Cyclists who don't dig the idea of fitting a spray bottle next to the brake levers, gear shifters, shock adjusters and other handlebar hardware on their bikes may have a simpler alternative for keeping cool. The new Vortex bicycle jersey includes an integrated airflow system that serves as a sort of air conditioning on the road or trail.
Jim McCory, Martin Daniel and Steven Smithers believed that there had to be a simpler way of staying cool in the saddle; one that didn't rely on gimmicks like battery-powered fans or squirting misters. The jersey includes two air channels that work with the cyclist's natural forward motion, pulling in air through the shoulder-cut intakes and creating cooling air channels that lift the jersey off the skin. So as not to inflate the shirt, the air channels have an exit point at the lower back.
The Vortex looks intriguing but it may have some shortcomings. Many cyclists ride with a backpack or hydration pack, which would seem to restrict airflow and limit or eliminate the cooling. Because of the position of the channels, it looks like cycling in an upright position could reduce the effect. Even if your riding style fits perfectly, and the system looks functional on paper, this might be a product best tested before purchase, and the characterization of $50 as "way way below regular price" means that it'll be an expensive piece to test.
Personally, I don't even like wearing regular cycling jerseys. I find three-pocket cycling jerseys less comfortable than simple wicking T-shirts because they're loaded with added material (pockets, zipper, collar) and weight, which makes me hotter and sweatier. With its air channels and integrated "shields" that lift the fabric, it seems like this will be heavier than an average jersey. The air channels will have to be effective to make up for that.
Still, it's early days for the product, and it's good to see designers attempting to create simple, affordable ways to keep cool on a bike. The Vortex team is trying to raise US$5,000 on Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. A pledge of $50 or more turns you into an early adopter.
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