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Isadore Alternative Thermal kit review

Isadore claims its Alternative kit is the first cycling clothing range to be made from 100% recycled materials, combining performance and sustainability for cool-weather riding

Isadore Alternative review
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

For

  • Environment and recycling kudos
  • Very comfortable fit for jersey, gillet and shorts
  • Versatile level of thermal insulation
  • Complimenting pattern of the jersey and gilet looks great
  • Plenty of reflective detailing for dawn or dusk riding

Against

  • Jersey and gilet collar is a little bulky when worn together
  • Gillet doesn’t have a two-way zip
  • Reflective hem detailing on the gilet fell off
  • No zipped valuables pocket
  • Jacket has limited water resistance
  • The cut of the jacket caused it to be a little constricting when in the drops

Isadore is a conscious brand that has a strong belief in working sustainably whether that’s through keeping production as close to its home in Slovakia as possible to using biodegradable packaging for its products. Now Isadore has gone even further with its Alternative range of cycling clothing which claims to be the first clothing line to be made from 100 per cent recycled materials. 

The Alternative range is designed to provide a balance of warmth and comfort that is demanded by those who ride in the shoulder seasons as well as covering warmer weather summer kit options as well. We have been wearing the Alternative thermal bibs, gillet, jersey and jacket to find out if, by recycling, Isadore has created the cycling gear you want to ride.  

 Fabrics and sustainability

Isadore isn’t the only one to be making cycling kit from recycled materials, conscious brands such as Velocio and Presco have also been using recyclable materials as well as a few bigger names such as Rapha and Le Col who have recently begun experimenting with more sustainable fabric options. Much can be said about the environmental impact of the fashion and apparel industry which arguably makes Isadore’s claim of a 100 per cent recycled kit more significant. Previously, the range was limited to a few pieces but has since been expanded to a complete range and Isadore hopes to go on to one day eliminate the use of virgin plastic and petroleum-derived fabrics from its range.

The jersey and gillet we have are both made from a recycled 200g/mt brushed interior fabric while the thermal bib shorts are made from recycled nylon and polyester from Italy. The jacket is produced from fully recycled polyester material woven that Isadore has to source from Japan. Isadore estimates that it takes roughly 1kg of PET bottles to produce three metres of material. Each jersey uses around one metre of fabric, which means roughly 300g of plastic, or 30 average 0.5L bottles, is needed for each jersey. This approach is valuable for the future of the planet and we expect these influencing trends to encourage more brands to follow suit. 

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Isadore Alternative review

The jersey has a comfortable fit (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

The 200g/mt brushed interior fabric adds some extra insulation (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

Bulky zip garages did make it a little tight around the neck when the jersey and gilet were worn together (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Alternative Long Sleeve Light Jersey

Comfortable long sleeve jersey made from 100 per cent recycled materials

Colours: Mood Indigo blue | Weight: 246g (medium) | Sizes: XS - XXL | Price: $190.00

Environment and recycling kudos
Excellent fit
Brushed material feels great against the skin
No zipped valuables pocket
Jersey and gilet collar is a little bulky when worn together

The jersey and gillet share the same brushed material and pattern design, in complimenting colours, so while they work well as individual pieces they pair together, too. The jersey material is soft to the touch and panelling has been used to add some thinner material sections along the insides to help manage any excess heat. The fit is great, with no points of tightness and well-judged arm and torso length for my very average body dimensions (1.77m and 70kg). The sleeves are finished with a deep cuff that has silicone grippers to stop the sleeves from moving around.

The zips are high quality and have a smooth action. They are also cam-locked so you can flip the zipper tab up and just tug them open for instant relief if things are getting too hot. Reflective Isadore logos on the right pocket, reflective strips along the hem plus tabs on the sides of the pocks and on the jersey arms add attention-grabbing details There is also some minor bobbling on the material after some heavy rotation in the last few months although it’s hard to determine if this will have an effect on long-term durability.

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Isadore Alternative review

The gillet has the same pattern as the jersey for a perfect match (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

The material of the gillet and jersey has developed some bobbling (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

Side panels are made from thinner material for temperature regulation (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Thermal Vest

Perfectly complimenting the jersey in both aesthetics and insulation

Colours: Mood Indigo grey | Weight: 179g (medium) | Sizes: XS - XXL | Price: $145.00

Environment and recycling kudos
Complimenting pattern of the jersey and gilet looks great
Excellent fit
Plenty of reflective detailing for dawn or dusk riding
Gilet doesn’t have a two-way zip
Reflective hem detailing on the gilet fell off
No zipped valuables pocket

The gillet has the same great fit as the jersey and uses the same material and panelling pattern. There isn’t any windproofing on the jersey or gillet but the combined thickness of the two layers helps keep the core warm unless the wind is particularly bitter. The gillet sits comfortably over the jersey although the zip garages are a little bulky so I would ride with the gillet zip slightly open for a little more breathing space around the neck.

The zip is the same chunky number that’s used on the jersey, it would be nice to see a double-ended zip on the gilet but the zip is pretty easy to locate and do up quickly on the bike. The gillet matches the jersey in reflective detailing although the reflective hem on the gilet did fall off in the wash.

