Custom Kit, American-Made

Custom Kit, American-Made

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.

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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).

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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.

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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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14 comments

  1. Nik

    I guess you and I live in different worlds. In your world, $130 for a simple jersey is “weekend warrior pricing”.

    In my world, there are several Pearl Izumi jerseys for around $50 (or less when Amazon randomly drops the price.) Even $50 for a slightly modified polyester T-shirt doesn’t seem cheap, but I pay it because technical clothing is always more expensive and the technical features are useful.

    You can argue that these are the finest jerseys ever made, and that they’re made in USA, and so $130 is a reasonable price for what you’re getting. But it’s not low-priced, unless you’re either a millionaire or someone gives you this stuff for free.

    If I have one complaint about your writing, it’s the fairly consistent theme that you present some very expensive item and say that it’s an amazingly good price. It would sound less outlandish if you wrote that it’s expensive but worth it (for some). If you were writing about cars, you would be arguing that a $200,000 Porsche GT3 (or whatever) is a great value.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      When I travel around the country and visit different rides, I pay attention to what people wear and what people ride. I don’t see those $50 Pearl Izumi jerseys very often. When I see Pearl stuff, it’s usually higher end. I see plenty of people wearing Assos and Rapha. I didn’t claim the jersey was low-priced and frankly, I avoid loads of low-priced gear and apparel for the simple reason that much of it isn’t of sufficient quality in my judgment. Most inexpensive jerseys fit like T-shirts and most cheap tires ride like wagon wheels.

      I, and (based on our knowledge of the bulk of our readers) many other people ride because we take pleasure in the experience. This is a passion and as such, many of us prefer to indulge ourselves when possible. To that end, a $130 jersey is, I believe, an easily justifiable value. And while this jersey may not fit in your budget, I hope you can appreciate that for many riders this isn’t an unreasonable sum to spend on a single item. If it were, this isn’t where the bulk of the market would be.

  2. Ken

    I have to admit that for me, a $130 jersey would be a major indulgence. That would hold true for the people I typically ride with. For most of us riding is indeed a passion that we support by sacrificing valuable time, possibly stressing relationships, and postponing important chores. We typically ride bikes where we compromised on what we really wanted for what we could afford, bought used or built from various parts. I see a wide range of jerseys but rarely see a full kit of matching brands or logos. My current favorite jersey is a Voler jersey I got on sale for about $50. Is it a custom fit? No. Do I care? No. Are we typical bike enthusiasts? Heck if I know. Do I care? No.

  3. Dave

    Cost of gear is an old and tired subject at RKP that has been discussed ad nauseum. It’s clear to anyone that has read this blog for any length of time that Padraig likes high quality (expensive) gear and isn’t afraid to say it. Does he actually buy what he reviews? Who cares – because that’s not the point.
    Can you enjoy riding a bike in gear that costs (substantially) less than what he reviews? Of course. But again – that’s not the point.

    Bottom line….if the prices of the gear that Padraig reviews offends you, then stop reading (at least) the equipment reviews. There are a lot of blogs, forums and sites that review lower priced gear.

  4. Craig P.

    Good gear ( and not just bike gear – I sell home theater projectors ) can be expensive. That said, I do think that you quite often get what you pay for. I like reading about different gear, whether it’s out of my price range or not. And California made should be worth spending more to support jobs here too. Keep doing these reviews please. That said, I’m thinking about buying a pair of Sidi Ergo 4 shoes. I’ve read enough glowing reviews to put $ 400.00 on a pair of shoes. Totally will be worth it if they are as comfy over long rides as many have said. At one time I would have said no shoes are worth that. $ 130.00 for a jersey could be worth it too, if you like it and it fits like a glove !

  5. Scott G.

    Nice thing about sewn on branding, it comes off.
    Maybe when Eliel makes a premium line they can dispense with sublimated logos.

  6. KR15

    I thought my $50 Pearl Izumi jersey was great until I got an Eliel. It is expensive, but really is that much better if you can afford it. My Eliel jersey is also notable nicer than my $100 race-fit club jersey from another brand.

  7. Dan Handorff

    Eliel is totally worth it.
    Highly recommend!!!
    Form fitting………why buy an aero bike…………..need the aero kit as well.

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