Yeah, I went there.
As I've become steadily more active lately, I've become steadily more attached to my sports bra, and although one was decent to start with, some months of daily wash and wear that one is beyond salvation and my not so great ones are in an even worse state.
Cue two really good deals, and two reviews. First up to the floor- American Apparel.
American Apparel Compression Sports Bra. £30
I've never used a compression sports bra before but since cycling on the road should usually be a medium to low impact sport, I thought it was worth a try. Especially since I got a pretty sweet deal on Groupon- £15 for £30 to spend, happy days. All of about 30 mins later, I'd checked out on this delight, and it was en route. My thoughts....?
It's pretty heavy weight- the fabric is quite thick, a jersey feel and not *that* much stretch to it. It definitely has the feel of a crop top rather than a traditional bra at first, and definitely not the gymnastic experience I expected in getting it on- or back off again. All this reads like I don't rate this bra, but actually, once on my bike and on the move I felt well supported and the *girls* did not experience any unnecessary jiggling or general discomfort.
The racer back is super comfy and the arm holes are low enough cut to not chafe or rub, without feeling like I'm going to fall out and the elastic (seamed in, not exposed) at the base didn't dig in or pinch. My biggest criticism of this bra is heat. Although the fabric does draw moisture away from my skin, it certainly made me warmer than other bras- this may be because it's just got more fabric volume than other bras, but for the summer, I feel it may be more challenging if I need to wring it out regularly. In all- not bad. I'm impressed with the fit since the sizing is generic (although kudos for good size guiding on the AA website) and the job it does, a good piece of winter kit, but perhaps not quite technical enough for my needs, and I'm not sure I'd have paid the full £30 for it- even in a funkier colour than black.
So.... next contender please.
High Impact Push Up Sports Bra, Marks & Spencer £19.50
I couldn't actually find a link to this bra on the M&S website, just a couple of similar ones- but currently, they have a promotion on for £5 off a £30 spend on lingerie with the code LINGERIE30 online.
So... This is high impact, mostly because I didn't like the look of anything that was lesser. I hadn't intended to go with a 'push up' feature either, but I really liked the look of this bra for several reasons, not least the print, and decided it wasn't going to do any harm.
This is a more traditional sports bra, but compared to my older models, anything but traditional. My mother's first remark was shock that it was a sports specific bra. I saw and loved the print the second I hit the the lingerie floor, and it only got better. One of my favourite features of this bra are the mesh panels and padded straps. The mesh at the top of the cup, the centre of the bra and part of the back really help to keep me a little cooler than my AA purchase. This is partly important because I use a rucksack to/from work, and partly important because I tend to get quite warm in my core pretty quick. The fabric of the rest of the bra resembles swimwear more than clothing, and I love it- it pulls all moisture away from my skin and if wet/laundered dries quickly itself.
This bra sizes more specifically by backsize/cup, and I have to say my usual size is just perfect. Everything stays firmly put, where it's told to, all the time. A joy, this is perfect for a journey outside my usual relatively flat and even one, although the straps look quite narrow, they are largest in the centre where they sit on my shoulder, and there's a small amount of padding in them, making sure they don't cut or dig into me.
Overall- I love this bra, at £19.50, I think it represents really good value as a high quality product that can be washed, worn and is not bad to look at. My only real problem? The straps are detachable at the back, for reasons unknown to me, and the little plastic hooks seem a little loose meaning every time I take the bra on and off, the straps come loose. M&S- please stitch your products closed!
Kit is a real focus for me with my sporting pursuits at the moment. After years of avoiding exercise or making do with bad, busted or inappropriate kit for other forays into activity, I've finally caved to the understanding that not only does semi-technical/performance kit assist in my performance and therefore my enjoyment, but also in commuting by bike every day, I need things that are better quality to wash and wear.
I'd love to hear about performance sports kit you might have found that's in a reasonable price bracket- I have a review coming for a recent online product I've found for sourcing sales and deals, but any recommendations for brands or kit I'd love to hear.