There's no better piece of insulation for winter riding
The transition from the long, warm, golden days of early fall riding to the post–time change dark and cold of winter is brutal. If there’s one piece of gear that has made the switch easier for me, it’s this Gore Alp-X insulated vest.
The company recently announced that it’s discontinuing the vest, which is a shame—because it’s damn near perfect for cold weather. The front and back panels are nylon. A WindStopper membrane cuts the cold, and a thin layer of PrimaLoft provides a surprising amount of insulation for its weight. The side panels are made from a stretchy soft shell, which helps accommodate the trim cut, and a neoprene storm collar keeps out gusts and weather even when you’re hunched in the drops. This is one of the first pieces I remember that has pockets on the side instead of in the rear, and it works great for winter, when limited dexterity from the cold can make getting in and out of back pockets a serious wrestling match. The rest of the detailing is top-notch: two zippered side pockets, a full-length locking zip on the front, and reflective detailing on the shoulders, sides, lapel, and back.
Gore makes gear that’s staid and mostly fashion oblivious (unlike much of the crazy stuff out there these days), and yet it’s often among my favorite brands because it works so damn well. That’s certainly the case with this vest, which rolls up trimmer than a small water bottle for easy stowing in a rear jersey pocket yet provides the warmth of a puffer.
I always carry the low-bulk, low-weight vest in winter, even on warm days, because here in the Rockies the weather changes abruptly, with storms materializing suddenly or the temperature plummeting once the sun sets. In the dead of January, I can wear it over a midweight long-sleeve jersey and base layer and be comfortable, even while riding the road on days when the mercury doesn’t rise above 20 degrees. And in summer, I sometimes stuff it in my backpack for high-altitude mountain bike rides.
I suggest buying one of these vests online before they’re all gone. Having said that, Gore has also launched a new insulation fabric called Thermium, with a DWR-treated WindStopper sandwiching a layer of PrimaLoft Gold, which is even softer and warmer the stuff in the Alp-X vest. I’ve seen the new gear only in a jacket, pants, hat, and gloves, so hopefully a vest is in the works. If not—and if you can’t find a closeout on the Alp-X—the one thing the Thermium jacket doesn’t seem impervious to is a pair of sewing shears.