When I heard that Luigi Bergamo, the lead R&D engineer at high-end bike kit maker Assos, had set out on his own to produce a line of cycling apparel called Q36.5, I knew I had to get my hands on the stuff.
The name Q36.5 derives from quaerere, the Latin word for research, and 36.5, the temperature of the human body in Celsius. The idea is to create apparel that allows the body to maintain a constant temperature, even during hard exertion, because heat gain and loss leads to diminished performance.
Bergamo uses all proprietary materials that he and his fabric suppliers develop exclusively for Q36.5. Each has specific properties that are optimal at keeping you comfortable, whether that means shielding the skin from heat without leading to thermal gain, dissipating moisture, or preserving warmth.
Without putting too fine a point on it, the fact that Q36.5 develops its own fabrics is a big deal because, unlike most other brands, you won’t suddenly find the same technologies in other companies’ apparel next year. Combined with obsessive patterning and designs, Q36.5 has produced a small but effective line of clothing that fits so well that you feel like you’re wearing nothing at all and performs so flawlessly that you never think about.
This performance comes at a high cost. But innovation—from cars to electronics—usually happens at the top, and after logging lots of saddle time in pretty much every brand on the market, I feel that Q36.5 is elevating the performance game in important ways.
Here’s a quick breakdown of a few pieces I’ve been riding for the past six months.
Salopette L1 Essential ($350)
This is a bib for racers and big mileage. The first things you notice are the weight and trim. Our size medium weighs 155 grams, compared to, say, 182 grams for Assos’ top-end bib (which sells for $460). The point isn’t the weight, however, but how sleek, formfitting, and recessive these bibs feel when they’re on. The pad has variable thickness under a slightly grippy, antimicrobial topcoat, and though I found it exceptionally comfy, it’s definitely for cyclists who prefer a firmer feel. The straps are only slightly elasticized and paper thin, so you don’t notice them. The body fabric is compressive and tailored so perfectly that there’s only one seam on each leg—a far cry from the many-panel approach taken by other brands. Finally, the leg gripper is like nothing I’ve ever seen or felt: almost like an elasticized crepe paper that stays in place but never binds or causes sweat buildup.
Jersey Short Sleeve L1 ($240)
This jersey is cut from a material that feels more like silk than anything else, though there’s a slight bit of elasticity to help with aerodynamics and fit. Once again, it's crazy light at just 116 grams. That’s comparable to climber’s jerseys from Rapha or Castelli, except Q36.5 doesn’t rely on any fragile, sun-permeable meshes and still manages to get just as much breathability and cooling. The performance comes down to exceptional tailoring: the fit is best described as skintight but not at all constricting. Features-wise, it’s an exercise in simplicity, with mesh-lined rear pockets for cooling, a cam-lock zipper that opens just by tugging on the fabric, and, at the waist, the thin, crepe-paper-like gripper that’s used in the bibs. Honestly, this jersey is the closest I’ve ever felt to riding topless—and the Hawaiian print, which won’t be for everyone, garnered almost as much attention as going shirtless. (Solids are available, too.)
Base Layer 1 Sleeveless ($100)
I’ve ridden in countless base layers and this one manages moisture better than any other I've tried, except perhaps the Craft Cool Mesh. It has a soft, almost cotton-like feel, but it’s also incredibly stretchy. The honeycomb perforation pattern is completely body-mapped, with larger gaps in the back for high levels of evaporation, midsize gaps up front, and a simple open weave on the sides. At first, it feels odd to put this garment under such a lightweight jersey as the L1, but the truth is it moves moisture superbly well, so I never felt clammy and was more comfortable with it than without.
Smart Protector ($65)
Yep, this little bag is expensive. But so is your smartphone, and I appreciated knowing that the waterproof, mesh-lined fabric case will keep my information safe and dry. Unlike some cases that can overheat a phone and cause steaming, leading to foggy photos the next time you go to shoot, the Smart Protector kept my phone bone dry. Oh, and the bright orange is a godsend for those of us who constantly misplace our devices.
Q36.5 can be purchased in the United States exclusively from Sausalito, California–based Above Category Cycling.
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