The dictionary says that sapient, as an adjective means wise, or attempting to appear wise. With this in mind you could ask whether it is sapient to launch a new range of cycling wear into a fairly crowded market. While there is a lot of choice for cyclists, Queenslander Ben Maclean found that while cycle touring, riders either turned to basic t-shirts or flashy lycra. Casual cyclewear with technical performance was the missing link!
My first introduction to Sapient Cyclewear is with the Men’s Forest Fire short sleeve cycling jersey. The identical design also appears on the ‘Dirt Shirt’ which has no zipper and is style as a cycling t-shirt.
There are seemingly two distinct trends in jersey designs at the moment. One the one side there are monotone/subdued designs which hone minimalism and subtle accents such as cyclewear from La Passione, Rapha and Pas Normal. On the other side there are bright, funky, ‘shock & awe’ designs of Cycology, Attaquer and Victory Chimp to name a few. In the last two decades, cyclewear has also seen a significant advances in the quality of fabrics and performance but so has the pricing which often goes beyond luxury levels. Sapient Cyclewear bring a lot of balance to the table, the graphic design range from subtle to vibrant, they use fit-for-purpose fabrics and the pricing is sensible.
Sapient have two main jersey fabrics, the ‘Performance Fabric’ (hi-flow mesh) is used for three men’s and two women’s designs and which retail for A$110, and the ‘Comfort Fabric’ (comfort mesh) is used for one Men’s & ones Women’s cycling jersey, each priced at A$88. Added to this is what I find astounding, the jerseys have free shipping, a 30 day return policy (unused / fit isn’t right) and a lifetime warranty against defects. This is peace-of-mind for buyers.
Man’s Forest Fire Cycling Jersey in Detail
I am not going to lie, the Forest Fire is a vibrant design and belongs to the bright, funky, ‘shock and awe’ style. In the flesh it is much better than onscreen. As Sapient say “You won’t go unnoticed in a Forest Fire jersey”. I also agree with them that it is wild and evokes heat, passion and energy.
Personally I prefer brighter jersey designs in jerseys as they help with being more visible when in traffic. The Forest Fire design fits the bill really well without making me look like a safety representative on the way to work. I have fallen in love with the local gravel roads and gravel cycling and this design is right at home.
Coincidentally, following the direct impact of devastating bushfires in Australia (think Ash Wednesday and more recently in Victoria) the name is a bit off-putting. The European or North American style forest graphics are more internationally compatible and riding through the Adelaide Hills during the last few weeks I feel that ‘Autumn Fire’ may be a better title – the jersey blends-in nicely with my local surroundings.
The performance fabric used in the Sapient Jerseys is a distinctive blend that I haven’t seen anywhere else so far. The material used in the cycling jersey almost appears to be two parts, diamond mesh and a finer top layer. It is a unique synthetic weave where the mesh part aids moisture-wicking and ventilation while the finer weave adds strength and the sun protection which a super-light mesh fabric can’t deliver on its own. The side panels and sections of the sleeves use a softer fabric for extra stretch and a better fit.
Proof is in the riding – Time to hit the road & gravel
While I am traditionally a road rider, you have already learnt that I am a converted Gravel Grinder which means I now set off to discover hidden trails and gravel roads in the Adelaide Hills. They can range from technical single track options, rocky and rutted fire access roads, tp smooth and quite gravel roads. In all of these different riding conditions, the Forest Fire jersey worked well.
On the road, I had concerns that the ‘mesh’ of the jersey would translate to being colder on those cool autumn days and would mean that I’d need an extra layer, but this fear was soon dispelled. The multi-layer fabric construction worked in tandem to wick away sweat effectively without becoming breezy. I also tested this with a base-layer and can report no issues regarding fit and comfort. On a few hotter rides with steep climbs I could also test the cooling abilities of the jersey and I found it was working effectively at wicking away sweat and preventing overheating.
The rear gripper on the tail of the jersey was unobtrusive yet functional which was surprising as the hem of the jersey base wasn’t tight around my waist. The hem didn’t ride up or rotate during extended rides when getting in and out of the saddle climbing hills and getting in a tuck on the downhills.
On the gravel was where I feel that the Forest Fire cycling jersey really shone. Jerseys I own (traditional lycra base) work well enough, but on the rougher descents, the added elastic ‘stretch’ of the jersey mean that items in my back pockets are more prone to moving about and I find this distracting. In comparision, with the Sapient jersey, although there is some stretch, items in the back pocket were more likely to stay snuggly in place.
It’s in the details
Regardless of design brilliance, colour choices, brand name or even ‘latest technologies’ a good jersey can still be let down by the small details. And it is the small details in the Forest Fire jersey that catch my eye and show how much cares has been put into the design and manufacture, and why Sapient is confident enough to provide a Lifetime Warranty.
The wide and supportive cuffs on the sleeves provide a firm fit on the arms without giving you the feeling that you are trying to navigate your body into a compression garment. The exposed stitching has several colours that matches the design and also complement the overall look.
There is a small hidden feature in the construction designed to improve the life and comfort of the garment. Small patches, smaller than a 1c piece (yes, I am a MAMIL) are stitched into the rear pockets and providing a reinforcement. I don’t recommend that you carry bricks in your jersey pockets (it’s not very weight weenie), but from time to time an adventure on the bike means my pockets are full to the brim. In combination with the taut fabric, the reinforcements help prevent the things in your pocket from bouncing around or slowly stressing the seams.
To touch on some other details, a quality zip used and it also has a zip-hood save you from discomfort. The narrow collar length is ideal, on paar with the trend in premium jerseys for a thin collar. There is also a nicely integrated reflective tab on the rear, a zippable rear pocket and silicon ‘grippers in the hem. The integration of all of these makes it a very good complete package and ives pricier cycling garments a real run for their money.
Sizing Up Sapient Cyclewear
the joy of finding an attractive jersey are quickly tempered by
baffling sizing charts which require a team of cryptologists to
deciphre and cross-check. To relieve the pain, Sapient say they have
a different sizing chart for each garmet but when I checked it looked
like the same chart. The instructional video for sizing however
provides useful guidance and the 30 day return / exchange policy is a
good backup for buyers.
I always wonder whether I will end up squeezed into a compression garment with new gear, based on the sizing I was a 2XL for the Forest Fire jersey and it fitted me beautifully. You will notice in the photos that I like a comfort (relaxed) fit rather than a race or aero fit. And this aligns somewhat with the concept of Sapient Cyclewear to move away from the ‘flashy’ lycra and more into comfort.
The sleeves were snug around my arms and there was still room to breath in the jersey. The length was also spot on for me and it worked well paired with the other garments such as a rain jacket and arm warmers. In fact, I would describe the fit as perfect.
For riders who prefer cyclewear with super silky and lightweight fabrics and a skin-tight fit, this gear may not fit the bill.
The ‘Performance Mesh’ was the key marker that made this jersey a stand-out for me. Add to that, the quality, sizing guidance and lifetime warranty for what is a very reasonable price.
Sapient is a small brand so Ben, the proprietor, can afford to look after his customers and for my questions he was very forthcoming. The designs are subtle without being bland and the women get some colour variations which are not available to men. In total there are six different cycling jersey variations which come with a value for money proposition to make it a sapient choice.
The Men’s Forest Fire Jersey can be
purchased online from Sapient Cyclewear for $110 and has free shipping Australia-wide and a lifetime warrant.
UPDATE March 2020: Sapient Cyclewear may no longer be operating – the website and contact details are no longer working.