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What’s the best jacket for biking during the winter?

I ride my bike to class every morning, and as the temperature drops, I have a jacket problem that is two fold. 1) My fleece does little to stop the piercing cold winds. 2) My hard shell retains too much body heat, and I feel like I’m in a furnace. What do you recommend? Bary Charlottesville, Virginia


You need to do one of two things. Either get a shell that’s a bit more breathable, or go with a piece that offers some insulation and some wind-proofing.

REI ONE Jacket

REI ONE Jacket

You could, for instance, try a Pearl Izumi shell over the fleece or some other light insulating top. The Zephrr is a really nice lightweight shell—nearly wind-proof, moderately water-resistant, and very light. It’s $65, which isn’t bad, as I am sure you are on a budget. My question would be whether it would slide over your fleece, as it’s a trimly cut jacket and designed for bicycling, not knocking around campus. But if you can find the right combination to wear under it (light wool sweater, with your hard shell in a pack?), then you’ll be good. It’s much more comfortable than a full hard shell. And it comes in brighter colors too, so that’s a bit safer.

A good alternative is to get a soft shell piece that sort of combines the insulation of fleece with the wind-proofness (and most of the water-proofness) of the hard shell. My first choice for this would be an REI ONE Jacket ($189, but on sale now for $139). Made from a Schoeller fabric, the ONE is pretty warm, pretty rain-proof, nearly completely wind-proof, and very breathable. In other words, it’s the “one" jacket you need in most of the weather you’ll encounter. You can throw it on and bike to school in all but a downpour and be fine. As a bonus, it looks reasonably good, with a nice clean design that’s perfectly acceptable in class or around Charlottesville après studies.

The 2009 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online so you can get prepped for gift-giving season—even if everything you pick is for yourself!

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Filed To: Road BikingSnow SportsSoft Shell
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI