At one point or another, we all ride in low-light conditions. Perhaps you get your base miles in before and after work, or maybe it’s just too hot to ride during the day? Either way, though, we can all stand to increase our visibility in these conditions. However, until the Capo Padrone HV kit, the only way to achieve this goal was through over-the-top, deafening colorways like Blaze Orange and Fluoro. Now, through some rather clever textile engineering, Capo has created a kit that’s subtle, attractive, and more effective then the aforementioned — all without sacrificing anything to performance.
The Padrone HV kit seems to live in the proverbial Red Waiting Room, existing somewhere between two planes, almost. It wasn’t as light as I was expecting, but then again, it wasn’t as heavy as I was expecting, either. Do I really need this, or don’t I? The obvious way to answer these questions, though, is to simply ride in it.
Historically, I’ve found Capo to fit comparatively larger than European apparel brands. It’s not quite on par with, say, vanity sizing, but at 5’10″/140lb, I found the Small kit to be a little loose up top. In retrospect, the jacket and vest really aren’t too bad, but the jersey wasn’t really working for me. And if I’m going to be really knit-picky, I wasn’t particularly fond of what can only be characterized as a “compression band” that runs the circumference of the torso along the bib uppers.
In terms of the shorts, though, I really can’t complain. The fit was rather precise, supportive, and compressive in all of the right places. And of equal importance, the chamois was nearly perfect and positioned appropriately in the shorts — not too far forward, not too far back. Beyond the “band-thingy,” the uppers are light, airy, and really are hardly noticeable. But if you’re used to the low cut of bibs like Castelli’s Body Paint, the Padrone’s high stomach panel will take some getting used to.
All in all, though, the fit will be perfect for those who don’t swear allegiance to a brand just because it offers an X-Small size range, aka 98% of cyclists.
Obviously, the highlight of the Padrone High Vis kit is its high visibility panels. Otherwise, you’d just wear the standard Padrone, right? Basically, every panel that’s silver is remarkably “high vis.” In other words, it’s insanely reflective. For example, this was just from an odd light capture without a flash:
However, Capo’s new Super Black fabric technology also adds reflectivity to the black portions of the bib shorts and jersey. Additionally, this material is water- and wind-resistant, although, I’ll remind you that there’s a massive gap between “resistant” and “proof.”
Outside of reflectivity, you’ll find most of the creature comforts of the standard-issue Padrone kit. The leg bands are supple, supportive, and free from grippers, the paneling exquisitely follows your movements in the saddle, and the fabric selections and positioning make for a rather breathable and light feel. Most notable to me, however, is the care that Capo has put into controlling vertical stretch. Throughout the kit, the pieces’ position on the body feels calculated and unwavering. In other words, you immediately know that you’re riding in something rather “high-end.”
So, about those reflective panels — the material used here feels a little bit thicker than what’s used on the rest of the kit. In fact, the difference is more poignant than subtle — enough to make the hand of the fabric different from panel to panel. When it comes to the shorts, though, I found this sensation to be relatively unnoticeable, but in terms of the jacket, this material made it feel more like a rain cape than a technical cycling jacket. Certainly, there has to be a price to pay for the reflectivity, but this little quirk was the only thing holding the kit back from being, well, pretty damn close to perfect.
If you find yourself riding frequently at dawn and dusk, and you value your life, you really can’t do any better than the Padrone HV kit. There are definitely aspects that aren’t directly comparable to the standard Padrone, but you’ll sacrifice very little for the increase in visibility. Just remember that a kit is never a substitute for a good pair of lights.