Friday, December 04, 2009

Review - Verge Bib Knickers

Sweet warm knickers.

I first ordered Verge kits way back when, for Carpe Diem Racing. I liked their "stock" shorts (printed with Verge on the sides and butt), and I'm finally wearing out the socks I bought 6 or so years ago.

Okay, fine, I bought about 20 pairs, but still, they're just wearing out now. The heels, probably from walking around in them. The toes, ankle area, and "body" are still perfect.

Then I joined another team. Coincidentally (and not due to any influence on my part, seriously), Verge did the Connecticut Coast Cycle kits too, for the couple years I raced with them. The kits worked great, all except a slightly rough zipper pull that dug into the fabric.

Fit and design were excellent, durability unsurpassed, comfort excellent. I still wear the Carpe Diem Racing kits on the trainer, and I've done up to 5+ hour rides on the trainer, up to 10+ hour rides out on the road. I've used the kit in rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, cold, warm, and as long as I put on the right stuff, the kit worked fine.

Now I'm on a new team. We have a different clothing supplier, VO Max, and I haven't really had time to dissect the kit like I have the Verge stuff.

However, there's one glaring hole in the kit inventory - knickers.

As a huge fan of knickers, I really wanted some. Knickers are perfect for those inbetween temperatures, and for racing in slightly cooler conditions. They work nice because they don't constrict as much as tights, but if you wear booties, you only lose a little bit of insulation (on the calves and shins).

I can train in them down to 45 degrees F and race in them as low as 38 degrees or so. In the wet they really shine because they don't get as soggy as tights - you don't get that "chamois separation" every time you stand up. Plus they're just a touch lighter tights when fully laden with water.

And, of course, most importantly, knickers look really pro, especially combine with booties and a warm topside covering (jacket or long sleeve jersey + vest combo).

Unfortunately my whole inventory of knickers consists of garish old team color stuff, and none of them come close to matching my 2010 kit. Blues and greens versus oranges and reds? No way Jose.

Therefore I had to buy some knickers "off team". My first choice was naturally Verge Sports, or Verge for short. Years of good experience with them led me to select them automatically.

When I got the knickers, I looked them over briefly. Same padding, same fabric, same cut (at least at first glance). Things seemed totally normal, exactly as I expected. I unpacked one, just in case I decided to ride outside, and left the other two sealed in plastic. I wanted to save them for a special event, like my first ride in California in 2010 or something like that.

But I did get in a ride Wednesday, rushing through tasks so I could get out and enjoy a 49 degree F ride.

The action end of the knickers - the extension below the bottom of the normal end point for shorts.

The whole idea with knickers is having built in knee warmers.


In the old days I actually had real chamois padding. Then everyone went synthetic, but to appease the conservative racing bunch, the manufacturers made the pads to resemble a chamois one. Then, with a new generation of riders replacing the old fogeys, companies started saying, "Screw it", and putting the padding in with whatever color cover they wanted.

Verge started with a pinholed beige fake chamois, but recently they dropped the conservative look and went to a "yeah it's all synthetic" black.

Nothing wrong with it, works great.

"Roubaix" fabric and a great gripper.

The "Roubaix" fabric must be some company's trademark name, but in cycling clothing it refers to a lycra blend fabric that has the inside brushed. This makes the inner surface fuzzy, helps it retain air (making it warm), and helps prevent it from getting water logged (wicking said moisture to the unbrushed outer part of the fabric which likes to soak up moisture). The whole knicker is made with this fabric, making it warm and comfy.

(Note: One of the reasons I like knickers is that they have less outer material to absorb moisture, at least compared to tights. Knickers don't get as heavy, and with less fabric pulling on your fake chamois, you don't get the "wet diaper" look and feel that tights can give you as your chamois peels away from your crotch every time you stand up. Yeah. Pleasant. Ultimately I'd like to get some Roubaix fabric shorts too, but that'll be a different post.)

And what's with grippers anyway. It seems like it'd be an easy thing to do, but I guess it's like waterbottles. Don't make them too soft, else they slither out of the tightest cages. Don't make them too hard, else they crack when a thirsty rider squeezes it. And make sure the top seals well, without shrinking or expanding too much in cold or hot weather.

