17 August 2009

bikefix Initial Review: Colomba Peace Race jersey

When I saw a photo of new British brand Colomba's Peace Race jersey this spring, I was smitten. The color and retro classic style, like skinny frame tubes and metal toe clips, evoked the beautiful grainy black and white suffering that, in my mind, was cold war road racing. My smitten-ness was tempered, however, by my less-than-ideal experience with wool jerseys. Made of SmartWool (which is just over 1/2 wool) fabric, the Peace Race unapologetically recalls the light blue leaders' jersey from the 1974 Peace Race- "the Tour de Frace of the East[ern Bloc]." I was swept up by the romance of it all and when Chris from Colomba offered to send one out for us to test, I excitedly replied with my address and size.

When the Peace Race arrived late this spring, I was impressed. Made of a tightly knit 52% Merino wool / 48% polyester blend, the Peace Race is an impressive piece of sewing. Made in Vietnam, quite possibly by the same people who make clothing for hip outdoorsters Nau, each and every one of the Peace Race's stripes are separate strips of fabric, the printed logo a very cool flock (fuzzy) printing and the sleeve dove logos embroidered. The back pockets are nice and deep and the short front zip has a nicely done garage to stop it scratching the rider's chin. There is a water-resistant nylon-lined valuables pocket at the rear with the world's coolest zipper pull. I didn't even know that they still made pulls like that, or like the elastic used at the back hem. Despite all of the little features and pieces of fabric used, there was hardly a stray thread to be found- a very good sign.

The fit of the medium jersey, while slim, is hardly snug on my 6', 145lb frame. The sleeves are on the long side, "for extra comfort on the bike and casual look off the bike," and the hem is generously low in the back. Thin to average riders who are between sizes should certainly size down. My first ride in the Colomba was a 60-miler with friends, with a 65 degree start and 80-ish degree finish. Honestly, I was worried that I might re-live my past wool experiences with saggy pockets, cold descents and hot climbs. With a few caveats, I have to say that the Peace Race handily exceeded my expectations, not just for wool, but for jerseys in general.

Not having washed the jersey beforehand, my first ride in the Peace Race was a bit itchy, though far from unbearable. The jersey felt great for an early morning roll-out along the Rio Grande and attracted more than its fair share of glances from the fairer sex. Climbing from the wooded valley out of the city and on to a sunny mesa, the Smartwool fabric warmed quickly but surprisingly seemed to equilibrate and, while warm, never get uncomfortably hot. The front zipper, which stops an inch or so shy of the upper red band, would have been nice were had it been that much longer, but ventilation was adequate (other Colomba jerseys look to have longer front zippers). In the midday sun, the jersey worked just fine- not the coolest I've ridden, but certainly no worse than heavier synthetics.

As much as I love the look and construction of the Peace Race, I've noticed a few opportunities for improvement. While I might be able to go down a size, smaller arm opening would be more flattering to most spindly-armed cyclists, and the hem could do with having an inch or two removed (I haven't mistakenly tossed mine in the dryer- yet). As cool as the separate pieces of fabric are for each the red and cream stripes, they make for quite a few seams in the nipular region. Riders with sensitive teats will no doubt find the boys angry by the end of a few hours' riding. Similarly, I sometimes noticed itching from the seams in the upper back (especially with the pockets loaded with a day's provisions). Wearing bibs, the irritation was greatly reduced, but its worth noting for those who prefer shorts. Colomba might do well (and save a bit of work) by printing the red (or better still dark orange) stripes at the same time and in the same manner as the text.

Since I recieved mine, the British Pound has tanked and subsequently recovered relative to the Dollar. Even with a strong Pound, the Peace Race sells for a reasonable $97 (GBP59) plus shipping- a good $20-50 less than competition from Endura, Rapha, and Swobo. Given that it's the best-made wool jersey I've seen (though not having seen Rapha's in the flesh), this makes the Peace Race (and it's GBP55 stablemates) the best value wool jersey I've come across.

In rides since my first, things have only gotten better. The fabric seems to have broken in somewhat, especially around the sleeve embroidery, and has gotten softer all around. Despite several washings, it hasn't shrunk one bit (though I wouldn't have minded if it had slightly). I can't help but think that the Colomba would be at its best during fall's cooler days and (where appropriate) low-lying fog. With a chunk of placek and some cigarettes in a rear pocket. Maybe that's just me being romantic. As local temperatures have bounced along in the mid-90s, the Peace Race has spent more time on the hanger than the bike. Every time I see it there in the closet, though, I have one more reason to look forward to fall... More then.

marc

www.colomba.cc

3 comments:

Slate said...

You ought to see a Rapha jersey in the flesh. When you do, you'll note the many direct ways they took liberties with details from Rapha. Let me send you a jersey. Send me your info- Slate (slate@rapha.cc)

Anonymous said...

I've got both jerseys - a rapha classic and a columba. Why pay twice the money for the same product and as to design cues! There's nothing new in Rapha's designs that hasn't been done somewhere else before. What they do wonderfully well is the Armani effect....

Both excellent products but us punters always feel that more money is better and in this case it is not....and also Rapha's material has a lower merino content and is thus cheaper.

bikefix said...

Anon,

Thanks for your comments... We still haven't had a chance a chance to compare the two makes ourselves. That aside, I was very happy to have the Peace Race along for several hours of cool fall riding yesterday. This is it's season to shine. Look for a full review later in the fall.

marc