What do you look for in a review?

Monday, 12 September 2011

A quick item to ask what you look for in a clothing review.

Hincapie clothing

Some clothing has turned up from Hincapie Sports and I intend to give it a full and thorough review. My starting point is some long term testing and checking all the small things, like the quality of every seam to how easy it is to take a rain jacket off when riding with no hands. In other words, from the factory to the road and back.

For me it’ll be an interesting exercise to test the kit and then put the experiences into words. I’m almost looking forward to rough weather.

But this blog is a collaborative effort that works better with your help. So if you have any suggestions, please leave them below.

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{ 25 comments }

Paul September 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Durability through multiple washings and muds is important plus how small you can wad it up

Fred Astaire September 12, 2011 at 8:17 pm

I think it is good to compare fit, durability, breathability, etc. to other items you have worn frequently. For those not familiar with Hincapie, it might be good to compare if say we have worn Pearl or Champion or Giordana.

David September 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Small things that you might not notice if you glanced at the item but that either bother or please you as you use it. Everybody can pretty quickly tell whether a garment is well made or badly made by handling it in the store. The features that make something a pleasure or an annoyance to wear are not immediately apparent and only reveal themselves in actual use. My favorite pieces of clothing are the ones that some designer put an extra five minutes of thought into, and conversely my least favorite ones are not the crappy ones (which I knew were crappy when I bought them) but the ones that would be great if not for a niggling detail that nobody bothered to fix.

Socks September 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm

How much a top rides up and sits around your middle. Soo many tops I have do this….

Michael September 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm

* Fit: are they designed for the American or European market? I wear an XS in most US kits and a M in Euro cuts.

* How does it react to cleaning? Aside from the comments Paul made above, I want to know if running it through the washer actually cleans the fabric. I have a few kits at home that no matter how many times I wash them they still smell like I went on a 6 hr ride after eating curry the night before.

* Breathability & Wickability: get out there and sweat a bunch before the weather changes. How effective is the clothing at wicking it away from your body?

* Aesthetics: How does it look? Nice design? What colors are offered?

* Durability: Wash it a bunch and see how long it takes for the elastic to break down.

* The Jersey Zipper: Smooth going or bulky?

trounder September 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Value is important to me, so I agree with the durability and quality of every seam analysis. Particulars like height of collar, length of sleeves and legs, et cetera are useful when compared to a baseline fit. I look forward to reading how you establish points of reference for your readers without getting bogged down in a comparative analysis of so many brands. It may also be interesting to read about the manufacturing process and/or ethic. How far does the marketing stray from reality? Who or what actually sews the seams? Where do the raw materials come from? What is the R&D process?

Jarvis September 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm

What’s the benchmark, Assos?

“How easy it is to take a rain jacket off when riding with no hands” and how easy it to put it on again…

Zips and seams have been found wanting in some of my kit.

Qwerty September 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I find many clothing reviews lack the detail you get when from “knowing” an item that you own and use. Also do the zippers work with cold fingers and gloves?

marek September 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm

some thoughts:
- long term durability as well as perceived quality (seam type, finish etc)
- technical performance and does it meet the intended purpose? (temperature, precipitation, wind chill etc)
- design & look (we might as well be honest here)
- fit versus sizing & industry standards
- comparison to similar product
- neat features
- how it washes
- usability (of zips, pockets etc)

Alex September 12, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Please have some sort metric for rating. My preference would be to define individual weighted categories to be used for an overall rating of each item.

The biggest issue I have with the bike press today is the lack of metrics and the lack of objectivity. When is the last time you saw a bad review in bike magazine?

Sean September 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Ease to access pockets whilst riding and how much you can fit in them.
Actual sizing: One brand’s large is another’s small (Ever bought Sportful clothing!!)

If you’re struggling to find nasty weather to test them there’s loads here in the UK at the minute. Feel free to send them over! :-)

Starr September 13, 2011 at 1:28 am

My biggest problems over the years:

1) most zippers wear out long before jerseys
2) jersey collars always too tight if trying to zip all the way up (large Adam’s apple)
3) US sizing different then Euro sizing, quite confusing
4) arm bands sometimes too loose to hold arm-warmers (and I’m a big guy)
5) jersey pockets sometimes too small too load up
6) vests/jackets should always have zippers that allow opening from bottom
7) leg warmers should not be too tight around base, so they can be slipped off easily while riding, zippers take care of that problem, but again the zippers wear out too soon
8) that’s probably enough from me, I could go on and on…

rhys September 13, 2011 at 1:31 am

Chamois density and feel, and maybe which saddle you use. Some great fitting kits I own have been sullied by inferior chamois being used that offer little to no damping or comfort.
Maybe compare it to other kits in the same price range. I’m sure you’ll do a good job anyway.

