Review by Johan Hjord // Pictures by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow
Royal Racing has been producing mountain bike specific clothing for over 10 years, and as you would suspect from the name, the catalog has always included a well thought-out range for you to race in. Given that the brand was co-founded by Peaty himself, and that he is still very involved with Royal Racing today, that comes as no surprise.
For 2013, Royal has taken a step back towards a somewhat toned down style on the Race line, which is probably a good thing – a couple of the last iterations may have been a bit over the top in terms of graphics. The result is a kit that still really pops, especially in one of the more vivid color ways (the Race line comes in Black/White, Blue/White, or Red/White), but not in a retina-burning kind of way.
Royal Race Short 2013
The real headline for the 2013 Race line is the focus on performance - one of the main objectives behind the design of the new Race line was keeping the weight low. Straight off the shelf, that really becomes obvious, especially when it comes to the short – gone are the thick and heavy materials used in previous years, replaced by quite a unique kind of fabric, which feels almost a bit soft to the touch. However, make no mistake, this is still a heavy duty short – it is not in the least bit flimsy, it just feels really light on the body.
In addition to the novel materials used, the short is very well cut. It seems that Royal have really perfected their cuts over the last couple of years, and you can tell that this short is the product of a lot of actual riding experience. The combination of hard-wearing fabrics and interwoven two-way stretch panels creates a short that always stays in place, and really accommodates rider movements, whether that be pedaling or moving around on the bike. We never experienced any snagging on the saddle, nor does it bulk up anywhere or move around while riding.
The attention to detail and the workmanship are excellent. The seams are of high quality, and the short is really very well finished off. In terms of technical features, the design is fairly minimalistic as you would expect from a garment made to race in – nevertheless you do get two functional pockets with sturdy zippers, so you can at least bring your car keys with you to the bottom of your race run.
The short is cut fairly close to the body around the waist and upper thighs, and it is adjustable at the waist via the main buckle (it is also elastic in the back, again thanks to the use of two-way stretch panels – it all adds up to a snug and solid fit). Sizing is consistent with previous years, and seems very close to what would amount to “standard” across the leisure industry.
Royal Race Jersey 2013
The Race Jersey may appear simple at first glance, but again, Royal had some pretty specific design goals with the Race range and that really comes through on the jersey as well. The material is thin, and there is a lot of ventilation (in the form of different types of weave/fabric used, some perforated with fairly large holes, others with a tighter mesh that nevertheless still breathes really well – Royal calls this the “Airflow mesh”). Actually, there are several different types of weave used in various places on this jersey – that just shows that Royal doesn't take shortcuts when looking to deliver technical riding gear.
Obviously, you won’t want to pick this jersey for long rides during the colder days, unless you intend to run it with a base layer – it will help wick away sweat, but it won’t really protect you from a cold wind.
The stitching is soft and meticulously trimmed, and the neck area is soft and padded, all of which equates to a very comfortable jersey that can easily be worn directly on the skin for warm days – we experienced no chafing or discomfort of any kind.
Although the jersey is lightweight and thin, it does not feel flimsy at all. You would obviously not want to spend your whole day building trail in this thing, but that wouldn't be why you would buy it anyway. We’ve ridden ours pretty hard, including a couple of involuntary soil sampling exercises, and the jersey is no worse for wear.
The graphics are a mix of heat transfer rubberized decals and sublimated, which is basically an advanced form of direct print which fuses the ink with the fabric. They seem to hold up fairly well to abuse, although the big rubberized logo on the chest tends to get slightly discolored after several wash cycles. The same happens with the white rubber strap on the buckle of the Race short. It’s not really a big issue, it is just a bit annoying that some of the highlights don’t stay perfectly white, whereas the sublimated graphics stay absolutely impeccable through many cycles. There are also a couple of minor logos/highlights in the neck area that wear off pretty quickly.
In terms of sizing, the jersey runs true to standard Royal sizes of previous years. The cut is loose enough to accommodate body armor if you wear it, but it’s not baggy to the point of sagging if you don’t. The arms are of good length without getting into Neanderthal dimensions, while the bottom of the jersey is cut at just the right height to ensure it covers your waistline without interfering with the saddle.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Royal has been at this game a long time, and it really shows in the 2013 Race kit. This is not your average slapped-together-polyester-jersey-with-lots-of-decals. No, these are highly technical and functional items that incorporate features that really work when riding. The short is really something special – we’ve found ourselves repeatedly favoring it over other shorts for all kinds of riding, to a point where it has taken the place of our go-to short at the top of the pile. The combination of the new materials used and the superb cut make this short a very comfortable yet hard-wearing item that feels right from the minute you try it on. Full marks on the short.
The jersey does a great job, and with the exception of the slight discoloring of one of the logos (which you could easily avoid by hand-washing it), it is well up for cycles of racing and riding abuse. It breathes exceptionally well, and the cut is spot on – you’ll forget you’re wearing it very quickly. Pretty close to full marks here too.
For more information, visit Royal Racing.