New Winter Road Riding Gear
Here in the Southwest, autumn has been mostly warm and choking dry, turning the trails to rubbly moondust and me into a total whiner about even the faintest whiff of cold. I've braved a few icy mornings and misjudged the light a few times to end up out in the plunging temps of evening, but for the most part, if you organized to ride midday, it's been pleasant.
Until this week, that is, when our first real storm left the trails snow covered and the mercury hanging in the 20s. Timing couldn't be worse, either, as I began a new training block last week, so there is no skipping workouts on account of cold. Fortunately, I've found a few favorite new pieces on the brisk mornings this fall. Here's a sampling of what's keeping me warm on the road bike right now. Now, if only some company could find a solution for whingeing.
ASSOS IJ.INTERMEDIATE_S7 ($370)
Let's first get past one thing: Assos products cost a ton. That said, I'm comfortable recommending them at these prices because I honestly believe they are better than anything else out there. If I could own just a few pieces of cycling apparel, it would be T FI.13_S5 bibs, the iJ.haBu5 jacket, and the SS.Uno_s7 jersey. Or so I thought until I tried the Intermediate_s7, which is decidedly not a winter jersey but has been in full rotation nonetheless. The Windblock material in the front panels is surprisingly warm but still extremely stretchy, the neck and cuffs lock out all air, the back panel breathes incredibly well, and the tailoring is second to none for a fit that simply does not flap or pull. On its own, this jersey is comfy to around 65 degrees. With a short-sleeve baselayer, it's good to around 45. And with a full-length baselayer, I've been wearing it almost down to freezing. It's one of the most versatile pieces money can buy.
CAPO TORINO 3D LONG SLEEVE BASE LAYER ($100)
You'd think that all pieces to go under a jersey would be about equal—and you'd be wrong. Capo's Torino 3D combines extremely simple tailoring—there are seams only at the sleeves to prevent binding with top layers or rubbing on your skin—with a seriously techy polypropolene fabric called Dryarn that's lightweight but warm, totally stretchy, and literally pulls moisture off the skin so it can dry and vent through top layers. The combo of this piece and the Intermediate_S7 makes for lots of warmth with surprisingly little bulk.
MAVIC CYCLONE JACKET ($190)
Keeping with the layering theme, the Cyclone is a top piece that provides great insulation and warmth in a very thin, trim silhouette. It's constructed mostly of Mavic's proprietary Tech Dry ST fabric, which blocks wind like a brick wall, except for the more breathable mesh wicking material on the underarms and back that help with moisture transfer. The soft, broad, wetsuit-style cuffs lock out all air, and the offset zipper is a nice touch because it keeps the metal off your face. One niggle: we would have preferred to have seen a self-locking zipper that allows a tug on the lapel to open it as fidgeting with the small zipper pull was tough in thick gloves. Our Cyclone came in murdered-out black-on-black, which looks great but the new white and yellow high-vis colors are much more practical for early-darkness winter riding. Also note: This is a trim fit, so don't buy it thinking you can get lots of bulky mountain layers underneath.
NALINI POLLINO THERMO BIB TIGHTS ($250)
It took a while to get used to all the different fabrics in these bibs, but after a few rides I've come to really like them. The ThermoRoubaix material in the crotch, calves, and torso areas are fleecy and warm against the skin, while the Manto fabric on the fronts of the legs block wind and water and is super resistant to abrasion, making these tights a great crossover on the MTB side as well. There's reflective detailing on the back and at the leg cuffs, where the smart use of locking zips means the tights won't ride up or leak cold air.
SPECIALIZED RADIANT GLOVES ($57)
I am a baby about my hands and feet, and these Primaloft-filled Thinsulate mitts have kept my paws warm and dry in wet conditions down to around 20 degrees. (It hasn't been cold enough to try them below that yet.) All winter gloves should have quick-pull toggle cuffs like these, though I find the Microfiber fabric on the pointer and thumb zone a bit rough for wiping my nose. I put up with that, though, because Specialized has brilliantly integrated their WireTap technology into the pointer fingers, meaning these are the only winter gloves I don't have to remove in order to change music or answer the phone.
PEARL IZUMI PRO SOFTSHELL WXB SHOECOVER ($100)
I've worn lots of booties over the years, and I especially like this new Pearl variety for the healthy doze of PrimaLoft insulation. In spite of the fluff, they're still trim enough to wear on the road, though the Kevlar outsole has held up fine on mountain cleats, too. The dual Velcro closure at the back makes it easy to customize the fit. I've had some issues with Pearl's WXB waterproofing in the past, but the company says this new formulation is watertight, and it has proven so on lightly wet days. Still reserving judgment, though, until I get them out out on a really nasty day.