I was lucky enough recently to get my hands on one of Cafe du Cycliste’s lovely looking technical merino jerseys; the understated French styling very much appeals to me, and I have to say I couldn’t wait to give it a try, but I did have one nagging doubt…
(Click image to see more…)
Café du Cycliste are very much a French company, who produce kit with a very French flavour, and make great play of the fact (and why wouldn’t you) that the sun-kissed tarmac of the Cote d’Azur is their playground; how was all this going to translate to my playground here in the north of England?
Well…we’ll come to that.
Violette Jersey by Cafe du Cycliste – €125
First impressions when my Violette jersey popped through the letterbox were of quality; the jersey is a merino wool/polyester mix, with that feel of comfort and softness on the skin that you expect from quality merino, but it’s the detail that really impressed me: the gingham pattern on the inside of the collar, the quality of the seams and stitching, the sewn logo (discrete and tucked away), the faded blue collar and cuffs – to my taste the Violette is a lovely thing.
The simplicity of navy blue with white zips and detailing looks great, and I found it a flattering cut too, curving in nicely around the mid-section but without being skin-tight.
Size wise I’m generally a large, give or take the Italian brands, and I found the Violette to be a good fit; the sleeves are on the short side, but that’s a design feature rather than any sizing issue, and a matter of personal taste.
So it looks great, but how did it perform out on the road?
My first ride out was a rolling 40 miles under sunny skies and a temperature of around 17 degrees C – not the scorching summer sun of the Maritime Alps, but not bad – and with a light base layer underneath it performed well.
The real test came a few days later when I managed a Sunday afternoon café ride where the temperature barely scraped 14 degrees Celcius – which seems to pass for a summers’ day here in the north of England in 2015 – and the Violette proved it’s versatility.
I was determined to ride in short sleeves, and initially regretted this as the chilly breeze bit. However, presumably due to the merino element, once I’d warmed up it did a great job of trapping my body heat, and paired with a base layer I was acceptably warm.
So, were my doubts realised?
Does the Violette look out of place under the often leaden skies of Lancashire?
Did I stick out like a sore French thumb on the lanes of northern England?
Well, it looks as good against grey skies as it does against blue, it can repel a chilly breeze…
And at the mid-ride café? Was I imagining the admiring glances it drew from my fellow cyclists as we tucked into our coffee and cake?
I’d like to think not.
In summary, I have difficulty finding fault with the Violette.
It’s not one for the racing snakes looking for an aero fit (and it doesn’t pretend to be), and if the look and feel of merino is not your thing then you’ll be looking elsewhere. I’ll also be interested to see how well the rear pockets retain their spring and avoid the dreaded sag when stuffed with essentials, but so far so good; the overall quality of this kit suggests it’ll last well.
As a stylish (rather than racy) and versatile mid-weight jersey, and as a talking point in the mid-ride café, it does the job beautifully.