A stones throw from the shores of Lago di Garda, the Italian cyclewear brand La Passione is at home. Perhaps you are already thinking… Lamborghinis, Gucci, Colnagos… How much is this going to cost? Well, maybe not as much as you may expect from a cyclewear brand pitched as ‘Premium’.
La Passione say they have a radically different approach of ‘selling direct to the customer’ though for the average Australian cyclist, this is already a well established approach and keen cyclists can probably name half a dozen ‘direct to customer’ cyclewear brands that still cost a pretty penny.
However La Passione positions itself against the likes of Assos and Castelli and without the overheads and markups. And they promise to give you the same Italian quality… for less.
La Passione Overview
La Passione present themselves as contemporary brand, they don’t share a lot details except to say they are fast-growing and have a second office location in Treviso for eCommerce and product management.
In contrast to ‘the journey is the goal’ style of Rapha or Pas Normal, La Passione use flourishing language but don’t deviate too far away from the essential cycling wear. The focus is road cycling kit and beautiful photography compliment the generous range of over 60 jerseys and all of the cycling garments you would ever need for any weather. The women’s range is smaller but it is also original and not simply an offshoot of the men’s gear.
There is something for everyone… the styles are crisp with plenty of sleek colours. The wide selection however means the riding gear is not as instantly recognisable and distinctive like other brands. Depending on your view, this is either an advantage or a disadvantage.
There are a number of styles marked ‘New’ which introduce attractive graphics and colours and without loud brand names or text splattered across the kit so you can go for the look you want but without any concerns that it is suddenly outdated next season. However there is small graphic detail common throughout the kit, four vertical dashed-lines… subtle and decent.
For review with Bicycles Network Australia, La Passione provided one their newer designs called Cell which features graphics a bit like chain mail armour, but with an angular design. The Cell kit is available in 5 colours (black, blue, forest, orange and white) and I received the black version with the white graphics. As with many of the styles from La Passione, the mens Cell Short Sleeve ‘pro cut’ cycling jersey has matching Bib shorts (black only), socks and gloves.
Cell Cycling Jersey $140 / 85€
Described as a close-fitting Pro Cut short sleeve cycling jersey, this retails for $140 (AUD). La Passione have price comparisons on each page and they compare the Cell jersey with $220 jerseys from other brands. The comparison graphic shows distributer and retailer markups along with marketing and sponsorship overheads that make up the price differences so the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for La Passione is giving customers the same level of quality for less. Do they do this?
Following a good first impression while unpacking, there was a tiny hiccup, during the initial photography I spotted a small flaw. A small part of the fabric had been mistakenly sewn into the stitching of the arms. As a credit to La Passione, I reported this and in two days (just two days) a replacement jersey arrived on my doorstep. That is incredible speed, especially during the Corona virus and reflects well on their customer service.
Based on the size guide, I chose the size L which was a perfect fit. It needs to be noted that as a race-fit it is intended to be a close and precise fit. This is a style I enjoy wearing while road cycling though if you want a relaxed fitting jersey, take care with the sizing.
The arms, front and back had good length and while I would not describe the jersey as complex or overloaded with features, it has all of the important details which you would expect from a top-level cycling jersey. On this inside of the collar there is an unobtrusive sweat band and on the rear hem there is a silicon gripper to keep the jersey in-place. The zipper has protective tabs at the top and bottom that protect your skin against irritation. On the rear there is a small reflective tab under the pockets for better nighttime visibility.
A unique feature is the slightly angled rear pockets. They look good but in practice I didn’t perceive any significant difference, the pockets were secure and easy to access. Flatlock stitching is used for the pockets however there is no reenforcement at the top of the pocket which some other brands incorporate to prevent the fabric from tearing under heavy use. Some brands also tend to add a zipper pocket but it is not really a feature I missed and kept the pockets full with my iphone, wallet, minipump and small tool pouch.
One the sides of the jersey a lighter mesh fabric is used and on the arms the black fabric is more elastic so is a snug fit.
As a detail, while the fabric for the front and back fabric appear, the front is a denser and hence give you a touch more wind protection while fabric used on the back is a little lighter and better for breathability. This is a hidden detail that I would have been oblivious to if I hadn’t of really dived into the details. It also suggests that it is thoughtfully designed and works in my favour as the rider.
The jersey design is Italian, as are the fabrics, though the jersey was made in Romania rather than Italy. Eastern Bloc countries have a strong history of clothing manufacture and for European brands it means that production can be kept closer and while the assembly costs are higher than China, quality is usually better.
