Despite very much enjoying the prolonged absence of snow, I know it’s comin’. Since I’ve already highlighted what gear I use as the mercury drops, I thought I would give you a run down of the gear itself.
Though it hasn’t gotten cold enough to fully enrobe myself in every winter item I have, I’ve had more than enough opportunity to fully stress test some of my new gear (as well as my old), and thought I would share my thoughts with you. When I see everything I wear all in a list it looks like a lot – I guess when you layer things, that’s what happens.
The added bonus, is if you have a winter cyclist on your xmas list, you might think of one of these items… Since this type of gear, as with any quality gear, don’t come cheap – but it’s worth it!
I picked these up heading into the later half of the fall and have been very impressed. They’re probably twice as thick as regular arm/leg warmers, but are still thin enough to have that kind of “second-skin” feel to them. To be honest I’m always amazed at how warm these things keep me, considering their relatively light weight. The arm warmers are pretty standard fair, but the leg warmers are nice because they are a little longer, have silicone strips on both the top and bottom, and have zippered bottoms to make getting in and out of them easier. The knee is also articulated, so they sit quite comfortably on your legs.
Sugoi Neo/LS Jersey
I’ve had this jersey for two seasons now and it’s definitely one of my go-to gear items starting in the fall. It’s a really nice mid-weight jacket. To be honest it could be just a tiny bit tighter, but overall, it’s super comfortable, and just the right weight for fall, or as a layer in winter. Couple it with the HydroLite Jacket (below) and you’re early-winter ready!
Sugoi HydroLite Jacket
I have to admit, this thing is the bomb… When I first saw it, I had a little bit of trouble justifying the purchase… After all, it runs ~$90 for a paper-thin rain/wind jacket. For close to 100 bucks, I guess I just wanted, I dunno, something more? But let me tell you this jacket will not disappoint. It rolls up to next to nothing and will fit easily into a jersey pocket when it’s not being used, but does a fan-freakin-tastic job at keeping the wind and light rain at bay. During the Transrockies I used this jacket a little beyond it’s comfort range – during the epic downpours we rode through it was unable to keep me completely dry, but kept the cold rain off me (initially) and completely killed the wind. Combine that with the fact that it’s breathable and this was the jacket for me. I’ve tried more waterproof jackets, but unless it’s cold enough for me to not sweat at all, I get uncomfortable pretty quick. This jacket is the perfect mid-ground and during cold fall/early winter rides it’s the perfect weapon against windchill.
Lower Body + Feet
Sugoi RS ZeroPlus Bib
I’ve only had to wear these a couple of times and ended up sweating my bag off the whole time. These bibs are for sincerely cold weather only ;-)… Wind, rain, sleet, hail… I believe it to be mostly impervious to all these things, and for the really cold days there’s enough wiggle room in there to toss your leg warmers on under this bib as well. The other nice thing is that the ‘bib’ area is a little higher so you get some mid-section protection as well.
Sugoi Resistor Bootie
I’m on the fence with these booties… I suppose they do their job adequately – that is – they keep your feet warm and dry, however I’ve only used them a handful of times and they’re already fraying at the seams and have a few small holes – Comparing those against some of the lighter neoprene booties from Pearl Izumi, I can’t imagine them having the same problems. I’ll continue to wear the Resistor booties until they really start showing some wear (which shouldn’t be long), but they’re an overall disappointment.
Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gloves
These have been my ‘transitional’ gloves for two seasons now, and they’re starting to show their age. They’ve served me well though. The new versions of these gloves are virtually identical to the ones I have. The wind protection is good enough to take the edge off of pretty much everything until the weather really gets cool. Comfortable, they wear well, and have ample padding in the palm. A solid buy.
MEC Paddling Glove
I think Sheldon can back me up when I say that these things are a cyclists secret weapon. They’ve saved our hands on more than one occasion. If it’s really wet out, these are what you go with, don’t even bother thinking about anything else. Sure your hands are going to get wet (they’re not waterproof), but because these gloves are neoprene your hands and fingers are going to stay warm… Really warm. Combine that with really tacky palm grips and you’re ready to rip! These gloves even hold up in the pretty deep winter, though, they aren’t windproof, so if your hands start to sweat you could be in a rough spot.
Sugoi Firewall Z Glove
Though the quality of the gloves, as I expect from Sugoi, is great, and overall they’ve done a fantastic job of keeping my hands warm. However, I’ve found that the finger/mitt areas are too short for my hands. As a result my fingers end up butted right up against the end of the glove – with three fairly substantial downsides. The first, being right up against the edge of the mitt, my fingers get cold. The second, with rides longer than 20 minutes, my fingers start to go numb. The third, with the slightly ‘stubby’ fingers in this glove I find I’m not able to comfortably reach my brake lever… Which is a little bit of a deal-breaker. I think if these gloves fit you, they’d be great, but I’m not going to contort myself just to accommodate these gloves. Despite their warmth and general good design, I think I’m going to have to search for a new pair of winter gloves :-(
Head + Face
Seirus Neo-Fleece Combo Scarf
I usually combine some sort of headband with this scarf since I generally find a toque to hot until it gets *really* cold. I really like this scarf because of the various holes is has for your nostrils and mouth. If you’re wearing glasses this scarf lends to a tendency to fog them up, but it works well with goggles, which you’re going to be wearing when it gets really brisk out anyway.
NiteRider HID Rage
I picked this light up on sale at PricePoint for around $100, and it’s been blasting out the rays for the past 3 years. Despite it’s age, it still competes admirably against most of the lights I’ve seen out on the trail (“real” lights, not little blinky LED commuter thingies). I’ll admit it’s tough to buy lights online, but it’s also tough (for me) to justify dropping $500 on a nice light set. I’d suggest shopping around and seeing if you can get a deal on last years models. The Rage comes with a great helmet mount as well (though the bar mount didn’t fit my bike, I suspect all the new ones are rigged for thicker handlebars), and has a three bright LED lights that come on should anything happen to the main light.
Traverse Bay Headband
Regardless of how low the mercury dips it seems that my head always has a tendency to overheat resulting in me sweating. A quick fix for this is to wear a headband rather than a toque. This headband is nothing out of the ordinary, but is lightweight enough to easily fit under my helmet, and heavy enough to keep me warm and keep the wind off my forehead and ears. For ~$13 it’s a no-brainer!
Now it may seem like I’m a little bit of a Sugoi fan-boy, but really, I just find that their stuff fits me well, and is of high enough quality to endure some real wear & tear. I’ve had success with some of the better Castelli items as well.