PEZ reviews high visibility cycling clothing including the Specialized HyprViz jersey, bibshorts, long gloves, and over-socks. Some die hard roadies eschew hi-viz kit because it’s not perceived as very pro (although there are a few teams in the pro peloton that do fluo… notably Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) and fluorescent yellow is more often associated with commuters rather than racers. But this new gear from the Big S might change your mind…
In a world where most of us have to share the road with cars rather than the protective enclosure of the pro peloton, what’s wrong with making yourself more visible and being seen? IMHO, I don’t believe being seen and being stylish on the bike have to be mutually exclusive. My PEZ amigo Ed Hood’s rant has a lot to say about the do’s and don’ts of cycling fashion, but I couldn’t find anything specific about not wearing fluo. So at the risk of incurring Ed’s wrath…
Specialized HyperViz Long-sleeve SL Air Jersey – $140
It’s that time of year here in Babylon on the Potomac when the temps can be either cool or warm (sometimes both as the day progresses). So even though the weather is turning nicer, there are days when wearing a long-sleeve jersey (but not a thermal one) is a viable option for skinny ectomorphs who are not quite the hardest of hard men.
Design-wise, the Specialized Long-sleeve SL Air Jersey is like many other jerseys: a main back panel, two side panels, two front panels, full-length zipper, low-cut collar (more mock neck than collar-less), and raglan sleeves. All those panels are serge stitched, except at the collar which uses a bound seam. The back hem of the jersey is elasticized but the sides and front rely on the compression of the material for fit.
The inside back of the jersey has silicone gripper (but it doesn’t wrap all the way around
The back of the jersey features the obligatory three rear pockets plus a secure zipper pocket. A lot of other jerseys have the zipper pocket as part of the right rear pocket, but Specialized opted for putting it in the center. The center pocket is marginally wider (~11 cm vs ~10 cm for the side pockets) so a little extra space to stow an ID, credit/debit card, keys. #marginalgains. I really like the vertical zipper because I find accessing the secure pocket easier from the side than the top.
Of course, what sets the Specialized HyprViz SL Air Long-sleeve Jersey apart from other long-sleeve jerseys (Specialized and otherwise) is the HyprViz. Specialized calls the color Hyper Green (Specialized says it’s “the most visible color on the light spectrum“), which fades to black at the bottom of the jersey. At first glance, my eye saw it as fluorescent yellow. But when putting it next to another piece of clothing that was fluorescent yellow, it became apparent that the HyprViz was just a shade darker and more green than yellow. So call it fluorescent green. But whether it looks green or yellow to your eye, one thing is certain: it’s very visible. It definitely stands out in the crowd. If being seen is the goal, it’s hard to imagine not being seen (unless someone is just totally color blind).
Hyper Green is more apparently green when placed against fluorescent yellow (background)
To aid nighttime visibility, Specialize adds reflective Hyper Green trim at the sleeve ends
Hyper Green reflective trim on the back pockets
Fit (size small for all 5′ 8″ and 130 pounds of me) is what you would expect; meaning form fitting. But not what I would call a second skin race fit on my ectomorph body. Comfortably tight is a better description. The material felt soft and smooth against my skin. But the material is actually relatively lightweight and “airy” (what Specialized calls VaporRize), so in cooler temps I would add a base layer. Not a thermal base layer, but just something to help me ward of early morning chill but not cause me to overheat when the day gets warmer. A good choice for this is the Specialized SL Short Sleeve Base Layer ($50).
Cam-lock zipper: (L) up to zip and (R) down to lock in place
And for my “pasty boy” riding pals who are UV-challenged, the Long-sleeve SL Air Jersey is light and airy enough to wear in warmer (but I’m not sure about out and out hot and humid) weather and has 30+ UPF rating to provide full-length arm coverage and protect from harmful ultraviolet rays.
Full-zip, of course
Almost as light as many short-sleeve jerseys
Specialized HyprViz SL Bib Short – $160
Complementing the HyprViz Long-sleeve SL Air Jersey is the HyprViz SL Bib Short. But don’t worry, the shorts themselves are not Hyper Green.
As bib shorts go, the SL Bib Short is pretty straightforward and conventional, which is a good thing. The shorts part consists of five panels (excluding the wrap around leg gripper sections with silicone dots on the inside) that are serge stitched. The bib part is six sections (serge stitched) using a lightweight, ventilated material. Even though it’s not visible (unless you plan on riding without wearing a jersey), the Y-back bib part and bib straps are Hyper Green that fades to black where it meets the shorts part.
