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The Primal Apparel Basalt socks are mid-length and surprisingly airy socks that don't feel overly synthetic in the way some can. They're long enough for mountain bike and gravel excursions, and I thought the 3D pattern struck a nice balance between funky and flamboyant.
Made predominantly of acrylic and polyamide, with smaller quantities of elastane and Lycra (15 and 10% respectively) thrown into the mix, they're hardly exotic, but tried and tested and low maintenance.
There's some minor reinforcement at the toe box and heel sections, which hits the right notes. Sure, more substantial cushioning can translate into greater comfort, but on the flip side they can also spoil the snug fit of sportier touring and mountain bike shoes.
I take size 43 street and 44 cycling shoes and found the L/XL perfect. Something of an Imelda Marcos when it comes to cycling shoes, I thought the Basalts worked handsomely with racing slippers, sport/traditional touring shoes and mountain bike booties.
Interestingly, Primal hasn't gone the left/right-specific route. This isn't a bad thing, especially if you're a bit bleary eyed when whipping them on, although I have found the left/right-specific types of comparable materials improve foot fatigue on very long rides, especially off-road.
Calf length (as distinct from ankle) is designed to offer some additional protection against stray stones/sharps thrown up by the front tyre – not to mention thistles, long grass, nettles and other prickly stuff. The cuffs keep everything in situ without any hint of tell-tale branding when it's time to strip off and hit the shower.
Style divided opinions among the road riders I spoke to. Personally, I appreciated some additional coverage for early season tarmac-centric duties, especially beneath thin Lycra tights, and didn't think they looked weird with 3/4 knickers either.
The Primals haven't felt overly synthetic, even after a few steady hours in the saddle. I'm prone to sweaty feet and am pleased to report that wicking is also competitive when pitted against some polyester/merino hybrids. When temperatures creep into the teens, there's that familiar warm glow if you've been clipping along for 30 minutes at 85-100rpm, but the fibres soon kick in to maintain an ambient, arid inner climate.
Organic grime and evidence of the odd close encounter with the drivetrain have vanished in a 30-degree wash. Plucked from the machine, they're bone dry in around 25 minutes, less if line drying and aided by a stiff breeze.
Bottom line, socks aren't the most exciting of kit, but a bad pair can really ruin a ride. These are a decent everyday design and likely to win favour with riders who like to mix things up both in terms of style and riding, though for touring I'd probably opt for merino mixes.
Funky and practical everyday socks that compare favourably with some merino hybrids
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Primal Apparel Basalt socks
Size tested: Large/Extra Large
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?
Primal says: "Primal Cycling Socks are an essential part of any cyclist's closet. Constructed with a composition of advanced air transfer fabrics, these socks will stay dry and help you keep cool."
My feelings are they're decent socks that bridge the gap between road and trail, good for gravel/rough stuff touring.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
o 50% Acrylic
o 25% Polyamide(Nylon)
o 15% Elastane(Spandex)
o 10% Lycra
Surprisingly comfortable for synthetic fibres.
Good balance of wicking, protection and fit with most genres of cycling shoe/booties.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Incredibly easy to live with, machine washes beautifully and dries in around 20 minutes.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Capable all-rounders with a funky vibe that bridge the gap between road and trail sock very well. They offer sufficient protection from foliage, without looking ridiculous with Lycra. Outright comfort in terms of drying speed and temperature regulation doesn't quite match merino but it's not far behind.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Decent length, just the right tog weight for three seasons riding – road or trail, funky design, sensible length, easy to care for.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, given the design brief.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Quite possibly.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Not quite on par with merino, but very practical socks for most kinds of riding.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)