04 March 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Louis Garneau Alveo short

Being of Quebecois descent, I really want to like Louis Garneau. With factories in Northeast Vermont and just over the boarder in Quebec (the part that looks like a cold Francophone Ohio), the company makes a huge range of cycling apparel, from kids' helmets to shoes pro-level tri gear. Unfortunately, much of it has had a slight oddness about it. Maybe it's Louis' irrational love of dog spot prints, but I've been scared of LG gear for a while. About 20 months ago, shopping for shorts, I heard good things about Garneau's high-end ($130) Alveo shorts and decided to give them a go. I'm glad that I did.

While there seems to be a fair amount of chamois-sharing among clothing companies, I've never seen any quite like Garneau's ErgoZone. As is common, the pad is a multi-thickness anti-microbial piece that runs from 10mm thick under the sit bones down to 3mm on the inside of the thighs. It is pre-contoured in a way that fits my body very well and makes it near impossible to photograph well (you really don't want to see my old chamois anyways). Most interestingly, it is perforated throughout, making it look a bit like an upholstered couch. The fabric of the short itself is stretchy and ripstop-looking (Garneau claim abraison resistance), ten panels of which are patched together very nicely with slightly contrasting charcoal flatlock seams. There is an odd little pocket on the top of the right leg that would be quite nice if it were big enough to hold a Gu packet, license or small phone. As it's not (Garneau claim that it's for money or keys), I only notice it long enough to wish it were a tad bigger and then forget it again.

A year and a half on, these are some of my favorite shorts. The cut is just fantastic. My size medium pair fit well and almost never require hitching up or the use of the included drawstring. The pad is comfortable for all-day rides and I never had any chafing, even on long road rides. Despite feeling a bit heavy, the fabric wicks well and the shorts weren't any warmer on hot days than any others. While I can't swear to it (it's been a long time since it was that hot) the perforated pad may have helped to prevent dampness down there, which is always appreciated. The cut is supportive- noticeably more so than Pearl Izumi's, but not restrictive, which should help to reduce leg fatigue.

After hundreds and hundreds of miles (if not hours) in the saddle, the only thing that is starting to wear a bit is the leg grippers, are starting to loose their exposed elastic. Heck, even the screened-on reflective logos are still doing their job admirably (see the photos). Looking closely now, the stitching that holds the pad in place has started to come undone, but there is still plenty of thread keeping it anchored for the time being. The legs could be a shade longer (maybe 1/4-1/2in), but I've owned far worse. Since buying these, I've made the mistake of getting adventurous with my short purchases and straying from what I know works well for me. Ultimately, though, if I had a shorts basket full of Alveos, I'd be more than happy. Fabrique au Canada.

For Summer 2008, there will be a $140 Alveo 2. I know it's just a name, but couldn't they have come up with a better name for their chamois fabric than "Crabyon?" In any case, it's a visibly different pad, so I can't speak to it's comfort, alleged ability to enhance "the body's immunity to disease" or "slow and steady release of chamois lotion" but am certainly curious...

marc

louisgarneau.com

3 comments:

The Bikeworks Crew said...

I'd like to add a word of caution in regards to these shorts;
I have two pairs, I liked the first ones that much. But the second pair I bought, though seemingly identical, fit completely different that the first pair. They are much smaller, and never stretched out the way I hoped they would. The first pair gets ridden quite regularly though.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I have the exact same problem as the person in the last comment. First pair - amazing fit, while the second pair (purchased at a close-out sale) feels like it is a size to small. Both are medium. Unfortunately, I cannot return the second pair because I have worn them and they are just too uncomfortable to wear. Did LG change manufacturers or something?

bikefix said...

I don't know what happened there- I believe that Garneay do most (if not all) of their own manufacturing, so something must have changed. You guys' comments have unfortunately put me off buying another pair... mb