Cycling in Melbourne Australia
At various times in my professional life I've come up against a fairly common belief Australians have that "you can't do that in this country". This of course is ridiculous, and it's one of the reasons I really like Australian companies making cool stuff. Where I've been faced with opinions that you can't do anything innovative on the web outside of Silicon Valley and you can't do electronics outside of Asia, Kev Babakian from Babici gets hit with "you can't do premium cycling kit outside of Europe".
Thankfully he doesn't let that stop him.
I've been aware of Babici for a while, mainly through their work on Facebook and a few reviews. I've seen it out on the road before and thought it looked great. So when a discussion was started a few weeks back asking if there were any Australian companies making cycling kit I mentioned Babici. Kev saw that and got in touch, we got talking and he sent me a HiBrido Winter Kit for review.
The HiBrido kit is a innovative concept I've not seen before. The idea is a winter kit with removeable arms and legs so that one doesn't commit the hideous fashion crime of mismatching jersey and arm warmers or knicks and leg warmers. The photos on the Babici site probably tell the story better but when the sleeves (or legs) are put on and tucked into place it looks like a single piece but is still easily removable. Perfect for early starts on days when it's likely to warm up as the ride goes on.
When you get a delivery from Babici, the first thing you notice (other than the stickers in the bag) is the packaging. Much has been said about the "unboxing" experience of Apple and the first impressions you get opening the packaging. Companies in the cycling world are starting to understand this, opening the box of some new Assos clothing for instance is quite the experience. Babici get it too and have their own take on it. Each garment comes in its own bag, a nice touch and you end up with a stylish bag as well.
Once out of the packaging there are a few things you notice about the HiBrido kit. The first is the quality. The fabric is a lovely fleecy Super Roubaix fabric for warmth and you can see immediately that the stitching and workmanship is excellent. The second thing you notice is the design, the jersey is, on first glance, a simple and classic looking design, but contains a number of flourishes such as coloured stripes, and semi reflective detail on the front near the zip and on the back that keeps it interesting and modern.
Babici have sizing on the site which is a good guide if you're ordering some. I ordered the large and found the cut a little more snug than the equivalent sizing in Assos, but roughly the same. On me the grips on the legs are on the tight side but the arms are a little loose, perfect for someone with the legs of a Spanish climber but the arms of Robbie McEwen. I'm pretty much the opposite of that, but it all still works.
On the bike the kit is great, I know I can't complain about cold too much here in Brisbane, but we've had some 5 degree mornings lately and the fleece fabric really does make a difference. The chamois is a good design and the right thickness for me, I rate it up there alongside my Assos knicks for comfort. I've done a bunch of several hour rides with the HiBrido, in the wet and dry, and been comfortable the whole time.
I also have some Babici socks and a cycling cap. There's not too much you can say about these, they do the job. Comfortable, well made and they look great. The cap fits just right.
OK so not everything is 100% rosy. I found I had issues with the detachable arm and leg pieces slipping down.
I solved it easily on the legs by tucking the top of the detachable piece under the grippers on the knicks, it changes the look a bit but it's effective.
I couldn't use that trick with the arms though if you remember my earlier point about loose arms (Maybe I just need to hit the weights some more and work on my guns!).
I've talked to Kev about this, and he's had that feedback from a few people. He's found that not putting your foot in the stirrup of the leg extensions works for some people, and the arm extensions can be supplied in a smaller size.
If you're interested in buying them and have any concerns get in touch with Babici and they'll help you out.
I'm going to try to take the arms in a little to make them tighter, even if I can't make it work I still have a great warm jersey. It's a new product, I suppose some kinks are to be expected.
Despite the couple of issues I really like the HiBrido kit and accessories.
It's comfortable, beautifully made, works well on the bike and it looks great. I think having this sort of quality product in the Australian market is great and I like Kev's take on design as well as the business of cycling clothing. After chatting to him at length he's doing some really exciting things so keep an eye on his site.
Of note is the very recent launch of the Everyday Knicks, a set of Australian made bib shorts at a really good price. These bring the same level of quality in a simple design for $100. Pretty awesome I think!
Of course in the interests of full disclosure, Kev did send me this kit free of charge for a review. However, I'm not giving it back! It's stuff I wear now every week on rides and I'll be buying stuff from Babici in the near future.