From an actual visibility standpoint, the HyprViz part of the shorts are two reflective strips on the back of the legs
The bib straps are neither seam stitched or laser cut, but are “welded”
Of course, what matters most for any pair of bib shorts is the chamois aka pad. According to Specialized, their’s is a “triple-density-foam Performance Body Geometry Contour 3D Chamois … pre-molded to match the shape of the body for exceptional comfort.” The pad is actually made by Elastic Interface, who make pads used by a number of different manufacturers.
The Contour 3D Chamois is lightly dimpled and has a long center channel for perineal relief
My butt has had nothing but (no pun intended) positive experience with EIT pads and the pad in the Specialized SL Bib Short was no exception. Which is to say that there’s just enough padding to provide a comfortable cushion but not so thick that it feels like I’m wearing a diaper. Also, the padding is more firm/dense rather than “soft,” which I prefer for my contact point with a firm race saddle.
As bib shorts go, these are pretty light
Fit-wise (Specialized spec size small for my dimensions/weight and that’s what fit me), the HyprViz SL Bib Short has comfortably firm compression. The leg grippers grip without squeezing too tight. And the welded bib straps were comfortable (but not as comfortable as laser cut, lay flat straps) over my shoulders.
Specialized SL Bicycledelics Short-sleeve Jersey – $80
Let me start by saying I love the look of this jersey. Definitely on the psychedelic side (hence it’s moniker). If you’re squeamish about wearing “solid” fluo, the SL Bicycledelics Short-sleeve Jersey is a patterned Hyper Green and black (where the black is repeating Specialized “S” logo).
The Bicycledelics pattern is like a hypnotic swirl
Construction-wise, the Bicycledelics Jersey is the same as the SL Air Jersey but with short sleeves instead of long sleeves:
- A main back panel, two side panels, two front panels, full-length zipper, low-cut collar (more mock neck than collar-less), and raglan sleeves.
- All those panels are serge stitched, except at the collar which uses a bound seam.
- The back hem of the jersey is elasticized but the sides and front rely on the compression of the material for fit.
Not ultra lightweight, but still very light
Unlike the SL Air Jersey, the short sleeves are hemmed with a flat stitch seam. Also unlike the SL Air Jersey, the Bicycledelics Jersey doesn’t have a secure zipper rear pocket.
Reflective trim on the rear pockets
Specialized uses its VaporRize fabric for the Bicycledelics Jersey but the fabric in the front panels and the sleeves is a little more “solid.” When you hold it up to light, it’s apparent that the front panels are more opaque than the side and back panels, which are more “airy” like the fabric used thought the SL Air Jersey. So provides a little more insulation that an out and out summer jersey, but still vents/wicks moisture out the back.
Even though it may not be quite as “vented” as the SL Air Jersey, the Bicycledelics Jersey is still a fairly lightweight jersey (it’s light enough and the material wicks moisture away such that I’m confident I could ride it into the summer). So in cool enough weather, I would want a base layer — like the Specialized SL Sleeveless Base Layer ($40). The other thing I might want is a pair of arm warmers — like the Specialized Thermal Engineered Arm Warmers ($50)– that I can always roll down if it gets warm enough and pull back up if the temp cools back down again, i.e., typical spring riding weather.
Arm warmers done properly, i.e., Ed Hood-approved
Fit-wise (again, size small for me), the Bicycledelics jersey fit just like the SL Air Jersey. Which is to say, form fitting but not quite uber tight race fit. That said, if you’ve put on a few pounds/kilos over the winter, there won’t be any hiding them. And like the SL Air Jersey, the VaporRize fabric was soft and smooth on my skin. In fact, the front panels that are more “solid” were probably a little softer and smoother. All in all, a very comfortable jersey that should do well on all but the most scorchingly hot and drippingly humid days (and even then, you could wear it and it wouldn’t be terrible).
Nothing less than full-zip will do
Specialized SL Race Bib Short – $180
This is the one piece of kit in this review that I know Ed can’t quibble with: basic black bib shorts. No HyprViz. No Hyper Green. No fluo.
In the same ballpark as most other race quality bib shorts
From a construction standpoint, the SL Race Bib Short is the same as SL Bib Short:
- The shorts part consists of five panels (excluding the wrap around leg gripper sections with silicone dots on the inside) that are serge stitched.
- The bib part is six sections (serge stitched) using a lightweight, ventilated material.
