I could start this article by mentioning how depressed I am about the proximity of winter in the northern hemisphere, and how every snowflake falling from the sky will generate a tear falling from my eyes. But, this review is about making a dark situation brighter, and having the proper gear to venture out for a ride when the elements may not be so inviting.
We’ve been checking out pants, long-sleeve shirts, jackets, and jerseys from several different brands. If one thing is noticeable, it’s that every year cold-weather gear gets more fashionable, lighter, thinner, and warmer. I tested all these pieces in the men’s cuts and noted if there is a women’s version available. The fit may differ between sexes, but the materials and performance should be the same.
The Gore C5 Trail Hooded Jacket is a packable, lightweight jacket, but feels like much more than just a rain or windbreaker, thanks in part to the combination of two different materials. The first is rain and windproof Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, and it’s the lighter colored material surrounding the shoulders and arms. Gore-Tex Active is a second, softer material that makes the jacket much more wearable outside of poor weather conditions.
With most of the Gore stuff, it’s best to size up since it fits on the smaller side. I went with a size large on my tops, and they fit me well, considering I’m usually a medium. I really like the C5 Trail Hooded Jacket on the bike, but have also been wearing it a lot off the bike. Although it’s top-notch quality, the jacket comes with a top-shelf price. MSRP: $230 (available from Competitive Cyclist). There is also a women’s version available.
Gore’s C5 Trail Hooded rain jacket is a lightweight, breathable, and packable jacket for sudden downpours. It features reflective lining and logos, a hood and waist that snugs up nicely, and a front pocket for a phone, keys, or a snack. The drop tail keeps mud off your backside in wet conditions. It also features a premium price from Gore, at $280 (find at Backcountry.com).
I like the fit on the Gore tops, and they’re both good looking jackets that will last a while if you can fork up the dough. There is also a women’s version available.
Gore’s Windstopper base layer t-shirt is great for sticking under a flannel or another long-sleeve jersey on chilly rides. The front part of the shirt is a two-layer Windstopper insert, which covers the shoulders, kidneys, and chest. The baselayer has a drop tail as well, and like the other Gore Wear, it includes reflective logos for safety. Expect to pay to keep warm on this baselayer too. MSRP: $70. There is a more basic, non-wind resistant base layer for $50, and there is a women’s version available for both. Shop long/short sleeve, men’s and women’s versions.
The C5 Active Trail pants are a waterproof pair of mountain bike pants that are made for mucky conditions, but they won’t make you feel like you’ve got cellophane wrapped around your legs.
The C5s feel very lightweight, and there is a bit of that “whooshing” noise that comes with the material. But I was surprised that they were still pretty comfortable to pedal in, and again, didn’t feel like a sweat lodge. These were the only pieces I tested from Gore that I didn’t size up since the medium fit perfectly. They fit looser than the Zoics, and they would probably make a great pair of winter commuting pants that can be worn over your office slacks. My only wish about the pants is that they had pockets. MSRP: $200 (find online). There is also a women’s version available.
Zoic’s fall collection continues to do what the brand does best by providing casual riding gear at an affordable price. The Strata is a cozy little fall piece that looks like a normal long-sleeve shirt, but has some bike functionality built into the back with a side-zip rear pocket for stashing snacks. MSRP: $64. Like the look but not the sleeves? Zoic has a short sleeve Strata for $40. There is also a women’s version available.
The Fall Line flannel is a long-sleeve jersey that varies in fabric depending on the color option. The blue plaid (pictured) and red and grey plaid are all Polyester while the red and grey actually have 2% Spandex. Both options are 170g, while the Night Plaid color is a mix of cotton and Polyester and weighs 190g.
The flannel has button snaps for quick dressing and a zippered rear pocket for stashing your goods. It is not too heavy and feels best on cooler rides. MSRP on the Fall Line is $72. There is also a women’s version available.
Zoic’s Freewheel pants are a slim-fitting pant for commuting or cooler trail rides. While they look like a pair of easy going pants, they fit best on the bike as they taper a lot toward the ankle.
The Freewheels have good breathability and don’t feel too stuffy inside. They fit and stretch nicely, and the tapered leg stays out of the drivetrain. I was surprised with how well the Freewheels felt during a ride. These will make a great bike park pant in the summer. Available for $90 at Zoic.com.
The Sherpa Asaar is probably the nicest feeling rain jacket I have worn. It has a four-way stretch fabric made from Himaltec laminated nylon and can stuff itself into its own handwarmer pocket. Aside from the gorgeous color combination of the royal blue and gold, it is light, airy, fits great, and feels very high quality.
At $170, it is costly, but not as much as the Gore rain jacket listed above, which would make it an easy choice for me. Part of the cost probably comes from the fact that Sherpa says they provide a watchful eye over the factories in Nepal that provide local jobs, to make sure they are in compliance with local labor laws, the employees aren’t exposed to hazardous materials, and aren’t employing children or overworking employees. The brand puts sustainability at the forefront of their mission and gives back to the people of Nepal, with 55% of the products made in the country, including the Asaar. Available at Moosejaw.com.
The Pearl iZUMi Rove shirt is another flannel/jersey hybrid, made from 100% Polyester. It has a drop tail, button snaps, and reflective accents. The sleeves felt a little long for me on the medium, but otherwise it has a nice, relaxed fit for easy fall rides, and won’t require a change of clothes for the pub. MSRP: $80 (available at REI). There is also a women’s version available.
Velocio Thermal Bib and Signature L/S Jersey
The Velocio Thermal Bib is certainly the most work-oriented piece of apparel in this round up. Velocio updated the bib this year with the newest chamois, and it comes with a fleece lining, a wind block panel at the front crotch, and a DWR treatment for water shedding.
I sized up for a large on the Thermal Bib, which I’ve found to be par for Velocio apparel. The Thermal Bibs do a great job at cutting wind chill on already chilly days, and they still have great movability. The material inside feels a little more itchy than a warmer weather bib fabric, but they do the trick on cold days. MSRP: $250. There is also a women’s version available.
The Signature Long Sleeve jersey is another option for cool weather rides, but it’s warmth factor isn’t as significant as the Thermal Bib. Like all of the Velocio pieces we have tried out, they are great looking, and super comfortable, but on the pricier side. The Long Sleeve functions like any other solid XC or gravel jersey with three rear pockets for storage. MSRP: $180. There is also a women’s version available.
Velocio Men’s Merino 210 Long Sleeve
This might be my new favorite piece from Velocio. The Merino 210 L/S is made from Merino wool, obviously, and is super soft, which makes it a great fall, cool weather, trail jersey.
The kicker is that it’s more affordable than the other Velocio pieces, with the same performance, function, fit, and look. And, because it’s Merino wool, it’ll last a week of riding without building stench. MSRP: $110. There is also a women’s version available.
The Recon Snap Jacket is a more casual option for easy rides, commuting, or just being out in town. It feels work-inspired, but with a modern take on fit and material. The jacket incorporates woven forearm patches for abrasion resistance, a microfleece lined collar for comfort around the neck, and a DWR treated exterior and interior. Although it’s a warmer jacket, it’s still pretty packable and would fit inside a hydration pack. I also sized up for this jacket, to a large. It is a little loose on me, but the medium would likely not have fit. The Recon Snap Jacket is made in Italy and retails for $289. There is also a women’s version available.
Thanks to all the respective brands for providing these pieces for testing.