Intro: Winter riding is something special with potential surprises and adventures waiting just around the next corner. Snow and ice may hinder the progress forcing you to work harder along otherwise simple sections or even forcing you to walk. The low temps require specific clothing and accessories. Here at Twenty Nine Inches we have decided to share with you a few of our favorite pieces – things that have helped us get more enjoyment out of winter riding – each one after their requirements and needs.
We know comfort is something very subjective and personal and with the multitude of offerings in functional bike wear we ask you not to perceive this little series of articles as a “Best-Of” list, but merely as a personal collection of items we found that worked for us. You may be able to apply some of it to your needs or not, but we hope you find this informative and useful.
c_g’s Gear- Part II
Here in Southern Germany winter biking means riding in quickly changing conditions and lots of humidity – from above and below. Most of our winter riding is happening between are +5 and -5°C (that is 20 to 40 °F) – depending on altitude and location with or without snow, sometimes frozen, frozen over, sometimes soft to deep and very often wet.
Core warmth. When it comes to choosing my clothes for the upper body I have a few combinations but there is one that I seem to choose more often then the others.
One piece of this is the HC H2O Jacket by MAVIC. I have ridden this hard shell jacket a lot this fall and winter and it has become one of my favorite 3rd layer garments. It has a very good cycling specific cut, some effective ventilation openings and real world bad weather protection. The strongly asymmetric front zipper doubles as a very effective front ventilation via a secondary zipper and a 2 inch wide mesh panel – MAVIC calls it XL-Vent and it is indeed. It does preventing overheating very effectively but due to the strong asymmetry the jacket works best when fully closed – open the zipper and you have a flapping piece of cloth on one side, but as long as closed it is perfect No real issue when it is colder, but good to know in milder climates. But it is the COCONA laminate that sets the HC jacket apart from others in terms of wear properties from the rest. This coconut fiber based laminated lining feels simply great even when worn directly on the skin (e.g. when worn with a short sleeve shirt) or when you´re wet from sweating. Worn with a long sleeve mid-weight base layer this jacket has kept me happy throughout most wet weather conditions and to about freezing temps.
When things got colder I would slip on a vest underneath and my current favorite is MAVIC´s HC vest. I am a fan of vests for biking and wear them throughout the year and this vest does well when things get cool or cold. Their ability to buffer varying intensity riding makes bike vests a must have item on longer rides for me.
The HC vest has an athletically close fit, features a windproof and water resistant DryTec Softshell on the front and shoulders and a mesh back and very high manufacturing standard. As with the jacket, the asymmetric zipper works best when fully closed, but I hardly felt the need to open it. The chest pocket holds your mobile or compact camera and the roomy rear pocket is roomy enough for most biking necessities yet unnoticeable when empty. In the rare occasions when it was mild and dry I would wear this vest with a long sleeve jersey alone with no shell.
When it comes to gloves I have two favorites:
When temps are moderate I mostly like to wear my ERGON HC2 full finger gloves. The slightly insulated mesh back and thin synthetic inner hand do a great job at keeping my hands warm in milder weather and high intensity rides, yet provide a direct and sensitive grip. The great cut, anatomically shaped fingers and strategically placed seams have them fit me like a second skin. Great for anything above freezing.
Below freezing and when it is really windy or wet, I opt for a set of Windstopper Alp-X 2.0 Softshell gloves by GORE. They also have anatomically shaped fingers, a more robust construction and silicon grip sections. This and the reflective applications bike specific padding and absorptive thumb cover (in my case more for the running nose than wiping off sweat ;)) make it a very well thought out companion for really cold rides. The only thing I would do differently is the cuffs that in my opinion are too long. For emergency purposes (e.g when the primary glove gets soaked after a fall) and/or super cold weather I always have a set of lightly insulated over gloves with me.
For bottoms I have a few items I seem to be wearing non-stop. One of them are the Men´s long winter tights (Typ S260-C7) by Israel manufacturer FUNKIER. Sewn together from 19 panels, with reinforced knees and a permanent chamois it wears very well. The cut is close but not restrictive due to the fabric´s great elasticity. Unlike other pants I have worn, FUNKIER also got the waist height just right – nothing buckling up front and good protection on the lower back. There is a short zipper at the ankles, which I never even closed because they already fit snugly with them open for my „size XL“ calves.
Even though the multiple layers in winter take some pressure off the seating area – I find the chamois on these pants worth mentioning. It is named “style C7” and for me has the perfect mix of comfort, thickness and warmth – allowing me to ride irritation free for hours. When worn alone some may miss a bit more wind protection near the delicate bits but in my mostly wet conditions I am wearing some weather protection over them anyways. For me the investment of € 90.- (through FUNKIER´s web shop) is perfectly justified with these tights.
The aforementioned “weather protection” is either the MT500 ¾ Spray Baggy by the Scottish manufacturer ENDURA (reviewed earlier last year here) which seem to last forever and are great for moderately wet and cold conditions …
…. or the genuinely lightweight and waterproof Performance Bike Rain Pants by CRAFT when a complete foul weather protection is required (also already reviewed here). These pants have an athletic cut, which is assisted by some stretch elements around the knees and back to ensure freedom of movement and a reinforced seating area for durability. The detachable suspenders keep them up for maximum protection and the extremely light fabric is withstanding my regular use very well. I have been using them as emergency rain pants all of last year.
(Update: When inspecting the Craft pants after my last rain ride I realized a 10“ long tear on the rear thigh that must have occurred just then …. seems there is a limit to the pant´s durability , but 2 full seasons of riding isn´t all that bad for such a extremely low weight and low bulk set of bad weather protection.)
For shoes I am trusting the SPECIALIZED Defroster to keep me happy. Despite their name I wouldn’t rate them as real winter cycling shoes but more as moderately warm foul weather performance cycling shoes – just about right for my kind of winters. When it gets really cold I simply wear a set of overshoes and keep toasty warm. The Defrosters do a great job at keeping my feet dry and the BOA lacing has never let me down so far. The sole is rather stiff and helps in pedaling efficiency, but it is made of a very hard and slippery material, which isn´t really good for walking. So far they have been in use for over two winter seasons pretty much permanently from November to March (and frequently on rain rides in spring, summer and fall) … all with absolutely no signs of premature wear. I would´t go as far as saying that the SPECI Defrosters are the best or even unique, but they have kept my feet happy and that already is a pretty good verdict for me.
So much for my current winter riding gear. Next up we have Grannygear report his selection for the „winter“ in Southern California.