Lusso, luxury you can afford, every day.

Lusso. It means luxury in Italian. But it’s not luxury that costs the earth. Far from it. I wonder how many are old enough to remember where my title comes from today? Anyway, the company was formed by John and Dorothy Harrison in 1982. John was irritated, both figuratively and physically, by the quality of garments that were available for cyclists. He took a night class in fabric technology and design and started experimenting with better materials to make cycling clothing perform better and provide more comfort. Fortuitously, at that time Dorothy was working for M&S with advanced and technical fabrics. It was in that partnership that Lusso was born. It’s worth pointing out here that everything Lusso sells is very proudly made in the UK. Often using the very best fabrics that our Italian friends can supply. There’s a long and proud partnership of the UK and Italian cycling industries working together. Better together you might think………

Lusso have been getting some rave reviews in the press for some time. Good value technical kit performing well. You don’t have to pay the earth to kit yourself out on the bike and this week I’ve been wearing quite a variety of kit. And, once again, it’s been so very cold at times. There’s been some dampness as well, which only adds to the mix. And some hail, a few snow flurries, and some sun. Indeed, as I finish this article one might be forgiven for thinking that Spring has arrived. I hope it lasts. So, I’ve been testing three Lusso items in all. Not always together, depending on the temperatures, but I have tried all three at the same time where the weather allowed.

The items on test this week are:

  • Lusso Max Repel Nitelife bibtights
  • Lusso Leggera Thermal Jacket
  • Lusso Nitelife Beanie

Lusso Max Repel Nitelife Bibtights (rrp £79.99)

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These tights are new and I really mean that. A world exclusive if you will. Lusso have been running the Nifelife and Max Repel ranges separately for a few years. Both ranges have been very well received by the cycling press. Lusso have taken those good reviews and, essentially, combined the two ranges. So, you now have the reflective safety features of the Nifelife range along with the features of the Max Repel range.

This new version retains the water repellent treatment of the Max Repel. The inside is, as expected, lined with a nice furry roubaix fleece treatment. In practice these have been good down to freezing with no issues of wind chill getting through despite the fact that they are not windproof. They shed water brilliantly. I used to own a pair of Castelli Nano Flex bib knickers. They were fairly decent overall but the repellency of these is much better in my view. Eventually the water will get in but for light showers or riding in damp conditions these are just the ticket. When the rain subsides they’ll dry out quickly as well. Bear in mind that the Castelli product is about £20 more in terms of RRP. My view is that the Lusso version is also a much warmer proposition. A proper freezing conditions tight that will work well in milder temperatures without overheating you.

Let’s get one of the main features out of the way. Foot loops, foot loops, everybody cut foot loops. Or something. Foot loops are marmite, it seems. Some people love them, some people hate them. They polarise. I really like foot loops because they generally mean, for me at least, more comfort. I say that because poorly implemented zips and grippers can be occasionally felt. No such problems with foot loops. So, there are no zips here and getting your feet through to the end is arguably a bit more of a challenge as a result. But that’s how good tights are sometimes. It’s like putting on some armour and preparing to battle the elements. Once you’re in, you’re secure and there’s little risk of the legs moving around while you ride. You might prefer grippers, and that’s fine, but I’m all for foot loops.

In terms of their construction there’s nothing all that complicated here.  A selection of panels, well stitched (in England) with a good pad. Everything is just as it should be. A testament to the seamstresses of Manchester. The blue trim might be off putting if you don’t have blue kit but, don’t worry, none of it is visible when it’s on and covered up.

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So far so good. Well made and warm, good in the rain. So what about the other USP, that reflective thing? Well, see for yourself. Those back panels are off the scale reflective when you shine a light on them. When you don’t they just look like a collection of black and grey micro dots. There are also normal reflective tape items on the ankles as well. Basically, because of the placement and orientation you’re looking at pretty much 360 degree visibility when caught in a car’s headlights. It’s remarkably effective. Crucially, it’s just another fleece lined panel. There’s no compromise in terms of comfort where the reflectives appear. I think it’s a better implementation than the old (nitelife) model overall. Thought they had 360 degree panels on the entire ankle and calf it made for a slightly unusual look. The new model is perhaps slightly less visible at the ankle but overall a better tight given that it’s now a rain repellent AND thermal model in one. The old adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is thrown out here. Neither of the old models was broken. But the new one takes in all that was good about both of them.

