Review: The Belgian Boys Club Full Kit
(2016) Being a rare person whose favorite season is actually winter, it should come as a revelation that I encourage “winter” to show itself out. It was a pathetic attempt, really. It reared up for one weekend, dumped a significant amount of snow that stuck around for a little while, but for the most part, it could never decide whether it was coming or going. Perhaps Winter was pacing about out of nervousness to ask Spring out on a date, finally deciding it lacked the self-esteem to do so.
Spring used to be my least favorite season. While it’s full of colorful beauty, it was also the season of black flies, pollen, and mud. Upstate New York actually forgoes calling the season spring, substituting the name out for mud. The relentless black flies led to the strategy of neglecting the use of soap; they are attracted to fragrances. But then there came a change.
The spring season now finds cyclists doing one of the following traits: ruminating of kit selection based on weather, riding less-than-ideal conditions when compared to summer, laying base miles, drinking coffee, and watching live streams of the Spring Classics online. It has become the most anticipated time of year for most cycling fans.
With the spring classic rides picking up in this region of America, giving a nod to the Belgian influence is only proper. One can find Belgian influenced kit on numerous riders as well as their bikes in the time prior to the summer race season. The Belgian Boys Club, a racing inspired apparel company, keeps the Belgian theme going while infusing progressive materials and fits. With the warming weather, we finally got out with the full kit. Here’s what we thought:
België Yellow Jersey (€100-120)
I learned my lesson last year when it comes to Belgian Boys Club apparel. Hesitating leads only to regret. I hesitated on thinking their jersies would stick around long enough for my convenience. Boy was I ever wrong. Their kit is so stylish, it dwindles quickly until the red flag icon appears with the dreaded “Sold Out” above it. This time, I sprung for the Yellow Jersey (because the white, blue, and black were sold out in my size). While it might look great online, I was interested in how it felt to wear.
It is important to note that their garments are race inspired. That should answer any “What kind of fit?” questions one may have. They are race cut. The sleeves come satisfyingly far down the bicep. Much like apparel technology across the industry, the Belgian Boys Club sleeves have a gaiter-like construction. The sleeve plummets into the armband, where the armband rappells farther down toward the elbow. It is held in place with a beafy silicon gripper, locking the sleeve in position. It may take a few pinches of movement to get it in place, but it’s worth the extra duty. That will be the last time you have to worry about the placement of the sleeve. The jersey fits extremely well down the sides and has no flapping on descents or all-out sprints (which I’m known for, usually mile-long sprints for a win). I’m joking.
The pockets are nice and high, keeping items in place. I took a cell phone, cycling wallet, inflator, and an Untapped. Nothing moved. What’s more enjoyable was the right side zippered compartment giving the wearer one more pocket at his disposal. A cell phone fits in the zippered pocket perfectly; it may be the easiest of the pockets to access during a ride. That said, the pockets are a little high compared to most kits, so it may take a little flexibility to pull nutrition out amidst a pace line.
The construction is satisfyingly stout. The full zipper is solid and one doesn’t have to worry about poorly aligned zips (leading to a popping open during a ride), and it ensures the lower back of the jersey stays put. Beglian Boys Club included a zipper garage, which prevents the machinery from digging into the neck. The seams didn’t pop when putting the garment on for the first time, either. With ventilated side panels, this is a versatile piece of kit that can be used for several seasons this year.
This is a perfect jersey for the cyclist who appreciates detail and fine craftsmanship. With their short run apparel lines, those who buy Belgian Boys Club garments are likely to be the only ones pulling up to the local hammerfest sporting the België jersey. It’s also at the right price; for the right compression, this jersey feels like it could have been pulled off a more expensive rack.
Full Gas Short Sleeve Base Layer (€45)
When it’s necessary to add a little warmth under the jersey, a base layer is usually the first player called into action. The problem is, base layers can add to a rider’s list of stressors. Sometimes their seams can be itchy, other times they can get too warm or not warm enough. Plus there’s the risk of bunching up in the wrong area undermining focus when trying to size up the likely sprinter in the group.
I tried out the Full Gas short sleeve under the België top on a cooler spring day and found to be suitably comfortable. Pulling the layer on, the Missus remarked that the shirt could almost pass for something to be worn in public (bonus). It also stretched quite well then found its spot once fully pulled on.
