American-made cycling clothing is rare. American-made anything is increasingly rare, which is a shame given how often American-made products can offer quality superior to many imported ones. Case in point: Eliel Cycling. Eliel is a San Diego County-based maker of high-quality cycling clothing. They founders are lifelong roadies who had ridden in countless brands and wanted something different, something that better fit their taste and needs.
This isn’t an uncommon quest, but it rarely leads to starting a company, but that’s just what they did.
I first learned of them on the Campagnolo Christmas Toy Ride probably four years ago, when I got to talking with Derek Wiback, who is one of the founders. We began talking because I took note of his kit and how well it was cut. Fast forward a few years and a friend took me by for a visit when I was in the San Diego area for the Masi 90th celebration.
Since then, I’ve been wearing the Rincon Jersey and the Laguna Seca Bibs from Eliel’s Surf Wax collection. In addition to men’s pieces, they offer women’s pieces as well. The Rincon goes for $129.95 and the Laguna Seca go for $179.95, prices that are hard to sneeze at. According to Eliel, the Rincon is their most popular jersey and it’s easy to see why. This is a form-following race-cut jersey for riders who want to emulate the fit of the kits the pros wear. This is the opposite of the looser-fitting club-cut jerseys some companies offer. The challenge with jerseys of this ilk is that in making a jersey with snug fit that follows your torso on the bike, it can sometimes end up being too short off the bike. Reaching the pockets can, at times, be difficult with some of these jerseys. The Rincon offers the best fit I’ve encountered among custom makers. It’s snug without being clingy, which was one of the faults of early Castelli Body Paint pieces. The Rincon still feels like a jersey. The locking YKK zipper is a quality choice that doesn’t slip down over time and has never broken open following a big lunch; yes, I wore this during my recent tour of Corsica. While the sleeves are cut plenty long—they covered most of my biceps, the collar was very low profile; I had to choose with care which base layers I wore with it. A gripper in the hem kept the jersey in position even when I was in the drops. Last, but not least, it’s just long enough that when I stood up it didn’t pull up to my navel (or higher).
The Laguna Seca bibs hail from that all-too-uncommon slice of apparel that truly remain comfortable for six-plus hours. I could ride for three hours, stop for lunch, get back on the bike and ride for two more hours and not be frantic to get out of my kit the moment I got off the bike. Using a good chamois is the biggest ingredient here, but not over-grippering (new term, you heard it here first) the bibs is also really important. The pad, I’m pleased to report wicked well enough even on hot days that I never stayed wet.
The decision to give two matching pieces different names is a bit confusing and maybe not the best product management scheme ever, but that’s the heaviest criticism I can lay on this kit. I continue to marvel at how well the jersey fits and the fact that the materials employed seem to be destined to last longer than some of the fabrics I’ve encountered in jerseys from other top brands. I’ve only been wearing this a few months, but the jersey looks like it did the day I pulled it from the packaging. I can’t say that of some $200 jerseys I’ve encountered.
Some companies have taken a noisy route to brand recognition, using designs that are eschew classic design for eye-catching. The simple lines of the kit are easy on the eyes while the scored look adds a bit of visual interest. In fact, there’s a fair amount going on in this design, but it’s all pretty low-key. I dig that.
I also dig that they sew tags onto the apparel that declare the clothing “crafted in California.” They could have sublimated that it or silkscreened it, but they sewed on a patch, which strikes me as a pleasantly craft-oriented statement.
That they offer this quality to clubs and teams in custom work fills me with dreams of additional kits I’d like to do.
Final thought: Pro quality, weekend warrior pricing.
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