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The Louison Bobet Cipale 46 is a lightweight high-performance jersey that fits better than any glove and looks stylish too. It's very expensive, though, and only likely to suit the racier frame.
Rather than pluck a name from the pages of cycling history and use it as a brush to create an instant image of heritage, the Louison Bobet brand does have a real connection to the post-war French pro cyclist and three-time Tour de France winner as the cycle clothing company has been created by the man's nephew and a close friend, complete with the full support of the family. Heritage – real, imagined or used as a marketing crutch – means little if the kit isn't up to the rhetoric. Luckily this Cipale 46 jersey is.
The jersey is made from a bi-stretch fabric that's designed specifically for cyclists looking for the best in terms of competitive cycling, according to Louison Bobet, with light compression providing a second-skin feeling aided by the jersey's light weight.
The features on the Cipale 46 are exactly as you might expect from a quality cycle jersey. There are the standard three pockets in the rear with an extra zipped security pocket on the right hand side, the tops and bottoms of the pocket seams are double stitched for strength for when you're stuffing them full of your ride essentials, and the side pocket tops are slightly angled down to ease reach-around fumbling.
Added details are a contrast strip of fabric along the top of the pockets, and the middle pocket sports a reflective loop. The pockets aren't as capacious as on many other jerseys, the middle pocket in particular, which is thinner than the outer pair, which could be an issue if you're a habitual pocket hoarder. But as the jersey is best in high temperatures or fast-paced riding, the likelihood is you won't be carrying that much kit, be that extra warm layers or general pocket kerfuffle.
The full-length YKK front zip has a wind baffle behind it and a dock at the top to prevent chin rubbage. It's also incredibly smooth to use on the move, which is something a lot of jersey zips manage not to manage.
Of appeal to many riders will be the subtlety of branding and logos on the jersey: 'Louison Bobet' merely appears small above the rear pockets where only those on your wheel can see it, there's a large 'B' on the left sleeve, while on the right it quotes 'Riding with panache' in small cursive script, all of which details are subtly reflective. And that's it.
The Cipale 46 is available in five colours and this dark grey one with the white highlights of sleeve-ends and rear pocket detailing is a bit of a subdued looker. Cyclists whose names start with a 'B' might be particularly attracted.
The outstanding feature of the Cipale 46 is the fit. It's designed to be second-skin snug and offer a light compression, and the woven bi-stretch fabric makes sure that it very much is; it's as if they tested the prototypes on climbing goat Romain Bardet. I'm pretty much a standard medium across all cycling jerseys and, though I say it myself, am pretty lithe, and this medium is one of the snuggest jerseys I've ever worn, in a good way.
If you're carrying a little bit of midriff then definitely go up a size or look elsewhere for a jersey for fear of looking like a poorly stuffed saucisson – it's a top for the racing snakes really. But that shrink-wrapped quality makes it an absolute joy to wear, contoured perfectly to the body. There's no flap in the wind, awkward bunching up or jersey shifting.
Helping it keep taut to the body are the waist hem and sleeve ends, both of which are comfortably wide, and internally dimpled strips of fabric that ensure the jersey sticks aero to the skin with no movement or riding up.
The 78% polyamide/22% elasthane fabric is very lightweight and has quite a silky feel to it; people seem to like to stroke you with this on, or maybe it's just me. Its light weight makes it ideal for hot days, high-tempo training work or racing when you're likely to get a bit of a sweat on. Luckily it's also really very good at dealing with bodily fluids, being both incredibly breathable and fast drying. Even on the most glowing of days, the jersey never became damp with effort and any perspiration was merely apparent by a pattern of salt on the fabric.
The downside to this gossamer feel and close-fitting fit is that it's a little fragile as a fabric, with the odd thread pull appearing here and there, so if you're a rider who heads off into the wilds a lot or are boisterous with kit then you might want to avoid this jersey. But then this isn't the sort of use that the Cipale 46 jersey's designed for.
There is much to commend the Louison Bobet Cipale 46: from its subtle good looks to its lightweight fabric and race snug fit, it was an absolute pleasure to wear on hot days or for when the going got sweaty. The size of the pockets is a minor grumble and those who aren't overly slinky might need to shop elsewhere, but what's going to elicit anxious hand-wringing is the price. The most expensive short-sleeved top from go-to let's-whinge-at-the-price brand Rapha comes in at £145 and given currency fluctuations this Louison Bobet top hits about the same mark, so it has to be something pretty special. It is, it's a very, very lovely jersey to wear. Whether it's worth that price will depend on how much you value quality, fit and people touching you.
An expensive but exemplary and good looking, skin-tight, high-performance jersey for fast and hot riding
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Louison Bobet Cipale 46 - Full Zip Light Jersey Criterium
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
The Louison Bobet CIPALE 46 is a lightweight high-performance cycle jersey using a bi-stretch fabric designed for hot days, high intensity training and racing.
The Louison Bobet website says, "CIPALE 46 is our high-performance jersey using a bi-stretch fabric made in France, specifically designed for active and sophisticated cyclists for whom a cycling outfit is about light and ultra-adapted materials, fine and highly technical performances combined with a sober and elegant design.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Woven bi-stretch fabric: 78% polyamide - 22% elasthane
Full front zip
Shoulder line moved forward
Side panels underarms as gussets
Key pocket, invisible zip on the right side
Three back pockets
Stretchable silicone inner band, non-slip
Reflective markings on the shoulders
Reflective mention 'Louison Bobet' on the back
Made in Portugal
It's a beautifully made garment with lots of nice and well-thought-out little details.
An extremely well-fitting jersey that wicked away sweat efficiently.
It's a very light jersey that feels a little frail, and a few threads have pulled, but otherwise it's stood up to its intended use.
Second skin svelte.
For its stated size it's very race-fit, breathe-in-when-putting-on snug. One for the more whippety.
Almost not there light.
Super-comfortable, there's nothing to it and it's shrinky-dink snug.
That's a lot of money for a cycling jersey; it'll be up to you to decide if it's actually worth it. Or wait for the Euro exchange rate to improve, a lot.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Threw it in the machine with the rest of the cycling clobber, it's been fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a jersey designed for high-performance riding and racing, although you don't have to do those to enjoy it, it's also just as good as a warm day top. It fits beautifully and performs impeccably under pressure.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit, fit, fit, branding shy design, colourways.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Pockets were a tiny bit small, well pricey.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's at the very, very top end of the price for a short-sleeved jersey, vying for the top spot with the Nalini AHS Mortirolo Jersey and losing out to the Gore C7 Jersey on the basis of not having any Windstopperness.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much so.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Louison Bobet CIPALE 46 is a really very exquisite jersey. Designed for the heat of either high summer or racing, it fits and performs impeccably but is probably best on the more lithe among us. It's definitely worth the money; whether you want to spend that much on a jersey is another matter...
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
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: road racing, cyclo-cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.