Svelte are a fresh new London based brand launched in 2015, after 18 months spent developing their first collection. I was lucky to get the chance recently to test their flagship product, the ‘Heritage’: a short sleeved jersey with sleek and minimalist styling.
Having stepped boldly into that competitive arena where cycling kit marries style and function, I was interested to see how this offering from Svelte matches up.
First off, the jersey is made from a merino wool mix. Much of the merino cycling kit on the market uses a mix of materials to improve the technical performance and general ‘wear-ability’ and this is very much apparent in the Heritage. You can feel between your fingers that the merino content of the fabric is outweighed by the synthetic element.
So, you lose some of that silky smoothness that you get from merino wool but in return for something that feels more sturdy and hard-wearing. I’m no expert on fabrics but I guess this is the trade-off that makes the Heritage more versatile.
This is not a bad thing; a silky smooth top made of pure merino wool might be a beautiful thing, but a compromise option often makes more sense on a six-hour bike ride.
As I tried to gently pigeon hole this new kit I spoke to the team at Svelte about who the Heritage is aimed at. They were keen to point out that they don’t see it as being aimed necessarily at the Sunday morning café ride’, the commuter, or the mountain goat, but as a functional item suitable for all manner of bike-related scenarios.
In their words:
“We build products for design conscious cyclists (both those that self identify as that, and those that don’t) and let them decide how they use them. For example, we designed the Heritage jersey such that it would perform on a 6 hour ride, but also not look out of place on your commute, or make you look like a plonker on a cafe ride with friends.”
Which seems fair enough to me.
I agree it will look good in the mid-ride café with your mates, but it’s also fairly sleek and racy fit. It certainly wouldn’t hold you back if you wore it on a weeknight chain-gang, a sportive, or any other fast-paced ride. A hot day in the Alps might have you overheating and wishing for something a bit more lightweight but that’s fine – you can’t have it all.
I can see the Heritage jersey doing a decent job in typical UK weather conditions which are changeable, and often not exactly warm and sunny even in the height of summer. It has enough heft and insulation to cope with those typical days where it’s definitely short-sleeve weather but you still need your jersey to offer a bit of protection against a chill in the air.
Having worn it as part of a layering system during autumn and early winter I’ve found it to be a good, comfortable fit.
It’s definitely a ‘cyclist’s’ fit on me, in that it doesn’t feel quite right when standing upright but works properly when stretched out in the riding position. I also like the longish cut of sleeves, which on me come down past the mid-point of the bicep.
The million dollar question with this jersey is how it fares against its rivals in the competitive area of stylish performance related cycling kit.
Style-wise it’s in the eye of the beholder, but it’s going to appeal to those who prefer their jersey cool and seriously understated.
Price-wise, it weighs in at £90. It’s certainly less expensive than the likes of Rapha and so might be a good option for this who want a stylish and fashionable element to their kit but can’t quite bring themselves to splash out £100+ for a jersey.
I would suggest it doesn’t quite have the sense of luxury and the almost tailored fit that very expensive cycling kit does, however at £90 you are still entitled to have pretty high expectations. The Heritage is a very nice jersey which has a subtle style of its own.
I would like to ride it properly in conditions other than the cool of late autumn and early winter before I truly nail my colours to the mast. Equally, until Svelte have built a reputation in the marketplace it’s difficult to come to solid conclusions about the long term durability of their kit, but as an early offering from a brand new company the Heritage is a good start – It bodes well.
As for what the future holds:
“We have a new long sleeved version of the Heritage jersey launching later this month, following that we have our base layers, rain jackets and a few more bits and pieces. We are filling gaps in the collection at the moment, with design-centric products that make getting out on the bike easier, more comfortable and ultimately more fun.”
I, for one, will be keeping a close eye on how they develop from here.