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Every couple of months Aldi rolls out bargain bike gear. But is it any good?

Aldi's intermittent offerings of startlingly cheap cycling kit have a steady following from budget-conscious riders, including quite a few road.cc readers. On Thursday, I sharpened my elbows for the 8am start at Cambridge's Aldi store to try and pick up a bargain.

The headline offer of £16 Merino baselayers (both tops and bottoms) certainly drew a crowd, with Cambridge commuters diving into the baskets to find the appropriate size. Given that top-brand Merino baselayers can cost over £50, the fuss wasn’t surprising.A quick fondle of the fabric and scrutiny of the stitching revealed the quality to be surprisingly good.

The women’s merinos were available in grey with pink stitching, with the men’s equivalent in black with blue stitching. I was concerned that the women’s top looked a bit short in the body, but once it was on this proved not to be the case. It’s not cycling-specific, so there is no additional length in the back to cover up if you are stretching out over the drops.

The baselayers are 100% merino wool and were reasonably soft next to my skin. The fabric was noticeably thinner than my Vulpine T shirt, which I use as outerwear, but not far off the quality of my Icebreaker baselayer. The top was cut more generously than the equivalent Icebreaker, with around an additional 2in width at the chest and waist and overall 1in wider at the arms. Billed as a 16-18, its cut reflected high street sizing rather than cycling sizing where a 14 is seen as 'large'. The stitching was of a good quality and the garment information was heat-sealed on rather than on additional tags; I have high hopes for this top being a good value everyday commuter baselayer. I’d advise buying a size smaller than your usual cycling kit, and if you are a whippet shape, the XS may still hang off you as the cut is quite generous.

After trashing the laces in a couple of pairs of Cons and being assured proper cycling shoes were a good idea, £20 saw me picking up my first pair ever. From three styles available, I chose the grey with pink trim (to match the merino which I now realise as underwear will never be seen), which had laces and a velcro strap. They were very 'trainer' like in appearance, a good thing as I don't want to look like a cyclist when I step away from my bike, and are compatible with SPD Shimano clipless pedals as well as having removable insoles.

Again the quality seemed to be higher than the price tag would suggest. The soles have a good stiffness to them and rise up over the toe and heel areas. There are tags to assist with pulling them on and off and there is a reasonable amount of padding around the heel.

In preparation for the winter I picked up some arm warmers which at £6.99 for those or the leg warmers really stood out in terms of quality and price. The brushed-fleece lined lycra was genuinely lovely to put on, and in black with silver reflective detailing they were unobtrusive enough to fit with most of my other kit. The basic silicone strip at the top of the arm did what it needed to do and stayed in place easily.

I found that the £4.99 under helmet cap did not extend to cover my ears but the winter gloves were a bargain at the same price – padded, anti-slip, with velcro at the wrists for adjustment.

Other bits and bobs I picked up included spoke reflectors and a bike stand – all slightly cheaper than available elsewhere for no apparent difference in quality.

There were also bright reflective waterproof jackets for £20. The choice of neon yellow or pink didn't appeal to me but several other riders were trying them out for size. With reflective aspects and a dropped back to keep the rain off your bottom they were certainly cycle-specific, as were the winter softshell jackets. These had a brushed fleecy inner and a water/windproof outer, alongside back pockets, reflective details and dropped hem with a silicone strip. If hadn't been for the colourways left on the shelf I would have nabbed one of them too.

Overall impressions are very good. There is no point comparing this to high-end brands who spend time and money on exquisite tailoring, and you won't know about the conditions of manufacture, but simply looking at price vs quality Aldi comes out as a winner.

The throng in Aldi were generally impressed too. Leisure cyclist Alan Browning thought the gear on offer was “Good value.” If there was a problem it was with  Aldi’s in-store merchandising.

The German chain’s cheerful ‘pile it high & sell it cheap’ policy made life hard for commuter cyclist Thomas Sanders. He said: “There are some useful things but they are hard to find because they are buried under each other.”

33 comments

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Fixie Girl [125 posts] 2 years ago
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Shame people don't check where the products are sourced.. Cheap goods are cheap for a reason..

Remember the fire in Bangladesh, it cost 1000 lives before Aldi signed a safety accord..

