Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: Capo GS-13 Jersey and Bib Shorts

When viewed through the prism of real-world money, cycling clothing prices are completely ridiculous. Take, for example, your blue jeans. I have a hard time spending more than $35 for a pair of jeans that will probably last three or four years, minimum. That's because I'm cheap, but also because I grew up with a father who thought anything more than $15 for blue jeans was outrageous.

Now think of your favorite bib shorts. They cost more than $35. And they have less than half the material. And they make you look pretty silly, even when you actually look good in the cycling world. But you bought them anyway, because you like riding a lot and you want your butt and delicate bits to be comfortable as you pedal about. It's worth it, you've determined.

When I bring home a new cycling kit, I often hesitate to reveal the full retail price. Though I can justify almost everything when it comes to cycling, telling your wife (or, really, anybody else) that you just dropped $250 on a pair of tight shorts to wear while riding your bike isn't really a lot of fun. The raised eyebrow, the "tsk, tsk," ... I know them well. 

But that also hasn't stopped me. And when I saw the new Capo GS-13 kit, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. I actually got my hands on the 2012 "pre-release" version of the kit, which was originally produced for those lucky few who attended Capo's dealer camp. The only real difference is the number on the right sleeve — mine has a 12, where the current version has an upside down 13 (for good luck).

First and foremost: It's not a kit for the budget conscious. The bibs retail for $250 and the jersey is $200. And it's not for those who are risk-averse in terms of style. Capo is a Euro-styled company (though it's based in northern California), and you can see it pulls no punches. It takes a special kind of confidence to wear bright red kit on your cycling travels. (I'm personally laboring under the illusion that I look awesome and people are jealous.) Now that you've been fully warned, here's a look at each piece:

Capo GS-13 Jersey


I used to run a bike shop, so I've had my share of jerseys over the past four or five years. Some have been great, some pretty bad. But this jersey is my favorite. Not my current favorite — my all-time favorite. This Capo jersey uses a handful of different fabrics to achieve a perfect fit (on my skinny body, at least). The shoulders and sleeves are stretchy, the front and back panels are textured to help move air and moisture over your skin, and the underarms have mesh to help with ventilation.


capo-gs-13-jersey

What you probably noticed first in the picture is the length of the sleeves. Yep, they're long — even for Capo sleeves. You're gonna have a tan line there. If you're used to shorter, looser sleeves, that will bother you at first. But because the materials are so light and stretchy, you'll forget about it soon enough. And on chillier days, the mesh panels move a LOT of air. It's not nearly as noticeable on hot days, but it is noticeable.


capo-gs-13-sleeve

The body of the jersey is form-fitting as well. That's the point with Capo's high-end offerings, which are built on the company's Super Corsa template. For sizing, go with your T-shirt size. I wear medium T-shirts and I like them reasonably form-fitting, so the GS-13 fit is spot-on. If you prefer a little more room, you'll want to try a jersey on before buying. I hesitate to recommend sizing up, because the sleeves will be even longer. Better to try it before you buy. 

The zipper has a locking cam, with has become a requirement for my personal kit stash. Why is it important? When you have the zipper tab pointed up, you can tug open your jersey just by grabbing the collar and giving it a pull. That's useful when you're boiling while crawling up a long climb. When the zipper is pointed down, it won't move. 


capo-gs-13-zipper

The back features the standard three pockets and a gel gripper on the lower hem. 

Capo GS-13 Bib Shorts


Because of a number of issues related to vanity, obsessiveness and ... well, more vanity ... I tend to only buy kit in matching sets. I'm not a big mix-and-match guy. Everything in the drawer has an appropriate partner. So getting the GS-13 jersey without the shorts wasn't really an option, even though, yes — they're bright red. But having worn Capo bibs almost exclusively for the past four years or so, I knew it would be worth it.

For me, the thing that sets Capo bibs apart is not merely the fit or styling — it's the materials used. Too many other bibs don't use a heavy-enough gauge of Lycra. Bibs should be tight enough to provide a little bit of support, but also to keep the material where it's supposed to be. These pieces are cut to put the pad and seams in a certain place. And if the material isn't tight enough to stay where it's supposed to be, you're gonna get some migration. And that means rubbing, which means hating life after a long, sweaty ride.


capo-gs-13-bib-shorts

The GS-13 bibs, like their upper-body counterpart, use a number of different fabrics to achieve a great fit. The leg panels are formed and cut to fit perfectly while on the bike. The shoulder straps are stretchy until the collarbone or so, when the material gives way to a non-stretchy "harness" of sorts, which is shaped to fit over your shoulders. I have no other bibs that can offer the same comfort over the shoulders.


capo-gs-13-bib-short-strap

Capo bibs were previously known for their fold-over lower cuffs, which featured no silicone or extra elastic to keep the shorts in place. Instead, the cone-shaped cuff was constructed of heavy-gauge Lycra and shaped to fit over your lower quad muscles. The compression of the material kept things where they needed to be. The newer shorts have a thinner, lighter cuff and use a thin, 1cm-tall line of silicone around the lower edge to keep the material in place. (Pro tip: When pulling on the shorts, fold the cuffs up so they don't grip your skin before they're in place.) I am perfectly OK with this system. 

But I'm not OK with the length. They're long — 2-3 cm longer than my other Capo bibs. Too much time in the sun with these bibs and I'll be at risk of a neapolitan tan line. I've worked too hard at maintaining the razor-sharp lines on my quads for that. (Again, the vanity.) Does it make a difference performance-wise? It does not — not in the least. Many people like a slightly longer cuff. I'm just not one of them.


capo-gs-13-bib-short-leg

Inside, the pad is brilliant as always. Capo uses pads made by Elastic Interface Technology, and they're my all-time favorites. Having a thick pad back there is nice, but it needs to be bouncy — it needs to be springy to absorb shock. Those thick, dense pads favored by companies like Pearl Izumi feel like they should help, but after hours in the saddle, they're just as hard and unforgiving as a stack of washcloths. You need something that will rebound in order to keep your backside happy. Capo pads deliver that. 

My only other nit is with the decoration on the side panels of the shorts. I'm wary of heat-transfer ornamentation, mostly because they're in an area that is subject to a lot of stress. I'm not entirely confident those logos are going to age well. I've seen too many shredded Castelli scorpion logos to believe this will be any different. That said, I'd love to be surprised.

The Good


The fit, like with all Capo stuff, is dialed in. If you tend toward skinny, you'll want to check it out. And if you're OK with a louder style, you won't be lacking when you pull on any iteration of the GS-13. People will comment, and sometimes it'll even be positive. 

The shoulder harness on the bib straps really is great, and your backside will never complain on the EIT pad. And you won't get any chafing because everything stays where it's supposed to.

The Bad


What's up with the cuffs? Why so long? And will those logos and stripes still look good in a couple years' time? I sure hope so. 

The Verdict

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether blowing $450 on a jersey and bibs is worth it. But I regret nothing. While I do ride a lot, I don't have unlimited time — I have family and work and other outside demands that pull me away from the bike. So during the time I do have, I want it to be fun. I want to enjoy every aspect. If that means spending a little bit extra for ultimate comfort, I'll do it. 

After all, I have plenty of money left over from being a cheapskate with my blue jeans. 

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While I do ride a lot, I don't have unlimited time — I have family and work and other outside demands that pull me away from the bike. So during the time I do have, I want it to be fun. I want to enjoy every aspect. If that means spending a little bit extra for ultimate comfort, I'll do it.
Capo GS-13 Jersey and Bib Shorts
Date published: 06/19/2013
4.5 / 5 stars
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