I didn't take my first cold-weather ride of the season until last week. I'd been dodging it like a hypochondriac recoiling from a sniffling child.
It happens like this every year. Autumn in Santa Fe is bright and dry and crisp and glorious, and I gorge myself on empty roads and dry single track. Then, usually around daylight savings, when the temperature drops one night and doesn't rise the next day, I hang up the bikes and skulk around the house like a cat whose tail was just stomped on. In those first few weeks of winter, it's like there's water in my veins that might freeze, and no amount of cajoling from my riding partners can get me through the door.
Except, after only a few weeks I remember just how mind-numbing riding indoors really is. And one day—usually the day after an especially long trainer session during which I watch an especially vapid movie—I bundle up and venture outside. And I realize all over again that riding in the cold isn't that bad. Here are a few new apparel bits and pieces that are making my cold-weather training more tolerable.
Assos iJ.Tiburu.4 Judging by the look on this model's face, you wouldn't want the iJ.Tiburu.4. (My guess is that he's just pissed that he can't afford the $350 price tag...much less pronounce the jacket's name). But I gotta tell you that however you say the name, this piece is worth saving your pennies. Like most Assos gear, the iJ.Tiburu.4 is bodymapping jigsaw puzzle (four textiles and 14 patterns), and all the layers and crazy proprietary fabrics ahve done exactly what they're supposed to: keep me warm and dry on some pretty chilly days. Assos bills it as a jacket, but I think it's more like a heavyweight jersey, so if it's really cold I've been wearing it under the iJ.Bonka.6. The albino anaconda look isn't for everyone, but personally I like it. This is my go-to piece of the season so far.
Castelli Fawesome Vest ($120) Okay I lied: The iJ.Tiburu.4 is my second choice piece of the season—the Fawesome Vest is really my top pick because of its versatility. Built of Windstopper X-Lite Plus, a fabric co-developed by Castelli and Gore, this super trim vest has the feel of a soft shell with the water and wind protection of a DWR. Castelli is also making a really cool waterproof jersey out of this material, and though the Fawesome isn't as protective (it has a lighter fabric in the back panel to allow moisture to escape), it's still the ultimate quick protection piece. I found myself reaching for it almost every autumn evening when the chill came on because it's warmer than a typical vest, though still very lightweight and packable. And twice when I got caught out in sudden sleet and snow squals, this thing kept me surprisingly dry. F#@%ing awesome.
Pearl Izuml P.R.O. Softshell Bib Tights ($250) First of all, if you aren't wearing bib tights you aren't really warm. The extra coverage not only stops any cold leakage by keeping your underlayers well tucked, but it also keeps your chest and back extra insulated. At first, the adjustable-length bib straps seemed like the answer to a problem that didn't really exist, but I actually found myself liking the feature because I was able to tighten and loosen the fit depending on what type of layers I put underneath. And the front access panel, which is well overlapped to prevent any drafts, is quite convient for nature breaks. Be forewarned, though: the softshell material is pretty thick, so these are probably best for only the most arctic of days.
Hincapie Arenberg Warmers (Knee, $35; Arm, $30) Warmers are just appendage-shaped tubes, so they're all about the same, right? Absolutely not! I've thrown away dozens of arm and leg warmers because they sag down my arms and legs and make me look like some sickly spandex poodle. Not so with Hincapie's designs. The arm warmers are nicely articulated and fit well up my arm so they stay tacked beneath my jersey sleeves (thanks in part to the durable silicone grippers). And the knee warmers are cut amply through the thigh to get lots of coverage (read: warmth), but they also manage to grip tightly around my mid-calf rather than riding up uncomfortably under my knee. Hincapie makes leg warmers, too, but if it's too cold for Knee Warmers I generally opt for tights.
Giro Proof Gloves ($60) Released last season, thee Proofs areso good that they've carried over to my quiver this year. Because the Proof is comprised of a waterproof outer glove and a moisture-wicking inner liner, they are three gloves in one. I've been heading out on afternoon rides wearing just the liners (which have great non-slip rubberized detailing on the palms), switching to the outers (which tuck easily into a rear pocket) in the gathering cold before dark, and then layering the two for ultimate warmth once the sun drops. It's all the glove you need for everything but the extremes. Also worth pointing out: Giro has assembled an impressive line of gloves since they entered the segment a few years ago. The warm weather LX LFs and the cool weather Blazes are also personal favorites.
Castelli Risvolto Winter Cap ($30) Not a ton to say about this classy thermal cap except that it's both warm enough for the coldest days yet still sleek enough to tuck under a helmet. I'm a total pansy and have been known to really whinge when my ears get even slightly cold, so the cozy ear flap, which extends down over my neck, is a boon. It tucks away, too, so you don't have to look like racer boy meets Paul Bunyan when you stop off at the store post-ride. This is a winter-riding must, and at $30 it's a perfect stocking stuffer.