dhb, coming of age…..

I make no apologies that in the past I’ve been a kit snob. But not from the desire for an outward display of peacock aesthetics. Instead, arising from the notion that if I feel good, I cycle good.

It is still fundamentally true that you get what you pay for. Be that the aesthetic charm of a Rapha piece, the pro kit quality of Castelli or the sheer bonkers R&D of Assos. The oft used adage is buy cheap, buy twice (or indeed more) and that buying expensive is a sound investment. This new range aims to challenge what you thought you knew.

I’ve dabbled in the cheaper market before and much of it is good. But in truth a lot of it has never really satisfied me in terms of how it’s made, how it looks but, crucially, how it feels. For a cyclist that last part is so important.  The development put into products by the likes of Castelli at al often leads to a product which meets the requirements of form and function.

My previous experience of dhb products is that they’ve always offered value for money and performed well in relation to that price point. I have a pair of cheap roubaix tights which come out when I don’t want to kill something expensive. But I don’t feel great wearing them. They work. But not as well as other pairs of tights. Honourable mention here to the almost naked feel of the Castelli Sorpasso. By comparison my old dhb are a little baggy in places, lack some of the more technical touches of the Castelli and make me remember that I’m wearing them. My view, which may not be universally shared, is that good kit is kit that you can forget about.

So, I approached dhb’s new Aeron range with interest. The price point is slightly higher than the old Vaeon ranges but not by much. As I write this piece Wiggle are rotating some big reductions on these newly released products. The question is not whether the products have improved per se. That would assume that they were not good products. No, for me the question is whether they can truly compete at the highest end and, essentially, make kit choice a no brainer.

Wiggle are selling the Aeron range as a complete range of kit. dhb-Aeron-Roubaix-Long-Sleeve-Jersey-Long-Sleeve-Jerseys-Black-Orange-AW15-TW0184-65

Kask helmet aside, the suggestion is that all of it works well, looks good and can be bought for the price of a high end jacket from the usual suspects. There’s a decent amount of reflective and some vibrant colours to make you stand out on the road. Let’s have a look at some of the pieces.

The Aeron Full Protection Softshell JacketWord1

That’s full protection. No half measures here! What does that mean in practice? It means full softshell. No roubaix fabric round the back. The fabric is Windtex, a well established stretchy alternative to Gore Windstopper. So, you’re getting a windproof layer that offers, like other membranes, a good degree of waterproofing. The rain will find a way in, eventually, once it gets past the impressive DWR type coating and the non taped seams. There is an omission here. Unlike the Castelli Alpha the zip is exposed to the elements. Rain can get through here. So can wind. It’s an omission. Not a great one but perhaps the Aeron Mark 2 could deal with that upgrade. There is a flap behind the zip. That offers some protection. But in my experience, and having seen it added to the Gabba Mk2 (and Alpha Mk1), it’s wise to have that extra flap outside.

You get three very good pockets round the rear and one internal zipped one with a waterproof lining. And, each of the pockets has a good degree of reflective lining. Cuffs are excellent and the collar is high. Perhaps a few MM too high actually. But I have a short neck. So we’ll let them off there. Ventilation is good. No fancy arm zips but there’s a storm flap at the rear neck area to let the heat out but no cold or rain in.

So, what’s it like? I wore it on one commute at zero degrees and another at around five. That’s celsius if you’re reading this overseas. The zero degree ride began with no warmup. Straight out there. One word? Toasty. That’s what you want in a winter jacket. Keeps you warm. Very warm indeed. There are a raft of alternate approaches out there from the fleece like mega warm option to the ride fast lightweight Rapha option. I err to the warm option in the winter. My riding isn’t blisteringly fast. A lot of it is commuting. I found that the softshell was very warm without there being any need to unzip. The arms, in particular, standout. Great fit, great warmth. Again, a different and, arguably, non technical approach to something like the Assos Bonka or Castelli Alpha. It’s a windproof layer lined with a roubaix type fabric. There’s a hill on my commute where I can reach 40 mph for a good amount of time. I’m warmish by the time I get here. So it’s an opportunity to see how the windchill of 40 mph affects the fabric and what lives underneath. And the Aeron flew that test. I could feel the icy bite in my face but the heat was radiating throughout the body of the jacket. No flapping. Form fit. A win overall. As to size I take a medium in most clothing, sometimes a large. But in cycling clothing generally an XL. 41″ chest. 36″ waist. In Assos and Castelli I need and XL. And the same was true here. Italian type sizing then. That generally commands premium pricing.

Pricing is excellent. It’s £100. That’s low end Castelli though. Does it compare? Yes. I had a high end Espresso Due once. This is at least it’s equal. It’s probably not quite as effective (and we are talking a tiny degree here) as the Alpha. But the RRP of that is £249. I got my dhb for £62 taking into account various reductions and other offers. For that money, it’s a steal.

