Ou la la, this smart short sleeved Simone jersey from French bicycle outfitter Cafe du Cycliste looks sophisticated. But the down side of looking good, using quality fabric like the perforated lightweight merino wool, and small production quantity is you are going to have to pay for it.
If onions don't make your eyes water then maybe the 130 euro price tag might. Sacré bleu! Ok, you need to enjoy your threads to spend so much on a short sleeved jersey, if you are the person who wears Aldi's finest in public then stop reading now.
The top comes beautifully presented in a cotton pouch in a gingham pattern that is found around the collar and the inside breast pocket of the jersey - a nice touch and immediately you are feeling that the spend might be justified. Unfortunately the cotton pouch is pretty useless. I would have liked it to maybe have a strap on it turning it into a tote bag to accompany the multitude of 'bags for life' that seem to accumulate at home.
The garment - although clearly not a piece of performance kit - is way more than just a fashion item. It works well on a bike, and has some nicely thought-out features and attention to detail that again makes establishes its quality.
The lightweight merino has a micro mesh weave; if you hold it up to the light you can see what look like holes in the fabric - there aren't, it is where the fabric is much thinner. This makes the garment breathe really well but doesn't offer much protection from a chilling wind.
The merino feels very light and soft on the skin yet offers some warmth. I found this top worked well as an under layer, like a vest but with a collar. The wool wicks moisture from your body and drie super quickly. A sweaty back will disappear in minutes. Even if you're practically dripping in sweat this jersey hides it pretty well.
The collar is given a bit of integrity by being made in cotton - giving it the appearance of a proper shirt rather than a polo/piquet when worn under a jumper. Unbutton the fastener at the back and flick the collar up - displayed across the back of the neck is a perforated reflective strip, a brilliant idea for urban night riding.
Elastic is used on the ends of the sleeves, on the top of the breast pocket and also on the rear pockets enabling the wool to keep its shape and not sag over time. The two rear pockets are offset to the right for easy access. The large pocket can accommodate a water bottle and the narrower pocket has a button and loop closure keeping your mobile safe and making sure that your spare tube doesn't decide to jettison.
A reflective logo and thin reflective strip running down the middle of the back along the edge of the pocket is an unobtrusive safety feature which is both effective and adds nice detailing to the garment.
Being a piece of cycling clothing does mean that it is close fitting, or two sizes too small as my non cycling friends (acquaintances) jokingly point out. However, even though this top comes from the continent, it doesn't need to be bought a size or two larger like you do if you are buying an Italian top or a Rapha one. If you wear a medium T shirt then you would buy a medium jersey from Cafe du Cycliste. C'est simple.
A soft rubber gripper at the back of the jersey stops it from riding up you back and helps you maintain a bit of dignity.
I know 130 euros is a lot to shell out on a short sleeved cycling jersey but this one is pretty special and can genuinely be worn as a casual garment too with all performance benefits that quality merino offers. So for roughly double what you can get a merino base layer for you get a stylish, functional, versatile top finished to a very high quality.
My main reservation is that it may not be the most robust piece of cycling kit, I wouldn't wear it mountain biking for example, for fear that the first fight with a bramble bush would shred it, but it has survived repeated washes bunged in with all my other clobber with no ill effect.
In my opinion there aren't enough quality cycle clothing brands and this handsome offering from Cafe du Cycliste will no doubt be joined by more in my wardrobe.
A chic cycling top that performs as well as it looks. For those who enjoy the finer threads and can afford it.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe du Cycliste Simone Jersey Grey
Size tested: Medium, Grey
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
They say "Simone is an urban jersey / polo which is not afraid by strong efforts. Made from extremely light merino fabric, it has natural anti odor and moisture control properties. The collar can be lifted to show a hidden reflective band that will increase your safety when riding at night." - in management speak, it is 'effective'.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight merino wool, which is comfy and wicks sweat very well. Rubber waist gripper. Breast pocket and two back pockets. Reflective detailing.
I was very impressed with the quality of the garment, what I would expect from it's high price tag.
Performs very well. Good fit, comfortable, stylish and fast drying.
The problem with a thin merino is that it is delicate and prone to getting snagged by sharp things.
I am a huge fan of merino wool and prefer it to synthetic garments.
Quality merino doesn't come cheap and when it is made into small production runs of cycling gear it requires a rather large spending commitment. But it is worth it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The attention to details like the reflective strips and elastic bits all add to the price but make this garment stand out to those who appreciate the finer things.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good looking, light-weight and comfortable. Works well as a base layer too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Although I didn't have any problems I can imagine that this garment isn't the most robust it catches anything.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, closer to payday.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? To my more fabulous riding buddies,
About the tester
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Giant CFR pro, old school carbon converted to fixed. Kinesis Convert 2 geared work horse, Look KG241 skinny whippet
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back