Just how hard can it be to combine cycling functionality with everyday styling? Surely not that tough… In fact it is so easy that no one has dared to even have a decent stab at it. Until now.
Maybe the whole gravel scene has encouraged designers to think out of the box. Or perhaps the whole ‘laid back’ image did the trick. Whatever it was, when Morvelo launched their new Overland range back in March, we thought they were about to redefine the way we dress for cycling. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review a selection of Overland kit, I just had to try it out.
After putting in the miles on social rides and bikepacking trips, these are my observations.
First, some background….
Most cycle clothing seems to be either roadie tight or MTB baggy. The styling is quite distinctive and whichever camp you are in, it shouts CYCLIST! It may be comfortable and functional but sometimes you just want to look ‘normal’. The dilemma is that nothing on the market quite cuts the mustard!
Well, this was true until Oli Pepper from Morvelo embraced the challenge to create a range of ‘multi functional’ clothing. The result is the Overland range.
I think one of the factors preventing people from using bikes as an every day mode of transport (and not simply a leisure activity) is the clothing issue. You are not going to go out for a ride and then wander down the pub to meet your mates, or go shopping, wearing Lycra or MTB kit. You will look, and feel, a little strange. Likewise, you are not going to ride 30 miles in jeans and a T shirt, it just does not work! The Overland range is designed to fill the gap. The fact that ‘gravel’ cycling has been a catalyst for this development is a happy coincidence.
From an environmental and sustainable perspective, Overland might just help minimise the amount of clothing we all buy. An interesting but worrying fact is that we make 8 billion pieces of clothing each year. This is a global increase of 400% in the last 20 years.
So…tell me more!
On test in our ‘Summer Selection’ are:
The full range embraces a variety of colours and designs based on these garments. most have a distinctive 70’s style retro theme which you will either love or hate.
Within the wider range you will discover causal t-shirts and hoodies which we will feature soon. The garments on test though, represent the items we feel to be ideal if you have a taste for bike based adventure.
So I set off to the Lake District for a spot of bikepacking on The Distance.
Superficially, everything looks like casual clothing. It certainly does not shout ‘cycling specific’. Only when you look more closely, will you spot the features that make the range work on a bike.
Short Sleeve Shirt
Morvelo describe this as a ‘proper cycling top designed to look like a shirt’. It has a cycling biased, 4-way stretch cut, a dropped tail and a couple of stealthy pockets to the rear. Cleverly, they have been angled so you can still use them while wearing a backpack.
It is described as unisex, but ladies would be advised to size down for a more flattering fit.
Just like a normal shirt, it has buttons, not a zip! If you get hot, simply pop open a few buttons. It is more fiddly than using a zip, but hey, that is fashion! There is a single breast pocket which likewise, is secured with a button. There are also two rather insignificant, reflective, Overland logos front and rear. Are they a viable safety feature? Not really. Still, huge reflective strips would blow your cover in the pub!
It feels like any loose fitting, casual, shirt. It looks cool and trendy and I like that. To test the ‘civvy’ credentials, I even wore it in a non-cycling situation and no one commented on it . I reckon it passes that test!
So much for the style features, we really ought to look at how the shirt performs on a bike! When you combine (civvy) style with functionality on a bike, a degree of compromise is inevitable. So have Morvelo risen to the challenge?
The shirt is made from 92% polyester, 8% Lycra and I quickly began to feel clammy on hot days. There are no vents so, as soon as you begin to work hard, you overheat. You can unbutton the shirt but it is not an ideal option. Pick up a bit of speed and the wind rush results in a hunchbacked Quasimodo look when you are riding along, which is not that cool either! A second generation shirt will be coming out in September that we are assured addresses these issues by re-positioning the sleeves to create a more streamlined cut.
Pockets are important for a cyclist. Maybe that is why so few people (apart from kids and hipsters) ride in a buttoned shirt. Morvelo know this and included a pair of ‘roadie style’ rear pockets. Style wise, they have done well and the pockets do not interfere with the casual shirt look. The downside is that they are very narrow. So narrow that I struggled to get a hand into them and when I did, it would get stuck!
Verdict: Cool in the visual sense, but actually a bit sweaty 3/5
Presented as a ‘two in one’ base layer/jersey combo, the best way to describe this is as a versatile but heavy duty base layer. Unusually for a base layer, it features five pockets. Three on the back like a normal jersey, and an extra pair on the front.
Morvelo reckon you could wear it by itself on a hot day. It is not exactly Rab C Nesbitt style but you would have to be pretty body confident to do this. It is a little see through!
I think the ‘Dual’ is best paired up with an Overland Shirt. Then you can ride with it unbuttoned, flapping in the wind and look uber cool. At least that is how I felt while cruising through the mean streets of Windermere during Saturday rush-hour.
The rear pockets were really useful and the material is super stretchy so you can really load them up. The front pockets have a little security flap to ensure things do not escape, but they sit very low. Put anything in them and it will poke you in the stomach.
Two-in-one credentials aside, £60 for a base layer is a bit steep and, as it is thicker than a normal, it is arguably better suited to the cooler months of the year. Importantly, the wicking properties do match those of a true base garment.
Verdict: A pocket-rich baselayer for those who just have to carry everything! 3/5
I am not a fan of baggy shorts. There…I have said it! All that flappy material, tickling your knees and to what purpose? Admittedly, sometimes the extra modesty provided by a baggy short is a good thing. You do not want to rock up at a cafe in Lycra shorts and frighten all the OAPs!
Having said that, I love the Selector. Why? Quite simply because you do not notice them. Morvelo describe them as the Goldilocks of shorts as they’re not too tight and not too baggy. I think they have got the cut spot on.
The Selector is an overshort, similar to the Café du Cycliste Rene. Unlike their Gallic counterpart however, the Selector is sensibly priced. The DWR treated, super stretchy nylon and lycra blend fabric makes it practical too. Riding along puddle strewn roads, my derrière remained completely dry which is fantastic.
The shorts feature hidden waist adjusters and a huge silicone griper on the waistband to minimise slippage. Double poppers and a safety catch, plus a zip fly, means they have all the practicality of real shorts too. The legs fall just above the knee, so there is no rubbing to annoy you when riding.
The shorts are just long enough to stop you looking like an overgrown schoolboy.
Two zipped pockets mean you can slouch about when off the bike, looking all nonchalant like. There is an extra zipped pocket on the waistband at the rear. It is very shallow though and I could not work out what it is for.
Verdict: Finally, a pair of shorts where the fit is absolutely dialled. 5/5
The Overland range achieves what it set out to do, create riding gear that does not look like riding gear. By making it look less like cycling kit, Morvelo have understandably had to compromise.
On longer rides, I found myself overheating as I found the limits of ‘multi-purpose’ over cycling specific clothing. But as casual commuter/messing around clothing, the Overland range makes perfect sense. You can cruise around at a leisurely speed on your bike, and yet hang out and look perfectly normal when not riding.
The Selector shorts for me, are the real winner. Offering total versatility whether you are riding trails on a MTB, hitting the gravel or just popping down the shops. Compared to similar shorts, they offer great value for money.
Last modified: 17th July 2019