Apres Velo's limited edition ZEAL 'earn your stripes' kit combo offers a truly unique design in restricted numbers to make sure you stand out from the crowd. The ensemble includes shoes, socks, knicks, short sleeve jersey and cap, all matching perfectly with a 'Black Zebra' motif. Read on to see if the performance matches the design.
Who’s it for: Any rider looking for something a little different without wanting to compromise on quality.
What we like: Unique design, quality chamois, comfortable shoes.
What we don’t: The shoes are... LOUD! Maybe too loud for some.
Apres Velo literally stands for 'After Cycle' in French, and they are probably most famous for their cycling and triathlon inspired T-shirts. In recent times the company has looked to develop the performance range of their cycling trade by partnering with Italian brand Marcelo Bergamo, who has been supplying amateur and professional cycling teams with high performance kit since 1978.
The range is known as the 'AV Performance Line' and has a strong emphasis on fit and quality. The latest release from the AV Performance Line is a one off design that is only available for a limited time. Suitably referred to as 'earn your stripes', the release has a 'black zebra' pattern throughout and comes complete with jersey, knicks, socks, cap and CX 331 Lake shoes.
The knicks feature Marcelo Bergamo's top of the line chamois, despite retailing for under AU$150, and the jersey is 'race-cut', made from 'quick dry, light, anti bacterial' fabric, and equally good value at AU$99.95. The limited addition shoes retail for AU$450, cap AU$19.95 and compression socks AU$19.95.
Apres Velo's Managing Director Leonard Greis explains the inspiration for the kit, "The zebra design was inspired by my African heritage coupled with the desire to create something that was totally unique, striking and timeless."
"I decided to name the shoe ZEAL, which not only refers to a group of Zebra’s, but is also a noun for great passion, energy and enthusiasm."
For those excited about the one-of-a-kind limited edition release, it appears there will be more unique creations in the future. "We intend continuing to design limited release AV High Performance Ranges, carrying a distinct point of difference in terms of styling and design, without ever compromising on quality", says Leonard.
We got our hands on the limited release kit and shoes to test and review.
ZEAL Riding Shoe LAKE CX 331 - AU$450
As well as partnering with Marcelo Bergamo, Apres Velo have also partnered with Lake to create a bespoke version of their high performance CX 331 shoe.
The CX 331 features Lake's 'Road Performance Last' which is designed for 'higher cadence and pressure riding' featuring a 'more curved profile and increased toe pitch and heal lift'. The CX 331 is part of Lake's elite shoe range, narrower in the toe box, tighter in the heel and less overall volume than their other shoes. The CX331 is available in a 'regular' and 'wide' width option; 101.9 and 116.9 respectively (for a 44.5). Sizes range from 42 - 47, with half sizes available throughout the range, with the exception of 42.5.
The sole is the 'Lake Race', 100% Carbon Fiber Sole which is available in a three hole cleat pattern or Speedplay specific pattern. The upper is lightweight and comfortable, constructed of 'Klite Kangaroo leather and mesh', using a 'side mounted Push/Pull BOA' as the closure system.
To further improve the feel of the CX 331 shoe, it has a 'Moldable Carbon Stability Platform' which allows you to customise the fit. By heating the shoes up in the oven, the heel and arch area become pliable, allowing you to contour them by hand to the exact shape of your foot. This not only improves the fit and security at the heel, it means less tension is required at the BOA to keep the foot in place, potentially removing hot spots from over tightening.
Heat moulding process
Straight out of the box the CX 331's felt comfortable with no hot spots or pinch points. I had the regular fit shoes that provided plenty of room in the toe box despite measuring slightly smaller than the 101.9 detailed by Lake. We measured 98 mm with our digital calipers which is slightly smaller than Shimano RP9 at 99.4 mm for a size 44.5, but roomier than the Giant Conduit at 97 mm and Specialized S-Works 5 at 96 mm, both for a size 44 (all measured at the widest point with digital calipers). I found the regular last roomy enough with no compressing the forefoot from the side, and no bunching of the toes, which suggests the wide option of 116.9 mm would fit the widest of feet.
I didn't bother with molding the heel cup as I found the heel cup provided a snug fit anyway and felt secure even when pulling hard during a sprint or uphill effort. Over the course of a months worth of testing I never had a hot spot, numbness or other outcome you would typically associate with ill-fitting shoes. The unique last and shape (more curved profile, increase toe pitch and heal lift) is welcome and feels natural when riding. It also makes it easier to put the power down and you almost get a sense of elastic recoil thanks to the curved shape.
The comfort is further enhanced by the K-Lite Kangaroo leather upper. The natural material is supple and provides comfort that few synthetic fabrics can. The Kangaroo leather is mixed with mesh sections which keeps the weight down and the shoe well ventilated. Vents in the sole further help with ventilation, and uniquely they are found in the forefoot, mid-foot and heal. Many shoe manufacturers will only have vents in the toe or forefoot, so it's interesting that Lake have gone down the path of full last ventilation.
I was a massive fan of the broad carbon sole which proved to be great for power transfer and stiffness. Lake haven't scrimped on the carbon, making it feel like the sole almost envelopes the forefoot. The broad platform is present throughout the whole last giving the impression of a larger pedal and more power. Sprinting felt great, the wide platform makes you feel like you are getting the most out of your effort, or at least not wasting any of it. I have a very high arch which required specific inner-soles given the broad, flat nature of the stock inner-sole.