This base layer has great attention to detail. It has the words 'Full Gas' blazed across the breastbone of the garment. It is fully visible if the jersey has been unzipped for a moment. And yes, that is a tiny Belgian flag dead center of the collar. Looking to the left shoulder and the Belgian Boys Club emblem can be seen. Also the lines of the sleeves can be observed lining up where they need to be.
This layer never bunched up, despite its stretchy nature. Like I said, some base layers that stretch can be itchy, but this one isn’t. Its cut felt great as evidenced by the fact that it didn’t embarrassingly hang out of the sleeves of the jersey. It also wicked away moisture when the temperature crept up. This garment is certainly worth the price and will serve comfortably for the spring and fall seasons.
Tommeke Bib Shorts (€145)
Their company is Belgian, so is Tom Boonen. Naming the flagship bibs after one of Tornado Tom’s nicknames is a tall order for a cycling apparel company. Anything named after Mr. Boonen better be resilient, hardworking, and comfortable.
Bib short research and development must be the reason for the high price tags by other companies. There are big name apparel companies who are comfortable charging $300 (USD) for bibs. Using this sliding scale, the bib shorts in the $150 range usually look bare bones and lacking a quality chamois. I can assure that this is certainly not the case with the Tommeke bibs.
Carrying the same technology as their jersey, the bibs possess gripper bands that hold them in place above the knee. And just like the sleeves, the leg cuts are quite long. The subtlety is obvious in the fact that the Belgian Boys Club lettering as well as the Lion of Flanders are present in the form of glossy black. If one is struggling to find inspiration, the Lion of Flanders stares back at the rider from the thigh, enough motivation to ride just a little bit harder. Make Tommeke proud. After riding scores of miles with these bibs, they have yet to move out of place.
The chamois is typically a breaking point for many bibs. This is not the case with the Tommeke bibs. At no point were they uncomfortable, even during the breaking-in process. They also did not present any hotspots after the hours spent atop the perch. There was not a single instance of the dreaded seat sag where the saddle snags the crotch. These are some of the most comfortable bibs ever ridden in, and they could be confused with higher-priced offerings in a blind test.
The fact that these bibs are so comfortable is one thing. Add the facts that they are black and can match any jersey as well as their price tag? It’s hard not to justify purchasing them. As our co-rider Mike summed it up, “I might get a second pair, they’re that comfortable.” If these have been tested across the cobbles, it’s best assumed these bibs can handle a bit of road abuse.
High Top Socks Bundle (€36)
I’ve reviewed Belgian Boys Club socks before, which led to the reception of a second bundle pack of socks. I mostly wanted the light blue pair but they all look great. Why not go for the bundle?
These are well-ventilated socks that gave me a slight surprise. I used the light blue socks and found them to be stylish. I used the black ones and pulled them on enjoying their design. I kept pulling them on. Then I pulled them on past my calf. They stopped just below my knee. High top indeed. Imagine my concern that I would be confused with those who like to ride bikes with calf noodles on. I shimmied them down a bit during the ride but they certainly would have stayed that high. The UCI would have disqualified me for certain with sock heights like these.
I’ve always wondered what Belgian Boys Club uses for their socks based on the ease of pulling them up, the not-too-compressed feel during the ride, and the ease of slipping them off afterwards. Their ventilation is remarkable, as stated with the last pack purchased. They feel great and they look great. I would be afraid/ curious if they came out with the Extra High Top sock. Who knows where that would end?
For the price of one set of bib shorts from other companies, a rider can outfit himself with a full Belgian Boys Club kit without feeling like corners were cut. The fact that those who ride in their bibs seek out a second pair should indicate that BBC dry goods are worth considering. While their stylish cycling cap has been sold out for a couple of months, I’m excited to see what they come up with next. Mike, who also tested the Belgie/ Tommeke kit offering, stated a matching gilet would be something to get excited for as well.
If you don’t move immediately on their offerings, you will miss out on fine duds that not only make a rider feel stylish, it certainly makes one more comfortable on those Belgian-style weather rides. That way if we get shot out the back of the Trexlertown Derby while wearing the Belgian Boys Club attire, we can just look around pretending like we’re lost, but we’ll be pretty stylish doing it.