Yesterday was the first day of spring and, to my chagrin, Ski Santa Fe reported 10 inches of powder and it it was cold, windy, and flurrying in town. After the last few weeks of shorts and short sleeves thanks to unseasonably warm conditions, I simply couldn't bring myself to climb on the trainer. That meant bundling back up to get out for a ride. I'm a total pansy about the cold, so the fact that I was able to get out yesterday—and all winter, for that matter—is testament to just how good winter gear has become.
If it seems like a strange time to load up on warmies (with spring coming, and all), remember that many of these items are good transitional pieces and will serve you through spring and even on mountain rides in summer. And with shops clearing out their winter inventory, it's a perfect time to score some deals.
Castelli Espresso Due Jacket ($300) Though it functions great as a jacket in very cold conditions—I used it several times this winter over heavyweight jerseys on days when temperatures never got out of the teens—I've been layering this plush piece over just a baselayer and feeling comfortable up to the low 40s. It's very tailored, but the shoulder articulations allow for plenty of movement, even in the drops. I really appreciated the zippered chest vents, which I could open up to cool off on climbs, and the wrist zips kept sleeves trim and tucked into my glove cuffs—thus preventing cold from creeping in. The best part, though, is the flip-up collar, which was a quick way to warm up when the mercury drops.
Mavic Helium Jacket ($130) At just 70 grams for a size medium, this full-zip wind piece is lighter and less bulky than most vests. It's too lightweight to strictly be considered a winter piece, but given that it doesn't even fill up a rear jersey pocket I've been carrying it along for when the sun drops. Pull it over a jersey or jacket, and you gain 10 or 15 degrees of warmth—enough to get you home comfortably. And the DWR coating on the Dura Lite SL fabric has even sloughed off snow and light rain. It's the ultimate insurance piece.
Louis Garneau Mondo LS Jersey ($180) This highly tailored top fits so well that I'll lament when I have to hang it up for the season. (Thanks to its midweight, though, it will stay in rotation on crisp mountain mornings even into early summer.) It's mostly constructed of a fleecy fabric that's totally cozy in the cold, though stretchy panels in the elbows and shoulders facilitate movement and the thin dry top-style cuffs seal out drafts. The waist gripper is one of the most durable I've seen (no delam after dozens of washings), and I love how the rear pockets sit up on a tighter-fitting bench of fabric, which makes it easy to comfortably stuff lots out back. Like all of LG's apparel I've tried, construction is top notch.
Capo Torino EL ($80) This is everything you want in a baselayer: trim and form-fitting, yet totally unrestrictive; seamless so there's nothing to rub you wrong; and the perfect weight—light enough to layer easily but still heavy enough to keep you warm. It's been my go-to underlayer since I got it; I even prefer the sleeveless in winter as I seem to regulate better minus those two little extra bits of fabric. One small niggle: It could be cut a touch longer for easier tucking.
Gore Alp-X Windstopper Gloves ($60) My hands generally turn to icebergs even in only mildly cold conditions, which means I usually have to resort to bulky, high-loft handwear to keep warm. But these Gore Windstopper mitts are both impressively warm and strikingly thin. My hands have stayed comfortable in them in semi-wet, very windy conditions down to just under freezing. Combined with an overmitt like my favorite Assos LobsterShells ($76), there's almost on weather that will keep me indoors.
Giro Merino Winter Cap ($30) It's downy soft, breathes amazingly well so you don't overheat, and is trim enough to fit under a helmet. I keep mine stuffed in a rear pocket on long rides and often find myself slipping into it when the sun begins to sag.
Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Shoe Cover ($70) If you want a lightweight trim bootie, look elsewhere. But if you tend to struggle with cold feet and need the most warmth you can get, these shoe covers are for you. Built of fleece-lined Neoprene, these big, thick, bulky, and very warm booties kept my feet toasty on five-hour days in the saddle when it was so cold I could barely see straight. The huge swaths of Velcro make fitting easy and keep the top cuff tight so water doesn't stream down your leg and soak your feet. Before I found these, I didn't realize I could ride in winter and have warm feet. On brutally cold or wet days, I put them over my Sidi Diablos ($330) and never felt even the slightest twinge of discomfort.
Point6 Cycling Light Cushion 3/4 Crew ($17) One secret to comfy feet are warm, but low-bulk socks—too little insulation and you'll freeze; too much will make your shoes too tight and...well, you'll freeze. These spun Merino socks have been in daily rotation all winter because they achieve that perfect balance. Wool is incredibly breatheable so your feet won't get clammy, but it stays warm even if you get wet from rain or snow. I like the tall cut and light cushion of this pair in winter but opt for the Ultra Light Mini Crew ($15) when the weather warms up.