If there’s one garment that comes to mind when you think of French style, it has to be the breton top. Its horizontal stripes are a year-round indication of style, great with a gorgeous navy wool peacoat but equally at home when paired with … well … pretty much anything. Except maybe vertical stripes. Don’t want to look like a crossword puzzle.
Every clothing brand has a version, from high street to high end. The navy breton stripes have become beloved in their ubiquity. They are of course filtering through to cycling jerseys, with some testing the definition of breton to the limits.
But if you want a cycling jersey styled with genuine French flair, you should really be directing your attention to a French cycling brand, and when it comes to style, Cafe du Cycliste (CdC) is the only contender.
There might be some women who find the use of female names to identify all garments in the range to be verging on the misogynist but CdC at least appear to have dropped the embroidered woman on a bike decoration they started off with. And quite frankly you’d have to be quite a staunch feminist if you let this get in the way of what happens to be some of the most beautifully made cycle gear out there.
This is what happens when you name a jersey, you instantly develop a fondness for it. You view it as a comfortable friend that keeps you nice and snug and makes you feel good, although that has something to do with the fact that you also know you look good.
The Claudette jersey is not burdened with all over breton stripes, but it is white with a band of navy stripes around the chest and arms and references Breton rather than full-on rips it off.
This is a good thing. If there’s one stereotype more typical of France than a Breton top, it’s a Breton top worn by a man with a big moustache riding a bicycle. With a beret. And a string of garlic bulbs around his neck. Smoking a Gauloises.
CdC’s Claudette has got French style and flamboyance in equal measure without digging up any cliches. The white colourway might be the single most impractical shade for a cycling jersey ever conceived, especially one manufactured from a fantastically soft merino-silk blend, but that is what makes it so desirable. Neat little details such as a red zipper and ribbon zip pull on the rear pocket add the finishing touches.
Fit is nice and slim and tucks in at all the right places. I’m usually an 8 and took an extra small in this, just to give you an idea.
CdC could be a bit more generous with their pockets. None of the rear pockets will even accommodate an essentials case without a good shove and if you’re of the persuasion to undertake a lengthy ride you’ll find them lacking. The tail could also do with being a tad longer. This jersey, while it fitted in all other areas, rode up, especially when pockets were fully loaded, and exposed the small of the back.
But then again, 100-mile odysseys aren’t strictly what CdC are about. This is a stylish jersey designed with Riviera cafes in mind, and to that end it fits the brief perfectly. It’s worth noting that there is also a merino neck warmer available which complements the jersey perfectly.
We were also sent a pair of the Therese tights, in the de riguer black. These are fleece lined for cooler riding conditions and incorporate a four-way stretch, which should allow for most body shapes. They sent me a small in these, and the fit was spot-on for a 32” inside leg and standard hip width.
The crucial element of these is the lack of bibs, which actually makes them more suitable for longer rides when you might get caught short in the middle of nowhere. It is however worth tugging the leggings right up in order to ensure the lower part of your back isn’t exposed to the winter winds. Another thing I always pay particular attention to is the chamois and can confirm this passes the padding test with flying colours.
Summary: If you can get your head around the white colourway and smaller pockets, this is one of the most stylish women’s cycling jerseys around. Full of French flamboyance and comfortable to the point you’ll want to wear it all the time. Leggings are great for all-round riding, and allow convenience when it comes to visiting a convenience. Jersey pockets are a bit small however and the jersey could do with being a bit longer on the tail.
4 / 5