In the world of cycling apparel, each company tries to have a unique point of view, technical story, and brand direction, while simultaneously reaching a wide swath of riders. Since apparel is one of the easiest games to get into, it’s also the most crowded. You have the big, heavy hitters like Pearl Izumi crammed into every IBD and big box (and Amazon site) in existence. You have the bicycle companies such as Specialized and Cannondale trying to leverage their brand recognition. You have Rapha and Road Holland, who encapsulate a lifestyle and image, and you have them all at the same time.
But every so often, a company comes along who is able to negotiate this complicated arena and stake out their own space by pairing a unique design aesthetic with a technically superior product. SOUTH Apparel is just such a company.
Based in Australia, SOUTH has only a few kit designs, but they are all well thought out and highly desirable. Kit choices usually sit somewhere around billboard and boring. SOUTH hits the sweet spot with patterns that stand out in the crowd. Their range varies from a wild leopard print called Feline (with a pink option…for men) to a subtle, striped design called Preppy. Technical features range from a 240gsm enhanced moisture management fabric (most brands use 200gsm, which doesn’t have the same compression values), which is also SPF 25, to double stitched pockets and hems throughout for durability.
Needless to say, I was pretty psyched to get the product and try it out.
When it arrived, it was all class from the start, with the kit emerging from the box in a very nice SOUTH Musette bag (which I have to admit, I am still using as my daily carry-all, see above). The feel of the fabric was lovely to the touch, but the thing that most excited me? The very large 9cm compression leg band. As a woman, “sausage thigh” is my largest pet peeve.
Donning the jersey, the fit was spot on, form fitting but not so tight that it couldn’t accommodate my usual solo ride gear, pump, tube, tire lever, Clif bar, banana, and cellphone. The compression leg band was just as dreamy as I had hoped.
Next test: Riding.
In the saddle, the performance of the kit impressed me right off the bat. That first day, I put in 65 miles with two significant climbs. The women’s specific chamois kept all the right places comfortable regardless of where I sat on the saddle, which is always a huge concern for me as I ride a 168cm wide Specialized Oura. I was also doubly impressed with the extra wide leg band, as the added compression helped keep my thighs in top condition regardless of the pitch of the climb.
My only small complaint that first day was that the fabric seemed a little slick on the saddle. Though I could put myself into the right place, staying there at times seemed more challenging than I would have liked, and unfortunately, this challenge never went away, though it also hasn’t presented enough of a problem to dampen my enthusiasm for the kit.
Since then, I’ve logged countless miles in my SOUTH kit, putting it through the wash many times. It has held up to every trip through the Maytag in fine form, with no pilling or loose seams. The chamois has also held up well, ride after ride, not breaking down or losing shape, not becoming less comfy over the miles.
Today, I’m still happy to report that when the weather is nice, it’s one of my go-to options. Since the temperatures have started to dip, the weight doesn’t lend itself well to the elements, even when paired with base layers and jackets. That is not to say I wouldn’t go out in a base layer and arm warmers on a chilly morning, but I make sure the temperatures will eventually rise before choosing this particular kit from my closet. I would say it’s a late Spring to early Fall choice, which is the optimal ride time for most anyway.
Bottom line? If you’re looking for a great all-around kit that will make you stand out in the crowd in a good way, SOUTH is definitely the way to go. Retailing for $295.oo AUD ($264.48 USD) as a complete kit, SOUTH is currently running a Holiday Sale with a very tempting price of $147.50 AUD ($134.24 USD). To order, head to their website. Don’t waste time Googling around; you won’t find them.