The tightening mechanism uses the same BOA technology of many other performance road shoes, although there is only one which does pull to a specific location. A second BOA at the mid foot like the CX 402 model would be a great addition. That wasn't an issue for me, but the tighten / open only BOA system was. The L4 lacing system of the BOA doesn't allow for small adjustments to loosen the tension if you over tighten. If you do over tighten, the BOA must be released and re-tightened. This is a small inconvenience at the start of the ride but during a ride becomes more troublesome. Of course if you set and forget your shoes at the start of a ride this won't be an issue, but if like me you tighten and loosen as you go, then it's a drawback.
For the weight weenies out there, the CX 331 pair tipped the scales at 530 grams (size 44.5) which is comparable to other high performance shoes around the same price point. I never noticed the weight either way, the broad, stiff sole and comfortable upper grabbed all of my attention.
It would remiss of me to talk about all the great technical aspects of the shoes without touching on the unique design. You are either going to love these, or hate them, I doubt there would be any in between. The red is bright, and the black and white zebra pattern draws attention, which is kind of the idea. Those who grew up idolising Mario Cipollini will be in love with this design, even more so with the option of pairing them with the entire ensemble.
Aside from the lack of small loosening adjustments with the ‘push/pull’ BOA system, it’s hard to fault these shoes. If you don’t mind standing out from the crowd and being the topic of post-ride-brew conversation, the limited edition ZEAL Black Zebra shoes are worth a look. Just make sure you’re quick cause there is a very limited number of these creations available.
As mentioned previously, Apres Velo have paired with Italian manufacturer Marcelo Bergamo, an ex-professional rider who began the company after his retirement in 1978. Apres Velo provided the inspiration and design for the ZEAL kit, Marcelo Bergamo producing it. All Marcelo Bergamo apparel is “100% made in Italy,” which should inspire confidence in this Apres Velo limited edition release.
We test and review the riding jersey and B'b'B riding knicks below.
ZEAL 'Earn Your Stripes' Riding Jersey - AU$99.95
Despite it's price tag, the ZEAL jersey is heavy on performance features and is made in Italy. The jersey is a race cut with full front zip, three rear pockets and elastic gel waist gripper. It's made from 94% polyester and 6% elastane, making it lightweight with good breathing characteristics. Sizes range from small to 3XL which should be enough of a range to cater for most.
Starting off with the fit of the jersey, it is immaculate. It's true to its word as a race cut jersey, but has enough stretch in the material to forgive different body shapes and sizes if you are on the border of size charts like I am. The neck isn't too tight which is a common complaint of mine, the arms provide an even fit all the way down, and there is no excess fabric that flaps in the wind. Close my eyes, and I could swear I was wearing a jersey with a heftier price tag.
The sleeve comes down to approximately mid-arm, a happy medium between the modern longer arm and the traditional shorter arm, and doesn't ride up even when stretching out in the drops. It feel light and breathes well making it perfect for race days or harder riding.
Unlike the shoes, the design of the jersey is understated with one shoulder sporting the zebra pattern which stretches across to the other shoulder, which is otherwise predominantly bright red. A much more paired back design.
There is plenty of room in the jersey pockets for storage, my only complaint is that the middle pocket was hard to reach while on the bike. Most riders would put items that need access, i.e. food, in the outside pockets to make it easier to reach, but if you did need something out of the middle pocket it could prove problematic.
ZEAL 'Earn your stripes' B'b'B Riding Knicks - AU$149.95
As good as the jersey was, I wasn't so enamored with the knicks. They certainly had their good and bad, let's start with the good.
The chamois is the 'Ergonomic HD Carbon pad' from Marcelo Bergamo, created 'for extreme comfort and support when spending hours on the saddle'. The chamois says it's suitable for long distance rides (six hours) and I totally agree. It has 'chafe eliminating flatlock stitching and mesh moisture wicking straps' but the hero is the multiple panel design with varying levels of density that is as comfortable as your favourite lounge chair. Over the sit bones the chamois is dense while being thin elsewhere, creating a comfortable ride with no rubbing or feeling like a duck when walking around off the bike. The chamois placement also gets a huge tick. It sits perfectly, not too far back or too high, which would render the multi panel design useless if that wasn't the case.
The fit is first class as you would expect from an Italian made garment. The legs are tight where they need to be and there's no bunching in the seems. The design is similar to the jersey in that it's not overly loud or out there, more of an compliment to the other items in the ensemble rather than the focal point.
Onto the 'bad'.
I found the bib / brace of the shorts to be quite tight. I ordered a medium, stand 184cm tall, and felt like extended rides of over 2 hours would cause a problem due to the pressure on my shoulders. I felt they could definitely use another couple of cm in length.
Where the next two features sit in the spectrum between 'good' and 'bad' is entirely up to personal preference. The leg sits roughly mid quad, which is higher than many other knicks that sit closer to the knee. This doesn’t affect the performance of the knicks at all, and some may prefer this type of cut, but is worth a consideration if you insist on a long leg.
The leg band is a 'compression like' set-up, not using gel grippers or similar like many other knicks. The band is essentially double thickness fabric that holds the leg tight, but the lack of gripper means it has the potential to ride up if the fit is not spot on.
The knicks range in size from small to 2XL, which is slightly unusual given the jersey ranges from small to 3XL. It is made from 50% polyester; 30% nylon and 20% elastane.
Apres Velo have done a great job producing a unique creation and partnering with well respected manufacturers to ensure quality is at the highest level. Price hasn't been spoken about much, but it's remarkable to think the jersey and knicks cost only AU$250, undeniably good value. The ZEAL Black Zebra kit and CX 331 shoes have strictly limited numbers and once they sell out, won't be produced again.