If someone were to give me my ideal cycling jersey, this is what I’d be getting:
- snug fit
- full length zip
- good looks and a bit distinctive (mainly, but not entirely, black)
- you can wear it off the bike
- doesn’t pick up body odour after one ride
- warm on cool days
- but not suffocating on warm days
- soft and comfortable
- will handle a shower of rain
- will remain in good nick for at least three years of regular use
- made with care and attention to detail
- made in Britain by a small business (I write about small UK businesses for a living, so I support them at every opportunity)
- not absurdly expensive
- not Rapha.
It’s a fairly big ask. But this is an ideal jersey, so I can put down whatever suits me. I’ve been mean about Rapha, but I actually love their kit (and even own some), but I’m put off nowadays by the relentless, po-faced branding and the association with a certain type of cyclist. Plus, it costs silly money.
Shutt, a two-year-old business, are not Rapha. I found this out at the Cycle Show last month. I’d been intrigued by their enthusiastic Twitter following, so made a point of visiting their stand. Two long, enjoyable conversations with their MD and marketing director later and I walked away with a smart black and white training jersey. Gratis. Well, gratis on condition I write a review.
I’ve decided to be sensible about this. I had plans to put it through a whole series of vicious tests designed to push it to its absolute limits. But the truth is, I can’t – I like it too much, and they’re unlikely to give me another one if I kill this one, so that would mean shelling out £85 for a replacement. Yes, that’s £85 of your English pounds. If I were to actually pay £85 for a top, I know that @lardychap on Twitter would immediately unfollow me. This is a man who wears duck tape ‘overshoes’. He’d probably assume I’ve joined the ranks of the pampered rich and never speak to me again (he already has suspicions that I mix in exclusive circles). So I can’t possibly admit to him that I’d be willing to spend £85 on a cycling jersey, even though I would in this case.
So, the Shutt Velo training jersey. It looks good; it feels fantastic. When I slipped it on at the Cycle Show, it felt as if it were made for me. It fits me like a glove (I’m a classic British medium, so rather lucky there) and it’s incredibly comfortable (soft merino Sportwool). I mean really, really comfy, like your favourite blanky when you were a toddler. I suspect it will eventually fall off me of its own accord, but until that happens it’s staying on.
It’s not just the materials. It’s stylishly designed (mine is a deep black with a thick white chest band, which has an understated retro feel that I rather like) and very well made. There’s attention to detail, from the zip cover that stops the metal digging into your neck to the small reflective strip just above your bum. What’s more, it has a zip pocket (like) and it’s even made in a factory in Bradford (more like). It’s also drawn admiring comments from non-cycling friends – not that this really bothers me, since I’m the sort of person who will eat in smart restaurants in garish lycra and cycling shoes.
It performs, too. I deliberately wore it on that very warm, sunny October day a few weeks ago when it reached about 23 degrees and, with the zip down, I didn’t overheat and neither was the top really sweaty at the end of the ride. I’ve also worn it on cold mornings with and without a base layer. It’s not windproof, but once your body warms up it retains your heat surprisingly well and I’ve yet to find myself adding another layer to stay warm.
Shutt themselves describe it as a three seasons outer jersey, which can be used as a base layer in winter. It’s certainly versatile, but I’d say it’s a spring and autumn top, which you can also wear on cool days in summer and warm days in winter with a good long-sleeved base. I wouldn’t use it as a base layer myself, simply because I have better alternatives and it just wouldn’t be thin or clingy enough for me.
Worth £85? I’d say so. If you were to compare it to the Rapha equivalent, you’d probably find not a lot of difference in quality, but you’d be paying 50 per cent more for the Rapha. The Shutt jersey is a lovely thing, but I have two small criticisms: the rear zip pocket is too central for my liking (I’d position it more to one side, so it’s easier to open when carrying a courier bag); and the inner sleeves have already started to bobble.
At this stage, I’d give it an eight out of ten, which could go up or down depending on how well it performs over the next six months or so. But my first impressions are that it’s a very good top indeed, and it meets virtually all of my ideal requirements. I like Shutt, too – they’re a great small business with a sense of humour and they care about things like price and quality. Buy one – I would. Now, I wonder if I can blag a pair of winter tights?