We’ve been sitting on this one for a little while, but it’s finally time to pull the lid off our all-new completely redesigned Ultra Kit. Ok, it’s been on the website for a spell, but we’re here for the official unveiling. Ultra has been a long-standing component of the Performance clothing line, representing the top of our apparel pyramid with high-performance, race-ready gear that lets you perform at your best. For the 2016 version, we pulled out all the stops. Designed at our home office in Chapel Hill, NC, our clothing team worked with many of the cyclists in our office to develop the revamped Ultra. We spent hundreds of hours in the saddle, testing and refining the entire Ultra line– especially the bib shorts. Fit, panel placement, chamois density and stitching, every aspect of what makes Ultra the perfect choice for long, hard days in the saddle.
When we finally got a kit to test out, we decided to save it for a special occasion: namely a ride with Mr. Shut Up Legs himself, Jens Voigt. Even though he’s retired, we were reasonably sure we were going to need any advantage we could get for his “controlled pace ride” (Jens Voigt does not in any way endorse Performance Bicycle or the Performance Ultra line of clothing).
The Performance Ultra kit didn’t disappoint. While we’ve been really happy with our previous Ultra kits (after all, it was our weapon of choice for the cobbles of Belgium) we have to say that the 2016 edition is really a step up, and incorporates a lot of the modern trends that have started showing up in race-ready clothing.
Let’s start with the most important part of any kit:
The Ultra Shorts
Now, we were big fans of the previous Ultra shorts, and they made a regular showing in our weekly bib short rotation. We’re pleased to announce that the all-new Ultra shorts have taken things up a notch. We’ve revised the Physio-Dynamic fit for a bit more compression, so the fit is a little more compressive than previous iterations, thanks to the 10-panel design, which gives your muscles a little more support for those hard efforts and long days on the bike. When we first put the shorts on out of the wrapper, they did feel quite…snug, but after about two minutes on the bike they loosened up nicely, and fit very comfortably for a multi-hour ride.
The new TMF Italian-made chamois delivered up the super high-quality ride you’d expect from a high end pad like this. Thick where it needs to be, but nicely tapered where you could use a little less, the foam soaked up the chatter and bumps from the poorly maintained rural roads in North Carolina without a problem, even on the fairly hard road saddles we tend to favor. The seemless Skyving technology ensured that chafing was a non-issue. And, since the weather was unseasonably balmy, we really appreciated the coldblack® technology, UPF30+ sun protection which definitely helped the shorts feel more comfortable both on the bike, and standing around waiting for Jens to kick off the ride.
The Ultra Jersey
But we actually found the biggest changes in the Ultra jersey. Lately the cycling industry has seen a trend towards slimmer, more aero cuts and longer sleeves—both features which are found in the new Ultra jersey. We really liked the new slimmer cut, since it provides a more comfortable fit and more of an aero benefit on the bike. This is definitely a form-fitting piece, but also incredibly comfortable. The longer sleeves are also a nice update since they provide more sun coverage, as well as a more comfortable fit around the shoulders and arms. Again, the longer sleeves also provide some aero benefit as well, by smoothing out the fabric around the shoulders of the jersey to create less drag.
Another thing we really liked about the redesign was the addition of some new stretch mesh panels, which helped the jersey feel much cooler—especially on climbs. While the previous iterations of the jersey did an excellent job of moving moisture away from the skin and were plenty cool, they didn’t have the ultralight breezy quality that the Askin’s fabric on this jersey does. It does an excellent job of moving moisture away from the skin and you can definitely fee air moving through it when you ride, which is a huge benefit. But the Ultra jersey is also fairly opaque, so you don’t get the “burn through” effect of some other super-light jerseys out there.
The 2016 Ultra kit is a really solid update to what was already one of our favorite clothing sets of all time. Updated with all the modern features we look for in a kit—plus we got to watch our friends design it right here in our office in Chapel Hill and help make the odd feature suggestion or two.
The Ultra shorts and jersey are available for both men and women, and as bib shorts and non-bib shorts. If you’re looking for a great value on a race-ready, form-fitting kit that’s packed with all the modern features you’d expect in a high-end kit, then the Ultra is definitely the right place to start.