Minimalism on the outside, research-informed technology inside
Every sport is intricately tied to design, but few quite so closely as cycling. A notoriously cantankerous, opinionated bunch, cyclists obsess over the design of every detail of their ride and kit alike. A poorly placed zipper on a jersey will no doubt find its way into a forum. Frame geometries are endlessly scrutinized in obscure and mainstream cycling media alike. Minimalism is often awarded while gimmicks are quickly recognized and ousted.
It’s no surprise then that Stockholm-based POC is a welcome contender in the accessories and now, everyday road apparel categories. We recently escaped the salt-laden streets of NYC for some gear testing with the POC crew in sunny Solvang, CA. Located in Santa Barbara County wine country, this Danish (yes Danish) settlement is a favorite for tourists and professional cyclists alike. At 4,534 feet Figueroa Mountain is a veritable proving ground for oxygen intake and off-season climbing legs while a pass by the Neverland Ranch on the way down is a welcome visual reprieve from the physical suffering.
“We’re not really trying to yell out loud with the design"
Fresh from the land of the midnight sun, the real focus of our visit was POC's newly introduced Fondo Collection. Considered forms, disciplined use of color and decoration, along with a chief placement of function above all else characterize POC’s process and products. The brand uses research to inform its design and injects a healthy dose of Scandinavian laidback elegance into its aesthetic. In short, it’s the thinking man’s cycling gear inside and out. And most importantly, it performs.
“We’re not really trying to yell out loud with the design,” said POC’s Head of Product Development Oscar Huss. “We’re definitely not in the flames and stars game.” Huss is in many ways the living, breathing embodiment of the brand—he’s spent over ten years with the company and can beat you up a mountain on a road bike and down it on a pair of skis.
Embodying Swedish cool in a silk scarf and oversized, vintage-inspired sunglasses, Huss describes the POC design process as gradual and considered. According to him, the brand would rather take its time and make a product that is actually needed rather than simply churn out the status quo. So when a new POC product drops, rest assured it’s worth the wait.
The Fondo Collection isn’t the brand’s first foray into men and women-specific cycling apparel, though it may be the most considered. Their first drop, the successful visibility-focused AVIP gear, came in 2014, followed in 2015 by the ultralight (and decidedly intense) Raceday Collection. Now, the brand’s latest is even more a collection for the stylish but not slacking everyday rider. And for those competitive types who hold particular allegiance to their region, the collection is available in four distinct colorways: eternally chic NYC comes in gray, vibrant Rio de Janeiro is done up in pink, vineyard-haven Napa gets green and last but not least, future host to Americans-in-Crocs-on-holiday, Havana, gets a cool blue treatment.
On the bike, the first thing you notice about the Fondo Collection is—thankfully—the comfort. Built to breath, the lightweight version of the Fondo jersey ($130) feels paper thin and quickly vents out heat immediately and wicks away moisture—the Classic is still a solid option too. Mesh panels under the arms make for a comfortable ride even when you’ve hammering up hills with a bunch of ripped Swedes. Though the material feels thin, it’s remarkably durable. After a test crash (okay, it was a real crash) on a slick stretch of concrete, the material held up. Another bail during a track stand contest only further convinced us of the material's reliability. This is one lightweight kit that doesn’t need to be coddled.
What can make or break a kit though is the bibs. Anyone who’s spent more than a few hours on the road knows that this is the most important piece of gear for comfort. POC stepped it up with the Fondo Bib Shorts ($150), bringing in fresh technology and innovative design for a level of comfort and performance that should have established apparel-makers shaking in their spandex. The stretchy warp knit fabric offers compression to improve recovery and blood flow around critical muscles. Meanwhile a proprietary chamois designed for all day comfort helps reduce road vibrations making it easier to stay focused on your ride and not daydreaming about getting your bibs off. Best of all, they manage heat and moisture with ease. Even on a 90-plus degree day in drought-ridden Central California, the Polymide-Elastane blend bibs never overheated.
Rounding out jerseys and bibs, the Fondo Collection is replete with everything else you’ll need for looking suave on the bike while feeling like a champ. Highly stretchable moisture-wicking gloves ($45) keep your contact with the bars dry and slip free (while saving your palms during a wipeout) and a riding cap ($25) with a perfectly-placed down-the-middle stripe makes sure you’re never kooking it with a cockeyed brim. Matching sleeves, knee warmers and booties offer increased temperature range and visibility while the kit’s silk scarf ($50) will bring peak Euro vibes. We suggest pairing the scarf with a hand-pulled post-ride espresso.
Whether you’re a tentative newcomer who’s unabashedly baffled by other brands' overzealous branding or a veteran roadie looking for a do-it-all workhorse kit, POC’s Fondo Collection will keep you comfortable, cool and stylish for many rides to come. Competitively priced, POC’s offering bring a level of design consideration and scientific research few brands can hold an Allen wrench to. And for the Scandinavian design enthusiast logging miles on two-wheels, there’s really no better option.
images by Hans Aschim for The Field