Sustainability doesn't have to impact performance and Giro has proven just that by using Renew fabrics, made of reclaimed fishing nets and other ocean debris, to put together a high-performance jersey with thoughtful features
Renew fabric uses at least 50% recycled content
Classic neckline feels great
Quality pockets that hold whatever you need them too
Zippered valuables pocket
Zipper uses small metal teeth and lacks protection for bibs at the bottom
Elastic waist feels cheap compared to competitors
Edge of sleeves feels cheap compared to competitors
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When it comes to the best cycling jerseys, the competition is fierce. There are so many brands that it's tough to keep track of them all and in some ways, they can start to blend together. However, the truth is that there is actually a lot of nuance in the offerings. Every good brand does things a little differently and when you have a chance to try as many options as we do, you can start to pick up on the subtleties.
Giro might not be the first brand that comes to mind when looking for a new cycling jersey. The brand is better known for their helmets and shoes but they've been quietly producing clothing all along. More recently, they've carved out a niche by bringing sustainability to their entire line-up. Now that we've had a chance to spend some time in their latest line of sustainable products, we are ready to let you know what we think of the effort. If you are looking for a new summer jersey, keep reading to see our thoughts on the Giro Chrono Elite jersey.
Design and aesthetics
There are two major pillars that make the Giro Chrono Elite jersey the product it is. If you consider it as just another cycling jersey then it's fair to start with a purely aesthetic eye. On that front, Giro says "The styling is understated yet functional" and they are mostly correct. There are four colour options and Black, Charcoal Mica, and Midnight Blue that all match that description. Each hue has a subdued, sophisticated, monochromatic look with just a few small contrasting details that call attention to the brand. If you want something a little louder there's also the Data Mosh option which certainly breaks the mould.
For our part, we spent time with the Midnight blue. From the outside each panel has the same hue with no colour shift as the materials change or stretch. On the outside of each shoulder is a small silicone print carrying the Giro wordmark. It's done in a contrasting light blue and you'll find that same color at the end of each zipper and the inside of the collar. The only place with a unique colour is the small strip of reflective material on each side of the bank of the pockets in the rear.
Continuing to think of it as yet another jersey, there's a lot of impressive design details. There are tighter jerseys out there but this is definitely more of a racy cut. Each side features a collection of side panels that start on the inside of the bicep and travel through the armpit before switching materials just above the rear pockets. When the material changes, so does the shape of the side panel with a move from a straight line to a curve that wraps around as it moves to the waist.
For those that prefer more of a classic cut to the collar, you'll appreciate something a bit taller than the latest aero jerseys. It's hardly as tall as wool jerseys of the past but it's much more prominent than something like the Castelli Aero Race 6.0. The arms though trend closer to that jersey and stretch almost to the elbow before finishing with a folded edge.
At the rear, the pockets sit low but not all the way at the bottom. The top edge uses a rather hefty piece of elastic and there's a lot of reinforcement at the top of the seam between each pocket. Extra material at the bottom folds when not in use but makes for plenty of room for jackets and food. Near the top of the centre pocket you'll find a zipper for a fourth pocket to hold valuables. The zipper is the same as the main zipper meaning small metal teeth paired with a high-quality pull.
The other pillar of design setting the Giro Chrono apart is the fabric. There are two fabrics in use in the jersey. The primary is a somewhat heavy standard feeling nylon with 10% Elastane content and it's used for everything but the upper section of the side panels and the back. For the remaining panels the material makeup remains the same but it's a much lighter mesh to help dissipate heat. What's unique about all of this fabric is that it contains at least 50% recycled content coming from reclaimed fishing nets and other debris. You can't feel any difference with your fingers but every jersey purchased represents a small act of helping to put a value on ocean waste.
The sustainability story Giro is telling is an important one but it all hinges on performance. Asking consumers to purchase an inferior product because it helps the planet is never going to move the needle the way we need it to. That's why it's a pleasure to say that the source of the plastics that make up the fabrics in the Giro Chrono Elite jersey are irrelevant in this section. You can't tell that Giro is using recycled materials, it's just a great jersey and that's the icing on top.
