“Padrone” – the Big Boss, (da Man) – a great term in modern culture evolved largely from the Italian family’s referral to the lone male figure who was (is) large and in charge, both respected and feared. Sounds like just the message you want to send on your next ride.
They’ve used compression fabrics throughout, some pretty cool styling cues, to make some very nice kit here.
In The Beginning
It was just about ten years ago – the same time as us here at PEZ – when Gary Vasconi and Rob Carbone traded in their jobs selling software systems to ‘Corporate America’ for a shot at doing something they really wanted… Both were long time cyclists, and smart (and ballsy) enough to see that chumping long hours for ‘da man’ was no way to get through life – and certainly no way to achieve anything to be remembered for.
So they launched Upland Sports Group, originally designed to import high end Italian cycling brands to the US market. It opened the door and got them on the dance floor that is the cycling biz, but that same drive to do it their way (and
reduce the risk that goes along with being an importer) eventually led to launching their own brand – Capo Cycling Apparel – which today takes up 100% of their time and efforts.
Their lines have shown a real and tangible evolution. And being simply a supplier of mid-level cycling kit is not where they want to be, as a closer look at their lines shows their innovative thinking in use of fabrics, creative designs, and even improving production by sourcing the best manufacturing – in whatever country that might be.
Much of their kit is made in Italy, or the US, but that has not stopped them from producing elsewhere if their quality standards can be met, and production costs kept reasonable.
The past year has seen the brand launch fully into the UK and Italian markets (Australia was ‘established’ a few years ago) – taking what is essentially an American brand, made in Italy, to global markets. Not many cycling apparel brands can claim that, let alone one that’s barely 10 years old.
Even with several years of solid growth under their belts, this is not time to stand still, and each year they reveal new and better designs. Enter the Padrone Kit – launched for Spring 2011 and representative of their most technically advanced line to date, is the proof of how far they’ve come, and why they’ve got here.
Padrone Jersey $199.00 – in white or black
From the second you zip up, you know this jersey is different. The Padrone line is intended for anyone from racers to guys who want to ride fast, and look good doing it. There’s a certain v-cut shape to the garment that winks to super heroes from the classic age.
Choose your dark side – or not, with either the black or black & white versions of the full-zip jersey. Like the bibs, it’s a race fit, unlike the bibs, the jersey comes with longer arms and slightly shorter body. I picked up a few compliments on just a short ride.
The jersey uses high compression materials and a form fitting cut throughout, with mesh carbon fabric under the arms for increased ventilation.
The high compression Wave fabric is used at the waist front (and armbands) which does a great job of keeping the jersey flat and snug across the front – unlike some jerseys that tend to bunch around the front when in the riding position. Since the Wave fabric does not breath, they’ve bonded a very thin mesh material to the inside surfaces that help heat escape.
Although I did not test the jersey in super hot temps, I rode it on several mid-70’s degree F days, and noticed no excess hot spots, or uncomfortable sweating. At first I did notice the snug fit across the tummy, but I soon forgot about that. The back of the waist uses an elasticized and silicone-edged gel gripper to hold the jersey in place.
Function and design are built in throughout, and easily noticeable in the back, where a lightweight high stretch compression panel runs down the back right to the waist (they call it Carbon E Fabric), to add some structure (again helps at pocket), while improving ventilation.
A nice job on the pockets: they’re pretty deep, and the high comp fabric works really well to hold cargo in place and prevent that dorky slide slippage of gear you see in pockets that are just too lightweight to be practical. The center pocket also holds a 4th water resistant zipped pocket – nice touch to keep a few small items dry – and it’s big enough to hold an iphone. On bike access to the pockets is good too, as I successfully dug out my iphone from the back left pocket – and answered the call in under 4 rings – and then put it back while continuing to ride.
That plastic lined pocket is perfect fro your on-ride electronics.
Padrone Bibshorts – $249.00
Like the jersey, the snug fit of the Padrone bibs is clearly noticeable – especially for me since our custom PEZ kit is Capo’s more traditional Corsa cut. The Padrone bibshort features a Power Lycra® high compression 8-panel design and seamless, low profile shoulder straps for an even more body hugging fit.