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paulrbarnard [182 posts] 2 years ago
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Visited our local Aldi on the launch day just a couple of hours after opening to find all the marino base layers and most other 'good stuff' had gone. The policy of having a couple of real bargains works well to get foot fall but leads to a lot of disappointment.

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MxQueen [5 posts] 2 years ago
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The show soles snap under heavy pedaling quite reliably.

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JonD [411 posts] 2 years ago
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Fixie Girl wrote:

Shame people don't check where the products are sourced.. Cheap goods are cheap for a reason..

Remember the fire in Bangladesh, it cost 1000 lives before Aldi signed a safety accord..

A reference for that ? - only thing I can find concerns Lidl.
A whole bunch of companies singed that accord back in May -are you going to boycott them all ?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accord_on_Factory_and_Building_Safety_in_Ba...

Cheap goods will inevitably be sourced where labour is cheaper. Boycotting simplistically doesn't help the people that are trying to earn themselves a living. Finding the comanpanies that provide employment in a more ethical manner is the tricky bit. Even expensive clothes may be made in sweatshops, not just the cheap end of the market.

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AndyRaff [8 posts] 2 years ago
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I bought their tool kit a while back.

Poor quality that just seems to fall apart.

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Super Domestique [1605 posts] 2 years ago
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Not exactly Rapha is it?  3

Only joking.

Interesting bike stand. Looks useful.

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Simon E [2776 posts] 2 years ago
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Fixie Girl wrote:

Shame people don't check where the products are sourced.. Cheap goods are cheap for a reason..

Remember the fire in Bangladesh, it cost 1000 lives before Aldi signed a safety accord..

In an ideal world I would agree with you but to imply that Aldi is alone in resisting progress on this front is beyond a joke. And if you think premium brands are expensive because they pay their factory workers well then you're seriously deluded and 100% wrong.

I guess that you must buy only from a few ethical brands sporting the Fairtrade mark and a satisfactory score on ethicalconsumer.org. Lucky you!

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mattbibbings [81 posts] 2 years ago
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If this is the first pair of proper cycling shoes that the writer has ever owned I am afraid that I am left in doubt about her ability to write usefully on the subject.

I also happen to agree with the cheap-as-chips-costs-more-in-reality view point.

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chrisl [51 posts] 2 years ago
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Sure, buying high quality ones is better in many ways, but many of us don't have that luxury.

Personally, the money goes on a really good rain jacket, but I get the Lidl/Aldi £8 shorts, as they have lasted me well, fit acceptably, and are perfectly comfy when coupled with my 2nd hand Brooks. Tops - a couple of slighly posher ones for when I feel the need, but cheapo Decathlon active-ish t-shirts for zipping around town.

The trick for those riding on a budget is working out where the money needs to go and where it doesn't, and a lot of these items are just fine for most purposes.

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seanboy [23 posts] 2 years ago
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well said

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Saint Mikie 41 [60 posts] 2 years ago
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I have found the arm warmers to be very good in the past. The jackets are perfect for my commute to work so have bought a couple.

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thelimopit [143 posts] 2 years ago
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My Aldi SPDs were a great fit and lasted a good couple of years before an unfortunate incident with a Welsh hill saw them off.

Overall my experience has been about 3/5 for Aldi/Lidl stuff. My £7 cycling shorts are as good as my £40 Bontrager ones, my toolkit's still going strong and full of useful things, and I can't say anything bad about my £30 bike stand.

The worse thing I've bought has been a footpump type thing which completely demolished itself on its first use.

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Caroline Dodgson [25 posts] 2 years ago
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Don't worry Matt, this is a first look not a full review, and a road.cc regular cast their eye over the items and came to the same conclusions as I did. Check out the facebook comments for other users' experiences and comments on the quality (or not) of the kit too. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151631141630614&set=a.39529635...

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Argos74 [407 posts] 2 years ago
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3/4 shorts, decent fit, lousy seams, but fine with a pair of seamless shorts underneath.
Commuting trousers. Very nice indeed. Slightly too flattering a fit, otherwise I'd wear them all day.
Socks - functional, seem to do the job just as well as branded socks costing three times as much.

Also got reflector bands with blinking LEDs which I'm really not sure about. They'd work safety wise, but have a very strong suspicion I'd look a complete knob.

