HomeReviews & TechThe Souke Special - The Chinese Pathway to Performance Cyclewear

The Souke Special – The Chinese Pathway to Performance Cyclewear

Cycle-wear brand Souke Sports are among a new generation of Chinese brands trying to break free of the ‘cheap’ stigma. They go quite a way in making fairly decent kit for a mid-range price. In this review I tackle Souke bib knicks, which surprised me for the right reasons and two cycling jerseys; a recreational jersey and a race-fit jersey.

In amongst a mountain of spam from China and India, I spotted an enquiry from Souke, a brand I was unfamiliar with though had taken more care with their reach-out. They pitched a jersey review and I suggested comparing their performance and recreational jersey along with cycling knicks. 16 emails and 4 months later, cycling kit arrived from Souke arrived… and I have been wearing the kit for months and been able to thoroughly test it… so how does it fare?

The Chinese Backstory

A backstory, but an abbreviated version which skips politics and industrialisation except to affirm that China was able to establish itself as a cheap producer. But they have also maintained a reliance on the western brands to enforce strict quality control before the goods arrived in the hands of customers. In the cycling world, despite the level of production you won’t find many Chinese cycling brands that have become household names. There are a few reasons for this and one is the realisation that western consumers like low prices but are prepared to pay more for the assurance of quality and reliability.

Of course there are great Chinese made goods, Shimano started producing bicycle parts in 1992 in their Kunshan factory and Australia premium cyclewear brand Pedla rely on Chinese production for their boutique cyclewear.

However Chinese direct-to-customer brands have been a slow mover as you still have to shift through a mountain of fakes on Aliexpress or play roulette on quality. The popular youtube channel China Cycling and the gradual growth and interest in sports cycling in China are signs of change and driving a new wave of businesses to go-direct. Souke are part of this wave.

The Souke cycling kit?

The casual-fit jersey was unexpected as it had a grey camouflage design. The name of this top is the ‘Souke Sports Men’s Digital Printing camouflage Quick Dry Cycling jersey with 3 pockets back-CS2113-Grey’. It was quite different from the style I suggested and not a design I would typically choose to wear. It reminded me of cycling jerseys from Attaquer as well as downhill MTBs tops with the big SOUKE logo emblazoned across the chest. The flip-side is the price, it sells for AUD $46.01 which is fairly cheap. A few months back however it was down to $32.48.

comparison cycling kit

In contrast, the second cycling jersey was a design style I selected, a Men’s Pro Team Race Fit with grey, dark blue and a lime green stripe. The name of this is ‘Souke™ Men’s Pro Team Race Fit Cycling Jersey with 3 Rear Pockets-CS1106-Dark Blue-Grey’ A nice, contemporary design and at a glance, promising. This retails for AUD $121.82, a price that edges it into a ‘performance sports’ price category sets the bar high. As a comparison, the custom printed ‘Bronze Level’ Bicycles Network Australia cycling kit made by Cuore a few years back cost less than this.

souke 4D knicks review

To finish up the select of kit are the ‘Men’s 4D Padded Cycling Bib Shorts-BS1606-Black’ for $58.20 which is on the ‘cheap’ end of price scale.

Details and Quality

The kit was all well packaged and even though I feel that plastic bags can be easily avoided, this is the default option for most cycling kit. Each Souke garments was packed in the soft ziplock style plastic pouches which is typical for higher-level garments. And each item came complete with a series of tags pinned to the label that had to be removed.

souke delivery

The two jerseys had the standard features you would expect in a modern top. Silicon grippers on the hems, a decent zipper and even small reenforcing patches sewn into the to top of pocket stitching to prevent the pockets from tearing.

souke cycling jersey review

A problem I spotted immediately was that on cheaper camouflage jersey, the stitch missed this small reenforcement entirely rendering it ineffective. On the bib shorts and the camouflage jersey there were a lot of loose threads. These have almost no impact on the functionality but for good kit you can expect it to be nice and tidy both inside and out. The higher priced Race Fit jersey fared better in this respect.

souke quality
souke jersey

There were also some nice details, the Race Fit jersey featured subtle reflective prints on the front and back which I appreciate when riding in the dark to aid visibility in traffic. The material on this jersey was felt quite pleasant to the touch. The arms didn’t need a silicon gripper and the material was constructed with clean edge that didn’t move. The waist on both jerseys have a functional silicon gripper.

souke chinese cycling

But there were some jersey details on the jerseys that mean they were not yet ready for the cherry on top. For example the sewing of the zipper was a little wavy and the base of the zipper was not as nicely integrated as it should be. These are fairly minor details however the most notable issue was the collar. While it was functional, the collars on both jerseys were not as neatly constructed and sewn with the result that it gave more of a disheveled look than the elegance it wanted. For the cheaper jersey, fine… it is cheap, what do you expect? But for the price of the Pro Team Race Fit jersey, it has to look and fit as neatly it appears in the pictures on the website.

souke cycling jersey zipper
race fit jersey review

The knicks are surprisingly nice, a modern style construction with broad and comfortable elastic braces. The cuffs have a nice dotted silicon gripper print on the inside to prevent them from riding up. These cuffs were also folded so had a double layer of material that was tight enough and very comfortable. The red chamois appeared to be a little old-school. It is called 4D (which probably means 3D and an added dimension such as time… or maybe smell… I am not sure? But the knicks were a real highlight so read-on to find out why.

chinese chamois
souke knicks
comfortable bib knicks

Finally, for the sizing I select size L all-round for the jerseys and knicks. Asian sizes tend to be a bit smaller so I provided my dimensions asked for guidance. The good news is that the recommended sizes were the same as sizes for European cyclewear and in my case don’t need to suggest sizing up or down. Although keep in mind that race-fits are usually quite tight and can’t be compared to the loose-fit recreational jersey.

