Review: Belgian Boys Club Antwerpen Blue Jersey – Long Sleeve (€165)
All photos are courtesy of Mike Maney Photography. Be sure to check out his work; he is a fellow cyclist in the Bucks County cycling community with multiple KOMs to his name.
Before I begin I must implore my audience to understand America’s northeast winters. I know every area's weather has its own lack of predictability. Last year our winter was horrifically mild and could barely bring itself to be called ‘winter.’ The two winters prior were ferocious and full of fury, dumping massive amounts of snow to the point where I was running out of places to pile it. A great indicator as to how our area is in the winter is to focusing on the the ‘real feel’ reading, not the predicted temperature.
Paying attention to the real feel reading is what the temperature really feels like. Though the thermometer reads 23 degrees (Fahrenheit), the real feel will factor in the humidity and spit out a number accordingly. So when we went for a ride on Sunday and the thermometer said 23 degrees (-5 degrees Celsius), the weather application stated it felt ten degrees Fahrenheit. There was a substantial amount of humidity to drop the overall reading.
What the northeast lacks in elevation it makes up for in humid weather. Residents from the west are quick to identify when they feel the cold in their bones. It’s really the best way to describe cold humid days. It penetrates the body and cracks it. It is why anyone who spends a significant portion outside in cold weather struggles to warm up for hours after coming indoors.
Minus five degrees Celsius. Sounds like a good day to go for a bike ride and find out just how warm the Belgian Boys Club Antwerpen long sleeve jersey is. Before I move into the review I must state this jersey is not designed for temperatures as cold as Sunday’s. To call it a jersey, too, is misleading. This is a microfleece-lined wind blocking jersey with a couple of hidden features. Its possibilities made it outperform the expectations. I messaged our regular ride hero Mike, and he agreed to meet up for what would be one of our coldest rides ever.
The first characteristic of the Antwerpen jersey – specifically for the blue – is how brilliant the color is. The blue is so deep and intense. This is a color I often seek out, always associating it with Shelby Cobras of the sixties. It was even more brilliant in the weak sunshine throughout our ride. Should one second-guess purchasing the blue offering, don’t. It is fantastic.
What was over and underneath the Antwerpen jersey was a small bit of kit in anticipation for the usually enjoyable descents and forecasted trip to a river town. The river towns are often in winter’s shadow, keeping them slightly colder when mixed with the icy breeze of the Delaware River. Underneath the jersey was a long sleeve tech thermal, fleece-lined winter bibs, and a short sleeved Belgian Boys Club jersey. Over the cuffs were newer cycling gloves. Over the neck was a wool warmer. That was it for my selection to ride amongst 23 degrees. Some might say that was underdressing and irresponsible.
Departing from the offices of creakybottombracket.com I selected the easiest route to meet up with Mike. This included a typically enjoyable downhill. Today it gave me an ice cream headache. I occasionally squeezed the brakes to quell the suffering. It was the only part of the cold holding me back. The jersey kept me warm. I had left a reserve consideration of turning around if it got too cold. I established confidence in the garment. I would argue all rides hinge on the upper body outer layer in these conditions.
Meeting up with Mike we commented just how cold it was. We also commented just how comfortable we became as the ride settled. Yes. Comfortable in 23 degrees. I could not believe it. We pushed on, continuing to head toward the river town of Lumberville, PA. We had no route in mind; we were glad to have gotten out after too much time on the trainer. It is all downhill to the river from our meeting place.
Something happened on our ride after crossing two large patches of ice, dodging pothole after pothole, and what seemed to be an above-average amount of motorists out: we kept bumping back our turn-around location. That’s right. The ride kept getting longer and longer. We were warm enough and confident enough in our kit selection to extend the ride in such cold conditions. What a thing to think in such adverse temperatures: we were warm enough.
We eventually turned around and parted ways. I squeezed my water bottle for only the second time of the two-hour ride only to find the bottle frozen solid. The second bottle was no better despite being capped. That’s cold enough I thought. I rolled into the driveway elated to have gotten in a ride of that length in temperatures that cold. I stowed the bike and peeled off layer after layer of riding attire. I then felt the northeast begin to take its delayed bite out of me. I began to shiver mightily and felt the frostiness radiate off of my skin. Luckily I was out of coffee; I feared that could have been dangerous to ingest something so warm when my body was so cold. I layered up with regular clothes and hung in there.
The long sleeve jersey is hardly designed for the temperature range that I put it though but there’s something to consider. It should boost the confidence of anyone considering riding in slightly warmer conditions with the Antwerpen jersey considering I was warm enough for a ride in prolonged Arctic conditions. It enabled a ride where there should have been none. That is the exciting aspect of this garment. It proved worthy in off-label weather.
Some features of the Antwerpen jersey that were not utilized on the ride and are out of sight should be highlighted. There are two headphone loops up the inside of the jersey to accommodate anyone who likes to listen to music while riding. On each side of the jersey is a zipper vent in case a warm front moves through and it gets too hot. I certainly did not need them but appreciated their existence for the future. We did stash items in the standard three-pocket arrangement along the back, though I would have called home in the case of a puncture instead of fighting a cold rim and cold hands. The flat repair kit was for looks only.
This garment slips neatly between a long sleeve unlined jersey and a full-blown winter cycling jacket. Though I tested it out as a winter cycling jacket, I hardly regretted the decision to don the Antwerpen long sleeve jersey in the mid-day northeastern United States winter conditions. Perhaps I had a little help. The jersey may have kept me warm, but a little bit of Belgian panache kept me determined to ride on. That’s something that cannot be boxed up.