Some things I wouldn't go to Aldi for though, shoes is one of them. And chicken.

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Cooks [491 posts] 2 years ago
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Bought a track pump from Aldidas about 5 years ago. Still going strong. Their socks are always good too.

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banzicyclist2 [299 posts] 2 years ago
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I've used a lot of ALDI stuff and some Sports Direct stuff for commuting and just knocking around. I've also got some branded gear. In my opinion it's hard to justify the cost of branded stuff even though it's highly desirable based on what is often only marginally better performance.

Maybe I'm a cheap skate  105 but I've using the bargin gear from ALDI and Sports Direct for about three years with out a problem. The one exection is a water proof top  40 ..... this worth spending some serious wonga on, the ALDI top is ok for very light drizzle but crap in real rain.

I still drool over some of the branded stuff, and when I win the lottery I'll be racing down to the cycle shop straight past ALDI. Till then it's up early and elbows out for the twice a year jumble sale  4

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PJ McNally [591 posts] 2 years ago
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The merino top suits me well - a women's medium fits me better than it fits my wife.

The winter gloves look like they might be good for £5.

Yes, bargain clothing is upsetting, in terms of what it costs on the other side of the world - and I say this as someone who gives 10% of my income to charity - but the really upsetting thing is that it's not at all easy to tell which companies are doing a better job.

For instance, you'd assume Lidl and Aldi on the one hand, and Gap on the other, would be worlds apart on this, yet Gap clothing, too, was being made in those death trap factories featured on Panorama.

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Al__S [1052 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

well then you're seriously deluded and 100% wrong.

I guess that you must buy only from a few ethical brands sporting the Fairtrade mark and a satisfactory score on ethicalconsumer.org. Lucky you!

Brands that have all their manufacturing in Europe (Italy and Portugal are quite common) are unlikely to get Fairtrade status as far as I'm aware?

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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More free advertising for a budget dodgy-ethics foreign supermarket that sells less cycling kit than Tesco or Sainsbury's larger stores. The only thing they sell that's really worth it is cheap lights made to German standards (and therefore legal here) but there weren't any in this sale.

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robert_obrien [118 posts] 2 years ago
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I've had some Lidl and Aldi stuff in the past. The shoes were OK, the workstand is still going strong but the zips on any of the tops ALWAYS (alright - 3 times) break after a short time. If I had saved the money I spent on deficient tops I could've had one nice one. Trouble is, once you enter one of these shops, your brain goes into bargain mode and before you know it you're struggling to the checkout with too much low-quality bike stuff supplemented with jars of sausages and tins of champagne.

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John_the_Monkey [437 posts] 2 years ago
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AndyRaff wrote:

I bought their tool kit a while back.

Poor quality that just seems to fall apart.

OTOH, I've the last similar toolkit Lidl did (at £25) and it's lasted me years. An Aldi trackpump from a couple of years ago is still the office pump even now, serving three cyclists regularly and reliably. The winter training jacket I got 3 or 4 years ago is a nice fit, and is still going as of now.

If you understand that the quality *is* variable, and don't buy blindly, you can get decent, serviceable stuff.

For balance, the bibshorts (and for that matter, bibtights) from a while back were godawful, with a cut that I couldn't picture fitting any human being on the face of the planet. Caveat emptor.

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big mick [183 posts] 2 years ago
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Lets tell it like it is.The Aldi cycle gear is SH1TE and is only for non cyclist as are the bikes they sell.I think it's made to put people off cycling.The bikes they sell when you take them to your local bike shop have to go in the skip because they are non serviceable.The clothing looks just as useful  14

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Fixie Girl [125 posts] 2 years ago
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JonD wrote:
Fixie Girl wrote:

Shame people don't check where the products are sourced.. Cheap goods are cheap for a reason..

Remember the fire in Bangladesh, it cost 1000 lives before Aldi signed a safety accord..

A reference for that ? - only thing I can find concerns Lidl.
A whole bunch of companies singed that accord back in May -are you going to boycott them all ?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accord_on_Factory_and_Building_Safety_in_Ba...

Cheap goods will inevitably be sourced where labour is cheaper. Boycotting simplistically doesn't help the people that are trying to earn themselves a living. Finding the comanpanies that provide employment in a more ethical manner is the tricky bit. Even expensive clothes may be made in sweatshops, not just the cheap end of the market.

