Chapeau! have been designing sharp looking cycling kit from Devon, focussing on three core principles which can essentially be boiled down to ‘timeless style’, ‘inclusivity’ and ‘no-nonsense’. Sounds like a good way to go about things to me!
Another welcome policy is their crash replacement scheme. Simply register your garment online and you’re set. Chapeau! are putting their money where their mouth is. Luckily, I didn’t need to use this service this time around (see Endura Waterproof Jacket II review), so I cannot comment on the speed or scope of it.
As someone who is equally tired of ‘bright, shapeless and inadequate gear’, I was curious to get my hands on their brand new for 2021 Gravel and Commuter range. It is a small range, made up of a couple of jerseys and one short. I went for the slightly cheaper and more casual Dry Tech Tee to match the Gravel Shorts.
Testing took place during a frighteningly changeable UK spring, including a hearty dose of brutal East Devon off-road action, over a 3-day bikepacking trip.
Dry Tech Tee
The first thing that struck me was the indulgent ‘Deep Ocean’ shade of this top (also available in the outrageous Flame Red and stunning Stelvio Grey). Very classy and certainly a break from the norm. The next thing was the sturdiness of the material. You can sense that this tee could take a bit of abuse. Do not let this fool you into thinking this is just a heavy, mountain bike jersey with sleeves missing, though. There is still ample stretch and the fit is distinctly close.
Think a relaxed lycra jersey which you wouldn’t be embarrassed wearing to the pub and you’re somewhere close. Perhaps scrap the pub and think more tennis club? The detailing on this item is seriously smart. Reinforced hems, tidy seams and a neat little pocket on the left breast show that Chapeau! have tried to make this more than just a sweat wicking tee.
Speaking of sweat, the material deals with moisture very well indeed, keeping me comfortable during the frequent showers and sun-baked climbs of my East Devon tour. Incredibly quick to dry, too. So they got the technical aspect covered as well. But what about some rear pockets for the lowered rear panel? An extra snack stash would certainly not have gone amiss, but it would appear Chapeau! have stuck to their guns and made a tee that really is sort of fashionable, rather than let some sneaky back pockets give the game away.
And why not? Sure, the front breast pocket, which features the only piece of branding, is next to useless for on the bike, but it’s details like this that make the Dry Tech Tee more fun than any other technical layer I have worn. Hats off indeed! If you are a cyclist who wants the benefits of hard wearing, technical clothing, but don’t want to look like a cyclist who enjoys the benefits of hard wearing, technical clothing (snore), then this tee is possibly for you.
Tee 7.5/10 £34.99 – see more at Chapeau
Available only in the mysteriously dark ‘Phantom’ colourway, the gravel short is hard to get a handle on initially. Is it a baggy short? A slim-fit outer layer? Chapeau! have created a difficult to define lower layer here.
Off the bike the lightweight DWR treated material hangs freely, like a smart summer short. On the bike the fabric bunches up around the thighs in a way I found pleasantly complimentary. There is plenty of give in these shorts, so when things do get tight, it is never restrictive or uncomfortable. Days in the saddle turned into nights sat cross legged around a stove and the short was continuously accommodating. This meant they turned into a set and forget layer, helped by the fact that even when the water repellent treatment was overwhelmed, the material remained feather light and forgiving next to the skin. Which never lasted long once in the dry again anyway, as these shorts shifted water in very good time.
The technical features continue, with two zipped pockets up front and two open-topped at the rear. On either side buckles can be found to fine tune the fit. A better option than the usual bulky Velcro designs found on most mountain bike shorts, these manage to keep a low profile and blend in well. I am not so sure about the effectiveness of the buckles, as whilst they make it super easy to pull the waist tighter on the fly, they are equally likely to be pulled loose again, sometimes by accident. Overall, I was happy to have them, as they made a decent fit even better, without being essential to my comfort.
Whilst I appreciate the almost casual, stealthy nature of these shorts for riding in, I do find the button above the fly for fastening slightly worrying and would rather a more secure popper or two. Another example of Chapeau! choosing form over outright function. Having said that the button is yet to let me down and if it does, a spare was kindly included.
Branding is kept to a minimum, with tiny logos on the zippers, the tab next to the button and on the rear pocket. I was more than happy to wear these short on hotter days off the bike, confident that nobody would notice their true nature, which is always a good sign in my book.
Shorts 9/10, £59.99 – see more at Chapeau!
The Chapeau! verdict
Chapeau! have created two very appealing bits of kit for the gravel enthusiast that don’t conform to the mainstream cycling look. The emphasis on the style and fit of these garments do not take away from their effectiveness on the bike, and the quality is apparent, too. I have had zero issues with both layers to date, with no signs of early wear and plenty of washes.
The pricing is really great too, compared to other cycling mega brands, meaning Chapeau! have successfully stuck to their principles on this range, creating something that I think will appeal to most cyclists who don’t feel comfortable in full lycra kit.
Last modified: 5th July 2021