Release… The Cynic

Up to now the Souke kit presents fairly well, yes, there is room for improvement but it is not cheap and it is not nasty.

But it’s now time for a brief interlude in this review, let’s talk about Souke. I had not heard of this brand previously. In my defence, anyone who watches China Cycling on Youtube knows that there is a plethora of Chinese brands for every bicycling niche that are still virtually unknown in the western realm.

My inner cynic picks up on the name, ‘Souke’, which can take a bit of getting used to. In my mind it is fairly close to ‘sook’ (as in ‘whiner’) but I am sure it sounds great for the home-crowd.

A features of the Souke website is a video of a young chap on a Chinese-Special ‘Winspace’ bike. This bike brand has started generating a good reach overseas and the video appears to be somewhere in America. The handheld smartphone footage shows a rider dashing up and down suburban roads and a residential switchback. Just like me, the Souke-Guy has unshaven legs… which is perfectly fine however tends to be a big no-no when selling prestige cycling gear.

Some of the kit is quite attractive although the overall Souke branding is fairly weak. As a result, it comes across as a generic shop selling stuff. Frustrating website bugs which interrupted the audio and video interaction are also easy fixes.

souke website china

A closer look at the kit on offer shows that Souke have a big range, but it is difficult to distinguish between the details. Premium brands usually sort their gear into ranges, levels or collections which means you can orientate to the styles or the features. Follow the lead of the big brands and integrate personality and brand style around Souke.

The Souke Performance

I don’t think ‘The Cynic’ was particularly harsh, but how did the Souke cycling gear actually perform? Beginning with the knicks, these were the highlight. I didn’t have high hopes for the chamois and was concerned that I would quickly become uncomfortable in the saddle. Keep in mind that I have a good saddle and a bike fit so many of the other factors influencing saddle comfort are already solved.

cycling chinese sports clothing

I found the knicks comfortable to wear and good for short rides and they did pretty well for longer rides as well. I mostly used the knicks for road riding but also tackled a few gravel rides. I am quite particular with the chamois and favour knicks with the elastic interface chamois and it tends to be the longer bike rides where the good knicks separate from the average or poor. The Souke 4D chamois was a solid performer and it is nice to know you that these cost less than quarter of the price of the knick but can keep up fairly well.

souke knicks comfort

The knicks attract a few minus points as the SOUKE label started to peel off after the first wash. I use a gentle sports wash and put the cycling gear into individual washing bags and use suitable washing liquid which is good practice to keep the kit lasting well. When this review goes to print, the letters K and E have peels halfway off and the letter U is just starting to peel.

With cooler weather conditions when I started the review, I initially wore the cycling tops with base layers and cycling jackets on top. It took a while for the conditions to improve that I could ride without a jacket and without a base layer. The Race Fit was tight and short but on the bike it felt just right. I think it works best without a base layer although it struggles with the breathability I want from a racing jersey. Despite the mesh panels on the left and right side, the fabric used on the front and back tends to trap the heat more that many other jerseys and means you get hot quicker.

In comparison, the loose-fit camo jersey was better in respect to the heat. Comfortable, casual and I choose to wear for mountain biking and a few easy-going bike tours.

The Souke Summary

For about $60, the knicks they are pretty good for the price. I was sceptical of the chamois but it turned out better that some brand-name chamois I have used and has a comfortable construction. Chamois comfort is personal as it impacted by other factors beyond the knicks. And sometimes it can be a safe bet to go for more expensive knicks but these are knicks I would be comfortable suggesting for riders with a strict budget. Sure, the Souke label started peeling off, but maybe you want to accelerate this to end up with a decent pair of all-black cycling knicks.

souke sports jersey

For the recreational camo jersey, $35 is a good price… the low cost is the decent and it is easier to overlook imperfections. For this price it comes with the grippers for the arms and waist, a zipper for a rear pocket and is comfortable. As I usually wouldn’t choose this style, my own design preference plays a role… but for a cheap and relaxed-fitting jersey, if there is a design you like it is a good price.

cycling jersey pockets

The Race-Fit jersey has a smart-looking design and the construction is quite clean. The elegant reflective printing on the front and rear are nice touches and the race fit is spot-on so it does a lot of things well. Although with the ‘performance-level’ pricing of $120 I can be more critical. For this price, the collar needs to be more refined and though the material selection feel nice to touch and appears appropriate, it is not as breathable as I feel it should be so may leaving you looking cool and feeling hot.

For more, visit: souke-sports.com

Christopher Jones
Christopher Joneshttps://www.bicycles.net.au
Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a design agency, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.
- Advertisment -

Most Popular