With all the European cyclocross racing I've been watching lately, I've noticed a proliferation of a certain Belgian brand of cycling clothing adorning several of my favorite racers. This piqued my curiosity (proof that sponsorship really works?), so I set about on my search to see where I could buy this fabled brand.
The brand I'm talking about is Vermarc (If you hadn't figured it out yet...) Vermarc is a sports clothing company based just out side of Brussels that specializes in cycling gear. They've been around since 1977 and, like a lot of cycling companies, was started by a retired pro. The brand definitely has some cachet with the name conjuring up images of Lion of Flanders flags, mud-soaked cobbles, and veldrijden. It also proved to be a bit elusive as my preliminary searches revealed little on where I could purchase said clothing.
Since I couldn't find any shops locally, or any online shops that sold Vermarc clothing, I ended up going to Vermarcusa.com to order a pair of bib shorts. I figured that was an excellent way to get acquainted with a clothing brand since the bib short is results in some intimate contact points... I decided on a fairly base level pair of shorts in classic black, with Vermarc's CP4 chamois. Their website looked a bit... unpolished... and I had a small amount of trepidation about ordering from them. But Vermarc USA was very helpful and responded quickly to the sizing questions I had. Ends up, for someone my size (32" waist, 170 lbs) I would be a large. My shorts ended up being $69.99 on sale from $125, so fairly middle of the road as far as bibs go. I placed my order and the bib shorts showed up on my doorstep a few days later.
Upon initial inspection, the shorts seemed pretty typical for this price range. The lycra wasn't anything "space-aged" or created by formula one engineers. It was normal everyday lycra. I would liken it to your typical club clothing. Something that I did notice, all the stitching was really well done and, just maybe, in some cases, over done. This stitching wasn't going any where. This would be a relief, given my last 3 pair of Castelli shorts had seams unravel or break a couple months into their lifespan. The bib tops were light and perforated to allow air to flow through although the material wasn't as soft as some I've owned.
After a few rides:
First and foremost, the fit of these shorts was dead-on. There wasn't any bunching or sagging and the lycra was supportive without being over worked. I was aware of some of the seams on the straps and around the mid section, but that faded as I mounted up and began riding. I'm confined to riding an indoor trainer right now, so that's the only mileage these shorts have seen. For me, trainer riding is inherently uncomfortable, even if I were riding on the chamois equivalent of a barkalounger, my bum and seat would still exchange some unpleasantries.
With that said, after a handful of rides in them, these shorts are pretty middle of the road. It's precisely what I would expect for $70. They did what they were supposed to do, nothing more, nothing less. The seams in the chamois did cause me some problems, but nothing a little chamois cream couldn't fix. I think I would have been much more disappointed had I shelled out the non-sale retail price of $125 for these, but at $70, they aren't too shabby. If I had a rating system, I would give them 3 out of 5 cowbells.