When we slipped on the Louis Garneau Course race jersey ($199) and Course bib short ($249) we immediately had three wishes: That we were 10 years younger, 15 pounds lighter and had another 150 watts in our legs.
That’s how fast and cool and beautiful and form-fitting the Garneau kit looks. It’s instant motivation to train harder and knock times off the personal best.
Introduced at Interbike in 2012, the Course jersey and bib short zeroed in on a total aero-effect. The goal was to minimize seams, slice weight and cheat the wind while making sure the aerodynamics came with plenty of comfort.
That’s all good news for pro racers on the ramp before a 50k time trial, but are the aero benefits of the Course kit a benefit to the rest of us? We’ll answer that after we present our findings.
Pick up the Course jersey and you’ll notice the super lightweight design. The body is a fabric called Mondo and besides low weight, it really has a nice stretch to it that wraps your body without feeling tight.
The shoulders and sleeves make use of Speedtech to enhance the aero effects. In particular, the sleeves fit almost like a skin suit and the fabric is thin enough — and laser-cut — so the wind rolls over you with a minimum of turbulence.
There’s also a feathery and soft mesh fabric under the arms and on the back of the neck. That and the Cold Black treatment and UPF/SPF 50 rating mean you’re going to be cooler than usual this summer.
In keeping with the race and aero mandates, the rear storage is on the small side. However, the two outside pocket tops are angled down so the reach around for a gel is quick and easy. Nice not to dig when you’re in the middle of a fast moving chase group. Worth noting here that the placement and design of the pockets works to perfection with the Garneau Course Speedzone vest — a garment so cool and unique we’re doing a separate review. (You’ll want the jersey just so you can wear the vest.)
We’ve been testing the Course Race jersey for a few months and if you’re lean and mean, you will look terrific. This is a flattering jersey for anyone who’s in race shape. It’s cut to be comfortable when you’re down in the drops or out on the aero bars. In back at the base of the jersey there’s a wide stretch band that does an excellent good job of keeping the fit dialed in place. That also allows the front elastic trim to become more streamlined — another little aero tweak.
The matching Course bib continues the aero-effects and comfort factors. In particular, the thin stretch fabric acts more as a sheath over your thigh than even other sleek laser cut bibs. Run your hand down the top of your thigh and you can barely feel the transition from fabric to bare skin. It’s essentially invisible to the wind.
The extra benefit of the form-fit is the Course bib accentuates your athletic prowess. If you have muscular sprinter thighs, you’ll look even more watt-powerful. If you’re a skinny climber, you’ll appear even leaner and ready to rip up mountains. (For example, check this guy in his Garneau kit) That’s a psychological advantage we’ll delve into shortly.
For such an ultra-light bib, you might expect the pad to be on the flimsy side. However, we found the Course pad to be as comfortable as all but a few plush models made for touring. Yes, it’s got a more race vibe but it’s high quality.
What Garneau did with their 5Motion chamois pad design was to smooth out the transitions. Most pads have a two level thickness that is so pronounced that you sometimes feel the ridge. In the Course pad, the shape is more beveled and does a more graduated fade out to the edges. That also goes for the transition from front to back. Many pads seem to suddenly disappear up front near the jewels but in the Course it’s more subtle.
Now, most people aren’t going to necessarily feel that difference. However, we will say that if you slide around a lot on your saddle, you’ll notice that design benefit. Jumping in and out of the saddle to climb, it just feels like we’re always comfortable with no need to readjust position. There are also little mesh inserts at both ends for extra ventilation.
Just to cover the bases, yes, the straps are nice and fit well. There’s Power Mesh at the base and Carbon X-Mesh on the actual straps with an anti-static effect. (Not that we suffer from bib strap-induced static trauma.)
A final note on construction. The Course bib fabric is so thin and lightweight that we wonder about longevity. Even the stitching is done with the goal of saving a gram. We can’t help but have a concern about how well the chamois will stay attached to the fabric. However, after two months of test, we see no signs of wear or lose threads. Just something to monitor down the road.
In short, we were impressed by this high-level Garneau Course kit. However, it’s time to answer the burning question: would non-pros benefit from an aero-driven kit? Well, our belief is that aerodynamics gives many riders a physical and mental advantage.
For those of us not signed with a WorldTour squad, that benefit is what we’d called aero-placebo. The Course is a psychological speed boost. You look fast, you feel fast and ergo, you are fast. That mental trick applies to World Time Trial Champion Bradley Wiggins just as much as weekend club riders.