You know bamboo, right? Thin, strong and very long (or was that Andrex?). Well, Chapeau has used bamboo to make the new version of its casual Cafe jersey – 64% of the fabric here is bamboo, with the balance being mostly polyester and a smidge of elastane. I've not tried a bamboo jersey before and any concern that it might be, y'know, a bit rigid was quickly dispersed. It's very comfortable. It does have another characteristic in common with the raw material, though, which is length. This is a very long jersey. Probably too long, unless you are very tall.
In some ways the Café jersey falls somewhere between a typical cycling jersey and a polo shirt. The collar and cuffs owe more than a bit to the latter, but the feel of the fabric used for the body is more like a T-shirt: soft and very comfortable against the skin. The bamboo/polyester fabric doesn't hold as much moisture as a cotton T-shirt, though, and I found it stayed very comfortable either worn as a single layer or underneath a jacket.
The jersey is available in a range of colours, with thin strips as here, and in a version with two broader stripes across the chest. We reviewed an earlier version a few years ago, which was a similar looking design but with 100 per cent less bamboo in it – it used a 90/10 polyester-cotton blend.
As I alluded to above, there is a bit of an issue in the sizing. I was originally sent a medium, which was comfortably loose around the chest but very long. So long that I'd repeatedly sit on the contents of the pockets at the rear, even without loading them heavily. Chapeau sent me a small size which is not too tight around my chest – I think I prefer the fit here – but it's still longer than most jerseys I own.
I think the longer cut is an attempt to make it more like a casual top you'd wear to the pub. If you look, for example, at the Bontrager Classique jersey, it's so short at the front as to expose the uppers of the bibs, which wouldn't be a great look off the bike. No such issues here, that's for sure.
In the small size, I didn't sit on the pockets, but they still hung fairly low. If you struggle getting your arm around to fish things out of higher-set pockets, you'll like this jersey. The lower hem has a cycling cut, with a pronounced drop at the rear and silicone dots on the inside to keep it in place. If I stretched it out such that those dots sit against my shorts, the rear hem was only just above the saddle. Bearing in mind this is a small size and I'm 6ft 2in, you have to wonder what kind of a giant would wear the XXL, apparently 4 inches longer top to bottom.
Chapeau has added a note on its website suggesting you may want to size down, and I'd certainly agree with this. In fact, if you're not fairly sizeable, I think you'll probably want to look elsewhere. Which is a shame, as it's otherwise a likeable jersey. I like the subtle reflectivity in the sewn-on badge at the rear and I love the custom zip pull on that pocket with a Chapeau! exclamation mark on it.
One other oddity to note. The advertised water-resistant lining on that zipped pocket was absent on both the samples I had. In case it was some sort of invisible nano-protection, I bunged a load of water in there, which of course came straight back out again. It has a water-resistant zip, which seems sadly of no use at all.
Chapeau's range contains some nice gear, but I think the designers might need to go back to the cutting board on this one.
Comfortable casual jersey that's sized for giants; those of average height or shorter may want to look elsewhere
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chapeau Cafe Jersey
Size tested: Small (weight is for Medium), Thin Stripe, Burnt Orange/O White
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?
Chapeau says: "The Cafe is the casual cycling jersey, which has all the functionality you'd want when you're riding your bike but has a more relaxed fit and style that doesn't look out of place when not on your bike"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
3 main rear pockets
Zipped rear pocket with water resistant lining
We've created our own bamboo fibre based fabric for the Cafe jersey for ultimate comfort. The fabric compositions is: 64% Bamboo, 32% Polyester, 4% Elastane
Blends the casual (almost polo-shirt collar) with the cycling-specific (silicone gripper dots at the hem). Its 64% bamboo fabric is comfortable - it feels almost like t-shirt material but dries faster.
It's not a performance jersey so I wouldn't expect it to perform like one. For the intended casual cycling uses it performs pretty well: fabric is breathable and comfortable against the skin.
Stitching not the neatest I've seen but no evidence of it coming apart during testing, and no other areas of particular concern.
Size down and it fits nicely around the chest and shoulders. Even the small was longer than I'd ideally like for on-bike use, though.
Rather odd. The supplied medium was significantly too long for me (I'm 6ft 2in) – with stuff in the pockets it was borderline unusable as they'd hang so low I would repeatedly sit on them. Chapeau sent over a small which fits nicely but is still on the long side, I think. I'd love to see who could wear the XXL.
Chapeau has added some notes on its website saying that if you usually wear a medium then you may want a small, but I think this is really only a jersey that's going to fit tall people.
No featherweight but it's obviously prioritising comfort and casual style over weight.
The bamboo-based fabric feels good against the skin and there are no internal labels to irritate. On the hottest of days I'd want something lighter and more breathable.
Very decent price from a relatively niche brand.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's nice to wear, quite stylish and a reasonable price. But it's just cut too long for most people, I think.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort, casual styling.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Too long. Not really a fan of half zips, even though it matches the casual style here.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes but...
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Only tall ones.
Use this box to explain your score
Chapeau gets quite a lot right here, with some nice details and a more casual cut and styling than some of its performance jerseys, but it seems like maybe a dimension was misread between the HQ in Devon and the factory in China, and as a consequence it is cut too long for the vast majority of people. For this reason it's hard to give it a better mark.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.