Gear Guy

Q:

What’s the updated word on cold-weather biking gear?

You answered a question in 2004 about the best gear for cycling in freezing temps. What's changed since then? John Alexandria, Virginia

Oct 14, 2008
Outside
Outside Magazine
Castelli Quantum Radiation Jacket

Quantum Radiation Jacket

A:

The answer: not much, and quite a bit.

In that reply I highlighted things such as Icebreaker wool clothing ($80 for the Bodyfit 260 L/S Crewe) and the Gore Balance Jacket (updated as the Balance III, $150). And a lot of what I said still applies. I still wear a lot of wool as a base layer and still like shells such as the Phantom. And things such as bike tights haven’t changed that much—Pearl Izumi’s Therma-Fleece tights ($85) remain great cool-weather items and can be reinforced with any light long underwear layer worn beneath them.

One big change, in my mind, is the improvement in soft shell fabrics. A piece such as Mountain Hardwear’s Synchro Jacket ($190) becomes a virtual one-stop shop for biking outerwear. It’s waterproof, breathable, and has a light fleece lining for warmth. On cold winter days, you can toss it over a light base layer and ride away. REI’s One Jacket ($189), made with Schoeller fabric, is a little more breathable and is water-repellent rather than water-proof. But it has a terrific temperature range and shrugs off light rain or snow. I use its lighter, now-discontinued sibling, the Mistral (Hey, REI! Bring it back!), as a winter mountain-biking piece.

The other advance has been in true hard shells. A Portland, Oregon, company named Showers Pass, for instance, makes a bike-specific piece called the Elite 2.0 that uses eVent, a fabric that I think is as breathable as anything out there. The Elite 2.0 is $230, but is a long-term investment in excellent weather protection. Layer it over some Icebreaker or other wool, and you can venture out into the worst weather.

Or, give the economy a boost and buy a Castelli Quantum Radiation Jacket. A Gore Windstopper shell is layered over a proprietary insert that reflects 80 percent of your body heat back inside the jacket. A mere $400!

So, ride forth!

The 2008 Summer Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From riding to trail-running to camping, get reviews of nearly 400 gear must-haves.

Filed To: Road Biking, Hard Shell, Soft Shell

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