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Isadore Alternative review

Brushed interior adds warmth in cooler temperatures (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

The shorts have large reflective panelling on the rear of the legs (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Alternative Thermal Bib Shorts

Cosy and comfortable shorts for spring and autumn conditions

Colours: Black | Weight: 240g (medium) | Sizes: XS - XXL | Price: $210.00

Environment and recycling kudos
Versatile level of thermal insulation 
Comfortable pad
Seams at the back are sometimes noticeable when pedaling

Whether the conditions have been chilly or changeable the Isadore Alternative Thermal bib shorts have been up to the task. Enough insulation to fend off wind chill while still allowing some breathability should the sun break through the clouds. The DWR treatment keeps the worst of drizzle and light showers off as well and should a ride become wetter, the shorts still hold on to their thermal properties well. 

As previously mentioned, all the kit we have for review here is 100 per cent recycled, which means that Isadore has had to source a chamois made from recycled materials as well. This has been supplied by chamois experts Elastic Interface and is made using 100% recycled warp-knit stretch fabric. The chamois has proven very comfortable making these shorts a go-to over the recent months. 

The straps are well-positioned to offer comfortable support and the cut around the top of the shorts is well-shaped. Leg length is spot on as well and the light silicone gripper does a decent job of holding them in place.

Branding is simple with iridescent reflective Isadore logos on the legs, detailing around the hems, and two larger panels on the back of the legs. These back panels greatly increase visibility from the rear although I could feel the stitching on the back of my leg when pedalling which was occasionally distracting but it was never put me off wearing them.

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Isadore Alternative review

The jacket is windproof but will only hold of light showers (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

The jacket doesn't have any pockets (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

There is holographic paneling on the shoulders (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
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Isadore Alternative review

Elasticated cuffs and hem keep out drafts (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Alternative Essential Jacket

Pocketable windproof although limited stretch effects the fit

Colours: Dark grey with holographic effect | Weight: 199g (medium) | Sizes: XS - XXL | Price: $190.00

Environment and recycling kudos
Plenty of reflective detailing for dawn or dusk riding
Pocketable
Good windproofing
Jacket has limited water resistance
The cut of the jacket caused it to be a little constricting when in the drops

While I was impressed with the top layers and bibs, the Alternative Essential jacket was a little disappointing by comparison. The fabric is the aforementioned recycled polyester which is used in conjunction with a two-way stretch material along the side of the body underneath the arms. The material itself is soft to the touch and the reflective panels have an almost silky finish. The reflective panels have a holographic effect and are used on the collar, shoulders and the side of the body and giving other road users no excuse for not seeing you in the dark The cuffs are elasticated and so is the hem which has some extra reflective detailing and a silicon strip on the inside. 

I found the fit of the jacket comfortable however the use of two-way stretch material rather than four-way stretch resulted in a little binding around the elbows and midriff plus some extra bagginess around the shoulders when I was in the drops. 

The jacket provides good protection from the wind and manages potential moisture build-up as well if you are slugging uphill. This is only further helped by the double-ended zip which allows quick airflow adjustments without turning the jacket into a parachute. Isadore only recommends using the jacket in light rain which from experience is accurate. Under heavier or prolonged deluges the jacket can quickly spring a leak and once wet underneath you will begin noticing the cold more.

In packability terms, the jacket size is small enough to fit comfortably in a jersey pocket yet thick enough that it can offer a little warmth when you aren’t riding, rather than just fending off windchill at the cafe. There are no pockets on the which no doubt helps its smaller pack size however the double zip does mean you can get to your jersey pockets without completely unzipping the jacket.

Isadore Alternative review

Isadore hasn't shied away from reflective visability (Image credit: Matthew Hawkins)

Verdict

You have to commend Isadore for striving to create a range of cycling clothing from 100% recycled materials. In a world where we are having to become more and more conscious of the effects our lifestyles have on the earth, it’s refreshing to see Isadore - alongside other brands - exploring what can be done as a manufacturer to limit unnecessary waste. Combine that with the fact that Isadore offers a wear-or-tear repair service on all its products, so if your jersey needs to be repaired they will do it free of charge. If it can’t be fixed, Isadore says it will offer you 50 per cent off a replacement.

All this environmental positivity and free repairs do come at a cost and the Alternative kit is far from cheap although it is on par with other premium brands. The free repairs certainly contribute towards making the price more acceptable, especially if you are a little accident-prone or racking up serious mileage.  

Performance-wise the jersey, gillet and bib shorts have a great fit and versatile level of warmth that means you can get a lot of use from them whether it’s spring, autumn or cool summer days - and could be beefed up a bit with additional layers for mild-winter riding. The jacket on the other hand is harder to justify considering its limited water resistance. It certainly adds a good pocketable level of protection from the wind without turning into a greenhouse underneath but the fit just wasn’t quite right for me. That said, Isadore offers a free 45-day return on all its products, so if you want to try on a couple of sizes or if you find it doesn’t quite fit you aren’t going to be charged to send the product back. 

View the Alternative clothing range at Isadore