The overall look and fit is more race-driven that other designs, with longer then normal legs. The leg band is pretty aero too, as silicone gel grippers have been eliminated in favor of a wider and lower profile leg band. These leg bands are not breathable, so the issue of heat dissipation has been addressed by bonding a thin layer of nylon ‘V-Mesh’ to the inside, which provides some air transfer to keep things cooler. It seems to work, since I noticed no discernable overheating on a 5 hour ride in 30C degrees this summer.
The same treated material is also used for the shoulder straps. Both areas are lazer cut, which eliminates the need for sewn on seams and lowers the profile again. And a nice touch to be appreciated by the aero-conscious among us, but I really liked it because the added structure of the bonded mesh layer kept the shoulder straps flat on my shoulders – they didn’t ‘gutter’ on me – (fold over on themselves) – an issue I’ve seen on other low-profile straps.
The compression theme is carried on throughout the short, on both front and side panels. Although the 8-panel design shows different looking fabrics – the varied-directional lines of the WAVE fabric are mainly aesthetic, while the stretch and compression qualities remain constant through the short.
I wondered how hot I’d be wearing all-black shorts on a hot sunny day. Turns out Capo has the covered too, since the fabrics have been treated with something called “Cold Black”– a process that allows the body to react to the black color the same as if it was a lighter color.
The side and front panels are also anti-microbial, which helps eliminate the stuff that likes to grow in warm sweaty places, and can shorten the life of a garment, as well as being just pain gross.
The chamois is their Anatomic 4 density chamois – w/ carbon – Capo’s highest end for 2011, and one I’ve seen and liked before. Coverage on the Padrone bibs is excellent both front and back, thanks to a slightly larger ‘footprint’ of the chamois, which should make the walk from bike to espresso counter shameless for even the most self-conscious.
Torino Base Layers $49.99, $44.99
When I pulled on the tee shirt base layer, Mrs. Pez commented that it looked good enough to wear out for a night at the bar, club, etc. of course you can wear black almost anywhere, but the vertical ribbing of the fabric gives this base layer a much slicker look.
It comes in a sleeveless version as well, and both are made from a mid-weight polyester that wicks moisture away from the body. I tested mine on a 45 minute climb under the Padrone jersey and by the top, the jersey was pretty sweat soaked – evidence of that wicking. One thing of note – I did see some color transfer from geh base layer onto the white Padrone jersey, so I definitely recommend washing the base layers BEFORE your first wear.
Pursuit Wind Vest $79.99, white & black
This is the lightest vest I’ve ever seen that still keeps me warm – my size small weighs just 75 grams. It’s a wind proof and waterproof material on the front and back, with stretch panels on shoulders and sides to snug the fit.
I wore this recently climbing to the top of local Cypress Mountain, where it was just too cool at the top for a simple base layer & jersey combo. I pulled this on for the descent and warmed up instantly. It works on a simple principle – the lack of vents and non-breathable fabric just keep heat in. End of story.
The fit in my size small was snug and aero, and the wind stayed on the outside during my subsequent 70kph descent. The inside of the neck is lined with a soft poly material that feels good and adds a bit more warmth.
I wondered if the lack of vents might catch up the wind and turn me into a two-wheeled version of an over-cooked stayed-puffed marshmallow guy… But aside from a slight rippling just at the neck (and a high speed), the vest stayed snug like it should.
It’s great for summer, or warm days when you might need an extra layer, super easy to roll up and stuff into the jersey pocket. It rolls up so small in fact, that I had room in the same pocket for the rolled up arm warmers too.
MSR Pittards Gloves – $64.00, $54.99
At first glance I thought they were driving gloves. Then I pulled ‘em on… and I thought they could still be driving gloves. They’re sleek, comfortable, and look damn good – exactly what you’d expect of your local “Padrone”.
This May I pulled a Jens Voigt-style crash in a switchback and was damn glad I was gloved up, since the pavement saved the skin on my right hand (unlike that on my right knee, hip, and elbow).
Hand protection is likely low on the list of actual uses for most of you, but comfort, a place to wipe sweat and snot, and also to keep the hands warm on cool days are likely more popular reasons to invest in decent gloves.
Cheap gloves may accomplish some (or even all) of these things, but more than likely won’t fit quite right, stretch too soon, simply fall apart from poor craftsmanship, and / or fade after a few washes, … so, better made gloves might be worth it simply because you won’t be replacing them as often. Add in the simple fact that these just look damn cool and what else do you need?
