We can all keep our internal kid alive by playing little tricks on friends in the forest. One personal favorite is the “kneepads as pockets” move.
On a recent high-alpine pedal I pulled this little fib with a group of friends. It was a fairly cold spring morning, and we were set to climb more than 1,000 meters into the clouds where we would descend wet and slippery singletrack. I turned up at the cafe wearing shorts and a T-shirt, with my kneepads slouched around my socks in their appropriate climbing position. Everyone was kindly concerned that I would be shivering and hungry all day long, and I received several offers of extra layers and sandwiches while we pedaled up the dirt road.
The trail cranked into a hike toward the peak, as it became too steep to ride once we passed the tree line. One e-biker in our crew pedaled past as the rest of us hoofed the ascent to lay down in the grass where everyone would empty their voluminous backpacks, feast, and dress for the long descent. I plopped down on a rock and pulled a calf-heated sandwich out of a bag in my right kneepad and the warmed Specialized Trail Wind Jacket from the left side before sliding the pads into descent position.
According to my sporty watch, it was about 6°C, and this little wind jacket creates just enough warmth at that temperature — provided you keep moving. The windchill and misty drizzle would have made snack-time and the subsequent coasting a decidedly chilly experience if it weren’t for this packable little piece of 91% Nylon and 9% Spandex kit. The thin layer cuts wind well, and the half-zipper and shoulder perforations allow for varying levels of breathability. That half-zipper also helps the 122g Trail Wind Jacket fit comfortably inside a kneepad storage bay. While not sufficient for a truly rainy ride, the waterproofness of this jacket is plenty effective when you’re amidst the mist. If it were even one degree colder I would have happily slid the attached hood under my helmet to further cut windchill.
The singletrack we were following traces a ridgeline to its terminus in the valley below, with some puckering steep sections and more off-camber sliding than you’ll find almost anywhere. Gravity took us in two separate trains, and behind a locomotive was one of the fastest riders I have ever tried to follow. A sideways root took out my front wheel in a spicy turn, sending me sliding across the hillside while “I hope to stop before hitting that tree” ran through my mind. I was chuffed to stand up and find that there were no holes or tears in the jacket, as it had simply skipped rocks right along with me. I have no doubt that some packable jackets would be in tatters after such a crash, but not this one.
To top off the positive marks for the Specialized Trail Wind Jacket, it’s made from 100% recycled materials, as any petroleum-based products ought to be these days. It comes in solid black or Redwood colors and retails for $125 or €109 (available in men’s and women’s styles at JensonUSA). I tested a size small as per usual and it fits like a cozy kneepad, though if you hope to add layers beneath, sizing up wouldn’t be a bad call.