Brand Champions

Sugoi Hydrolite Jacket and RSE Jersey -


Ten years ago I fell into a job at Downhill From Here, a new local bike shop in Palmyra, PA. I had no clue what I was doing. None of us did.We weren’t qualified to make any decisions of any importance- we were the crowd that rode in cutoff Army pants and sleevelessWeezer shirts.We didn’t know how to buy clothes for ourselves, let alone an entire bike shop. I once walked in on my boss, a little Pennsylvania Dutch dude named Bo who slept at the shop, selling a pair of bikes to a young couple early in the morning before going to the trouble to put his pants on.We were those guys.

When we finally caved in and started carrying clothes, our decision was 100% based on the fact that we liked the Sugoi rep, a tall, humble guy named ShawnWithers.We knew enough to know we knew nothing about clothing, so we put our faith in a rep we liked. It has been ten years. I don’t know if Shawn still works at Sugoi. I have long since moved on through half a dozen new jobs in half a dozen new cities. Bo doesn’t sleep on the shop floor anymore. But of the three Sugoi pieces I bought ten years ago, I still have all three, and I still use them all regularly.

Recently two new Sugoi pieces came across my desk for review. Before I tried either of them on, I knew what I had to say. In the new pieces- a cycling top and a light rain jacket- there are ten years of new materials and methods, but the quality remains the same.

I picked up the RSE Jersey first because it was the prettiest. I’m not ashamed, I like pretty things. The cycling jersey oozes quality- from the moment you pick it up, you know it is a serious cycling garment. The seams are flat-stitched, it has a seriously slim fit, and the sleeve and hem have a dramatic 4cm compression cuff for all-day comfort. The jersey is made with Sugoi’s Gobi fabric, which has a light feel and excellent moisture-transfer properties, as well as an SPF of 50. The Gobi fabric feels like a light mesh, but is not see-through. The fabric’s breathability makes this a great jersey for stuffy indoor cycling classes as well as hot outdoor  riding. The zipper runs the full length of the jersey, also ideal for the hottest conditions.

The styling is subtle and timeless, which is good, because you’re going to have this piece for a long time.The RSE only falls short at the zipper. It doesn’t have a locking zipper, which I’ve come to expect on a $120 jersey. Locking zippers aren’t important to everybody, but they are to me. Beyond the zipper, it’s a very high quality piece, which looks great, has quality to last years, and is worth the price tag.

A few days later I ran in the HydroLite jacket in an afternoon rain shower. Sugoi claims the HydroLite material becomes waterproof when it comes in contact with water. I’ll have to take their word for it, but the jacket did keep me dry on my run.

My biggest problem with waterproof jackets stems from my own body heat.My body’s engine runs hot, it always has.When I wear a waterproof layer, I always end up soaked in my own sweat anyway, rendering the jacket pointless. The HydroLite’s best feature seemed to be its ability to ventilate my body’s excessive heat. Granted, I still got pretty warm, but between the HydroLite fabric and the huge mesh vents in the underarms, it was the first time I ever felt like there was a benefit to wearing a rain layer.

The HydroLite also boasts plenty of reflective piping and enough packability to stuff the jacket into your back jersey pocket. Sugoi pitches the HydroLite as a cycling or running piece, and it will work for both. As a cycling garment, the butt flap (the one that protects you from the water kicked up off your rear tire) is a little short, but still very functional. If it were any longer, it would look ridiculous and penguin-like on a runner.

Like the RSE Jersey, the HydroLite Jacket retails for $120. I’ve come to accept that good cycling apparel is not cheap. The Sugoi garments are not cheap, but they’re high quality and worth the cost.

That, and I always liked Shawn.


Posted on Aug 1, 2011