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How do they fit? Great. I was provided with a large and they fitted perfectly. Crucially the size chart is absolutely spot on. That’s not something that can be said of some manufacturers. The fit has sufficient compression to make sure that there are no flappy bits at all. The foot loops keep the bottom half securely in place. The pad is very good indeed. I had absolutely no issues relating to any discomfort. It’s not placed very high at the front, so there’s perhaps a little bit more wind around your “gentleman’s sausage” but in practice it all works very well. The reflective panels are a slightly stiffer affair externally than the rest of the lycra and can have a slight wrinkle when standing upright. But when on the bike they hug your form just like the rest of the panels.

The upper part of the bibs is a very comfortable affair. The straps are nice and wide and sit well over your chest. There’s no mesh at the back so, depending on how hot or cold you run, you might find them warmer than you want, or just right. It’s all about choice. They’re cut decently high but have abandoned the front zip of the previous model. Again, that’s absolutely fine and a personal thing. Lusso have cut the front slightly lower as a result to ensure comfort breaks are, well, comfortable. I like the arrangement of the straps here that essentially cover your nipples rather than being offset to your armpits. The construction is first rate. No pulled stitches. Nothing is anywhere other than where it should be.

And in use they are great. Easily warm enough for temperatures hovering at freezing and they’re also pretty adaptable as well, I used them on a commute home at about 8 degrees and there were no issues with overheating. The rain repellency works very well and in light showers they just shed moisture quickly. You will get wet, eventually, but it’s a fantastic addition to have. I’ll continue to monitor how long the repellency lasts. It’s fair to say that bibtights will be washed more often than a jacket so there’s more scope to remove that repellency. It should still be a fairly easy process to add some more though by the addition of some Grangers or similar products.

All in all these are great. For £79.99 they’re actually a bit of a bargain. Well ahead of the thinner and more insubstantial nanoflex range and, for me, up there in terms of comfort with the Sorpasso. The decision to amalgamate two products into one pays off in my view. They’ll be up on Lusso’s website soon and with retailers shortly. Even though today was Spring like you’ll still get plenty of use out of them.

Lusso Leggera Thermal Jacket (rrp £64.99)

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Leggero means light. That’s great in clothing and bad at Pizza Express. Always choose the Calabrese. Anyway, this jacket really is a very lightweight affair. Not in terms of its performance, just that it doesn’t weigh very much. Lusso describe it as a jacket. Others may describe it as a jersey. It doesn’t really matter. There are plenty of examples of blurring the lines between jackets and jerseys. What you have here is a straightforward roubaix fleece lined jacket. It’s thermal because of that. There are no other tricks here such as windproofing or water repellency. If you want a winter jacket then look towards Lusso’s Windtex Aero+ jacket (£134.99). This jacket retails for £64.99 and is very much a spring and autumn piece. There’s a very similar jersey as well, lacking the fleece interior, which retails for £59.99. Once again I tested a large which was perfectly in line with the size chart.

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What we have is essentially very simple. A good quality YKK zip taking care of the zipping up duties together with a nice little zip garage at the top. Neck sizing is generous and doesn’t constrict you in any way. The neck isn’t lined with roubaix but has instead is a double flap of the main body material. The cuffs are nice little elasticated affairs which provide for a decent length and fit nicely over a pair of gloves. There’s simply no opportunity for coldness at the wrists. The length and closure is spot on.

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Around the back we have the standard 4 pocket approach. That is to say 3 separate pockets of a nice depth together with one side zipped pocket for valuables. There’s nothing waterproof back here so make sure that, as I usually recommend, your mobile phone is in some nice little plastic bag. A freezer bag will do, no need to splash out on any Rapha affair.

