Those of you who read Velodramatic regularly know I have a dark addiction to high-end cycling kit. I go one or two weeks without feeding the habit and my pedal stroke breaks down (more ankling than usual), my hands shake so badly I have to sit on the edge of the tub to shave my legs and I start hallucinating crazy shit like my head is growing cycling mirrors.
The dog day, pre-bike-show months of summer are the hardest on kit addicts... the supply on the street dries up and even my go-to UPS dealer can't hook me up. You ever chase a UPS truck for five blocks on foot? I know some of you have.
Things were getting desperate when Panache Cyclewear, a new premium clothing brand out of Boulder Colorado appeared in the Velonews sidebar. Far off I heard a Mexican band playing degüello and my hands stopped shaking just like Dude's in Rio Bravo.
Fresh out the neutral zone, Panache kit is classic black and white with a racing-inspired edge. The current lineup includes short sleeve jerseys, bib shorts, knee & arm warmers, arm screens and socks. One additional jerseys sporting de regueur pour 2008 argyle accents is due shortly. While the brand is just beginning to build up a dealer network, all of the pieces can be purchased online through the Panache site.
Panache is the creation of Don Powell who rode for Saxon/Selle Italia (now Landboukrediet/Tonisteiner) in Belgium and throughout Europe on the UCI World Cup circuit. His racing background, tempered with industry experience at Salomon Sports and Pearl Izumi, is clearly in evidence in the polish of the first pieces.
The Panache credo is about riding with style, verve, flair in the manner of Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx; riding in the gutter, over cobbles and mountains; riding for life; riding because you have to.
For the past couple of weeks I've put the "Eleven" jerseys and bib shorts to the test and so far the results have been superb. And yes, Don Powell confirmed the Eleven designation is a Spinal Tap reference... somehow I can't imagine Vincenza's Record 11 being similarly inspired.
The Eleven jersey comes in two stripes: black with white stripes front and back; and white with contrasting black stripes. The jersey is ultra-light, soft and airy; in white it's translucent. There's no restrictive elastic in the inset sleeves, so you won't feel your forearms throbbing in your temples the first time you take it out of first gear.
Mesh side panels provide accelerated cooling and Panache has purposefully avoided two layers of fabric in the rear pockets by going with an open mesh. The difference is subtle but noticeable. A full-length zipper, breast-pocket logo and nicely detailed silicon gripper waistband finish the jersey. Check out the attached gallery for lots of images of the jerseys.
The Panache Eleven Jersey is priced at $120.
The Eleven bibs are designed to race, with Panache's signature CoolTouch mesh flashing on the front of the thighs increasing air flow to those overworked quads. The accents are as good looking as they are functional, and they add a little rider visibility from the front.
While the outside of Panache bibs is impressive, shorts succeed or fail on how they're put together inside. Don explained that during his race career riders would often replace the standard chamois in their team issue with their pad of choice. Over the years the default became a deceptively simple pad from Cytech. Absent any of the hyped engineering that has been in vogue lately, the Elastic Interface Technology (EIT) pad is low profile and ideally suited to modern saddles and long rides. Yesterday I wore the shorts for a solo 75-mile/7,500 foot coastal loop and the chamois stayed put, comparatively dry and comfortable the whole way. If you’re looking for high-performance bibs with a fresh look and a superb pad, Panache Elevens would be an excellent choice.
I really like Panache's choice of CoolTouch mesh for the straps too. Not only does the open material live up to its name, but it's white, so when paired with the translucent white Eleven jersey the straps don't show through spoiling the look.
The Panache Eleven Bib Shorts are priced at $240.
Panache has also put the silky thin CoolTouch fabric to work in a novel set of “Arm Screens” (pictured in B&W above). These can be thought of as arm coolers rather than warmers. If you remember your high school science and osmosis, here you have a perfect semi-permeable membrane. The shimmering white screens provide partial protection from sun while the open-hole structure still allows cooling air to pass over your skin. They were perfect for the early morning climb of Page Mill road in sunshine and the breezy Alpine descent through misty coastal forest... the best of both worlds.
The Panache Arm Screens are priced at $45.
So there you have it. Panache has emerged from the Peloton to join a select group of clothing companies riding off the front: Rapha; Assos; Giordana. It’s a start to be proud of and definitely worth a site visit to take a closer look. Expect to see riders sporting Panache to appear on the street soon; here's an opportunity to catch what could be a winning breakaway. Panache Cyclewear
I've published a Panache gallery with larger versions of the images showing what the kit looks like. Note the dramatic haircut... I shed 50g easy. Photo credits to my wife Juli, who still needs me to set up the camera, but she's improving faster as a photographer than I am as a model ;-)