As more women’s cycle clothing enters the market, the stories behind the brands and what they represent are just as important to many riders as the price and fit of the garmets. Vanderkitten is a brand that excels in this way. Its history, values and the role models it cultivates make riders wearing their kit feel like part of a welcoming, worldwide community.
Vanderkitten was born in 2005, out of a desire to bridge the gap between participation at a club level and racing, or to “empower everyday women to do extraordinary things”. The playful graphics combine the fun side of cycling with an ethos that sees female riders as a part of a confident, capable collective.
The recreational clothing line has been evolved alongside a professional women’s road team. This offers a platform for encouraging messages about giving riding a go, stories about the different challenges riding offers and how these are supported by a balanced life off the bike as well.
The bright designs are playful, instantly recognisable and are refreshing in the way that they don’t take themselves too seriously
Vanderkitten also celebrates the interdisciplinarity of the ways many women engage in the sport. The 2014 range, most of which is manufactured by Pactimo, covers to road racing, triathlon, cross-country, gravity enduro, cyclocross and running.
The brand has also worked on improving connections between the brand's USA home and riders in Australia and New Zealand. The clothing was previously available to Australian and New Zealand residents via international shipping, but can now be bought through local distributiors. It's a timely development, as the 2014 race team features three Oceaniac riders: Kate Chilcott, Sophie Williamson and Miranda Griffiths. Australian up-and-comer – and winner of the Amy Gillett Cycling Scholarship – Lizzie Williams, joined the team for a short stint earlier this year too.
Tegan Cox, managing director of Roxcycl, the Australian and New Zealand distributor for Vanderkitten and the more boutique Velocio said: “We wanted to bring a selection of Vanderkitten products into Australia because it’s such great looking kit, great performing kit and the values of the brand are about providing a pathway to bring women together with a sense of community.”
Cox explained that the distinctive kit tends to be an icebreaker out on the road or at events. The bright designs provide a way for women to connect over a shared enjoyment of the sport and to ask questions of more experienced riders.
“It’s a different sort of community. It’s not trying to be Rapha, it’s not trying to be Assos,” said Cox. “It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s colourful, it has that youthful element, it’s playful, it’s really visible on the road and everyone remembers it.
“If you wear the kit and someone else wears the kit you are part of that community. It’s always good to have a friendly face and that’s part of what it provides.”
Vanderkitten is cool for cats…
Rather than reinvent the wheel when it comes to design templates for the kit, Vanderkitten have a history of collaborating with established manufacturers.
“You leverage strength,” said Cox. “There is no point in us trying to do everything and be everything when there are other people out there who do it really, really well.”
The Colorado-based Pactimo women’s line is practical and functional without going overboard on expensive fabric technology or extra bells and whistles. This keeps the kit affordable and allows Vanderkitten to make a diverse range of products bearing its distinctive and colourful designs.
We’ve had the chance to test some summer and winter cycling basics. Our first impressions are below.
Pactimo Vanderkitten Disco women’s cycling jersey
£N/A / US$139 / AU$155
Available in two colours, Ice (white) or Nite (black), the Disco jersey is a road team replica, minus all the sponsor logos. The fit is slim enough to race in, but relaxed enough to that it won’t reveal every curve of your figure.
The jersey has three pockets, and is made from simple materials
The material is soft and breathable without going down the road of carbon infused fabric technologies or compression sleeves that slide out of place when you give your best victory salute at the top of a climb.
Pactimo Vanderkitten Electro women’s cycling shorts
£N/A / US$129 / AU$145
The Electro cycling shorts offer a flattering fit using proven fabrics. The Elastic Interface chamois is the same one found in Rapha’s popular bib shorts. This makes them comfortable on all-day rides, but at less than two-thirds of the price of the Rapha option.
Leg grippers on the shorts apply just enough pressure to do to the job
We found the sublimation printing became a bit see-through when stretched. We recommend women who are at the high end of a given size consider the more advanced construction of the Pactimo Vanderkitten Disco Women’s bib shorts instead (which retail for US$159 / AU$179).
Pactimo Vanderkitten Electro women’s cycling vest
£N/A / US$119 / AU$135
The vest is designed to complement the range of short-sleeve jerseys on offer. The fit is appropriately snug to reduce flapping in the wind and there are three pockets on the rear to hold food or your phone. The vest should be great for transition-season weather.
The vest features three rear pockets and some reflective strips for safety at night
It's constructed with wind-blocking material on the front, and a breathable mesh on the back. This stops riders from overheating on the bike, or freezing due to damp sweat once you've stopped at the café. Again, its price is less than what we’d expect to pay for a vest with these features.
Pactimo Vanderkitten Electro women’s cycling jacket
£N/A / US$179 / AU$159
In terms of fabric and construction, the Electro cycling jacket is essentially the same as the vest, but with sleeves. This is also reflected in the price, which is once again less than we’d expect to pay for a wind-blocking winter jacket.
The wrists of the jacket were wider than we would have liked
The fit is noticeably looser than the vest, in order to allow for additional layers underneath and will hold more appeal for ladies who don’t want to be strutting around in tight, huggy attire. We wore this garment with a long-sleeve merino thermal underneath, and were comfortable in temperatures as low as 4ºC.
Overall, we were impressed with the fit and function of the Pactimo range and we are pleased to see a solid collection of quality products at this price point. While testing, we were genuinely surprised by the number of people who stopped and asked us about the brand or commented on the appeal of the designs.
Vanderkitten is more than just another clothing line. The values that underpin its development have made us feel really proud of our femininity and active lifestyle. In addition to a selection of items for a healthy range of cycling disciplines, the range also includes to casual gear and a limited men’s line. Australia and New Zealand residents should head to www.vkanz.cc and US or international readers to www.vanderkitten.com to see the full range and pricing.