Primal Aro Evo Kit

Primal Aro Evo Kit

For ages, Primal Wear’s clothing was produced in San Luis Obispo by Voler. Given how bad so many lines were in the mid to late 1990s, that was a pretty terrific thing. Relative to the competition, Voler stuff lasted longer and the fit was above average. But Voler’s competitive edge started to wane after 2005, and Primal grew to the point that they built their own factory in China and could start to dictate the quality of the clothing. These days, Primal’s designs are, shall we say, calmer, but their fit has never been better and the quality of the materials they use are such that they last for more than a season.

Last year I reviewed Primal Helix kit. With a retail of $300, it was just pricey enough that some commenters noted that if they were going to spend that much on a kit, they were going to do it with a brand better known for success at that price point. For the last six weeks, I’ve been wearing Primal’s Aro Evo kit, and wondering why the company doesn’t have more market share.

Let’s cut to the chase on this. The jersey goes for $100 and the bibs for $130; purchase them together and you get the kit for $207. I’ve ridden plenty of stuff from this price range in the last year and have avoided reviewing any of it because I just didn’t have anything positive to say. One kit fit me so poorly that my shoulders were chafed by the end of the ride. By comparison, had you told me the Aro Evo kit retailed for $300 or even $350, I would have been neither surprised, nor offended.

IMG_0774I hate being a model.

Here’s why: the materials are stout. Yeah, you can find kits featuring super-lightweight fabrics that are great on summer’s dog days. But that’s not most of the year for most of the world. So not only do we not need gossamer fibers for most of the year, what we need for most of the year won’t last said year if the jersey weighs less than a handkerchief. Ditto for the bibs.

When I first picked up the bibs I couldn’t help noticing the weight of the sublimated side panels. That’s no six-ounce lycra. If more of my racing kits had used materials like that, crash replacement wouldn’t have required such deep inventory for the teams with which I raced. The upshot is that the bibs provide a level of compression difficult to find at this price point.

The cut isn’t so aggressive that you need to have an eating disorder to wear the kit comfortably. As with most brands, I wear a medium in the bibs and a small in the jersey. Trust me, I’ve heard all the pear-shaped jokes. While according to their sizing guidelines, I’m squarely a medium in the bibs, I’m on the bubble for the jersey; my chest measurement puts me in a small, but my height qualifies me for medium. I like the length of the small jersey and the pockets are low enough that I can still reach into them for a gel while pedaling. Of note: the jersey is available in six sizes, S-XXXL, while the bibs come in five, S-XXL.

In a stroke that I’m surprised more brands haven’t pursued, not only did Primal flatlock all the seams, but they also chose to print all the sizing, composition and care info on the garment, and did away with the tags. Why are tags still so common on articles that are meant to be as comfortable as possible?

Primal uses traditional silicone grippers in the jersey hem and legs of the bibs. They are slim enough to do the job without the overkill of some grippers.

The E6 pad may not be a Cytech masterpiece, but it features four-way stretch and four different densities of foam. The pad uses a cover with carbon fibers and antimicrobrial treatment to reduce the opportunity for saddle sores or other ugly skin outcomes. Put another way, chamois cream is an option, not a requirement.

This particular kit is rather black and not really my first choice for road riding. As the weather has cooled I’ve worn it with a bright windbreaker or vest, but most often I’ve worn this kit on gravel rides where the thickness and density of the pad has been pretty welcome on rough roads. Despite the, uh, excess of black (I know plenty of people who will love that), the simple design is clean and easy on the eyes.

The realization I had a few rides in was how this is no more expensive than my last team kit was. This is way better than most team kits I ever purchased.

Final thought: Sometimes you get more than you pay for.



  1. Jason Lee

    That kit looks really good!
    I think Primal is a victim of their success. They succeeded with the fat, visor-helmeted-eyeglass-rearview-mirror-fannypack-saggy spandex shorts-asscrack fighting for air between overstuffed, sagging jersey pockets and the elastic of said shorts reigning in the buttcheeks with every labored pedal stroke.
    When I think of Primal I see cheap, loose fitting jerseys with crazy-tacky graphics. They are equivalent to a low-rent Ed Hardy-Jersey Shore aesthetic. ‘MERICAN flags, wolves ripping through your belly, or something else that would make NASCAR billybobs say “COOL bruh, where can I get a wifebeater like dat?”
    I have never seen Primal as “kit”. Primal is what I see when I scan bargain sale bins in the dark corner of the bike shop or a vast array of new, home-shopping-network-late night impulse buy bait for bored cyclists sitting in their basements building up “the best there ever was 8 speed whatever” in deep winter, waiting for the thaw to show their friends their new Primal patterns and eyeglass mirrors.
    OK thanks for letting me get that out of my system:) New stuff looks good but in the meantime a lot of nice smaller companies have popped up with really cool kits without the name baggage… it’s tough getting cred in spandex…

  2. Paul Thober

    What’s up with that upside down V on the front of the jersey? Weird. And the big logo sideways by your armpit? Different strokes, I guess.

    Then there is “… such that they last for more than a season.” are you kidding me? You’ve had shorts or a jersey wear out in one season? I’d like to hear about that.

  3. Jason Lee

    @Paul Thorber
    It’s a blue “A” – to match the blue A in PRIMAL
    I’ve had kits wear out in a season. A lot of people do, but some just keep wearing that worn out junk…

  4. Author

    Paul: I think Jason summed it up pretty nicely, but to the question of kits wearing out, I tend to watch clothing for signs of wear and stop wearing my bibs before someone can see my anatomy through the shorts. There are a fair number of custom manufacturers whose kits, if worn any more than once a week, will definitely wear out. That’s the reason I went with Panache for the RKP kit. I’ve got bibs on their fourth season.

  5. Gerald

    Have to agree with everyone that the kit looks really sharp. I have had similar experiences with Primal jerseys. My Avery Brewing Fade to Black never fit me right and the zipper is toast as Jason so eloquently describes. Panache does have some awesome kits of great quality. I got a chance to chat with them at a bike and brews festival this past summer and their Colorado kit is awesome if you are into that sort of thing. Bottom line, looks awesome.

    1. Author

      I’m familiar with the Primal kits of yesteryear and I want to say on their behalf that the cut and materials used in this kit are quite different than what you remember Primal’s clothing to be. That’s the whole reason I’ve chosen to review some of their stuff. The quality level on their apparel has improved significantly. And it had to given how much better so many lines are these days.

  6. Jason Lee

    I definitely am surprised to see this Primal kit. I’ll certainly check it out, and glad they are opening up to improve the quality and design. The price is certainly attractive.
    Would have never known if not for your article. I’ve not seen it elsewhere.

  7. Kevil Nolan

    My bike club ordered club kit using Primal Evo bibs and they are Great! I needed to replace an old pair of bibs, so I caught these on sale thinking they would be the same, but they’re not. These are close. I’m not a fan of the ‘compression fabric’ concept I have to adjust the panels on my thighs a bit after I get going to get them settled in so as not to pull on my thighs. The shoulder straps are very comfortable and are long enough not to put constant undue pressure on my shoulder/neck muscles. Overall, these are good bibs and the chamois has been quite nice on 3 hr road and mountain bike rides.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *