash the unwanted kit, unless you happen to have a team car trailing you. Then you stop for a couple of minutes and the layers go back on. It can be a nightmare.

Santini, as you might expect, utilises wicking fabrics and other similar features to make sure your discomfort is restricted to the lactic in your legs and does not extend to your gear. The fleece lining of the jersey was as cosy as it was comfy, and even at three-quarter length, the bib shorts also offered a decent degree of snugness, especially where it mattered the most. The padding was also mercifully generous.

But as we all know, comfort might be an overriding factor, but style and looks play an increasingly important role when choosing cycing kit, particularly when it has the kind of fit of your average Spiderman outfit. There were no worries there. Santini is as Italian in style as it is in name. The jersey was reassuringly fitted, and the bib shorts were cut for riding, so there was no material dangling like a sack in front of me. A chin guard would have been good on the jersey's zipper and maybe one or two additional valuables pockets would have been handy, but overall it felt good. I felt like I should be doing a dolomite rather than tackling the Essex lanes. 

I guess there are some things even heritage can’t recreate. 

Windproof gilet

Bib shorts, jersey, gilet

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