The Aeron Softshell Gilet

Word 2

This review will be short. It’s the softshell again. Without arms. It really is that simple. As far as I can tell the roubaix maybe a bit thinner. The pockets are slightly different. They are covered over with a flap and there are two. There’s no rear storm flap. But, otherwise, another toasty garment. What’s particularly welcome, for me, is that dhb haven’t fallen into the trap of making their gilet measure the same as their jersey. Too often that happens and the effect is that the gilet becomes too tight when worn over the top of something of equivalent size. Here dhb have added a few MM extra into the fit to ensure that, if you buy the matching jersey, they partner each other well. That applies to the windproof gilet as well so you can partner each up with confidence.

How is it to wear? Well, despite the differences above, it’s effectively an arm less softshell. So it’s great. And another bargain. £45 at the time of writing. There’s nothing quite like that for value and function out there.

The Aeron Roubaix Jersey

Word3

I’ll be honest. This is my favourite. It feels so nice to wear. I was struggling to remember a jersey which felt just so right. Then it came to me. It feels like wearing the Assos Tiburu jersey. The same race fit, second skin feel. Ok, we lose the pure technicality of the material of the Assos. But it works just as well. And looks, well, a lot less S&M. There’s no wind proofing here. It it’s cold, you’ll be cold in it. So you’ll need to layer up. Add a base layer and, preferably, one of the gilets. If you run warm you could get buy into single figures. In the spring I can see this being the go to jersey of choice.

The picture above makes it appear to be a half zip. It’s not. It’s a full zip with some reflective material. Again, there are 3 pockets round the back and some more reflective material. And another zipped, waterproof, valuables pocket.

The sizing is exactly the same as the rest of the range. And so is the value. This retails for £45 at the time of writing. I said I considered it to be the equal of the Assos. That’s in excess of £170. You pays your money…….

The Aeron Windslam Gilet

word4

It’s a lightweight gilet. Full windproof protection all round but a centre rear channel of mesh to let some heat out. It partners up, as noted, particularly well with the roubaix jersey. It should also pack up very well into a rear pocket.

This gilet doesn’t have any pockets of its own. A common failing in gilets and one which leaves you having restricted access to your pockets. What this gilet does, and I’ve not seen this before, is to have two angled slits at the rear. They are stretchy and they cover themselves when not in use. You slide your hand through and have access to the rear pocket of your jersey. It works extremely well in practice. If it’s been done before then it’s great that they incorporate it. If not then it’s a game changer. And all for £37.50.

The Aeron Windslam Bibtights

word5

I find bibs a difficult area to review. Fit can differ more than a jacket. Pads can agree or disagree with you. Everything is personal. So with that in mind…….

I took an XL in these. If they were simply roubaix I could have gone with a large. I usually wear a large in Assos but an XL in the Castelli Sorpasso. Indeed, I consider the Sorpasso to be the benchmark. But they can struggle in truly foul conditions. So, what are we comparing these £67.50 bibs against? Well, they are reminiscent of the Gore Oxygen and Xenon windstopper bib tights. They come at a considerable cost. There’s a number of different panels with a  softshell type fabric. That means that those sections are warmer and likely to resit water for longer. It also means, by their very nature, that they are less stretchy and form fitting than normal panels. And that’s what makes fit a bit more difficult. For me, these XL fitted very well. I doubt I could get into the large because the windproof panels would be restrictive.

It’s for that reason that I could not have kept the Deep Winter version of these tights. They were practically all soft-shell and I found myself between sizes. That meant that the large would have been restrictive and the XL version had creases where the material was not sufficiently stretched. No such issues with the windslam version. They are excellent. Good chamois, good fit (for me) and exceptional warmth. Good detailing as well. There are some minor points though. I’d have preferred a foot loop or a band type ankle as per the Sorpasso. These have a zip which is a little less than dainty and may cause issues inside a winter boot. The abdomen section is a little loose as well, but, as stated, that could be dealt with on sizing. The reflectives here are excellent and a subtle but welcome addition. Indeed, the entire range is well thought out from a commuting perspective.

Conclusion

It’s an exceptional range. I’ve got the socks as well. But not the gloves. Gloves are too personal so I stick with what I know works. With this range, and, from my limited exposure, the ASV range, dhb have created a proper alternative to the big name brands. Not just a value alternative, but a true one. If you can take advantage of some reductions and some voucher codes then you can build an entire wardrobe for the price of a single item from the big name brands. You’ll feel good wearing it and feel good about having bought it. Wiggle, we await your summer Aeron wardrobe with keen anticipation………..

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “dhb, coming of age…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s