First off, my apologies to Performance Bike and to all of you. Not because these items aren’t good. In fact, they’re fantastic. But because this post is long overdue. Earlier this year -as in, early spring- Performance’s merchandise manager Bill Heins and clothing designer and product development leader Alicia Landis paid us a visit to run through their new line. They were very excited about it as it marked the freshman batch of a renewed focus on premium clothing from a brand known more for value-centric, sometimes bland clothing.
Heins took over and about a year prior brought Alicia in to create a cohesive line that’s head and shoulders above the “here’s a short, here’s a jersey” items of yore. Their goal? To incorporate the same level of features of premium brands, but maintain the PB value paradigm.
After riding the Ultra bibshorts and jersey through the Trans Sylvania Epic and all summer long in heavy rotation, I’d say they succeeded. The feature set is top notch, as is the comfort and fit. And when they told me the MSRP, I actually chortled…
The result of their efforts is a three-level line, with Ultra at the top, Elite in the upper middle of the range and Club for an everyday value offering. The upper two get PhysioDynamic Design, their melding of comfort, aerodynamics and muscle support, and the Ultra adds ColdBlack on the raglan shoulder/sleeve panels. All items have 360° reflectivity.
The men’s gets an aero banding on the arm cuffs that make it aero without being restrictive, women’s uses a more traditional sleeve cuff.
Bibs are all ColdBlack (save for the bib straps) with mesh side panels to improve wicking and cooling. The leg band is wide with a gripper material that’s more infused than stuck on, which makes it both effective and extremely comfortable. It also helps the hem lay completely flat around the thighs for a fast, pro look.
The pad is an Italian sourced multi density foam with shaved, smoothly chamfered edges so there are no hard transitions between segments.
The jersey has a very open knit pattern all the way around with silicone gripper hem to keep it in place. A similar mesh is used for the upper part of the bibs.
Overall the fit was very, very good. At 6’2″ / 185lbs, I wore XL in both pieces. The jersey could have been a bit more streamlined around the midsection, but it wasn’t floppy by any means. Maybe squeezing into a Large would have given it the total racer fit. Three rear pockets are wide and deep. Logo and graphic details all around the jersey are reflective. Even on the hottest summer days (I rode these from high western desert to the steamy East Coast, from PA to FL), they never felt like dark black clothing should when the sun’s beating down, meaning the ColdBlack and breezy mesh must’ve been doing their job.
Retail is $99 for bibs and $89 for shorts. Jersey is $69. And no, those prices are not missing a “1” in front of them…which means you can about get two sets for the same prices as a single kit from others.
Also available are new Ultra socks, which are a bit thinner than what they’ve offered in the past (not shown). A women’s version of the jersey, shorts and bibshorts is virtually identical in look and features to the mens.
THE REST OF THE LINE
The Elite bibshort also gets a multi-panel design with a compressive gripper band. The chamois has a ventilation section at the front tip that lets air in without revealing anything. The bib strap has a wide rear yoke but splits to help keep you cooler.
Women’s shorts have a yoga-style comfort waistband, a really well thought out feature for improving comfort. They’re actually looking at ways of making a similarly comfortable waist band for men without, you know, making them look like yoga pants. Bibshorts are also available and use wide set straps to sit on the outside of the chest.
Jersey gets a semi-form fitting cut, mesh underarms and back with deeper pockets and a nifty blinky light loop on the rear. It’s full zip with a cover at the neck. Comes in red, black and yellow. Women’s comes in sleeveless and sleeves in pink and yellow with matching color accents on the Elite shorts. The white rear center panel is an extremely light mesh…as in, you should wear sunscreen under it.
Elite jersey is $49, bibs/shorts are $69/59.
Beneath the Elite is the Club jersey, which is a pretty basic piece with minimal seams and raglan sleeves to keep it comfortable. One-third length zip and non-banded sleeves. Definitely for the casual cyclist. Club shorts have silicone grippers on the leg and silicone gel inserts in the pads under the sit bones. Both really nice touches for the price point. Both are $39.99 each.
Another surprise from the collection is the women’s Lyric Jersey. The style and fabrics mimic the LuluLemon/Athletica aesthetic, giving them a really attractive look and feel without being overly feminine. They’re performance oriented without being too form fitting, so you could easily stroll into the grocery story after the ride without looking out of place. $39, sleeves or sleeveless.
The women’s Alto gets a slightly looser fit with a 1/3 front zip and a floral pattern. Also $39.99, and also available sleeveless and in pink.
For mountain bikers, there’s a basic Mountain Jersey available in short and long sleeve. It gets a silver ion thread to prevent funk and an envelope pocket on the rear right side. Simple and basic, but pretty soft and actually a nice technical piece for the money if you tend to trash your jerseys on a regular basis. Just size up if you’re planning on putting armor on underneath. Retail is $39, and it comes in lime, gray, light or dark blue and orange.
The Nevado mountain bike shorts come with a lightweight CoolMax padded liner. The outer is a five-pocket shell with a very light stretch nylon material. Meant to be an easy wearing shell for XC or just commuting. Snap and zipper closure and elastized waist sections. Retail is just $59 and they come in olive, gray and black.
So, why do I apologize to all of you? Because you could have been rockin’ these bits all summer had I been more timely in my post. The good news is I’ve actually worn most of this stuff now (the mens, anyway), and it’s solid. The Ultra kit is one of my current faves and sees a lot of use. The other good news? They’re now out of season, and we all know what Performance does with their clothing when it’s out of season, right? Yes, you should look for your sizes now. One tip: when searching PerformanceBike.com, I had to type in the whole model name to find them. Ex: “2013 Performance Ultra Bibshort”.