Maybe not all but those that still have questionable practices..

http://guide.ethical.org.au/company/?company=37

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stenmeister [292 posts] 2 years ago
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I used to cycle in whatever sports gear I had lying around but the stuff sold in Aldi and lidl was better suited to my needs.

When I made the move to road cycling and started to get a bit more serious about it I started buying higher quality stuff but I still see the value in a few Lidl/Aldi baselayers.

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Simon E [2776 posts] 2 years ago
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Fixie Girl wrote:

http://guide.ethical.org.au/company/?company=37

Thanks, that's very useful.

I see that Nike ("World's #1 maker of athletic footwear and apparel") has lots of negatives, as befits their long history of worker abuse:
- Workers Rights
- Child labour
- Sweatshops in Bangladesh
- Workers rights
- Human rights violations
- Sweatshops in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines

Coca-Cola has a similar list plus a Boycott Call, but how many of you think about it (or the many other companies they own) before you buy 'the real thing'? It's not like there are no alternative brands of sugary water.

Do their sponsored athletes like Mark Cavendish, who supports 'Right to Play', give a toss? No, they're happy to take the dirty dollars. Some things never change.
 2

There is one company you should IMO avoid completely if you have even the tiniest bit of conscience:
http://guide.ethical.org.au/company/?company=466
More info at http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ethicalcompanyratings.aspx

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pmr [198 posts] 2 years ago
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" if you think premium brands are expensive because they pay their factory workers well then you're seriously deluded and 100% wrong."

Agree 100%.

Factory working conditions aside, I have a range of expensive through to budget stuff and I'd say that the arm and leg warmers, the winter gloves and the show covers are massive bargains. First impressions on a par with wiggle budget stuff (or close to) yet about a third the cost.
Makes you realise how much we are getting ripped off most of the time.

Now I'm off to enjoy my £150 rapha shorts.  4

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Ottadini [17 posts] 2 years ago
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Found Aldi stuff to be generally OK, although the soles on one of my commuter SPDs cracked after a year. Found Dare2B kit to be good value too especially the kids stuff. They always have a sale on.

Good ethical outdoor gear companies out there if you are prepared to pay. Patagonia being the original, Howies always have some nice bike kit too.

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cyclist67 [18 posts] 2 years ago
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As there is virtually bugger-all cycling kit made in the UK, these days, I'm not that fussed about where or how anything from outside the UK is sourced/manufactured; the posher stuff is still probably made in similarly dangerous sweat-shops as that made for ALDI, LIDL, etc, despite what what assurances label-owners and distributors say to make consumers feel better about themselves.
However, that's not to say that I don't empathise with those paid a pittance in squalid working-conditions.

If it looks and feels like a bargain, we know why it is.

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tarquin_foxglove [137 posts] 2 years ago
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http://road.cc/content/image/94573-w3913-pd-thursday-6a

I bought the jacket for commuting to replace the 3+yr old Aldi one which I broke a sleeve zip due to coming off on snow last winter.

So far I'm slightly confused by the latest offering.

I'm 5'11" & 12.5 stone and the cut of the medium was very generous around the body, so I tried the small. I had a slight concern over back length but I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the S & M when trying to replicate being hunched over the bars, and the small fitted without being tight so I purchased that one.

I've worn it twice since and had to take it off both times, as it is too warm for the north east in October.

Now for the slightly confusing part, the black panels on the arms aren't made of the same material as the rest of the jacket & are very thin. Due to having a velcro strap to tighten the bottom of the sleeves rather than a zip (probably to keep costs down), the black material is pulled round onto the front of the arm. So while my body was overheating, my lower arms were exposed to the chill breeze.

I'm not sure how that will work when it is cold enough to warrant wearing it. Tempting to pay the £15 to get the zip replaced in the old one just in case.

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purplemadwoman [31 posts] 2 years ago
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I bought some fingerless gloves and lightweight cagoule earlier in the year - the stitching on some of the gloves' fingers has come undone and the cagoule is boil-in-the-bag. :-\ Will be very wary about buying cycling gear from them again - won't be so cost-conscious next time!

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