Like many cycling brands from Italy, the De Marchi clothing company is family run, and been around for long enough that you’ve likely used their stuff at some time, or at least kit they’ve made for another brand.
The Start of Something Good
In 1929, the company founder Emilio De Marchi was making cycling togs for his pals. His stuff was good, and soon he was making clothing for local cycling clubs in northern Italy. The business survived WWII, so in 1945, with jobs scarce as Italy began rebuilding, he officially started the De Marchi clothing company.
The Contour Racing Jersey and bib shorts feature some different design ideas and use of fabrics – and to mark the company’s official start in 1946, they’re making ‘only’ one thousand, nine hundred and forty six units. Follow the pics for a closer look…
The company grew considerably for years, building the business by making custom kit for teams, in fact 90% of their revenues in the early 1980’s were from team kits. The business grew even more in the 1990’s when major brand makers contracted De Marchi and their production expertise to produce lines for Adidas, Nike, Trek, Fisher, and Specialized.
Like a lot of Italian businesses it’s a family affair – but who better to do things your way than your own flesh and blood? De Marchi is in it’s 3rd generation of family management, and since most family businesses don’t make it past the second generation – it’s a real testimony to how the family does things. Emilio’s daughter Elda was a bike racer and basketball player back in the 50’s – obviously not your typical Italian girl – and she joined the business in the 1960’s. Today, Emilio’s grandson – that’s Elda’s son Mauro, is running the company.
The Contour Racing Jersey
The jersey is made of X-static anti-microbial materials – so it resists the junk in your sweat that can make ya stink, cause skin irritation and a quicker deterioration of the garment. Of course the fabrics are made in Italy, just like the kit.
Both the jersey and shorts are based on DeMarchi’s Contour fit technology, which aims to shape each garment for a better fit, versus reliance on stretchy materials to keep things snug.
The red sections are ‘carbon-weave’ fabric that filters uv rays. The black is a spandex based microfibre to fit snugly, stretch easily and wick moisture.
• The back of the jersey features the standard 3 pockets, plus a zipped pocket AND a small slipper for your tunes – tucked inside the center pocket. The main pockets are a tad shallow for my liking, and the two side pockets were curved at the outer seams, which reduces their stowing capacity. The mp3 holder seemed like a cool idea, especially since I take my tunes along for rides on my local climbs on fairly quiet roads, and the incessant pounding of my heart and lungs doesn’t offer me the same inspiration as say… the Spice Girls…
The jersey has holes strategically cut into the back… , shoulder and collar to guide the earplugs safely out of harm’s way and into your ears.
I admit to having my doubts about this addition. You have to set it up before you pull on the jersey – so string the earplug wire through the holes first – which pretty much means it’s there until you stop riding. Then there’s the question of actually accessing the player while you’re riding… I’m happy to report the placement of the mp3 pocket is low enough that reaching back to switch on, off, or change tunes while you’re riding is not too difficult. It’s not the easiest maneuver in the world, but with a little practise it should be as easy as well… riding a bike.
A lot of riders will like the full length zip to combat global warming at a personal level, and the jersey base features the now ubiquitous latex gripper. Zippers and construction are top-notch.
• Price: US$199.00
The Contour Racing Short
The new for 2007 short design shows a lot of thought has been put into exactly how this garment should work. It’s got a unique ‘split’ chamois and uses some new aero-styled leg grippers.
It’s the leg bands that immediately grabbed my eye on these shorts. Unlike traditional stretchy lycra leg bands, these have limited stretch, but hold the short in place with a really snug fit, while offering a super ‘low-profile’ where the short meets your leg. I noticed them squeezing my thighs enough that I could, well… notice. The inside of the band is coated with a semi-grippy plastic coating that keeps the bands in place, but also inhibits breathability in this area. While the legs did hold firmly in place, I found my thighs feeling wet and sweaty under both leg bands.
The folks at De Marchi are no strangers to making great chamois, and anyone who’s owned a pair of their shorts knows how nice they feel on yer privates. I suspect they’ve not been content with the direction of their chamois offerings, and felt a need to explore bold new worlds…. The Contour Race shorts feature a unique split front chamois, that mimics the spit rail design we’ve seen on many saddles.
This seems like a good idea in theory, but I found the two separate pieces moved around while I was pedaling, and actually caused some irritation in places they shouldn’t. Another interesting design element was the low coverage of the front of the chamois itself, it covers okay when you’re on the bike, but strolling into the cafй post-ride might get you a few more looks than usual.
• Price: US$249.00
The Contour Plus Short
I first looked at the Contour Plus short a few years back, and really liked it, in fact it’s still in my rotation today. The new model has been updated for ’07.
Thanks to the bold flat-lock stitching, it’s easy to see how De Marchi has cut the multiple panels on the Contour Plus short to fit a riding position. The legs are a tad longer than some shorts I’ve seen, but the overall fit is snug in all the right places and feels like a well-fitting racing short should. The suspenders are wide and made of a mesh to help breathability, and in keeping with the longer cut on the shorts, I found that after riding a short while the longer straps slipped to the outside of my shoulders. The mediums I tested are likely a great short for riders taller then me at 5’8”.
The standout on these shorts is the chamois – it’s one of the best I’ve seen and features thick padding under the tail bones, and along the centre seam – but it’s also a plush pad that compresses nicely and does not impact your position on the saddle. Very comfortable.
They’ve also sown in a mesh gusset through the crotch that is designed to allow more air flow to keep things cool down below. Personally I’ve never been that good at judging the temperature of my my privates during a ride, but as long as I don’t notice any adverse effects… I’m happy.
The leg bands are also a flat-style design, but unlike the Contour Racing Short, these stretch and breathe nicely.
Price: US$200 Contour Plus
Overall, each piece is well made as you’d expect in the price range, and especially from Italian makers. The fits vary depending on your body type and personal preferences, so it’s never a bad idea to try it on. But it’s hard to go wrong with anything made by De Marchi, so these are worth a look next time you’re treating yourself to a new set of the premium stuff.
Get ‘em at:
• For US Distribution contactUpland Sports Web Site. Upland also feature super skins from Capoforma (Pez’s corporate kit) and you can find a dealer there, or…
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