Polartec

Power Stretch/Powershield Pro

Be honest, how many of you know what your cycling apparel actually does? Yes obviously it's designed to be worn,! But looking in detail, we have not really given it much thought in the past, you see a jersey or shorts you like and with one click it's in your wardrobe. We now live in a world where consumers want to know more about their purchases and the level of detail and thought that has gone into them. Especially for those riders who are looking for an edge in their own performance (we've been searching for years!). So we were offered the chance to test out an innovation in the fabric world which is being used in some premium brands today to see it can get me closer to that pesky duo (they know who they are!) who keep bombing off when one of them drops the hammer! 
The PowerStretch technology which can be found on the Castelli Potenza Jersey features 'body hugging 4-way stretch' design with the aim of controlling moisture with the combination of comfort and performance, something we would expect all performance attire to aspire to. The outer layer's job is to combat wind resistance whilst the inner layer focuses on moisture management, pulling sweat away from the skin to aid body temperature and resulting in an increase in comfort and performance. It all features a compression stretch to aid injury prevention or providing extra support for any muscle or ligament niggles. Also included are areas known as 'Touch Points'. No this is not some sort of S&M add on but an specific area in the garment where sweat is wicked and evaporated. This neat little addition claims to allow the lycra to be dryer 2x faster than cotton which is a bold claim to make. We've all been soaked to skin at one time in cycling gear and it often feels the material has glued to your skin because of the wetness so this will be a main area of focus in our review.
 
The RH+ Shark bib shorts house the Power Shield Pro technology and at the core of this fabric is it's weather adaptability. Designed for not letting the weather spoil our ride, the fabric is claimed to block 99% of the wind with the 1% being used to "improve breathability in the shorts and reduce the risk of heat stress buildup". The numbers that accompany this material make interesting reading. According to Polartec, the fabric exceeds the requirement for seam sealing (3psi or 2100mm) by another 1000mm. We have tried to teach ourselves a bit about water pressure but we've never dived (snorkel is enough for us!) so would be wrong for us to speculate and comment on these figures. The other focus for this technology is that because of the seaming and soft shell performance, it has a high abraison resistance but we will not be throwing ourselves off the bike whilst riding to prove this! We like our skin!
 
First Ride Impressions
 
We had that urge just to get out on the bike a couple of Sundays ago for a quick burst and at the time, the weather was very kind. We had stopped off at Mr B's for a few maintenance tips and whilst inside his man cave, the heavens opened. We were only a couple of miles from home and we had the obvious two choices; ride home soaked or see how the Polartec technology coped on it's first outing. Best to throw it literally in the deep end! The rain had eased slightly but puddles and lots of backspray had been created by the down pour.
 
The Castelli jersey was our only layer and although the sleeves had BMX padded style sleeves, the wind resistance did cut through into the arms. In terms of sweat management, could of been the cold air created by the rain shower but I felt dry throughout the short ride. The bib shorts were very squeaky for the first wearing in. Could of been the pristine newness but it was a tight fit. The bib shorts were a large size so either my quads and ass have grown in size or that these shorts live up to their compression tag. We were expecting for the shorts to be soaked at the back especially with the spray (no mudguards were hurt in the making of this review!) but the abraison and soft shell design for the rear kept our behind dry.
Long Ride Impressions
 
Now we are very conscious of the nether regions. Without going into too much detail, we did wear a certain pair of shorts once where after the ride, we had to pop something back into place! So the tightness of the shorts and this could of been a sizing issue but it did put a bit of fear into us that it would affect our ability to reproduce! Same outfit was worn although we added a Le Col base layer this time as we knew we were going into the Surrey Hills and the weather had been a mix of everything the previous day.
Off topic but the Castelli jersey felt smart. We have never brought into the brand mostly because of financial issues but the quality of the material and look really does come through. The jersey felt snug but not too much that my love handles (tried to get rid of these things for years now!) would show and affect the wind resistance of the Polartec technology. 
Along for the ride were Chris and Sam who I often have trouble keeping up with on the hills or the flats! So I was keen to see if the fabrics had any affect on the ride performance. There was much climbing involved including 2 different ascents of Leith where usually I would be sweating like Jamie Vardy at a WKD closing down sale! But I never felt any sense of overheating. Usually I zip down the jersey but there was no need as the material did it's job and was wicking the sweat away and through that lovely magical scientific process of evaporation, off into the air it went!
The squeakiness of the bib shorts had thankfully disappeared too, don't think the other two would appreciate the sound of a squeaky bum every time I sat back down in the saddle. Now I 'll point it out before I am mocked on social media channels but yes the rear end does look a little bit big in the photos. Again, we would put this down to the sizing of the bib shorts and not necessarily the Polartec fabric itself. The compression feature really is for the racing cyclist. A commuter like ourselves who tops up the mileage with a longer ride at the weekend will look for comfort and durability. We do have a range of bib shorts in our draw at the moment: Endura, Planet X, Pearl Izumi and Adidas (Rio 2016 Team GB kit yet to be worn) and as we have mentioned before due to a past incident, moveability down below is on our priority list! With that said, after this long ride, everything was intact and the rear shell had a decent layer of padding to make sure there was no discomfort during the ride. 
Verdict
 
This is a review where we are not looking at value for money but proving or disproving the science behind the brand. The PowerStretch technology found on the Castelli jersey works well with the quality of the material and design and provided a refreshing level of comfort through it's sweat management incorporated in the design. The Power Shield Pro technology embedded in the RH+ bib shorts does have some question marks for us. The breathability of the fabric works, we never felt discomfort and the squeakiness morphed into grip which gave us extra confidence on the bike especially descending into tight corners. For us and it could just be the sizing but the compression feature could come down to personal preference. For a slim built rider, it might not be an issue but we have heard the 'Kim Kardashian' jokes in the past and throw in our mental scarring of nearly losing a close friend of ours (re-read article for details!), we would just be cautious when purchasing bib shorts with the Power Shield Pro enhancement. Either way, both pieces of clothing felt a level up in quality so the pros outway the cons. Next time on 'Keeping Up With notinthepeloton....!'
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