Friday, May 11, 2018

Another Hunt for Cycling Jerseys: Finding Sassy Cyclist

As a consumer, I have noticed that sometimes as a population we can ask for product(s) and then not follow up with support of businesses that try to address the issue by making items to fulfill our requests. Granted, some organizations attach to something because they think they can make an inferior product and turn a profit, but when companies (large or small) are making a good product, I think it's important to buy from them so that they can continue to grow and expand their offerings.

Over the winter, not only was I clearing out bicycles, but I also went on a cycling-clothing clean out. What I discovered is that most of what I own, I don't like to wear. I have a couple of older Ibex wool jerseys that still make their rounds into rotation (R.I.P. Ibex - I miss you! Though there's word on the street that you'll perhaps be making a comeback), and a couple of Terry jerseys that I also like to wear, but beyond that, I have a LOT of jerseys that simply don't fit right. The arms are too tight, the hip area is too snug, the jerseys roll at the hem, the chest and hips are too tight or ill-fitting in some manner, the material is scratchy and/or uncomfortable in some way, and on I could go with the ails in regard to various tops.

The thing is, I start to feel like some sort of oddity when I can't find cycling clothing that fits properly. Generally, I can find jerseys that "fit" but they don't really fit the way I would like them to. Why does everything have to be so tight? It's not just the tightness (I realize cycling gear shouldn't be flapping in the wind), but the inability to move the way I would like. Why are so many jerseys so short? I'm not even a tall person, so I can't begin imagine what taller ladies must go through. Why is every jersey made for a woman with slim arms and/or no hips? We're not all professional racers, bike-clothing companies. It's very frustrating, and I'm sure others find similar frustrations with lack of petite and tall sizes, or other needs.

So, when I went on a hunt this winter to find some new options, by mere happenstance I came across a company called Sassy Cyclist. The website stated that they carry ladies sizes XS through 2XL, which isn't entirely unheard of for a cycling clothing company, but what I did find unusual is that the jerseys are made to fit based on normal blouse sizes, not some weird, created size chart for the cycling world. Hallelujah!! I thought, but of course, I was still skeptical because I've seen these statements before, and then when I order there's a completely different experience.
*Image from sassycyclist.com
Still, I was feeling experimental and decided to go ahead and order a long sleeve jersey. We'd been riding on some pretty cold days and I thought that with some extra layers, if the sizing was as indicated, the jerseys I was seeing might be a good option. Typically, I wear an XL in tops, but can sometimes need a little larger (especially for my arms, and in the case of a jersey, my hips), and because I wanted to layer, I decided to go with the 2XL.

The jersey arrived very quickly - even quicker than I believe was indicated in the confirmation email. The product is made in Baltimore, Maryland and I'm in Boulder County, Colorado, so waiting just a couple of days for the arrival of the new jersey seemed very swift, but was welcomed because, as stated above, I have not been happy with most of jerseys crammed into my cycling drawer.
"In Pursuit of Peonies" from Sassy Cyclist
When it arrived, Sam said he wasn't fond of the print. Conversley, it was actually one of the things I loved about it - different, quirky, and not something I see everywhere. But, when I donned the jersey on our tandem ride he changed his mind. "I actually like it when I see it on you and on the bike," he stated, "So, maybe I've changed my mind." Good thing, since he's the one staring at my back for the entirety of the ride.

The real question/concern for me though was how it would fit and function while riding. So, we took it out for a test spin of about 30 miles (48km) to see how it would fair.

When initially putting on the jersey, I was surprised at how much stretch/give the fabric has. It's not that it's too thin or sloppy, nor is it too tight, but there is a lot of room for movement. I have thick arms both from lots of upper body work and from carrying extra meat around on my body, so cycling jerseys can be a complete disaster - both for my psyche and for my body. The fabric, however, seemed to allow complete freedom of movement, so I was excited to try it out on the bike.

The first day we rode, it was pretty cold out so I had two layers of wool under the jersey. It felt like an appropriate level of warmth for the day, and yet I didn't overheat while riding either. I should say, the interior of the jersey is lined with a very soft, brushed fabric too.  I'm not typically a fan of polyester fabric on my skin, but with the brushed fabric, it actually feels quite nice. In cool weather, the jersey works fine on its own without the extra layer(s), but for cold weather, I definitely felt as though I needed the extra pieces to stay warm enough. But, it was never claimed that this jersey was intended to keep me warm in cold temperatures, so I wasn't surprised by the need to layer.

