Cafe du Cycliste Zélie jacket: WHAT IS IT?
As any cyclist who's ever shivered or stewed (or both) through a long ride will tell you, dressing for cold weather on the bike is often harder to get wrong than right. The Zélie jacket, by Nice-based Café du Cycliste, has been created to make that task easier, using a clever combination of insulation and technical fabrics to keep you warm when it's cold, and cool when the temperature (or your output) rises.
It's part of the premium bikewear brand's Audax range – both designed for and a homage to cycling's storied history of long-distance audax events – so as well as performance features like a long back and short front, and neatly organised pockets on the back (and one on the chest), it's light and relatively packable. There are tasteful flashes of reflective material, too, which is lucky, because it's only available in black. Plus it's Café du Cycliste so it looks really good, which isn't going to keep out the cold, but hey – who wouldn't rather be warm and stylish?
Cafe du Cycliste Zélie jacket: WHY DO I NEED IT?
Because you're a masochist who can't get enough of riding crazily long distances in freezing weather. Or because you just quite like going long on the bike, even when the sun isn't blazing – which, thanks to the growth in popularity of adventure cycling and ultra-long-distance rides, is a growing number of us. Of course, if you're riding more modest distances and just want a jacket that covers you for a wider range of temperatures than most, the Zélie's a good-looking and versatile option.
The Primaloft insulation and windproof technical outer fabric are used throughout the front, arms and hood of the jacket, while the back and sides use a single layer of stretchy material, and the configuration regulates temperature well, with a cosy, airy warmth without bulk or constriction. The Zélie's form is cut exactly as we'd want it – close to the body without being super-racy – though the short front means it's ultimately more at home on the bike than off it. We wore a merino baselayer underneath on long and short rides in near-zero temperatures and never felt the need to peel off or pile on layers, though it keeps the worst of the rain off rather than repels it completely, so you'll need a shell on hand if it really pelts it down.
Cafe du Cycliste Zélie jacket: SHOULD I BUY IT?
If you're into covering big miles throughout the colder months of the year, you'll find yourself pulling on the Zélie every time you head out, and trusting it to keep you in the temperature sweet spot for longer. It's not cheap – Café du Cycliste does style and substance, but it doesn't do budget – and the lack of hardcore rain protection means it's not quite a Swiss Army knife jacket, but this is a handy and handsome tool in the long-distance cyclist's arsenal. As long as you look good in black, obviously.
The Café du Cycliste Zélie jacket is available for £244. cafeducycliste.com