Café du Cycliste was born out of a cafe in the hills near the Côte d’Azur, southern France, and today you’ll find the clubhouse HQ in the Baie des Anges, Nice. Its apparel design is not only technically driven, engineered with the performance-seeking road cyclist in mind, but is also beautifully styled and typically employs a range of materials from mesh to Merino along with a muted colour palette.
The kit was tested for its specific purpose; on road rides only, ranging from shorter club rides of around 20 miles to full days in the saddle. Early summer riding inevitably involved everything from hot sunshine climbs to torrential rain! I opted for size medium, being 5ft 5in tall and a UK high street 12 (US 8).
Odile bib shorts
Designed as a women’s specific version of the previously popular men’s bib shorts, Odile is Café du Cycliste’s answer to the essential of any cyclist’s wardrobe; the LBB (little black bibshort).
The upper half extends beyond simple braces, with the combination of ventilated stretch fabrics covering the upper body also functioning as a baselayer; ideal for moisture wicking in warmer weather.
Cafe du Cycliste has opted for a baselayer style top with a front closure Katherine Moore / Immediate Media Co
With minimal styling details, the Odile is a versatile pair of shorts that you can choose to wear any jersey with, no matter how loud.
The leg sections are composed of a black nylon/elastane mix with good stretch, constructed with three panels each side that give a great fit relative to the sizing chosen.
At the leg hem, an inch-wide elasticated band with inner silicone grippers acts to keep the shorts well positioned and stop any movement while in the saddle without being restrictive. Printed in a gloss black, the Café du Cycliste branding down the right leg is very subtle indeed.
Although the pencil-thin reflective strips that are sewn into each rear leg seam are a thoughtful touch — to aid visibility in low light — it’s unlikely you’ll be depending on them in such a situation.
The Odile bib shorts are comfortable and perform well Katherine Moore / Immediate Media Co
Let’s examine the most important aspect, the pad.
Café du Cycliste uses a chamois engineered by Italian supplier Elastic Interface, also used by Assos, Rapha, dhb and Giro to name just a few. Specifically shaped for women, the pad is sculpted to deliver thicker, higher density padding where you need it, and cuts away where you don’t, such as the central relief channel towards the back of the pad.
The chamois is also fully elastic, so that it can remain flexible rather than constrictive while riding. The result is a chamois that remains comfortable even after hours in the saddle on longer endurance rides, as well as shorter, more pacey sessions.
The all-important chamois pad Katherine Moore / Immediate Media Co
There seems to be a trend in women’s bibs for an incorporated baselayer, which is also seen in Café du Cycliste’s Ginette bibs, featuring more of a tank top upper.
Two different fabrics yield the body of the bibs; both thin white elasticated mesh, with the back and lower side panel giving a little less stretch than the shoulders and front.
Thin black elastic covers off the seams, with a bikini-esque buckle on the chest to bring the two sides together. This buckle didn’t cause any irritation, and the elasticated upper was well fitting and contoured without compressing or restricting movement.
However, for vanity’s sake I’d like to see the seam in a white elastic, as this black edge shows very visibly through lighter coloured jerseys, such as the Georgette.
The Odile performed incredibly well even after many hours of riding, with no discomfort or restriction. Washed as per the instructions at 30 degrees, they hold their shape and colour as new.
Unlike some other brands, Café du Cycliste hasn’t opted for any easy-access contraptions for when you need to take a nature break, and with fewer layers to battle with in the summer perhaps this isn’t such an issue.
Teamed up with the Breton blue merino socks, the Georgette jersey and quirky sardine cycling cap, there’s no mistaking that this kit is French! Attention to technical detail even in these accessories shows the dedication of the brand to performance, straight out of the luxury packaging — although these are matched by a significant price tag, but I feel that the quality and design warrants this premium.
I’d happily shell out £150 for the Odile bibs as I’m a firm believer in investing in top quality cycling shorts, especially if they are as versatile as these in all black. Finding the perfect pair that delivers supreme comfort and fit isn’t easy, but I think Café du Cycliste has done a pretty good job here.
Café du Cycliste has certainly caught my attention with its high quality and uniquely designed apparel, and this collection is certainly worth checking out if you’re looking for top performance kit in some alternative materials that’s not afraid to stray from normal convention.
Complete the Frech chic with a pair of striped socks and a cap emblazoned with sardines Katherine Moore / Immediate Media Co
Prices, sizes and availability
Café du Cycliste ships internationally, and international pricing will be based on the exchange rate at the time of the transaction. Prices included below are for guidance only.
All products are available now from the Café du Cycliste website