The jersey was always comfortable while riding and it was one of the few occasions when I haven't constantly been fiddling with my jersey. Although the jersey did ride up a bit on me, I think it has more to do with 1) the layers I was wearing under it, 2) the fact that I am very lower body heavy and I've yet to find a jersey that doesn't ride up at some point due to movement on a bike, and 3) My cycling tights don't seem to be able to keep any jersey in place because of the fabric used to make them.
The collar on this jersey is particularly comfortable to me, both keeping the cold and/or sun off my body, but not causing me to choke either.
One of the best things about this jersey (in my humble opinion, of course) is the lack of elastic at the hem line. I have a lot of trouble with jerseys that have elastic or some other thick band at the waist/hip area, so discovering that this was not one of those jerseys was very exciting.  I can also appreciate the details such as the reflective strip down the back of the jersey to provide a little bit more visibility on roads, the roomy rear pockets, and a collar that doesn't choke me while riding. Personally, I prefer a full-zip jersey, but the somewhere between a 1/2 and 3/4 zip has been perfectly adequate.

Despite some riding up of the jersey, I was pretty impressed overall with it and its performance during the ride. The more I wore this jersey, the more I found myself reaching for it because it was just that comfortable to wear.  So, of course as the seasons started to change, I thought it would be nice to try out a short sleeved or sleeveless option from Sassy Cyclist.

When I went to investigate availability, there were a few new prints in stock, but I noticed not all the sizes were offered. I sent a quick email off to inquire as to whether they'd be available in the near future and was told that the new prints wouldn't be offered in the largest size because they weren't selling.

After a short conversation via email, Becky, the owner of the company, stated that she just cannot seem to figure out how to reach the cyclists who need the 2XL size (though she did share that XL is her most commonly sold size).

So, I implore you, if you're reading this and you cycle (or kayak, hike, walk dogs, etc and can use this sort of jersey) or know someone who would use larger sizes, go and take a look at the offerings available and contact Becky to let her know if you'd like to see other sizes in her future stock. She was lovely to chat with and is open to the idea of selling larger sizes, but she also can't sit on stock because she is running a small company that's just getting its footing. Which is completely understandable. The company can also ship to Canada and the UK, so those of you reading in those locations shouldn't feel left out if you find a jersey you love (though keep in mind the size chart is in inches so that you don't end up with the wrong size).
My two selections in two sizes to try out on the bike.
I decided to move forward with an order and chose a jersey in both the XL and 2XL sizes so that I could compare to see how different the two would actually be on my body. I ordered the jerseys on a Wednesday and they arrived on Friday of that week. I'm still impressed with the ability to ship so quickly! Now, I just had to wait for some warmer days to test out the sleeveless options. Fortunately, that wouldn't take long.

When trying the two sizes on back to back, I have to admit that I didn't notice a whole lot of difference between the XL and the 2XL. The XL fit better through the chest and waist, but of course, I have my hips to contend with so I think the biggest difference in fit for me personally is this area. Since I didn't think I could live without the print in the XL size, I decided to keep them both and try out both options as a test to see if one rode up more than the other or if there were other bits I noticed between the two different sizes while the garment was in use.

I have several sleeveless jerseys and one of the nice things about the Sassy Cyclist options are that they actually cover everything that I want covered. Meaning, the arm holes aren't gaping and huge and the edge of the "sleeve" comes right to the bend in my shoulder. The body of the jersey fit identically to the long sleeved version that I already owned, so there were no surprises there either. That same brushed, soft fabric also lines the interior of the sleeveless jersey too - something I honestly didn't expect to find.

My first test was with the 2XL size on a 40 mile (64km) out-and-back ride with about 2200 feet (670m) of climbing all during the first half of the ride. I was incredibly whiny on this ride, but I think having a rotten attitude can be a good litmus for cycling clothing. If I'm already cranky, that typically means I'm unhappy in my gear too, but thankfully, that was not the case with the jersey. It still rode up mildly, just like the long sleeve version, but again, I can't fault the garment as I know my proportions are not typical.

What I really love about these sleeveless jerseys is the fact that they have the full zipper. I realize it's not a huge thing most of the time, but it really does make me happy (and makes putting the jersey on a bit easier, especially if I'm layering underneath, I've found). The day I rode in this jersey the temperatures ranged from bordering on hot all the way down to almost cold during descents off the mountain, and I was comfortable throughout the ride (perhaps a little chilly -given that it is a sleeveless jersey - during the downhill portion).
Apologies for the bad photos... you all know how much I love [insert sarcastic eye roll] putting pictures of myself up... but, I think it's valuable to see the jersey on an actual body. This is the XL version, and while it looks as though it's constrictive, there's actually quite a bit of movement and stretch in the fabric and it's not fitting as grotesquely tight as it appears, if that's helpful. Additionally, although I didn't take photos, the 2XL fits similarly, except that there's just a smidge more give all over (and a bit of extra fabric around the waist area).
The next test took place wearing the XL size during a solo ride. That ride was about half the distance of the first test, so it's not the best comparison necessarily, but I found it strange that the smaller size actually seemed to stay in place a bit better than the larger one. Perhaps it was my imagination (I was wearing different shorts, so that may have played a role as well), or the fact that the distance wasn't as far and lacked the climbing, but I was comfortable and content wearing this jersey throughout my time in the saddle just as I'd been with the other two versions.

