By Brett Ratner
For a really long time, in my opinion, the bicycle industry has been plagued with some pretty tacky aesthetics. Few places has this been more apparent than in road cycling.
From paint jobs on the bike frames to the Lycra riding apparel, it seemed no design was ever complete without a swoopy stripe, loud color scheme, in-your-face logos and dated graphic elements.
These sorts of things make perfect sense in professional racing (where sponsors are fighting for precious TV time and photo ops), but for recreational riding, to me it's in poor taste.
Fortunately things seem to be changing for the better. These days there's lots of new bikes and bike gear that feature cutting edge tech, combined with understated, classic looks.
Road Holland offers cycling wear that I feel perfectly deliver these attributes. In a relatively short time (since 2009, to be exact), they've become a go-to brand for experienced, discerning cyclists who demand performance, but don't want to be a rolling billboard.
I have several friends who swear by their gear, and Road Holland has become an increasingly familiar site on centuries, weekend group rides and other events where spirited paces, longer distances...and tasty coffee stops, come with the territory.
On top of that, all their apparel is made in America. And (unlike many other high-end apparel brands) it's not obscenely priced.
For these reasons, I've had several Road Holland pieces on my personal "wish list" for awhile now. So, I was beyond thrilled when they offered The Chainlink a kit to test. Naturally, we said "yes!!!" and a few days later, an Edam Mid-Weight Long Sleeve Merino Blend Jersey and a pair of Bolsward Bib Shorts showed up.
Per my request, the kit came in my personal favorite color; black. I love my other black kits, but a problem I occasionally encounter is that they illicit the inevitable "what's with the Johnny Cash look?"
By contrast, this Road Holland jersey breaks up the black with tasteful orange and white accents, while the bib shorts offer a subtle gray gripper band just above the knee. It's the perfect amount of detail to give me the stealth vibe I'm going for without making me look like I'm on a spy mission...or about to break into a stirring rendition of Ring of Fire.
Fortunately, Road Holland's features and details are on par with their aesthetics.
The long-sleeve jersey is a wool/polyester blend that's just right for fall and spring riding weather. It's full zip too (another preference of mine). But what I mostly appreciate is the rear pocket situation.
It's got a zipper pocket, perfect for stuff you really don't want to lose, like money, keys, or a full-sized smart phone (it easily swallows up an iPhone 6 in an OtterBox Defender case). This is an especially nice feature for people who ride off-road and are worried about things tumbling off into the woods. A small band of reflective piping was sewn across the top edge of the pocket to enhance nighttime visibility. Finally, there's two large top-loading cargo pockets for stashing energy gels, a crumpled up wind vest, etc. Personally, I'm used to three smaller pockets, but I haven't thus far found two large pockets bothersome while riding, particularly with the third, zippered pocket present. The only time I could see this being an issue is if I'm needing to carry a third water bottle.
The bibs don't hit you over the head with a bunch of crazy features. They simply seem well constructed, fit correctly, the gripper bands keep things comfortably in place, and the imported Italian chamois pad does its job well. The guys at Road Holland say the pad is "...designed for extreme long distance riding...and features seamless technology for incredible comfort. Special yarns and a perforated design eliminate friction, increase air circulation, and give the pad a permanent anti-bacterial effect."
Based on my experience with the bibs thus far, I haven't noticed anything contrary to these claims.
Regarding sizing: If you are looking to purchase any pieces from Road Holland, and you generally find yourself straddling two sizes, definitely check their sizing guide. And unless you're racing in the stuff, I'd personally suggest leaning toward the larger size for comfort. I opted for the size up for our test models (in my case, a large) and they fit perfectly. In other words, nothing flapping in the breeze, but nothing uncomfortably tight, either. I consulted a friend of mine who is a regular Road Holland wearer, and he sizes up as well.
All in all, the best compliment I can give Road Holland is that (unless they ask for the items back), this kit is going to be on my heavy rotation for a long time. And those "wish list" items I've been waffling on will be among my next purchases.
Visit roadholland.com for more information.
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Brett Ratner (email@example.com) began commuting by bike in 2005. Shortly thereafter, his interest in cycling expanded to century rides, bike camping and trail riding. The competition bug bit in 2012 and nowadays he races cyclocross, track, mountain bikes, criteriums and gravel for The Bonebell.