Tall socks. While many believe Lance Armstrong is responsible for the trend, much like the way Michael Jordan is seen as responsible for baggy shorts in the NBA, the people at CapoForma trace the history of tall socks to Alessandro Petacchi. Ale-Jet won races wearing tall socks back when he blasted onto the scene riding for Fassa Bartolo. Maybe the reason people don't credit Petacchi is that he's usually shot from head on, at a distance, and leading a pack. Not like Lance Armstrong, whom we usually see in pictures from the side, at close range, and solo.
CapoForma's parent company, Upland Sports Group, was the importer for DMT shoes when Petacchi was sporting long socks, so they were inclined to notice. They decided they liked the different look and made up some long socks. It quickly became their signature item among racers. Not only were the socks long, but the logo was in the back and rotated 90-degrees from normal so you had to twist your head to get a good look. People remember anything they have to crane their neck to see. Very fittingly, this sock is called the Euro CoolMax.
Not only are CapoForma socks spun from different materials, but in different colors and cuff lengths. With so many socks, when we decided to do a side-by-side comparison, we took to labeling them so we could remember which was which. We put the Lowrider Tactel, the Standard Tactel, the CoolMax FX, the Euro CoolMax, the Professional Skinlife, the Ribbed Euro Skinlife, and the Euro Web Skinlife through the rigors of our daily grind.
The first sock we pulled from the stash was the Ribbed Euro Skinlife. Navy blue with a white panel, it went with our bike. It also was thin, thinner than we expected. The day was cool, but still the kind of day when we'd pull out standard DeFeets or SockGuy socks. But we suddenly started thinking about cuffs. It wasn't so much that this cuff was longer than we were used to, though at 12cm, it was. It's that the material was only doubled over for the final cm or two at the very top, as opposed to all the way down past the ankle. Even though there was more skin covered, it felt like we were wearing less. The sock was about the typical thickness around the foot, and seemed to wick about as expected, though the material seemed a bit drier than our normal CoolMax socks on a similar day. Meryl Skinlife, the majority fiber in the sock yarn, is a relatively new sock fiber, though its use seems to be growing. It is alleged to be anti-bacterial and anti-microbial which is supposed to yield an anti-odor sock that wicks well.
It is ironic that we didn't feel any more exposed in the lowest sock we tried, the Lowrider Tactel. CapoForma sees Tactel as a summer fiber. The 4cm cuff is tinier than we were used to; it didn't even cover our ankles. We liked the navy/blue two-tone scheme on the cuff, but it was hard to see when it barely came out of our shoes. The flip side is that the low cuff extended our tan lines, though it created a fade effect that was probably more noticeable. It was with the Lowrider Tactel that we started to notice that the different socks seemed to have different thicknesses of material and mesh covering the tops of our feet.
It's an odd thing about cycling shoes. The fit is so precise that a sock which is noticeably thicker or thinner on the bottom can result in profound differences in shoe fit. This is particularly true if you ride with custom insoles, as we do. Because of this, we can only tolerate certain sock thicknesses on the bottoms. We have realized that if someone would alter the thickness of the top of our socks, we wouldn't mind as much. It might even be a good thing for winter.
The Lowrider Tactel socks didn't breathe as well on our foot tops as the Ribbed Euro, but seemed about typical for cycling socks. Next, we went to the Euro Web Skinlife sock, which seemed even thinner. The web refers to how the mesh on the foot tops and bottoms looks when it's stretched around a foot. Even though the Euro Web had a doubled-over 12cm cuff, we noticed most how meshy and thin the sock seemed on our feet. The Euro Web, like the Ribbed Euro, is also notable for how the graphics are turned perpendicular from normal on the cuff. While the wavy line is very reminiscent of the Coke logo, the "CAPOforma" lettering is distinctive, even when turned. The white on black creates a striking contrast and seems immune to dirt.
The Euro CoolMax sock felt like one we knew. With the material, the foot, and the cuff, it felt like many cycling socks we're familiar with. The toes and heel are re-enforced, the foot top is mesh. The elastic arch band, found on all CapoForma socks, is something we didn't notice, which is neither good nor bad. As with the other Euro socks, it's a 12cm cuff and you feel that difference. We got these in white, whereas much of the other CapoForma socks were dark colors. Fresh white socks are like fresh white handlebar tape. They ooze Pro. As with white tape, the color gets less and less pristine with successive washings. The red stripe down the back with "Capo" perpendicular to the shoe was still bright and aggressive, but the socks overall appearance lost the crispness it had when we first busted them out.
The Professional Skinlife sock was back down to the cuff size we're familiar with. 6cm. The white body with grey, silver, and black cuff is of such a color that as the white greys with use, it's hard to notice. What we were hoping to pick up on was the Meryl Skinlife fibers, which comprise 55% of this sock. The fiber is supposed to neutralize or eliminate bacteria from the foot, which could be as simple as minimizing nasty foot and sweat smells. In lieu of a lab, the only thing we had was the sniff test. It passed. Not too stinky, actually, not really stinky at all. Though we never felt we had a problem with stinky feet anyways.
The Standard Tactel and CoolMax FX socks are like the Professional Skinlife in that they share a common cuff length. The ST is probably the most traditional design sock that CapoForma makes. Works well, looks good. We decided that since it was very similar in length, feel, and appearance to the CoolMax FX, it would be worth doing a side by side ride with one on one foot and one on the other to see if we could feel a difference between the two socks. Pulling them on, it felt as if the mesh top of the ST was thinner and should have been more breathable than the FX. On the ride, we didn't notice a difference. Post ride, the ST sock felt a bit more damp and stayed that way longer than the FX. Don't know if this constituted a significant performance difference, but there was a difference.
Also surprising is the fact that the FX sock has a little pilling after a season of washings. Upon closer inspection, there was a little pilling on the body of the Euro CoolMax as well. Neither cuff showed any pilling. The Tactel and Skinlife socks, meanwhile, had almost no pilling whatsoever. If we had been more careful, we would have recorded the frequency of washing and the washing temp and drying temp, but we're not that precise with socks. We're pretty sure every washing was on warm, with a cold rinse, and these socks got treated with the others to a high heat dry cycle with 100% clothing.
After spending many rides and many miles in the various models of CapoForma socks, we have to admit that we couldn't really get used to either the Euro height or the Lowrider height socks. We definitely appreciated the surrounding mesh of the Euro Web. As for the rest, we're struggling for something to say. We wish we could have found profound performance differences, but after trying various socks and comparing them to our personal stash, we found that as long as the sock doesn't slide around on the foot or is loose at the cuff, we don't notice too much about the particular differences between the various models. The CF socks were among the literally cooler socks we've tried. Maybe we wouldn't wear them without booties or oversocks in the low 40s, but in the 60s and above, any of the socks they make seem to perform just fine.
Socks are just that, though: Socks. Not unlike shaved legs, your average Cat 3 won't be faster for having wickedly-cool socks/freshly-shaven legs. But that which looks sweet & that which feels sweet inevitably makes us feel like we're riding faster. CapoForma pulls that trick off flawlessly. We might not ride as fast as Ale-Jet, but we feel a bit more like him when we ride CapoForma than we might otherwise.