We get quite a few kits to check out. Sometimes it’s part of a product launch, other times it’s just to check out what’s new, but what we don’t get a lot of is what could be considered entry to mid level apparel. That’s what made it surprising when I tried on the Bontrager Circuit and then looked at the tags for details. It may have been one of Bontrager’s most affordable kits for the season, but you wouldn’t know it by the feel. And if you haven’t tried on new road kits recently, it’s that feel that will surprise you too. Compared to high end kits just a few years ago, cycling apparel has drastically improved and those benefits are making their way down to the lower price points.
For Bontrager, the Circuit kit isn’t just an improved, affordable cycling kit – it’s an indication of where their clothing collection is headed from here…
For the Bontrager clothing line, the Circuit collection could be considered the start of their performance road apparel. The least expensive kit with a fitted cut for both the short and jersey, pieces like these are important for a lot of developing cyclists as they step away from the roomier cuts into something more performance oriented. We’ve all been there – starting out in the baggiest thing you could find, only to trade it all in for the tightest fitting lycra you can shimmy into in a few years.
But the key to the Circuit line is that even though it is their “budget” performance piece, it doesn’t feel like it.
In terms of clothing improvements over the years, the biggest advancements have to come in the form of leg and arm grippers. Tight, uncomfortable hems with thick silicone leg grippers are out. Instead, the better shorts are using much more comfortable compression grippers that don’t stick to your legs – shaved or not. There are nicer leg grippers out there, but not on $105 shorts. The sleeves use a simpler design without a gripper at all, but with a comfortable compressive cuff. The hem of the jersey still uses a silicone gripper, but since that is to keep the jersey in place over shorts and not skin, it’s a non issue. The jersey also features the typical three pocket construction, but with a fourth zipper pocket added to the outside to stash some cash or credit cards.
Compared to the higher end Bontrager bibs, the shoulder straps on the Circuit bibs are pretty basic, but they still have a wide, soft footprint to keep them from digging into your shoulders. Profila Cool Mesh fabric is used on the straps and the back to help keep you cool.
One area that Bontrager has really improved over the years is in the chamois department. The Stratus inForm BioDynamic chamois isn’t going to make me want to give up pricier options, but compared to a lot of entry level chamois, it’s excellent.
Fit wise, the Circuit kit should fit as expected. Most often I’m in a small/small at 5’8″, 150-ish lb, and the smalls for the Circuits offered a great fit. Snug, but not uncomfortable.
The biggest take away from the Circuit seems to be that had I not looked up their actual prices, I would have expected it to be a much more expensive kit. This also highlights just how much better the high end clothing from Bontrager has gotten as well. There are a lot of options out there for cycling clothing these days, and it’s nice to know that even the more affordable stuff is improving all the time.