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I like to start my in-depth reviews with a little bit of context. My relationship with and interest in 7mesh started a little over a year ago when I picked up their S2S Jersey while on a trip through Vancouver. I later reviewed that jersey which you can read here. Since that time I’ve had the opportunity to ride and review more of the 7mesh lineup including the Strategy Jacket (review here) and now the Synergy Jersey. Beyond what I said in the long term update of the Strategy Jacket review, my greatest appreciation may be in understanding how 7mesh are setting up overlapping coverage for all conditions. That became clear as I transitioned into and out of the Synergy Jersey.
Is there a need for something like the Synergy Jersey? I think so. As spring temperatures start to reach around 10 degrees Celsius there is a need for lighter coverage than what is offered by the Strategy Jacket, but still more than what the bare S2S Jersey can muster. That’s a gap usually filled by adding a gilet. While wildly popular and practical, the gilet (vest) does have its draw backs. Namely, a gilet requires you to wear two garments and most are not very breathable. What does a better solution look like? One easy answer is the Synergy Jersey.
The start to the 2016 season here in Toronto has been an odd one. The weather has been unseasonably below average and because of that I've spent a lot more time in winter and shoulder season gear. The upside is I've spent many more kilometers riding around in the 7mesh Synergy SS Jersey and the following is my spring review.
Design & Construction
On the outside the 7mesh Synergy Jersey may look like a nondescript jersey but looks are deceiving. 7mesh have put an incredible amount of time and effort into something that takes the best attributes of a vest and combines them with a jersey. At just 190 grams, the body contouring pattern of the Synergy Jersey uses just 3 panels to create the 7mesh's pre-articulated fit. At a basic level the Synergy Jersey pattern is similar to the S2S Jersey but has less aggressive darting through the shoulders. I asked the designers why. Like every detail in the 7mesh approach, the answer is part of a bigger question that I'll try to explain.
As a complete garment, the front and back of the Synergy Jersey work in harmony together even though each are made with materials that have contrasting characteristics. The textile selected for the front panels of the Synergy Jersey is a pre-died WINDSTOPPER® Soft-shell from W.L. GORE Industries. To be specific, this textile is actually made up of 3 important layers. In the middle is a water resistant and windproof polytetrafluoroethylene membrane (the same membrane used in the Strategy Jacket) laminated between a knit 174P polyester exterior and a softer knitted interior. 7mesh have used this protective WINDSTOPPER® across the entire front to protect the abdomen, chest, shoulders and front of biceps from cooler temperatures, wind, and rain.
Resources: What is WINDSTOPPER®
To compliment but contrast the front panels, the designers have chosen a lighter Omega knit 160P material for the back panels. The polyester Omega knit is a very breathable synthetic fibre based textile with a soft brushed interior which helps to wick moisture up and away from the body. This is similar to the material used in the S2S jersey but has a heavier weight, more loft, and more stretch. Because of that higher loft and greater stretch, the designers needed to apply a different series of darts through the shoulders to achieve the desired fit.
For clarity, the 174P and 160P referenced above are in reference to the Grams Per Square Inch weight of the polyester based textiles.
To keep the front of the Synergy Jersey closed the designers have elected to use a full length 3S sized YKK Aquaguard Vislon zipper. As with the Strategy Jacket, the 7mesh designers have chosen this zipper for its polyurethane laminated tape (cloth sides). The laminated tape helps prevent the front zipper from being a point of entry for wind and rain. Otherwise it would be like putting on the heat at home but leaving the windows a little open. It's a small detail but the benefit of complete protection is big. Atop this full length zipper there is a zipper guard with a soft backing to prevent chaffing on your neck and chin. Similar to the Strategy Jacket, the collar on the Synergy Jersey has a higher height for additional weather protection.
Material selection and pattern shaping may be more technical than most will be concerned with so what about standard features? There is good news here too. Looking at the Synergy Jersey you’ll find all the expected features. There are 5 pockets of which 3 are traditional top loading pockets and 2 more zippered side loading pockets. On the inside of the secured pockets you’ll find button holes for routing headphone cables up through the jersey to loops inside the collar. If you’re keen to listen to music while you ride (which I don’t like to encourage) this helps keep cables clean, managed, and out of the way. To ensure contents are secure, these side loading pockets are kept closed by the same 3C plastic coil type zippers that are found on the S2S Jersey and Strategy Jacket pockets.
Rather than relying on the tackiness of silicone, the Synergy Jersey is kept in place by 30mm of Gripper Elastic along the hems. The product details quote this at 30mm in height but I measured mine at 35mm. Every bit counts! How well it all works is covered in the Fit & Function section below.
branding & graphics
If you’ve read my previous 7mesh reviews it won’t surprise you to hear that all branding and graphics on the Synergy Jersey are kept to a minimum. When I previously asked Ian Martin, Vice-president of Research and Design at 7mesh why this was so, he explained that graphics restrict the liberties that designers can take to create the ideal pattern for a garment. That said, the Synergy Jersey isn’t completely without branding. The exterior has two 7mesh logos and one WINDSTOPPER®, all applied via heat transfer process. The 7mesh logos are front left chest and centre to the back. The WINDSTOPPER® logo is on the back left pocket. Finally there is one high vis marking on the bottom rear hem. The choice of high vis reflective markings does aid with visibility while on the road which makes for another small but important detail.