Anon September 13, 2011 at 1:34 am

As a bike clothing slut, I can throw my two cents in.

Long-term durability has to be a benchmark.
I wear Assos hot summer layers 4-5 times a week for the summer season, and 3 times for the fall, spring, winter [indoor sessions]. They are still sparkling white after 30 months of use. No yellow staining from sweat and they smell magnificent from the Woolite [sorry, Assos]. I can barely get a day of summer wear without having to bust out the Ivory and brush to clean my white cotton shirt collars.
The chamois pad – Is it pill resistant? Hersey stains easy to get rid off [seriously]? My clinik colored pads are stain free. So are my Forma Reds. Santini? Not so much…
Does the hat lip bend weird after a couple washes? Or is it strong like bull?

Next benchmark – actually being honest what the said clothing is meant for.
Rapha winter jersey? Which winter are we talking about? My winter rides are easily sub zero. That jersey is waaay better off the bike. Still fantastically durable BTW. Go wool.
Old Rapha Rain jacket – yeah, I’m a dodo for this one. They changed the name for a reason.
Fugujack – THE winter jacket. I have nothing to compare it with – other than lighter jackets. It does what it says. Keeps you warm in the temperature range, while not stuffing you up and making your sweat stay inside. I’ve done rides with a cotton track jacket and a cheap poly fleece jacket in poorer days. It works too, but the sweat does accumulate inside. Will you survive? Absolutely.
Waterproof and breathable are paradoxes. Either you keep it out or you don’t. I’d rather be warm than dry when getting pelted. Dress accordingly and rain won’t be an issue [fenders people!].

Next benchmark – comfort.
How does it fit on the bike?
Does it breathe well? Does anyone even know what breathes well feels like?
When you reach for the drops, do the jacket sleeves have ample length?
Is the base layer too long and gets bunched up in the pad? [boo, Craft]
Is the chamois pad pushed forward [a la Rapha racing bibs] meant for an aggressive position or is it rotated back for Sunday coffee rides?
Does the glove pull/tug at your finger webbing from clenching the hoods?
Are the sock seams thin or thick – will they bite against your toes when you strap in?
Do the pad seams scratch your privates in a uncomfortable way [they can, OH they can...]?
Does the zipper garage have a terrible mechanism [ahem, old Assos Intermediate Evo Jersey]?
Do the pockets sag like … old … you get the idea… or does it stay perky when you have a heavy load?
Laundry comfort – ie. does it drip dry fast? In humid/hot/cold environments? Can I count on a Friday night load to be ready for the weekend?
Does the bootie material piss you off because you can’t get the damn thing stretched over your shoes?

Left-field benchmark. What’s the company’s policy for repairs?
As far as I’ve heard – Assos is for life. And from the way I blow through this stuff – I have no question that not only will I get decades of use – if an article gets into an unfortunate encounter with tarmac, they will attempt to repair or at least come to a solution – you didn’t hear it from me, but possibly a new one on the house and a box of Swiss chocolates.

Last note. If one is truly passionate for cycling, it doesn’t matter !@#$ all. $20 Chamois cream and embrocation can change any cheap wardrobe into a comfortable, warm, and 4 season wrecking machine.
Slather enough cream down there and $19 Nashbar bibs feel great. Rub the Hot Balm on and -10C feels like a warm day at the beach. Seams/durability/breathability/comfort are peripheral to what the purpose of riding should be. Pros ride in a lot crappier clothing than the top shelf stuff – so think about that. That being said, if money isn’t an issue – there’s no reason NOT to make your life more comfortable/easier on the bike.

Cheers!

MV September 13, 2011 at 1:58 am

Why do product reviews at all? seems an ill fit for this blog.

zurich07 September 13, 2011 at 3:42 am

one small addition to the panoply above…does the reflective trim – if available – disappear after a couple of washes.

