Slim-fitting and muted-toned outerwear is nothing new in the current equally-at-home-on-the-bike-and-at-the-office category of cycling apparel. But when you have an established brand like Giro bringing its knowhow, a fresh approach (and color palette) is added to this seemingly saturated corner of the market.
Originally conceived as a collection of functional riding apparel that borrowed heavily from casual street wear, Giro’s New Road continues to evolve beyond that initial scope. And while the California-based label’s aim is to provide alternatives to the loud-Lycra team kit standard, it’s doing so in a way that appeals to a variety of cyclists through smart designs that actually work while on — and off — the bike. Examples of this include concealed pocketing solutions that are accessed via side entrance zippers, integrated ventilation and flex channels, sleeves and hems that fully cover the body while outstretched at the bars, and a light amount of stretch built in to each piece of apparel.
The goal was to provide cyclists with street-inspired clothing that would hold their extra layers, keys, wallets, etc., and be both supportive and comfortable for more than a coffee shop run — all without screaming “cycling gear” once off the bike.
I picked up a few pieces that I thought would be most versatile for my needs: the Insulated Vest, Merino Polo, and the Ride (tailored) Shorts. The vest was much lighter than it looked in photos, as the insulation it uses comes courtesy of PrimaLoft’s 25g Sport. This low weight “light and fast” insulating layer, as PrimaLoft calls it, is designed to provide warmth while staying light and out of the way.
The shorts were also light, with a nice stretchy feel and a lack of any extra clutter. In fact, one zippered thigh pocket and a rear slash pocket is all that you get. As for the polo, it came with a trim fit, standard collar and buttoned placket, rear zippered pocket, and ventilation channels sewn into the shoulder seams. Its Merino makeup felt soft and smooth in hand, and even more so once I tried it on.
The real test for this type of casual/functional riding apparel is how it works while pedaling. The vest has been in my commuting rotation more than the other items, and it’s proved to give just the right amount of warmth on cool days. Unlike standard cycling vests, this one doesn’t really block the wind, but for lower riding speeds and my winter-to-spring transitional rides, it’s been perfect when paired with a button-down and jeans. The rear zippered pocket channel is also nice, but the vertical pocket dividers within make for tricky stashing and retrieving items while riding.
For the shorts’ biggest test, I wore them while spinning around Payette Lake in Idaho, some 20ish miles of dirt, gravel, and pavement, sans chamois. The leg panels moved with my legs, very similar to Lycra, and the waistband never dug into my skin.
The Merino polo was equally dialed, as it never crept up along my back, and the generous four-button placket allowed me to ventilate as needed. As for the sewn-in ventilation channels along the shoulder seams, they add a nice aesthetic touch, but I didn’t notice much enhanced airflow during my few weeks of testing.
Common with most of this “crossover” apparel, however, is that while it works and fits great as a system, individual items can become a bit of an outlier in designated “road” and “casual” assemblages. For example, if you do choose to mix in a New Road Insulated Vest into your casual jeans and T-Shirt clothing, as I have done, the vest might be slimmer than the clothing it’s paired with.
But, if I had the next size up, it would be too baggy once back on the bike. So yes, the items definitely work on the bike and off, but select your fit according to what you’ll be wearing the clothing for during the majority of the time.
While it might prove a hard sell to those putting in long hours in the saddle, for moderate distances and casual situations, Giro’s New Road is a system that works. The real takeaway is that the more items worn together, such as pairing its chamois-equipped Bib Shorts with the Ride Shorts, as they were intended, means the more support and comfort you’ll have while logging miles on the bike. As individual pieces, however, more casual rides, bar-hopping with friends, hiking, camping, etc., seem to be more in line with the apparel’s technical capabilities. Overall, the finishing details and materials used to make the clothing is top notch, and being able to ride and hang out in the same gear, without slanting too far in either direction, is more than many other brands can say about their apparel in this category.