North Americans (at least me) may not think of Spain as being a fashion leader, so I was surprised to hear that Paco Rodrigo, one owner of Etxe-Ondo cycling gear from Spain, used to work for fashion giant Christian Dior. At least that explained why the winter kit I received looked so good… so “stylish”.
What’s In Logo: I had to ask what’s up with the logo – and was informed it’s actually a “Hake” – a hay bale commonly seen throughout the Basque area… See – you learn something new everyday.
Started back in 1977, the company’s track record in Europe is much longer than here, and thanks to their new US distributor, Orbea USA, we’re getting access to another top brand of internationally known and respected cycling kit. The company’s main focus is cycling kit, which somehow adds a touch more credibility, and they make their gear in-house at their own factory in Spain – which definitely adds to the credibility.
The name, when translated into English, means “next to the house”, and although some things get lost in translation, the quality of the gear I tested did not. Overall, the fit is good – snug and form fitting like racer-cut gear should be.
Stitching is used as a design element so the pieces look distinct, and it’s easy to see the quality of the stitches.
Don’t laugh – how’d you like all your rides to end with a 3 degree sloped, 15 foot climb on paving stones up your driveway? At least the clothes look good.
ABARASKA Jacket – MSRP US$220.00
This is a great jacket for cool Fall or Spring days, and can take you deeper into winter by adding warmer layers underneath. I found it performed best in temps between 45-55 degrees F, and fit tight enough that pulling a rain jacket over top was no problem. The side panels and cuffs are the same stretchy material that holds things in place while allowing lots of movement.
The big back pocket is easy to access thanks to a chunky zipper. It even works with gloved hands.
Fuzzy on the inside, WindStopper on the outside. The collar is tall, but didn’t interfere with my helmet strap.
• The most surprising feature of the jacket was the water-repellency of the WindStopper fabric. It rained pretty much solid here for two weeks in November (even more than our norm), and 3 of my last 4 rides were full-on soak-fests. During one strong downpour – we’re talking cats & dogs – I was amazed to see the huge water drops literally bouncing off the fabric. After about 10-15 minutes of this nonsense I pulled on a rain cape, but the jacket had not soaked through.
I’ve now washed the jacket 4 times, and noticed no change to the water-repelling qualities, which is good as they’re not applied to the fabric after waeving, but qualities inherent to the weave of the fabric.
OM VEST – MSRP US$170.00
The OM WindStopper Vest is another cool item that will get a lot of use in Fall and Spring. The material weight is slightly lighter than the jacket, and is suitable for wearing under the jacket on really cold days, or over a long jersey, or with arm-warmers – you choose!
• Inside the Windstopper vest is more warm fuzzy stuff that not only feels warm- but looks warm.
MARKE BIB Tights – MSRP US$170.00
My secret life as a Burt Reynolds wannabe. Sure I’m naked – under those MARKE Bib tights (as far as you know…).
The full bib tights were a welcome addition here as the weather tuned cold immediately on their arrival. They’re made from Thermolite fabric, which holds heat, insulates against wind and cold, and dries quickly. It’s fuzzy on the inside, while the outer skin offers up good protection from the elements.
The fit was good for me too – but definitely a Euro-cut, so larger guys may want to size up. I also liked the lower cut front, which makes for good access once you’re riding, and the fat stitching looks cool too.
The “GOLDEN” CHAMOIS
Etxeondo makes their own chamois, that at first glance looks pretty unassuming, and in fact my first couple of rides on it weren’t that comfy. But now it’s a different story… After a quick break in and a good wash (you should do this anyway with all new kit), they’ve been performing great. And so they should, given this is their top-line chamois (used by their pro teams), ‘hand-made’ in their factory with 4 layers that slide against each other, and not you – so chaffing is minimized.
LONG GLOVES – MSRP US$80.00
You know times are good when your gloves get thinner, but your hands stay warmer. So it’s high-fives all around for the Etxe-Ondo Windstopper Gloves, which feature the ubiquitous large Velcro cuff closure, and the grippy palms and forefingers so your fingers stick to brake levers even carbon on the coldest day.
SCALER Windstopper Booties – MSRP US$70.00
The Booties were also amazingly warm considering how thin the material feels. The WindStopper shield really keeps the wind out – I rode for 2 hours in about 8 degrees C (48F), with only a midweight wool sock. My feet only started cooling off after 90 minutes. The ankle cover could be an inch taller, as I found some separation between the bottom of the tights and the top of the booties. Construction is good – with no bare threads, split seams or noticeable wear after 4 rides.
I’ve been liking this gear for my November rides, although I suspect December in the Lower Mainland (and North West US) will be too cool for the jacket and booties. After several rides (8-10), and as many washes, everything has performed well. The styling is pretty cool, and fit for me has been perfect. The quality looks good as everything has proven durable so far – no pulled seams or broken stitches.
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