It's the last weekend of the cyclocross reason, which means "gravel is coming". My existing apparel is well-loved and frankly, worn out, so it was time for some new gear. With an eye on endurance events like the upcoming Redlands Strada Rossa, I went shopping for some new "gravel apparel" for hauling more nutrition and tools on longer rides. Here's some of what I found.
Voler Cache Bib Short
4 out of 5 stars
Size tested: Medium
Deep, usable pockets
Warmer than I'd like
The big trend in shorts is the addition of cargo pockets. Voler added one on each hip for their Cache bib short. This short is form-fitting; mine are a medium and I'm 5'11", 155 lbs and the fit is snug with a compression feel. Inside is a very high quality chamois pad Voler calls "Comp HP" that I found comfortable on my 3 hour test ride.
The pockets are the big win here. They're deep enough for an iPhone 11, an energy bar, or a couple gels. I even stuffed in some knee warmers when a long ride warmed up unexpectedly.The short is made in the USA, a pleasant surprise at this price point. The stitching and fabric seem to be high quality as well.
Downsides? This short is warmer than I would like. There is of course the double-thick portion of lycra, forming the pockets, and the upper portion of the short comes up a bit higher than some others I've tried in the back. If you're riding in colder weather, this might be a positive for you, but since I live in the desert in SoCal, it's a negative for me.
I'm also not a fan of "unfinished" hems on cycling shorts. To be fair, Voler is not the only brand who has adopted this style, but I prefer a more traditional elastic hem with silicone leg gripper bands.
Overall, though, there's a lot to like with the Cache bib short, and I'd definitely buy another pair.
Voler Jet Lighweight LS Jersey
4.5 out of 5 stars
Size tested: Medium
I bought this jersey sight unseen, looking for a top with long sleeves for keeping the sun off, not for keeping warm. This one worked out great. The fabric is thinner and breathable but still protects my arms from the sun - a near perfect jersey for this purpose.
Voler advertises the jersey as UPF 28. UPF is "ultra violet protection factor", and you can think of it like an equivalent to sunscreen ratings.
On warmer days, I've been using the Jet Lightweight jersey alone, and adding a sleeveless base layer underneath when it's cooler. It's not quite as snug a fit compared with the Cache short, lacking the compression feel. I'd describe it as in-between a "race" and a "club" fit on my 5'11", 155lb frame. There's just a hint of flapping in the wind on the sleeves and very little on the chest - just enough space to add warmers or a base layer underneath on colder days.
In the back, there are 3 rear pockets, and they're fairly deep - deep enough to hold an iPhone completely or most of a mini pump with just a little sticking out the top.
As with the Cache short, it's made in the USA which is unusual on a jersey in this price range.
Both these garments are offered in subtle, muted colors - navy, olive, orange - think "colors found in nature", which seems like a good fit for gravel riding.