Last summer I was sent a set of Hincapie’s Emergence kit for review. I had been pretty fascinated by the stuff when I’d gotten a look at it at Interbike, but my fascination was somewhat … academic. Why’s that you ask? Well, even though this kit is ninja black, the fabric has been treated with Schoeller’s coldblack® technology which reflects light and provides SPF protection. I know, black kit for a hot day sounds like a joke, but I was at least persuaded to give it a try. But when?
The fact is, even though I live in Southern California, my proximity to the beach (two miles and falling if the reports of rising sea level are to be believed) means that I never see the triple-digit heat so much of California withers beneath.
Combine that with this other little tidbit and you’ll see that it was difficult to even find a chance to put the stuff to use. Oh, and that other little tidbit is that I ride in the early morning six days a week. By the time I get home, temperatures are usually still south of 70 degrees. I spend nearly 10 months a year in arm warmers.
Ah, but I’ve had two events in the last 12 months that allowed me to put this kit through its paces. The first was a trip last August to Bishop, Calif., where I took in a bunch of hors categorie climbs. I’d start off just as soon as it was warm enough to ride without arm warmers and return to temps in the low hundreds.
Then last month I took a trip to Memphis, Tenn., and got reacquainted with “90s and 90s.” That is, temperatures and humidity upwards of 90 (degrees and percent). It was a bit like bumping into the psycho ex; I haven’t missed it. But man, coldblack® actually works. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t some universe-altering Gabriel Garcia Marquez surreal air conditioning textile. I’m not crazy. What I noticed was that I could reach down and touch the fabric in the jersey and bibs and they weren’t hot to the touch like so many all-black garments would be. I had to ride with some other all-black bibs just to make sure I wasn’t imagining the phenomenon.
So coldblack®, in my experience, does work. It won’t turn July into October, but it can make unbearable sort of okay. Hincapie reports that it offers an SPF factor of 50+.
That said, I’m trying to understand why it was coldblack® and not coldred or coldblue. I have serious reservations about an all black kit. Part of this is the nerd in me. No, it’s not that I have some twisted sense of what looks good (though I do take fashion cues from “The Big-Bang Theory.”) It’s that a portion of my undergraduate work was in sensation and perception. Allow me to distill a year’s worth of 400-level courses into a single, useful statement: Black isn’t a color; it’s a hole in the visual field.
As it turns out, to the human brain, black is as close as we get to invisible, short of Wonder Woman comics. It’s the opposite of red. Your eye is hardwired to look around black rather than at it. Given the incredible number of SUV-driving people whose next phone call is several times more important than your continued good health, I just have a preference for recommending stuff that makes you more visible rather than less so. Though I do make an exception for anything in neon yellow. There’s no need to overdo it. Which brings me to another point: don’t ask about color options. Henry Ford would approve of this approach as it’s available in black or black.
To be fair, both the jersey and bibs have reflective tags, logos and piping, but reflective bits don’t do much on rides when headlights aren’t on, and even for cars with daytime lights, reflective pips aren’t often noticeable at noon.
In Hincapie, as in most American clothing brands, I wear medium bibs and a small jersey. Of late, Hincapie bib inseams and jerseys have been cut shorter than they used to. This is a good thing. It’s one thing to have George Hincapie personally test all the clothing. It’s quite another to use him as the fit model. Having said this, the kit is supposed to have a form fit—Hincapie calls the cut body-mapping. The jersey should be snug, though not quite skinsuit tight. In my case it would have been nice to go down yet another size to achieve the desired fit; I say would have because they don’t make the jersey in XS—that was a bit of a disappointment. The kit is available in five sizes: S through XXL. So if you want the jersey to fit you correctly, at least like the guy in the pic, go down one size if possible. I don’t see anyone under 145 lbs. wearing this jersey. The bibs, on the other hand, fit correctly.
The kit is cut from AT1 Dynamic stretch fabric and features flatlock seems throughout. The pieces are quite comfortable. In walking around before the ride, filling bottles and that sort of thing, the Hincapie Emergence Chamois feels rather stiff except in the low-density areas, where it essentially just folds. It’s not a common experience and I can’t say that I really liked it, but we don’t purchase chamois based on how well you walk in them. Which is a good thing, because out on the bike it’s a good deal more comfortable.
The leg bands and sleeves are finished with a lightweight, laser-cut tape that has a slightly tacky backing, though it’s nothing like the silicone grippers that seem to irritate some riders. If you’re looking for something less grabby, I can definitely recommend these.
Final details: three rear pockets plus a fourth, zippered security pocket. The front, like almost all jerseys these days, includes a full zipper for maximum ventilation. There’s a gripper to hold the jersey hem in place.
At retail the jersey goes for $129.99, while the bibs go for $219.99. They have a dealer locator and if none are nearby, you can always make a purchase directly from their site.
Final thought: We knew black was beautiful, so of course it’s cool.