Swedish cycle clothing company Craft have a relatively low profile – in the UK at least – but in 2011 you'll see some big names sporting their kit, including riders from the Schleck brothers' Luxembourg Cycling Project. Here's a quick look at some of their key items for winter and spring.
1 Elite Attack jersey and shorts
Developed with Team Saxo Bank and due out in spring 2011, the Elite Attack jersey is designed for hot and humid conditions. From arm's length the Mesh Superlight fabric looks like there's nothing to it, but closer up you can see that the myriad perforations are actually covered with a fine mesh.
The aim is to deliver superior ventilation and sweat wicking. Despite its super-lightweight construction, the Elite Attack has all the features you'd expect of a high-end jersey, including silicone gripper on the bottom hem, a full front zip, four rear pockets (including one with a zip) and reflective detailing. RRP is £85.
The matching Elite Attack shorts look like they can be worn in a wider range of conditions and boast plenty of top-end features. The size-specific chamois is seamless and features variable density padding, with gel inserts at key pressure points. The bib straps are welded rather than stitched for improved comfort, and two types of polyester are used on the legs – a thicker, more durable inside layer and a thinner, wicking outer. Available now, they cost £110.
2 Winter jackets
In many parts of the world, it's far from jersey and shorts weather at the moment. Craft offer a full range of winter gear, including some toasty looking tights, arm and leg warmers, neoprene overshoes and toe covers. It's the winter jackets that caught our eye, though.
The Elite Winter Jacket uses Ventair on its front and shoulders – a fabric that's claimed to offer similar performance to Gore Windstopper, in terms of wind beating and breathability, while retaining more flexibility. It's water-resistant rather than fully waterproof but should be more than enough for most conditions. It's 'body mapped' for improved durability in the areas where it's needed most, like the sleeves. RRP is £110.
If you're after an ultra-packable waterproof coat, Craft have a Performance Rain Jacket due out in February. Made of VentAir fabric, it'll have fully taped seams, with the same Mesh Superlight fabric found on the Attack Elite jersey on the neck and under the arms. RRP is £85.
In the meantime, the Elite Wind Jacket is water resistant and folds down pretty small. Venting is particularly good, unlike many wind- and waterproofs, thanks to a series of flaps on the back, so sweat build-up should be less of a problem. As with the Winter Jacket, it's available in a high-visibility 'amino' colourway. RRP is £90.
Depending on your preference, Craft have everything from super-thin summer gloves (Control, £15) to warmer (Storm, £35) and water-resistant (Siberian, £35) winter ones, and even 'lobster claw' style mittens with separate inner gloves for extreme conditions (Thermal Split Finger, £30).
4 Base layers & underwear
Craft are perhaps best known for their base layers. There are three levels – Cool, for warm conditions, Zero, for cooler temperatures, and Warm, for cold weather use. Options include: crew, round or zipped necks; long or short sleeves; men's or women's cuts; and a range of colours.
The company also offer many of their base layer fabrics in boxer short, 3/4-length knicker and full-length 'long John' versions. Pictured below is the Warm Pro (£45 LS/£40 SS), which was developed for cross-country skiers, with thicker panels on the chest and kidneys to keep vital organs warm.
For cycling use, the Zero Extreme looks particularly useful – 'Extreme' standing for extreme exertion rather than extreme cold. "Hexa-channelled" inner fibres are used to wick sweat from the wearer's skin, while hollow outer fibres transport moisture to the next layer of clothing. Features include pre-shaped arms and a seamless torso. RRP is £28/£30 (long/short sleeves). A version with Gore Windstopper panels is also available.
For 2011 Craft are bringing out a bike-specific sports bra (£30), which will also be available in a Gore Windstopper fronted version (£35). Most sports bras are designed for running, where there's a lot more sideways upper body movement than in cycling. Craft's cycling bra will have thinner, longer straps and some horizontal stretch. Mesh Superlight fabric on the back will help keep the wearer cool and dry.
5 Mountain bike shorts
In a bit of a departure from their normal kit, Craft are developing a baggy mountain bike short for 2011. Due out in time for spring, the Loose Fit Short is made from stretch fabric and features Velcro waist tabs and zipped leg vents. It comes with a detachable liner for a bargain £50.
The pre-production sample shown here has a few issues that need to be ironed out – chunky zips on the pockets cause the legs to hang a bit oddly, and when loaded the mesh pocket lining hangs out the bottom of the leg – but overall the shorts look promising.
For more information about Craft clothing, visit www.craft.se.