Gravel is a category that has taken off massively in the past couple of years, and with it has come swathes of new bikes and products to accompany it. Endura have recently entered the fray with their gravel specific GV500 range, and with a passionate gravel enthusiast (and impeccable wordsmith) working in-house in our warehouse team, we couldn’t think of anyone better to review the range than our wonderful Andy Lulham (who also writes for Sportive.com).
Well, hello winter riding.
This time last year I was girding my loins for early morning and evening forays as a commutineer, layering up like a slightly slimmer Bibbendum and steeling myself against what winter had to chuck at me. I cobbled together a kind of hybrid work/riding ensemble from the eclectic blend of styles, fibres and colours from my wardrobe but it mainly consisted of one stand out brand. Merino base layer, overshoes, over shorts and hi-viz jacket came courtesy of Scottish manufacturers, Endura.
You could argue that I had little choice as they were the only brand that still fitted my corpulent frame, having put on a layer of winter blubber like a sealion, albeit only slightly better at riding a bike. Seeing as most of my commuting clobber spent the weekend in the washer and drip-drying in the bathroom I felt I was missing out by not indulging my leisure time, gravelling in anything but Endura. Compromises had to be made as a lot of my proper winter cycling kit wasn’t practical for the rigours of bridleways and country lanes – and of course, none of it was particularly pretty. My apologies if you saw me out earlier in the year and thought you’d seen an enormous saveloy carving down the backroads at an impressive and implausibly rapid speed.
Much to my delight, Endura has now increased the scope of their gravel-specific clothing and I’ve been squeezing myself into some for your amusement. I cannot decide which piece of kit I love best, so let’s start with the one I’ve been wearing the most. Endura’s GV500 range has got its own Primaloft garment, the obviously named Insulated Jacket and it’s truly splendid. A cloud of material that feels like it would blow away if you left the door ajar, it’s supremely lightweight and very, very warm and windproof. I’ve been out becoming acclimatised to the sudden drop in temperature wearing just a base layer (and shorts – we don’t want to get banned from the cafe again) and have been toasty warm without overheating. I’ve been on country walks and to the pub – it’s quite possibly the nicest thing I’ve ever worn. All that lightness comes at a price, both figuratively and practically. The nylon shell does not give me the confidence to get lost on a brambly footpath or in a spindly coppice. It looks like it might be ripped to shreds with harsh language, let alone thorns and branches.
Most people don’t gravel as I do, so this won’t be an issue for them. On a more practical side, the jacket has a nice pair of handwarmer pockets, a hood that will safely go under your helmet without encroaching on your field of view and a dropped back that protects your kidneys and builder’s cleavage from Jack Frost’s probing fingers. Its real party trick, though, is its packability. In common with most Endura jackets, if it comes with a pocket, you can pack it away in it. It starts out looking like a reverse conjuring trick, a string of flags disappearing up a sleeve until said sleeve is all that remains like a jack-in-a-box done on rewind. It’s then small enough to stash in a jersey pocket or strapped onto your bar- or frame-bag.
I’ve been relieved to finally get hold of a pair of shorts with a decent pad – I love Endura’s fit and their Continuously Variable Profile chamois panels are exquisitely suited to my lumpy and bony contact patch – this proprietary computer cut stretch technology also has gel inserts for superior vibration dampening and support. Also built into these shorts are lumbar support panels and power straps derived from Endura’s class beating PRO SL Bibshort. The leg material is double-layered, giving some protection in the event of a spill – lucky for me, then. On-trend with some other company’s gravel-specific offerings I welcome the provision of accessible mess pockets to store some essentials, keeping nutrition, tools and phones to hand without scrabbling in luggage or rear pockets – not that these shorts are lacking in that department either. There’s more than enough secure space for enough canned & fermented vegetable beverages to ensure a hearty sing-song around a campfire or a colossal hangover in the morning.
Storage is a theme continued in the Reiver jersey. In addition to the three cargo pockets at the back, there are another two mesh pockets at the side, angled forward for ease of access. The whole thing is topped off with a zipped chest pocket, although I wouldn’t store anything especially large in there like an orange and it could be distracting, bobbing in and out of your left eye’s line of sight. The cut of the shirt is more in keeping of the gentleman with the fuller figure, but flatteringly so. Shorter at the front and longer at the back, Mr Frost will find a further barrier to his mischief here and the close fit means no flapping unless you forget when you get to the railway station that your train ticket is in the chest pocket. The main panel of the jersey is an 80% recycled, knitted polyester that wicks away moisture and is complimented by sleeves made from a super stretch fabric for durability.
It’s a comfortable way to spend the day – warm and cosy in the jacket, supported and protected in the shorts and topped off with a matching, excellently cut jersey. Primaloft has some rain resistance and remains warm when it is wet so if you are caught out, you should survive until the storm passes or the taxi home arrives. I’m looking forward to many adventures in this kit over the coming months but may need to invest in some more shoe covers and some leg warmers. Or maybe I’ll check out the waterproof range of GV500 Reiver clothing that Endura has to offer.
Huge thanks to Andy for taking the time to write up his thoughts on the Endura GV500 range. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, then please head over to our website for more info.