Grippers are hit or miss. When they work, they are awesome. When it's not quite right, it's annoying. Too tight, and, man, it's unpleasant. One of my knickers would cause my calves to swell up, they were so tight. Another are comfy but my knickers looked like saggy shorts by the time I finished a ride, they rode up so far.

So how did Verge fair?

Let's just say it felt like I painted my legs with Roubaix paint. I pulled up the knickers, pulled the gripper to the right spot (the "waist" of the calves), and didn't think about them until I pulled them off at the end of the ride.

They never moved.

Smooth like butter. Not too tight, not too lose. Perfect grippers.

Verge used to have an enormous logo on the rear of the shorts.

When I was pushing 200 pounds, my enormous rear end would emphasize the enormous logo, prompting one racer, warming up behind me, to exclaim in a Tourette moment, "You have the biggest ass!"

His buddy shushed him a bit too late, and the poor racer, a good guy in my book (and still so), started verbally backpedaling.

"I meant that you have a lot of power. Um. You know. Uh..."

His buddy smacked him a good one and told him to shut up. He shut up.

Anyway, I relate this story because the logo is a bit smaller and therefore less likely to draw any unflattering attention to your rear end.

The high back is nice when it's chilly out. Hal likes it too.

I'm still out when it comes to bib height on shorts. I like wider straps, they stay planted, but I see video of pros getting the back part of their bibs getting cut away and I think, "What?"

For knickers, worn in cooler weather, the higher back is nice and comfy. My torso doesn't stay warm and any extra layers are good layers as far as I'm concerned. On this inaugural ride I wore one of my rare base layers (I normally wear a regular SS jersey as a base layer), and put the bib straps over them. Comfy, fine.

I found one complaint with the knickers. The seam going over the kneecap is pretty thick, and I could feel the line of seam on my kneecap the whole ride. It wasn't abrasive, at least for an hour, but I could see it getting to be a pain. I don't remember this from my other Verge knickers so I'll have to see if anything changed.

Overall, though, the knickers rock. They are as good as my previous best knickers, which, coincidentally, are Verge knickers. These new ones are a bit softer, the calves fit a bit smoother.

I know that I'll have them with me in Florida and in California. I'm sure I'll be sporting them at the Bethel Spring Series.

I can't wait.


Sigberto Garcia said...

Hey man - I've got a letter of, umm, "constructive criticism" that my collegiate team sent to VOmax last year that I think you should read. I'd like to see how their newer 2010 stuff compares to their 2008-09 stuff if you're willing to give me some feedback.

Needless to say, we switched to another supplier this year because many of our riders weren't happy with the quality. However, I didn't want to put up any negative reviews since they were our sponsor so we just sent them a letter and moved on.

The one thing they've got down pat, though, is customer service. They were great to work with.

Aki said...

Letter would be interesting to see offline/personally. I'm working up a review on the gear that I've used so far. Limited use so mainly a thing with color, fit, graphics, functionality. No durability notes as of yet.

WMdeR said...

Hi, Aki,

Thank you for the review.

I'm a randonneur, not a racer, and our national organization (RUSA) jersey is a VOmax product. We've used VOmax for ten years now, and haven't had occasion to switch.

My club jersey is from Voler, and they've been very easy to work with (accurate, timely, etc--I sent out the kit orders this year).

I have used VOMax SS jerseys for the past couple of years in rotation with Voler and various wool jerseys. They're best in hot weather. Only one issue to date: their hot-weather material stains easily.

They do seem to breathe better than the Voler or Verge material in hot weather. The Voler jerseys in particular generate a personal rainforest microclimate unless the zipper is all the way down and the jersey flapping around behind you, Ulrich-style. Even here in dry, sunny Colorado.

I don't know about the rest of their kit. Bib fit is one of those tough things.


William M. deRosset
RUSA 2401

p.s. congratulations on your recovery from the crash. it sounds like it was a spur to get you going in several ways.... Bonne Route!