When a Strava challenge pays off

Back in May, the Giro d’Italia was taking place, and popular cycling fitness app Strava happened to partner with cycling apparel brand Le Col with a challenge. If you successfully log 110 km of riding within twenty days in May 2019, you become eligible for a £50 (US$65) discount on Le Col’s wares.

I’ve been on Strava for six years now, but I’ve never had a challenge like this. I decided to sign up. Nothing to lose, right?

Long story short: I went out and finished it, clocking the 110 kilometers it asked for. I was half-expecting this to be a gag, but it was real – Le Col indeed offered a £50 discount on their very premium wares.

Mildly curious, I decided to order a jersey from them. I chose their Pro Hex Jersey in navy blue. This “summer” jersey normally retails for £105 (PhP6,700), but completing the challenge let me get it for £55 (PhP3,500). Even at the sale price, this is still a pretty penny for most people, so I might as well show you through what you’re getting.

Notably, this jersey is quite light and on the thinner side of the spectrum. Most of my locally sourced jerseys are of a relatively standard thickness; this feels like 2/3 or 5/8 of that. This is appropriate given Le Col’s claim that this is a “summer” jersey, meant for warmer days. It does mean that putting this jersey on takes a wee bit more care, as the material feels literally like that of a superhero costume and has to be coaxed into place a little to fit me.

The rear hem has a full-width silicone gripper, as normal these days with jerseys. However, the sleeves here are pretty interesting. They are relatively thin, but still gently elasticated and grippy on my puny cyclist arms, and they have the eponymous hex patterning on them.

Going through the whole thing, it’s the small touches that set Le Col’s jersey apart from almost everything else I own. The full-length “dull gold” zipper has this little garage of material on the inside that ensures the zipper pull doesn’t rub or chafe on your neck. That’s really thoughtful.

The wonders continue at the back. Like most jerseys, this has three pockets, and they’re of a good size and position (jerseys with back pockets set too high are a personal pet peeve). Unlike most jerseys, this has a overlaid fourth pocket that’s both zippered and water-resistant. It’s not big enough to store my 5.2-inch-screened smartphone, unfortunately; had it been able to, it would have also been able to let wired earphones through via a little port on the inside. Instead, I find this pocket more useful for storing my wallet, as credit cards and rainwater tend not to play nice with each other.

On the center pocket sits a big fat reflective stripe, set in a contrasting color to the navy blue of the rest of the jersey. Again, very thoughtful. Finally, there’s the embroidered Le Col logo just below the neck line.

So how is it out on the ride? The little refinements all over let me forget I was wearing it, while hewing to my form and not restricting my movements at the same time.

The dark navy blue material and its relative lack of thickness mean that sweat stains show themselves quite readily. I usually wear a Uniqlo AIRism shirt as base layer, rather thin on its own, and I still had some splotches of sweat on my person, although they go away on their own quickly enough. That also means, however, that sweat is better able to do its evaporative cooling role for your body…and this is definitely the coolest feeling jersey in my closet.

If you need even more ventilation on especially hot days in the mountains, Le Col will gladly sell you a Pro Air jersey that borders on see-through. I’m going to err on the side of caution, avoid public scandal, and let you keep your sanity by sparing you that review.

It’s uncanny how well a British outfit like Le Col judged this jersey for the Philippines’ decidedly tropical riding conditions and climate. Yeah, it’s an expensive bit of kit, even with the £50 discount that Strava brings…but it’s a comfortable and well-thought-out bit of kit. If you can think of it as a treat or bonus, especially after completing the relevant challenge on Strava, I’d say it’s a good incentive…if only to experience how much better road cycling clothing can get.

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