Ultimately what it comes down to is fit and quality pockets. When I spend time in a jersey those tend to be the things that win my heart and on Giro got it right. Side panels in jerseys are a great way to create a better fitting final product and that's the case here. Keeping the line they follow straight higher up allows the front to sit flatter while staying tight. Bringing that same line forward a little lower down helps the fit as your body widens out a little. If you stand in the jersey it looks good and there’s enough length in the torso. On the bike there’s no extra material that bunches or bulges and while I always prefer a zipper with big plastic teeth, this one does sit nice and flat. The combination of the flat zipper line and quality side panels come together and keep the look as good on the bike, as off.
At the same time, Giro has managed to ward off any issues with the waist creeping up. Typically thicker elastic, especially in the front panels, is a recipe for a jersey that needs constant pulling down as you ride. I expected that to be the issue here so I spent time looking for it. I spent time with the pockets loaded on longer rides but I also tried the jersey on indoor rides with empty pockets and in both cases the waist managed to stay put.
When you do load up the pockets though, they are a joy to use and my other favourite feature of the Giro Chrono Elite Jersey. I carry enough food for 60-90g of carb an hour and six hours of riding and that takes a lot of room. I also carry everything most people carry in an under-seat bag plus a phone and extra clothes. The Giro Chrono Elite swallows it all with no issues. The thick elastic at the top gives the top edge enough structure to easily get your hand in while riding. You’ll never have to fight with finding the opening and the placement is low enough that it’s reachable without needing to stretch first. The stitching between each pocket is overbuilt and there’s reinforcement at the back of the fabric. Go ahead and stuff these full, they aren’t going to rip. These are some of the best pockets out there and might be worth a purchase on their own.
One feature I love a bit less is the weight of the materials, Giro claims this is their lightest jersey ever, but I find it a bit heavy. The Assos Equipe RS Jersey S9 Targa is one of my all-time favourite jerseys and it's 8 grams lighter. That might not sound like much but it's pretty substantial in a fabric jersey and you can feel the weight in the primary fabric. The mesh back doesn't feel heavy so I'd pin that extra weight purely on the main fabric. It means not only do some of the details feel a little less premium, like the folded edge of the arms, but this jersey probably isn’t the one to grab on the hottest days. The fabric does a reasonable job of wicking moisture but there’s more mass and by extension more opportunity to hold liquid. Some jerseys look visibly wet and that’s not the issue here but it adds to the heavy feeling as the jersey gets wet.
Throughout this review I called out both a Castelli jersey and an Assos jersey that are some of the best on the market. That was intentional placement of the Giro Chrono Elite in the company of brands already known for making high-performing clothing. Giro absolutely stands among the best when considering helmets and shoes but they aren't well known for their clothing efforts. It might be worth changing that a bit.
There are some small missteps in this jersey. The finish on the sleeves doesn't feel super high-quality despite being a very similar design to other brands. Most likely the heavy fabric feels even thicker as a double layer. The heavy elastic along the waist also feels a little less than premium. In both cases though, it's worth noting that the designs might feel a little less than premium but they do work just fine. The waist stays put and things like the fit and the pockets are high points that outweigh the drawbacks. The only thing that doesn’t really have a counterpoint is that the front panels are heavier fabric than I’d like to see. You might want to make a different choice when the temperature really soars.
As a bonus, or as the primary feature depending on your point of view, Giro is working hard to make sustainability a central part of their clothing. You can buy based on that feature or you can buy because you want a quality jersey and in either case you can buy the same product.
|Pocket Quality||Small metal teeth, no protection for the bibs at the bottom, and it's tough to operate one handed||10/10|
|Neckline Comfort||Taller than some but not tight and very comfortable||10/10|
|Zipper Quality||Small metal teeth and no protection for the bibs at the bottom||4/10|
|Shoulder Mobility||No issues||10/10|
|Heat management||Main fabric is heavy and it suffers overall even with the lightweight mesh rear||3/10|
|Ability of waist to stay put||Looks like it would be an issue but works well.||10/10|
|Fashion appeal (does it look/feel good)||Solid colours and a great fit go a long way but waist and arm edges don’t feel premium.||8/10|
|Sizing||True to standards||10/10|
|Fabric Quality||A bit on the heavy side||7/10|
|Overall rating||Row 9 - Cell 1||78%|
Tech Specs: Giro Chrono Elite Jersey
- Price: £76.99 / $140
- Weight: 138 grams in size small
- Size availability: S-2XL
- Colour Options: Andrew Jackson, Black, Charcoal Mica, Data Mosh, Midnight Blue
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Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx
By Will Jones