All in all, I've been pleased with the purchase of these jerseys. With the exception of the riding up, I haven't found a jersey that was as all around easy to wear and move in, and the features absolutely meet any of the needs I may have while riding.

So, what are the down sides, if any? Well, cost is always a factor. At a price of $95-110 (USD), these are definitely not the least expensive jerseys I've encountered or purchased; however, given that the product is made in the USA (not entirely common these days) and that the company is more of a boutique seller, I don't think the prices are necessarily out of the range to be expected. Still, it's a decent chunk of change to plunk down for a piece of cycling gear.  I only splurged because I had a bit of money earmarked for this purpose. I have learned over the years though that sometimes it's worth it to spend a little more and have fewer items than to spend less and have items I'm unhappy wearing. Your mileage may vary.

I should also note that during the winter there was a sale on some of the older styles, so this may be something to keep in mind for those looking to try without quite stretching to the current price point. As with any brand, at some point discounts usually occur to be able to clear out older items and bring in the new - though I obviously cannot guarantee that discounts with the company will take place in the future.

The only other down side for me personally was the shifting of the jersey over my hips. I frankly cannot (as stated earlier) fault the garment for this though as I have never owned a jersey that doesn't move up while I ride - the curse of being disproportionately meaty on my lower half. Even with the jersey riding up, I find myself choosing this jersey over others, which I believe speaks to the level of comfort provided.

As for the goals of Sassy Cyclist, Becky writes:
The whole aim is to make garments women, regardless of size, love to wear. The jerseys are very comfortable and in my mind, very fun, stylish and very different from the run of mill stuff! They're also great for many other non-cycling related activities, such as running, hiking, dog walking (baggies in the back pockets), tennis, golf. In terms of the future, I've got plenty of ideas for new products, particularly tailored to women, but I've got to grow slowly and not try to move too fast. Besides the actual bike riding, designing is my favorite part. 

So, again, if you are a rider who has interest in a new jersey that doesn't fit like a sausage casing and that has unique prints/patterns, this could be a fantastic company to buy from; and if you are a cyclist who wears sizes XL or larger, I would strongly encourage you to get in contact with Sassy Cyclist and ask Becky to continue to offer, and perhaps even expand, the larger sizes available. I am always one to encourage companies that do offer larger sizes, but a solitary voice does not bring about change.

4 comments:

  1. Those look very nice. I especially like that Lady Luck print. I agree with the need to support the businesses that make pieces that work for you. I’ve recently discovered Ruu-Muu dresses (made by Nuu-Muu) and have ordered several. The thing for me is that when I find a piece that works, I tend to order multiple versions of the same thing. I have five (count em...FIVE) black fitness dresses from L. L. Bean just because they fit so perfectly and work even in a professional setting (all year round too, just add tights and a cardigan in winter). I already have four of the Ruu-Muu dresses!

    It sounds ridiculous to have so many copies of the same, or essentially the same thing, but I tend to be really particular and have trouble finding things that fit and function just right. Usually as soon as I make up my mind that I like something, it goes out of production! Hence the tendency to order multiples!

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    1. Isn't it interesting that some of us tend to do that? When we find something we really like, we want to stock up! I have definitely done the same thing. I sometimes have a fear - well, fear is maybe a bit extreme, but you get the idea - that I won't be able to find it again in the future, so I want to know that I'll have it for a very long time. I have some LL Bean hiking pants that I wear all the time (honestly, I practically live in them when I'm not on a bike), and I stocked up on those bad boys when they had a sale too. :)

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  2. Thank you very much for the in-depth write up of your experience with my company. I'm thrilled that it was a positive one and that you like the jerseys! That's my goal. I appreciate your willingness to take a chance an untried, not inexpensive product, provide feedback, your understanding that small businesses try to please many different customers and stay above water, and lastly, for taking the time to write it up. Word of mouth exposure is critical to a small business like mine that doesn't readily come up in a Google search and doesn't have a budget for traditional advertising. Again, thanks. Based on the photos here on your blog, you have some beautiful spots (and bikes!) to ride. Enjoy! All the best- Becky

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    1. :) I tend to get wordy at times (maybe too wordy), Becky, but I really do love my jerseys and hope that you'll be able to continue to offer your product to those of us who are looking for something comfortable and a little different from the usual pieces found in many cycling shops or online. Many thanks to you!

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