The Santini Karma Luce is a lightweight, comfortable summer jersey with a relaxed cut that is designed for a wider variety of body types, but the tight, aero sleeves may narrow its appeal.
We're seeing an increasing number of jerseys this summer with a 'classic' fit, appearing to move on from the second-skin aero style of the last few years that was applied to entire ranges.
The aero race jerseys are still at the tops of the ranges – the Santini Redux Fortuna, for example, costs £180 – but mid or lower-end jerseys such as the £75 Shimano Climbers Jersey are often designed more for comfort than speed; even Le Col offers a more relaxed-fitting option with its £95 Sport Jersey (review to come).
The Santini Karma Luce, however, does a bit of both. The torso is fairly roomy while the raglan sleeves might have been borrowed from a skinsuit: raw cut and made of a stretchier, grippier fabric than the rest of the jersey, and with their (unstretched) cuff diameter measuring a relatively tiny 20cm, they seem designed for guns at the peashooter rather than the Howitzer end of the scale.
My arms are more at the former (it's not me in the photos) and the sleeves fit me fine, but the close fit exaggerates excess material on the chest, shoulders and waist. You can also see the tight sleeves and baggier bodies on the models in the riding shots on Santini's website.
Or, if your body does fill the relaxed fit, as our model's does, you're then risking sausage arm – the upper-body version of the dreaded sausage leg.
Santini's size and fit guide really doesn't give many clues and could do with a bit more detail to help customers choose not only which size but which fit (sleek, slim or classic) is right for them.
I also found the pockets on the small side. The Karma Luce's three rear pockets (no zipped valuables compartment) are only 16cm tall, which is not quite enough for most mini-pumps or plus-sized phones. An iPhone 8 Plus measures 15.8cm; obviously more in a case. I've also been reviewing VeloPac's RidePac Lite, which is 18.5cm long, and I didn't risk taking it out in the Santini jersey.
A quick measuring up of some of my other jersey pockets including Assos, Vulpine, Le Col, Shimano and Castelli suggests that 17cm is usually the minimum, the average is around 18cm.
Sleeve and pocket sizing issues aside, this is a good quality, lightweight summer jersey that performs well in hot weather. The Karma Luce is made from three different fabrics. The front and back use a lightweight, textured polyester while mesh panels at the sides are designed to let out excess heat. The sleeves, as I've mentioned, are made from a Lycra-style stretchy, smooth material and even though they grip tightly I didn't find them uncomfortable, and one of the upsides is that they don't ride up.
Breathability is great – the very thin fabric lets air in and out effectively. The fabric also wicks well. Even without a baselayer I found it didn't hold onto moisture or cling and was comfortable next to the skin.
Overall, it performed very well. I have to say I was aware of the baggier shoulders bunching slightly behind my neck, and everyone knows that baggy clothing also has an effect on aerodynamics, so it might not be my first choice for a Strava segment KOM attempt.
The zip has a smooth, heavy action and the puller has a nice little rubber Santini-branded insert to make it more tactile.
There are discreet reflective tabs sewn in at the sides of the rear pockets.
And if you're not keen on this teal Petroleum colour scheme it also comes in Atomic Orange, Space Blue and Silver Bullet.
Even though the Karma Luce is at the cheap end of Santini's range, as the maker of the official world champion's jersey Santini is a prestige brand, and of course you pay for that. But the jersey is also made in Italy, has a quality look and feel about it and wear-wise is good as new after a month of washes.
You can get good quality for less, though: Lusso's R1 Breathe is worth a look, and we've also been impressed with the Scimitar Eco1 jersey. Of course, jerseys from the likes of Assos, Rapha, Le Col and also Santini themselves go into triple figures.
Looser jerseys have their place in clothing manufacturers' ranges, but Santini seems unwilling to commit one hundred per cent to it, speccing very tight aero sleeves which give it a slightly uneven fit.
The pockets are also smaller than average, needing another couple of centimetres to safely swallow mini-pumps and bigger phone cases. If the sleeves were redesigned and the pockets enlarged slightly, it would be a great jersey because it looks stylish, performs well and is quality-made in Italy.
Good quality, lightweight jersey but the relaxed body paired with tight, aero sleeves results in an uneven fit for some
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Karma Luce Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Santini says: "Not every cyclist wants to squeeze themselves into the tightest-fitting garment possible. With classic Italian fit and Santini style and durability, KARMA kits are for those of us who ride purely for the love of cycling while maintaining the Santini commitment to performance and durability. We make no compromises on materials, using lightweight performance fabrics we know to stand up to repeated wearing and washing."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Santini's website:
Classic comfort fit and raw cut sleeves
BREATHABLE AND LIGHTWEIGHT
Breathable mesh fabric on sides
Triple rear pocket for convenient access
Reflective details on the rear for extra visibility on the road
Very nicely made, in Italy.
Very comfortable for hot weather riding, made with lightweight, breathable fabrics that also wick very well and don't hold onto moisture.
I would say there's a good few years of service in the Karma Luce based on its first month or so of regular wearing and washing.
For me, the too-tight sleeves paired with a relaxed body led to a slightly uneven fit.
Judging by the length and collar size (14.5in unstretched), medium was right for me at 178cm and 68kg – but the fit wasn't right and this would not have been solved by sizing down.
Nice, light summer jersey.
Very comfortable next to the skin and never clammy thanks to the main fabric's soft back.
There are cheaper jerseys and more expensive jerseys. If the fit was right, I would say the price is pretty good, bearing in mind Santini is a premium brand and the jersey is made in Italy from good quality fabrics.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It has been through a good few wash cycles in the last month and each time has emerged looking as good as new. No problems at all with durability.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The fabrics performed well on hot-weather rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's a good looking jersey that performs well. I like the simple but striking colour schemes on offer – it's very chic.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Mostly the fit; also the small pockets.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are cheaper jerseys that we've also found fitted better: Lusso's R1 Breathe and the Scimitar Eco1 jersey are two. But there are also many more expensive jerseys – for top-end racing jerseys like the Castelli Aero Race 6.0 you're looking at well over £100; the Pearl Izumi Pro Mesh goes for £124.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not, because the cut isn't right for my body shape.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they had a more rotund body and thin arms, yes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I really like the look of the Santini Karma Luce, the fabrics performed well in warm weather and it ought to get a higher score, but because of the relaxed body paired with tight aero arms it has a slightly strange fit that didn't work for me and I'd suggest doesn't quite look right on Santini's models either. With more generous sleeves – and bigger pockets – it would be a great jersey.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
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: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, School run on a tandem
Simon finished his MA in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his eight-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).