Gravel is a Big Thing in cycling right now, with a whole new category of bikes and a growing list of dedicated tyres, accessories and now clothing aimed at those who want to break away from the shackles of the road network. Sportful's new Giara (Italian for gravel) range is intended to appeal to people who want performance clothing wrapped up in a more casual fit and look, and it's a trick it manages very well.
Sportful is a brand perhaps best known for its race-focused clothing, with designs that have benefited from its sponsorship of professional cycling teams over the years. The existing BodyFit jersey and shorts form the basis for the new Giara range, with a similarity of design wrapped up in a new colour palette of muted hues and understated style.
From the outside, the first thing you'll notice is the new style direction. A two-tone colour palette (available in two colour options) with a simple striped design that looks, in my opinion, really good. Colour and design is a subjective thing but there's no denying Sportful has struck a toned-down, subdued appearance with nice flashes of brighter colours that tie the jersey and shorts together. There are reflective details for those rides that last longer than expected and you're chasing the sunset home.
Is there anything gravel-specific about the clothing? No. What would make clothing gravel-specific anyway? I'm not sure. Answers on a postcard. Sportful is betting on people who want to do the gravel and adventure thing wanting more subdued clothing so they don't look like a wannabe pro. There's no stopping you using this kit on the road too; I used it in a 214km audax and the relaxed styling felt very much at home in the numerous tea shops.
The construction of the jersey and shorts appears to be the same as Sportful's regular BodyFit clothing, with no beefing-up in high-wear areas that might have been expected of clothing designed for gravel riding, where the demands on the kit are arguably higher. Suffice to say, testing in the Strade Bianche sportive and subsequent miles on Salisbury Plain's gravel roads and local woodland trails has put the kit through its paces and it's come through it all just fine.
Let's take a closer look at the shorts. They're very much the same as the regular BodyFit shorts I've tested in previous years. Well-shaped panels ensure a good fit around the legs and hips with no restriction noticeable when riding.
Holding the shorts up in place are thin, mesh bib straps that are comfortable over the shoulder, and there's a thin elasticated hem lined with silicone gripper tape to keep them from shifting about. Even during more energetic gravel riding when throwing some shapes, the shorts didn't budge.
Inside, the padded insert is Sportful's own BodyFit Pro, a chamois comprising various thicknesses and densities of foam padding. It's a well-proven design and provides incredible comfort for rides as long as you have the energy to tackle them. There's no irritation at the edges with the interface between the pad and shorts, and they remain dry during hotter rides well.
The Giara jersey is similarly based on the BodyFit jersey, but Sportful has employed a slightly more relaxed fit, reasoning that those riding gravel and adventure events and rides might not want a second skin jersey that maximises aerodynamics, and are prepared to trade a few watts for a looser, less restrictive fit.
It's a comfortable jersey. The polyester fabric is pleasant against the skin and it copes well in hot weather, staying dry under the most demanding riding conditions. You get three regular sized pockets for stashing all your ride essentials, along with a small zipped pocket for safely storing house/car keys, especially when riding over bumpy ground when there's a risk of your pocket contents being ejected.
There's no denying the rise in popularity of gravel and adventure cycling, and away from the obvious hype this movement is attracting there is definitely more interest in mixed terrain, go-anywhere riding. The bikes are getting more capable and making it easy to add off-road detours to otherwise regular road rides, with less focus on average speeds and KOMs and more interest in getting out into the countryside and riding quiet bridleways, byways, gravel roads and woodland trails.
The new Sportful Giara clothing range, with its understated appearance underpinned by performance design and comfort, perfectly meets this style of riding. It might not bring anything revolutionary to the table but it's an attractive alternative to race-inspired clothing designs. Whether you're doing a gravel event or riding around the hills on a sunny Sunday afternoon with a relaxed coffee stop, the Giara range gets a thumbs-up from me.
Understated and stylish kit with good performance at a good price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Giara jersey and bib shorts
Size tested: Small
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?
Re the Giara jersey, Sportful says: "Designed for riders who want an elegant style while they are enjoying their ride. With toned-down styling that doesn't scream "bike racer," it's at home on epic all-day rides but also doesn't look out of place as you pedal out of the city. Casual performance cut and subtle styling that adapt to asphalt, gravel or coffee stops."
Re the bib shorts: "Built with the same DNA as our race shorts but with a refined style that works well even when you are just "riding your bike." High-stretch fabric allows us to eliminate many seams to offer extra comfort and a stealth look."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Upper body in heathered polyester fabric gives great coverage with a sophisticated style
Color highlights are also reflective for stylish safety
3 rear pockets with 1 additional zipped pocket for convenience and security
Lightweight mesh bibs
High elastane content for great stretch and support
Internal leg elastic grip
BodyFit Pro pad
Built to the usual high standards we've come to expect from Sportful.
There's no cutting back on the performance despite the jersey's relaxed style and fit.
I've been pounding the Giara clothing through miles of gravel and off-road riding, over Salisbury Plain and through my local woods, and durability hasn't been a concern.
The slightly more generous fit of the jersey will appeal to people who don't necessarily want the tightest fitting top.
The padding in the shorts is comfortable even on the longest rides, the fit and fabric of the jersey looks after you in a range of temperatures.
The jersey and shorts cost £75 each. For shorts that's very competitive and together they make a good looking and well-priced combo.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For gravel and off-road rides, and regular road rides, the Giara clothing performed very well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The understated styling and muted colours look really good.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Isn't much to fault. If you prefer a race-fit jersey, the Giara isn't for you, unless you size down.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Even if you ignore the hype surrounding gravel riding, here's a range of clothing that combines a new understated colour palette for the Italian company with the great fit and fabrics Sportful has a good reputation for, and at good prices.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.