The Wave compression fabric on the backs ensures a snug fit that didn’t shift, an the mesh holes across the knuckles add breathability.
The standout feature here is the Pittards’ leather in the palms and fingers. These aren’t the first cycling glove we’ve seen made with the famous branded leather from Britain, but they are one of the nicest. They look sleek, and mine fit snugly at first, and are mainly made of a combo of leather and Capo’s Wave compression fabric.
The leather is thin and supple – it easy to see why Pittards’ driving gloves are considered a luxury – they feel amazing against the skin, and it’s a smart choice for the palms where over time it should give and form to the curve of your grip, while remaining tacky enough to really add some grip to your … grip.
Everyone’s hands are shaped differently, and different brands’ gloves fit each of us a little differently, but these fit me pretty darn well. The Wave fabric used across the back holds the rest of the fabrics firmly in place. The palms are padded at key contact points to add to comfort, especially on longer rides, and the middle & baby fingers have small loops so you can pull ‘em off easier.
The long fingered gloves are ideal for transitional days in Spring or Fall, and really fit like a golf glove.
These do come with the snot/ sweat pad across the thumb back, but rather than go with a thicker terry-cloth style pad, Capo uses a lighter, thinner pad that may not as absorbent as some thicker pads, but definitely is the right choice for a glove that looks this good.
They go into the wash with no worries, and should last a good while if you look after ‘em (I wash my kit after each ride.)
Naturally as leather gloves, they’re not going to breathe as well as more technically specific fabrics can, but I’ve worn the short gloves on several rides around18C – 23C degrees (70-80F), and had no issues with over heating hands.
Trofeo 200 Olefin sock – $19.99 white & black
This sock is solid – and delivers pretty much everything you’d want in a sock for a lot of conditions.
The top of the foot is quite thin and well vented, so I expect hear transfer to be very good here. The foot bed is a mid-weight padding that wraps up just over the tips of the toes, which I liked because very thin-footed socks tend to accentuate my long withstanding left foot hotspot – but these I can ride for several hours with no probs.
Heat transfer is also helped by the noticeably vented weave around the ankle between the foot-top and ankle proper.
They’re offered in a couple of heights – the tall-boy at 12cm, there’s also a more traditional 4cm version. The cuff is essentially a double wall – which some guys will find warmer (perfect for mid-temp days), but also will NOT roll or slip down the ankle – so it keeps looking great all the way through the coffee portion of your ride.
Attivo 200 Arm warmer – $29.99, Colors: White & Black
These have taken over as my new ‘minimal man’ arm warmer – for those days you want to travel light, but might need some extra warmth. Perfect for a summertime ride in the mountains, where it’s a tad cooler at the top, and a lot cooler on the descent. Pack these and you’re laughin’. They fold or roll up small – not much bigger than a pair of socks. And maybe that’s because they’re made from the same material Capo uses in their socks. The design is woven in – and adds a small amount of structure and a bit more visual appeal.
The elbows are vented to aid in fit, and even some ventilation – ! The 3 inch cuffs are long enough to keep them from riding up, but the overall stretch of the fabric basically prevents them from moving anywhere once you have them on.
Since the fairly recent perfection of digital sublimation techniques, the dance floor in the cycling apparel world has become very crowded. Access to Asian production means choices a-plenty whether you want custom kit for your team or shop, or as a dealer who wants to stock some cool inline (and higher-profit) clothing to boost revenue. The problem is that much like the morning after a big steak dinner, most of the meal is at the bottom end.
But this bloating in the low-mid priced & quality category has also pushed more serious technical brands to continue to innovate, use new fabrics and distinguish themselves with uniquely styled gear that stands out, and performs better.
Capo is one of a just a few brands offering really technically advanced kit, and have muscled their way into a space alongside some much older brands who also have a much deeper pedigree (even if some lack the execution at the high end…). But being around for 50 years and having an ‘historic’ brand name doesn’t reserve a company exclusivity in the upper tiers of cycling apparel, and Capo is proof that the new guys can compete with, and often beat the old guard.
Check ‘em out on line, or visit your local dealer, and if he’s not stocking Capo, ask him why…
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