There’s a single piece of reflective trim at the bottom. Yes, you could argue that more would be better. But given that this is spring/autumn wear the likelihood is that you won’t necessarily be out in the dark. If you are, stick a Nitelife gilet over the top and you’ll probably be visible from space. There’s a nice elastic band type gripper at the bottom of the back which ensures that the jersey stays firmly in place.

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So, as usual, I tested it in conditions where it shouldn’t work and some where it should. And it was quite superb. I’d expected a 6.30 am commute of about 4 degrees. But the frost indicated otherwise. Temps were around 0 and -2 in the frost hollows along the way. I partnered it with Parentini’s excellent base layer (see my Mossa review) and some 3/4 bibtights. Why put it through an unfair test? Well, firstly, if something can go down that low it makes it all the better. But the main answer is diurnal temperatures. For the non meteorologically inclined the difference between the daily minimum and maximum. I knew that it would be around 10c on the way home and didn’t want to have to carry too much kit (a perennial problem at this time of the year). If I have to suffer slightly on the way in then that’s a better option than having two sets of kit and a rucksack.

And on the way in I was never cold. Sure, I may have been warmer in a winter jacket, but that wasn’t the point of the test. There are no windstopping properties here but it coped admirably with a very fresh commute. It’s the kind of jacket that’s ideal for when you set out on a club ride in low temperatures knowing that it’s going to warm up later on. And on the way home, at 10 degrees it was just lovely. Perfect for the conditions. The fit is excellent. It’s form hugging and there’s no flapping around the shoulder areas on a fast descent. Crucially, in the race position, there’s no bulging outwards in the tummy area. Is it aero? Well, it’s as aero as I am. That it to say, it’s not the kit holding me back.

Do I like it? No, I absolutely loved it. Once again, the very true test of good clothing is whether you know it’s there. On the way home today, flying along on the Supersix, it was just brilliant, warm, comfortable and just getting on with the job of not getting in the way. Remove the base layer and I reckon you could quite easily run it up to around 14-15 degrees or so. Wicking properties are excellent. One of the stand out features is the arms in my view, close fitting and no flap (one of my pet hates). There are three colours available so you should be able to find something that matches your wardrobe (black and red, blue and red, and lime and blue). Spring is coming and, if last year is anything to go by, it will extend to around October. You’ll get a lot of use out of this.

Lusso Nitelife Beanie (rrp £15). 

And then there’s a beanie. Yep, you read that rrp of £15 right. Cheap. It’s a very interesting beanie indeed. When it arrived it reminded me very much of the old Assos Stinger beanie. It’s essentially a lovely little fabric hat with a large bottom section so you can decide how to wear it. Fold it up a bit, pull some over your years, double all of it up. It’s up to you. You can unfurl the whole thing, angle it and get total front and rear coverage (including your ears).

There’s not much to say here. It’s a beanie. One size fits all. It’s elastic enough to meet that goal. It’s made of a lovely soft fabric that has excellent thermal properties. There’s no windproofing but, frankly, it doesn’t need it. It’s nice and thick yet still fits easily inside your helmet (if you choose to wear one).

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And that would be that. If it weren’t for its party trick. Just like the Nitelife bibs above it veritably shines when you catch it with a light source.

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It’s a remarkably effective piece of fabric. Assuming you have good lights and decent smattering of reflective material there should be no chance of a SMIDSY. Should be, but the world isn’t quite like that.

But, I hear you say, it’s in a helmet. How on earth can it work when it’s covered up. And you might have a point. Clearly, if you wear it on its own then its ultra visible. Can it possibly work inside a helmet? Is there any point? Well, let’s have a look.

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Of course, bits of it are covered but there’s still a massive amount on view there. And I think it’s a nice touch. The beanie is excellent value at £15 simply in respect of its thermal properties. With the addition of that reflective material it becomes one of the best beanies out there. Perspective. The Assos Stinger retailed for £31. Its replacement, the 607 Stinger still goes for about £30. It may have fancy RX fabric as part of its construction but it won’t offer anything more than this. Indeed, the reflective fabric also has some windproof properties as well. Honest now, for that price, you simply cannot go wrong.

I’ve never worn Lusso before. Everything out there suggested that their kit was brilliant for the price. It isn’t, it’s just brilliant.

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