What is the heat transfer process? Unlike with screen printing, the heat transfer printing process applies the graphics by adding heat and pressure to either a vinyl or pre-printed stencil and the garment.
Since there isn't much to say about graphics, I'll use this as an opportunity to address the question on colour selection. The 7mesh Synergy Jersey is currently available in two colours, Ash (grey) or ember (orange). The ash is a very muted neutral grey and the ember is a sort of higher luminance burnt orange. For cycling, neither of these colours is common and since I had the opportunity to ask why, I did. The 7mesh designers told me that these colour choices are part of a conscious effort to do things differently. The latest trends in cycling apparel may be pushing hard on bold patterns or flouro but the vast majority are set on a very primary colour palette. The 7mesh colour choices are done in house through what Ian says is a lot of heated back and forth. Sometimes they may even call upon a third party consultant to input on their colour choices. The result has been a lot of intriguing new solids that feel like they've been inspired by the British Columbia landscapes.
Asking around, it seems that ember orange isn’t the most popular first colour choice people have when trying to get everything to match and the ash grey doesn't grab those cyclists looking for some pop. Here's my take. If you're looking for something more subdued than what everyone else is doing than this is may be it. And if you're all in on the 7mesh aesthetic then the ember pairs very well with the Strategy Jacket as the orange is the same colour that is used in the highlights of the jacket.
Fit & Function
It is fair to say that a higher level of attention to detail in garment manufacturing is important, but without the application of a better design strategy you will not always produce a better product. In my previous review of the S2S jersey I detailed at length how the 7mesh fit is different than everything else on the market. But why?
When it comes to fit, the 7mesh design approach is to focus on pre-articulated pattern shaping rather than relying on the dynamic properties of stretch materials like elastane or lycra. That means the garment has a natural shape to it that best matches the position of the body while riding. This is most noticeable when you first put on the jersey or may be moving around off the bike. The good news is that any sense of this unfamiliar feeling melts away from your mind the second you slip into riding position. I mean that in the most wonderful way.
Because the fit is so important and there is very little dynamic stretch to tie up loose ends, it is critical that you ensure you get the right size. If you are like me with very wide shoulders and a much narrower waist, this can be tricky. Thankfully the 7mesh size large fits me well and feels ‘all day’ comfortable on the bike. It is a fit that is similar and consistent across all the pieces I've tried.
Wearing a jersey designed for use in variable conditions means you're going to need to regulate body temperature. For that reason the front zipper is easy to manage while riding to vent excess body heat. The rear pockets have a generous volume without feeling loose or bulky. I’ve found them to be adequate for carrying the necessary food and tool supplies needed for longer rides. Entry to all of the pockets is quite easy one handed but it’s advisable to only try and access the zippered side entry pockets while stopped.
When is the right time to pull the Synergy Jersey from the closet? From my experience the Synergy Jersey is best called up on in the cool conditions of spring and fall or on rides that will see varying conditions of both temperature or precipitation. It doesn’t matter whether these conditions are from forecast or elevation. If I had to put a number on it, I’d peg the ideal temperature range of the Synergy Jersey between 5 and 15 degrees celsius. That puts it squarely in the middle of the 7mesh range with a little overlap on both sides. To get even more versatility out of the Synergy Jersey you can extend these parameters by adding or removing different base layers and arm warmers.
The shoulder seasons may be the best part of cycling. They bring the excitement of a fresh start or the beautiful views of late season colours. But with those ups come the downs of unpredictable weather. For this there is no end to the ideas and strategies that people employ to get themselves through the shoulder seasons. The humble gilet is a common staple for the serious cyclist, but it’s far from perfect. If you're a lifehacker with a few sheets of newspaper lining the front of your jersey.... it's time to move on.
7mesh set out to use iterative innovation and shared learning to come up with single solution offer. The resulting Synergy Jersey is much more than just a mashup. It’s a remarkable piece of kit that combines the best of a gilet and a jersey all while employing all the differentiating approaches to design and construction that make 7mesh different. The best part? Take a step back to look at the complete 7mesh apparel line and you can see the strategic place in which the Synergy Jersey fits. It helps to round out a complete range of coverage.
At a cost of $180CAD, the Synergy Jersey is in line with most high quality jerseys and still far less than a jersey and gilet combo. Who is it right for? For anyone looking for a single, highly versatile jersey that doesn’t come with compromises. If that's you then I’d recommend consideration and contemplation of the Synergy Jersey.
As always check their provided sizing guide or visit a local stockist.