Thanks

Dave September 13, 2011 at 4:19 am

Two points regarding jersey and jacket zippers.
1. Can you pull the zipper down with one hand?
2. When the zipper is up, does the zipper part of the collar rub on the neck/adams apple?

dw September 13, 2011 at 6:57 am

I agree with MV. Keep the kit, but don’t worry about the review.

There’s a bunch of sites to go for product reviews. inrng is better than that.

robin September 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

Sorry but I don’t think you should get into reviewing stuff at all. I’m sure there is an attraction to being sent nice shiny stuff to test. Personally I like reading the comments on the pro racing scene rather than how well such and such a piece of clothing or equipment works.

The Inner Ring September 13, 2011 at 9:01 am

MV, dw, robin: yes, I thought that too. But I’ll try this and see how it works out. Like I said above, it’ll be an interesting exercise and as you can see, I’m trying a different approach. I’ve written on the methodology of bike tests before and want to see how an actual test is done.

The tone and focus of the blog won’t change, it’s not going to become review after review. If you don’t want to read the review, skip it!

lfc September 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm

i would like you yo do reviews if they are honest

lfc September 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm

i would like you yo do reviews if they are honest!

Mark Rushton September 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I actually own some Hincapie stuff. It’s priced below Assos and prob. on a par with mid-level Castelli/Izumi. Metric bibshorts are excellent. V.slightly larger than Castelli/Assos (I’m a medium in those brands and Rapha). Seems well-made, washes well and often to be found online reduced in price. V.subtle branding

Rob Simmonds September 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Hi
I test kit (including clothing) over at http://www.road.cc Reviews are broken down into a number of areas (quality, value for money etc) and a score is given for each. Doing it that way helps to give context to the overall score.

The trouble I have is in distinguising between the absolute (the zip wouldn’t work, the reflectives fell off, it shrank in the wash etc) and the personal (style was dull, cut wasn’t ideal for me). I always try and make that distinction clear and I usually lean towards the absolute when scoring the item.

Value for money is the hardest thing to accurately reflect (see the discussion below the line on the Rapha Womens Grand Tour gloves for a great example). It may be the defining characteristic of an item (usually a cheap item that performs better than you’d expect but sometimes an expensive one that fails in some way) or it may not (expensive item performs as you’d hope). Either way, people have wildly differing views. VFM is very much in the eye of the beholder!

I guess that for the blog what you’re looking for is more of an angle, rather than just advice for potential purchasers (which is very much what we aim to provide). Not 100% sure how you get that angle, especially if you are relying on kit that manufacturers send you off the cuff, as opposed to being deliberately sourced with a review in mind.

Whatever you do, I’ll be reading with interest.

wilson September 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm

>>Starr said:
>>6) vests/jackets should always have zippers that allow opening from bottom

This just goes to show how much any review can depend on personal taste. I’ve never had an outdoors-type jacket that opened from the bottom – whether walking or skiing jackets – that didn’t occasionally drive me mad, as I tried to align the two zip fasteners with the main part. I now avoid them completely. Shops have lost sales to me after I’ve even dismissed the idea of buying something in a shop, having had trouble aligning the zips to close a jacket – based on the fact that if it’s like that when it’s new, what’s it going to be like later? The thought of trying to do so while potentially cycling along at the same time means I always avoid cycling jackets with that capability. Zips can be fiddly enough already without that additional hassle.

As for the fit between US and European sizes, it’s not enough to say “US means bigger than European” – there’s also plenty of variation within European sizes, depending on manufacturer. Worldcycling.com has a chart that tries to compare sizes across manufacturers (http://www.worldcycling.com/size.asp) but one person’s idea of what “fits” a particular chest size might differ from another’s.

I find the easiest thing to do is measure the article in question (armpit-to-armpit, back and/or front length from neck-to-hem, outside arm length) and compare it to a shirt or jacket that I know fits me.

Maybe if you’re going to start talking about fit and definitive sizing in reviews, that might be a helpful way to do it?

ie “The reviewed jersey was a size M. My Castelli jersey, size L, measures x by y, whereas this M measured blah by bleh and fit me nice and snugly.”

Or “The reviewed jacket was a size XL. My Castelli jersey, size L, measures x by y, whereas this XL measured blah by bleh and was like an elastic band stretched around a boiled egg. What the hell is wrong with these people?”

And so on…

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