I faced different temperatures while riding with this kit so was able to test with and without base layers and jackets. The jersey alone does a fairly good job of keeping wind-chill from the chest while staying breathable but obviously when it gets cold you need the base-layer and jackets for warmth. For warm weather cycling, I had the zipper down and I expect for 40°C temperatures, a lighter, mess-style jersey could be better. I appreciated the length – it wasn’t too short or too long so I didn’t feel the need to straighten the jersey
Cell Bib Shorts $180 (€110)
Yes, $180 is still a lot of money but La Passione compare these to $300 bib knicks. It comes complete with an Italian Elastic Interface chamois, which I highly recommend, this alone goes a long way to give you the value you expect.
The overall design is fairly contemporary, no big surprises though the material for braces are extravagant, like a fine silk business shirt.
The legs both have a silicon gripper which is also colour coordinate as the cuffs have different designs… well played! Inside the knicks there is a combination of overlock and flatlock stiching. I found the knick to be perfectly comfortable though after riding spotted noticeable imprints on my skin from the seams.
The size L was selected using the sizing chart and like the jersey, it was spot-on. A close fit but comfortable. The reflective tabs on the left and right sides for night riding are a nice detail.
The Elastic Interface chamois is simply marvellous. I noticed that it had a larger ‘scoop’ in the center and as a proponent of cutout saddles for perennial relief, I had the feeling that this would work in my favour. Indeed, for that reason, I skipped chamois cream altogether and didn’t regret it. The chamois model is the Endurance Anatomic Joker and you will find that Elastic Interface chamois feature in many of most prestigious brands of cyclewear.
A lot of chamois can be split into short distance and long distance chamois and in my testing I found these to be excellent allrounders. They are promoted for cycling up to 6 hours and in contrast to other knicks which need to settle in, these were comfortable from the first pedal stroke through to the last.
While hill climbing or racing in the aero-tuck position I am more susceptible to saddle discomfort and numbness as my torso moves forward and weight distribution and position slightly changes. I feel that the design worked well to counter saddle pressure. The obligatory disclaimer is that each rider has a different anatomy, riding position and preference so there is no guarantee that this chamois is perfect for you, but for my road cycling I can give the La Passione bib shorts full marks.
It is also worth noting that the bib shorts were made in Italy as were the following two garments. Sometimes if there are different production locations, this can introduce variations in print colours and assembly quality. On this kit I couldn’t spot differences and it was consistent and perfectly matched.
Cell Gloves $42 (€26) and Socks $20 (€12)
The Cell gloves are beautiful and well made but are the one item I had problems with. The design and construction oozes Italian style. The tab on the wrist helps you get gloves on, the palm has an appropriate material (50% Polyamide / 50% Polyurethane) and is suitably padded. I selected the large size (23-24cm hand circumference) which should be spot-on for my 23cm. Wearing the gloves, the elastic on the top section stretched generously so it is a tight fit and not immediately uncomfortable.
Over time however, the fairly narrow finger holes and overall tight fit started to cause pain and numbness of my hands which I usually don’t get at all while cycling. I initially felt that the gloves may have needed a few washes to wear-in but this brought no improvements. On my final ride, before ditching the gloves, I took a closer look at my hands after removing the gloves to see that circulation to my fingers had been impeded. As nice as these gloves are, I feel that they are sized too small and may not factor the hands gripping the handlebars and hoods for long durations. La Passione were fast to suggest trying the XL gloves (which were not tested at the time of publishing).
The socks, in contrast, are another success story. I usually shy away from white socks and La Passione have a lot of colours available, including a black version of the Cell socks. The socks reach the lower calves and this top part of the socks (from the ankles upwards) have a double layer of material which simply feels like quality. The foot section of the socks has clearly differentiated weaves with elastic section around the circumference, a softer section on the bottom and a breathable section on the top.
In other words, La Passione know what they are doing. I would still describe these as thin socks and even though they are constructed to provide the right foot support, they don’t have padding. Inside my Italian Northwave shoes with Speedplay pedals my feet were comfortable. Like the rest of the kit (except the gloves) they are a quiet achiever.
The La Passione kit as reviewed with the Cell Cycling Jersey and matching Bib Shorts, Gloves and Socks costs around $382 (€233) all together and shipping is free for orders above €100. Australian customers however can expect customs duty and GST. But in comparison with top Australian cyclewear brands like MAAP and Attaquer where you are typically spending $500 – $600 for just a jersey and bib knicks, this Italian gear costs less.
Living up to the aspiration of ‘Premium Cycle Wear’, La Passione stays under the radar in terms of Italian flare and establishing a brand character. Perhaps they still need a bit more time and tradition and a glass or two of that lovely Brunello di Montalcino.
If you don’t need flashy extravagance and brand recognition, and just want to get out there and ride excellent kit in a colour you like, La Passione are worthy.
Visit: La Passione for further information and purchasing.