Thanks to the huge surge in road cycling as a recreational support it is no surprise that every month a new brand of bike or clothing range is announced. With the cycle industry as a whole reported to be worth around £4 billion a year and growing, this is one sector of the economy that has surged during the recession and growth appears to show no sign of abating.
Not surprisingly, some of the more established brands have had to up their game to compete with these young upstarts and Polaris, a staple of the UK cycling scene for over 20 years now, is one of them. For many people new to the sport, Polaris occupy a price point which is perfect for those who want to look the part without blowing the budget, but there is more to the brand than that.
Their collection includes entry level cycle wear, but they also manufacture ranges that are vying for that mid-market area occupied by the likes of dhb and Endura - clothing aimed at more experienced, club level riders. Across their eclectic and expanding range, Polaris have kept a keen eye on ensuring their garments provide comfort and performance, yet are not going to leave you short changed.
Their Spring/Summer collection for 2014 is a reflection that this is a brand that is staffed by many keen cyclists, who when not pushing the brand forward are pushing themselves on the roads and tracks near their Dronfield base in Derbyshire's Peak District.
For the road cyclist there are two ranges, competing at different price points. Firslty, the Venom collection, which is aimed at the keen sportive/club rider and pitched against some notable competitors, like the Endura FS260 and Altura Raceline ranges. The Venom is mid-market, competitively priced performance wear, combining quality fabrics and construction and a distinctive reptilian-inspired design that permeates the whole collection.
The Venom Scale Jersey is a performance cut, short sleeve jersey with a print inspired by snake skin - in keeping with the serpentine branding of the higher end range. We'd like to have seen a full length zip on this jersey, but the CoolDry fabric is very soft and effectively wicks moisture from the skin. Ventilation is further improved by the mesh side panels and the material is very soft on the skin, though paired with a sleeveless baselayer it coped admirably in temperatures in the mid twenties.
The Scale Jersey and Venom Pro Bib Tights compliment each other perfectly.
The jersey features three good sized products that can take a good deal of kit without sagging. The pockets sit quite low on the back, without sagging and there is also a small zip pocket - thankfully on the side so within easy reach. This is a jersey which looks better on, than off. On initial viewing the detailing and the scale motif looked a little haphazard, but once pulled on, the lines run around the contours of one's torso to good effect and the overall design works well. The motif may not be to everyone's tastes - those who err towards a more classic, minimalist design will not be rushing to buy this, but it has a strong and unique design that will appeal to many.
The Scale jersey can be paired with the performance orientated Venom Pro Bib Shorts, which at £74.99 is a fair price for a short that performed very well in the summer sun, including a brief cycling trip in the heat of southern Italy. The multi-density Italian gel pad provided a good degree of comfort, even on longer rides, and it's worth noting the pad comes with anti-bacterial properties too. The nylon/elastane fabric is stretchy and the flatlock seams ensure total comfort, whilst the incorporation of a mesh section on the back of the shorts ensures ventilation is good. Reflective detailing and silicon grippers on the legs round off a stylish, racy looking pair of bib shorts that can definitely hold their own against many of the mid-market bibs offered by other manufacturers.
The Adventure range, new for 2015, is more of an entry level collection, aimed at those just getting into road cycling or on a more limited budget. The Adventure jersey (below) comes in at only £30, which is a fair price for a jersey of this quality. It's a basic jersey, let's not pretend, but the polyester material is wonderfully soft and combined with a mesh fabric on the side panels and under the arms to aid ventilation, it provides a good level of comfort on the bike. There's a good elasticated hem, reinforced with silicon tabs for extra grip, adequate reflective detailing and the three rear pockets are roomy and reasonably robust. It ticks all the necessary boxes at this price point and comes in a small selection of colours, though the yellow is certainly one for the less self-conscious!
The complimentary Adventure Bib Shorts are, likewise, very competitively priced, but you are getting a six panel construction and a pad that is going to do enough to keep you comfortable in the saddle on shorter, less strenuous rides. The silicon leg grippers help to stop the very stretchy nylon fabric from riding up and the incorporation of the mesh fabric on the rear will aid ventilation. For £35, this is a nice set of bibs for someone who is just getting into the sport, but perhaps does not want to fork out huge amounts of cash in case they don't get the bug!
Both the Venom and Adventure ranges are complimented by a matching accessories that reflect the price point of the two collections. Not surprisingly, the Venom mitts (below) are a little more 'performance' orientated than their Adventure counterparts and come with an easy to pull on lycra cuff and good padding on the palm and a thumb wipe. They also feature the distinctive scale motif and though the stitching on the fingers is a little ragged and perhaps does not reflect the £25 price tag, the gloves are a good ergonomic fit and the padding provides good comfort.
Sunglasses are also accommodated in both ranges: the Viper shades come in at £34.99 and are available in white, with red detailing, or black. Both the nosepiece and the lens' are replaceable and they have strong, robust feel and quality, that you would expect for a pair of shades in this price bracket. The fixed lens Gator sunglasses compliment the Adventure range - a rather funky, sturdy design offered in a white or black/line green version.
The Viper Shades are stylishly sharp.
There is a lot of competition in the cycling clothing market, with many manufacturers enticing us with new collections that fuse good design and performance, but at an affordable price. It's good to see one of that Polaris has upped it game and is now producing a vast range of kit, for all weather conditions, which will appeal to both newbies and those with a little more experience under their saddle.
Polaris Bikewear is widely available online, but for more details on their extensive range of road cycling clothing and for stockists, visit the polarisb2b website.
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