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All of the Café du Cycliste kit I have ever worn has always been very well made, full of little extra details, and that's the case with the Francine Jersey – a top-quality piece of kit. The fit is a great balance of performance and relaxed comfort, and breathability is taken care of by the inclusion of integrated mesh panels. Drawbacks? Very few, and they're personal – I found the outer pockets a touch narrow, and the sleeves are a bit long for my liking.
For me, the Francine jersey is perfect for those long summer rides which see you out for hours and hours just taking in the scenery.
The fabric, a mixture of polyamide (93%) and a small amount of elastane (7%), is soft to the touch and provides a close fit without being really clingy like a full-on piece of race clothing.
The whole jersey is cut well: everything fits where it should, resulting in a complete lack of bunching of any fabric without seeming to need the stretch of the material to keep things in place.
Sizing is in line with many British brands, meaning that the Francine is more generous than many European offerings. I'm a medium in most clothing and this medium Café du Cycliste jersey fitted me a treat (it's not me in the photos).
The only thing I would say is that the sleeves are longer than on many jerseys, which isn't a big issue unless you are fickle about keeping a crisp tan line when wearing many different jerseys.
There is plenty of length at the rear, which has a silicone gripper running around the hem to keep it in place. It gives great coverage even when you are tucked into the drops and didn't budge an inch when changing position on the bike.
You get the usual three traditional pockets running horizontally across the lower back and Café du Cycliste has made the entrance to the two outer pockets slanted to ease access when in the saddle. I found them a little narrow, but obviously that will depend on the size of your hands.
All three pockets are made from mesh which has plenty of stretch – you can load them up with a fair amount of kit without too much sag.
Mounted externally on the central pocket is a zipped one for valuables, always a welcome addition, although it has no waterproofing properties should you get caught out in the rain.
The thickness of the fabric gives the jersey a fair amount of versatility for use throughout the year. For late autumn and early spring use you could get away with pairing it with a pair of arm warmers and just a thin gilet.
On chillier days the fabric does a good job of keeping you warm without letting you cook – helped by the fact that the Francine has a wide mesh panel running the full length of the back (including the central pocket) and underarm sections.
This helps air flow through the jersey, and I was impressed with how well the Francine dealt with the recent high temperatures and increased humidity levels. When climbing or really riding hard, sweat levels can build up and the Francine can get a little damp, but back off the pace a touch or find a fast descent and it soon dries out.
All of this performance comes at a price, mind – at £133 the Francine isn't cheap.
In its defence, it is very well made. The stitching is immaculate throughout and the full-length YKK zip runs smoothly from top to bottom. I also like the classic looking design, the bold stripes giving the Francine a quality look. If it doesn't do it for you, there are six other designs in the range to choose from.
It's a little more expensive than the similarly styled ashmei Croix de Fer, which has an rrp of £128 and uses more technical fabrics than the Café du Cycliste, though the overall performance and comfort is on a par, as is the finish quality.
PEdAL's ED Odyssey is also slightly cheaper at £125. It's another one designed for adventure riding and long days in the saddle, and comes with extra pockets.
Overall, the Francine jersey is a very good all-round choice for a variety of riding, backed up by great quality and comfort.
Great fitting, comfortable jersey that delivers plenty of breathability for three-season use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe du Cycliste Francine Jersey
Size tested: M
Tell us what the product is for
Cafe du Cycliste says, "With signature Breton inspired styling, Francine is a highly adaptable performance jersey suited to warmer weather riding. The super soft proprietary fabric is high wicking and fast drying to keep you cool and dry on hot days while in cooler climes the midweight construction provides additional protection against the wind.
'Open mesh panels on the back and under the arms work together to increase air flow and ventilation is further improved by the unique use of netting on the rear pocket backs to alleviate the need for two layers of fabric.
'The striking design is complemented by a host of features including a full zip with guard, three back cargo pockets, a zipped key pocket and reflective elements to improve safely when light conditions are less than ideal."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Cafe du Cycliste lists:
93% polyamide | 7% elastane
mesh panels for ventilation
moisture management properties
full zip with guard
three cargo pockets
zipped key pocket
made in europe
The sizing is quite similar to many British brands and the size guide reflects that.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Cafe du Cycliste recommends a 30 degree wash and I had no issues when following this.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A well-designed jersey that works for a whole range of riding disciplines.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
A great fit thanks to the multi-panel design.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The sleeves are longer than I would normally like and I found the side pockets a touch narrow for my hands.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Very similar – if slightly more expensive – than similar offerings from ashmei and PEdAL ED.
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 overall score
A very well made jersey that matches classic styling with modern fabrics and detailing. Its performance in a range of temperatures means you'll get plenty of use out of it too.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!