The SL Race Bib Short uses the same Contour 3D Chamois as the SL Bib Short
But there are a few differences. For the SL Race Bib Short:
- The bib straps themselves are a laser cut, lay flat construction (I’m a fan).
- The leg gripper panel is wider (7.5 cm vs 5 cm).
The other difference is the fit (but still size small for me). The SL Race Bib Short has firmer compression. Not “sausage”-like. But definitely a noticeably tighter, more race fit (hence the moniker) than the SL Bib Short.
Not HyprViz, but a reflective strip on the seam of the leg gripper panel to aid nighttime visibility
If you’re going to go fluo, you might as well go Full Monty and accessorize in fluo.
Specialized HyprViz Prime Series Thermal Gloves ($50)
Don’t let the “thermal” mislead. These are not winter gloves. Rather, according to Specialized, they’re “designed to add some warmth on chilly days.” They feature:
- Hyper Green Polartec Neoshell is paired with unique reflective trims to drastically increase your visibility to motorists 24-hours a day.
- Wind-resistant Polartec Neoshell upper staves off wind and chilly weather.
- Hydrophobic Ax Suede fit palm ensures a confident grip with the bars.
- Wiretap touchscreen-compatible for easy use of smartphones.
- Velcro cuff allows for micro-adjustments in fit, so that you can wear this glove under or over your jacket cuff.
I’m a “no gloves” guy in warm enough weather, but the Prime Series Thermal Gloves are great for this time of year if a morning ride starts off cold. They’re lightweight and thin enough (there’s no padding on the palms but I’m fine with that) that they don’t feel too bulky or “clumsy” and can easily be stuffed into a jersey pocket. If I had one (minor) nit: I’d ditch the velcro cuff closure in favor of just elastic. I find that velcro can sometimes snag on jersey material.
HyprViz Soft Air Reflective Tall Sock ($20)
If you’re bold enough to go fluo, you might as well be matchy-matchy with socks. These are similar to many other cycling socks out there in terms of design and construction: a little more compression around the mid-foot, some ventilation in the toe area and across the top, a little extra padding under the forefoot, compression cuffs to keep the socks up. Oh … and they’re tall.
But what makes the HyprViz Soft Air Reflective Tall Sock different is that it’s Hyper Green with a reflective strip along the back (Specialized says: “This part is made up of millions of glass beads that receive and reflect light back to the source, so this reflective band gives you an active, moving element to make yourself more visible to drivers.“)
Reflective strip for added nighttime visibility
HyprViz Reflect Overshoe Sock ($40)
I often refer to this time of year as “Belgian spring” so what could be more appropriate to ward of chill (but not wet) than an overshoe sock? That’s about as Belgian as it gets. In the “old days,” an overshoe sock was exactly that: a pair of socks (winter wool) worn over a pair of shoes with a hole cut out for the cleats. Functional enough (for the era), but not very elegant and pretty much a one-and-done deal.
Specialized’s take uses modern, abrasion resistant knitted stretch yarn and the socks have reinforced pre-cut holes for cleats and heel pads. That said, it’s still a sock — not a bootie with a rugged/durable sole material — so I’d take care walking around in them. In addition to the being Hyper Green for visibility, the Reflect Overshoe Sock has a reflective strip that runs up the back of the sock.
For when you need a little more warmth than just socks: thoroughly modern but old school cool
To fluo or not to fluo?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let these pictures speak to help you decide.
My answer is: fluo. The Specialized HyprViz kit is pro level and pro cut in terms of fit and function. And the Hyper Green is just different enough from traditional fluorescent yellow such that it won’t be mistaken for a construction or traffic crew “safety vest.” But the added visibility provides an extra element of safety, which in the real world I live in riding with cars and in traffic is nothing to turn your nose up at.
A fluo accessory for the times
And if I may, I’d like to encourage my race/roadie pals who aren’t fans of fluo to please be kind to those who choose to go fluo … especially our commuter and recreational cycling brethren. The cycling community is a small enough community as it is. Creating separation within in it is not healthy IMHO. We’re all cyclists and all in this together. I’m reminded of what I wrote in my review of “Ride the Revolution”:
Caroline Stewart is a fully qualified bicycle mechanic who provided support at the 2014 Women’s Tour (Britain) and the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire. If we want to make the sport (not just women’s cycling) bigger and better, we would all do well to abide by her philosophy: “My cycling may not be your cycling, but it’s just as valid.”
Finally, if you don’t think fluo is very pro, this guy might disagree:
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