Founded by ex-professional rider Yanto Barker, sponsors of the men’s WorldTour team Bora-Hansgrohe and formerly the women’s team Le Col-Wahoo, Le Col is a brand that has plenty of experience creating kit for the best of the best. Ambassadors such as Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton help the British manufacturer continue to create quality, high-performance cycling kit, and the brand’s Pro range is a shining example of this. Le Col says it has been created with speed and aerodynamics in mind, made for riding fast.
Aero gains and winter riding has always been a tricky combination to get right; jackets with plenty of insulation can get bulky and they need to be roomy enough to add multiple layers underneath. It’s the same issue with winter bib tights, they need to be warm but not restrictive or uncomfortable when riding. Le Col has tried to strike the right balance with its Pro Winter Kit and we’ve put it to the test over some cold months in the British winter.
Le Col Women’s Pro Jacket II
The women’s Pro Jacket II is made from Polartec’s Neoshell fabric which Le Col says offers durable waterproof and windproof membrane. I found that this fabric was especially good at repelling downpours. I am yet to feel cold in the Pro Jacket II despite doing some rides in wet and freezing conditions. Even when rain was especially heavy, I didn’t find myself having to reach for a rain jacket for added protection, the Pro Jacket II did enough on its own. Such warmth, though, means the jacket gets slightly stuffy when doing race efforts or going up climbs, so I did find myself having to unzip it to get some additional ventilation at times. However, this is a sacrifice I’d always be willing to make for such good water and windproof qualities.
Part of the feeling of needing to unzip the jacket also comes from it being slightly too tight around the neck for me personally, but this will be dependent on each rider. Other than that, I thought the fit of the Le Col jacket was good, although it could be slightly tighter considering it’s a garment which is said to have a race-fit. If comfort is more of a priority than aero-dynamics, the fit is about right, but there is some slightly gaping material on the shoulders which would have hindered the aerodynamics of the jacket.
The reflective panels are great for winter conditions, be that in fog, poor visibility or low-light, while a zip pocket and three large rear pockets offer plenty of space for snacks and spares. Le Col has achieved this without the jacket looking or feeling bulky; I thought it had a flattering fit being cut short at the front and with two seams on either side of the torso. Costing £260 when being sold at full price, Le Col’s jacket is inline with most other garments in the winter jacket sphere, but it is definitely an investment. However, if you’re looking for a jacket that is versatile enough for long rides and shorter, more intense efforts (regardless of the weather conditions), the Le Col Pro Jacket II is a great choice.
Womens Pro Bib Tights
Out of Le Col’s offerings in its Pro range, the Pro Bib Tights were the garment that impressed me the most. The combination of fabrics used on the tights is impressively innovative; they feature lightweight panels on the lower of the leg, while the main body of the tights is made of a thermal material. This means that the top of the legs – which are partial to getting cold when hit with wind and rain – remains dry and toasty, while the lightweight fabric on the lower section helps to regulate temperature. The fabric on the lower leg also features a textured ‘tripping’ fabric which Le Col says makes the bib tights more aerodynamic and efficient. The final and third material used in the bib tights is a soft, thin grid material on the straps themselves, which I found to wick sweat and feel comfortable and flexible –it was a good choice from Le Col’s designers not to carry out the thermal material used on the body of the garment up into the bib straps.
I also liked fit of the Le Col’s Pro Bib Tights, they are compressive without being restrictive and the zip on the bottom of the ankle makes them easy to take on and off, as well as holds them in place throughout the ride. The leg length was perfect for me, as a smaller rider, but it could be on the short side for a cyclist with longer legs, so this is important to keep in mind. My only gripe with the fit was how low the front of the bib tights sit on the body, I would have preferred it if they came up higher for added insulation and a more flattering fit.
I found the chamois on the bib tights to remain supportive and comfortable throughout my rides – I didn’t feel any pain or chafing even on rides nearing four hours in wet weather. In fact, the tights were so comfortable they had a ‘barely-there’ feel when out on the bike. Le Col logos are situated on the upper thigh and the rear of the tights, giving an understated and classy look. The only thing that was missing from the tights was some reflective panelling on the rear or legs which would be useful when the light begins to fade, and perhaps a few other colour options from Le Col.
Le Col’s Pro Bib Tights retail at £210 which is a high price point for a pair of bib tights, but it does align with that of many other brands – Rapha’s Pro Team Bib Tights are £230 while Pas Normal Studios’ Essential Bib Tights are £240, for example. It’s clear that with Le Col’s Pro Bib Tights you are paying for a high-quality, considerately designed piece of kit that seems durable enough to last for multiple winter seasons.
Womens Winter Long Sleeve Base Layer
As I pulled out Le Col’s winter base layer from the box it came so nicely packaged in – top marks for that, Le Col – I was impressed by the fabric. The front of the garment is made from a sort of brushed fleece material, officially called Polartec Alpha fleece fabric, while the back is composed of Polartec’s Powergrid fabric which has a weaved pattern on one side and a more conventional finish on the other. These fabrics are supposed to keep you warm while regulating temperatures at the same time, aiming to negate the need to ever take layers off and avoid the risk of overheating.
The Alpha fleece did keep me exceptionally warm and it seemed to regulate my temperature well. I always feel warm on climbs and feel the need to unzip my jacket a little bit, but overall I wasn’t at risk of overheating when wearing the base layer. However, I think that Le Col should have used the fleece fabric on the outer of the arms, rather than on the inside, as that was the part of my body hitting the wind first. Using the fleece fabric on the lower back of the base layer is a good call though, and did keep my back warm even in temperatures close to freezing and in the wet.
The fit of the baselayer is good, it’s compressive and tight but this is needed to fit under most of my winter jackets, and it didn’t feel restrictive when it was on. I think the length of the back could have been extended slightly to make things easier when tucking the baselayer into bib tights and a higher neckline would have been beneficial for additional warmth, but otherwise I was happy with the shape and size. It’s fair to say that a fleece lined base layer isn’t as versatile as others on the market which can be used for more seasons than just deep winter, but if you are looking for a garment that is guaranteed to keep you warm in the coldest temperatures, Le Col’s winter base layer does the job, and I think £75 is a reasonable price to pay, too.
British brand Le Col have created a great winter kit selection for cyclists that is shaped and tailored specifically for the female shape. It keeps you warm even in the coldest of temperatures, but, importantly, it looks and feels good too. Le Col’s Pro kit isn’t cheap, but it’s durable and well-designed, using some of the most high-tech, advanced fabrics, so you do get return on investment.