Our follow up to winter riding clothing begins.  After a bit of use in typical riding conditions, we now begin the follow up on this post here, where we looked at a sampling of technical cycling clothing for the moderate winters of the Southern California Fall-Winter season. We begin with Bontrager.

bonty cut 1Bontrager – Good things can come from big companies.

I had 5 items of clothing to review from Bontrager, and you can see the details in the opening post here.   Let’s look at the results.

Bontrager Velocis Stormshell Jacket – Portable wind and rain shelter. $179.99

stormshell cut 1This was not a great fit for me, so a lot of the time it was in the hands of Navy Mike, who is just slightly shorter than I.  Even though it was a LG size, it was a bit short in the arms, and a bit snug at the shoulders.  There is still room underneath for a base layer and a mid weight jersey though, and if the arms were just a bit longer, I could wear it well.  It also has a cold, clammy feel to it if it is against your skin, being as there is no inner lining, etc.  I always wore it with at least a LS base layer under it and I expect that would typically be the norm.  The collar is not too snug for comfort, although if it was really storming out, I do wonder if I would not like it to be a bit tighter there.  I also would like it to be a bit longer cut at the front of the waist as it tended to be shorter than anything but a very short road-type jersey, so in the rain, the jersey could get wet and wick moisture upwards.

I took it out on a cold and rainy night and did a hot lap of a local trail to see how it did with keeping rain out as well as letting moisture escape.  I found it to be water tight as no rain came in.  It also did a decent job keeping me from feeling like tinned beef in there, and while I still heated up a bit, it was quite tolerable.  Breathability seems quite good in that regard, but there are no zips to vent other than the full front zipper.  Navy Mike has been using it for early morning road and MTB rides as an outer shell with beginning temps ranging from the high 30s to the high 40s, and he has found it to be very good for this, even if it was not raining.  It also is compressible enough to stuff into a jersey pocket as long as that pocket is generously sized.

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Bontrager Starvos 180 Softshell Jacket – When a jacket is too much $119.99

starvos cutNow this is one of my fav garments of the entire lot.  Almost more like a heavy jersey, I have worn it on night rides with just a LS base under it and found it to fend off wind, light rain, and cold into the high 40s.  I only felt cold air when the wind caught me from behind where the garment it is just heavy fleece, not windproof.  If I were to layer a mid-level jersey under it in combo with the base shirt, well, it would be warm enough for any temps I would want to ride in for So Cal.  It feels great against bare arms as well, having a fleecy inner.  I got caught in it on a road ride where the day got much warmer than it should have, and there were tough climbs involved.  It got pretty warm in the Starvos 180, but I survived, never feeling trapped in it.  It did point out that you better plan on it being a cool day for the whole ride as this is not a stowable garment in any jersey pocket and the sleeves do not remove.  I do wonder if some material based or zipper based venting in the sleeves/pits would not be a bonus.  That said, I really, really like it.  It is light weight, cut well (long at the waist), and done very well.  A softshell jacket is a core item IMO, and this one wins big for me.

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Bontrager Velosis Softshell Glove – Hi Viz digit wrapper – $59.99

DSC07417This is another complete winner for me.  Gloves…man that is a hard thing to do right, or so it seems.  Often I wonder to myself, “did anyone actually wear these on trail/road before they were blessed for sale?”  Many gloves are just too darn hard to get into having either small openings or grabby/bunchy material, especially when your hands are damp and cold where they can exceed the limits of dexterity just to get them pulled on.  I find most gloves are not cut long enough, especially at the thumb tips, and bind when you close them around a grip.

These are just a complete win for me.  They are likely the most comfortable, non-binding, non-compressing fit I have experienced in a glove where too tight a fit will lessen circulation to the fingers.  The gauntlet is just right, letting me slip them on even with damp hands and still get into the OTHER glove with the supporting, already gloved hand, and the cuff fits under a jacket.  No wind gets through and they passed the kitchen sink test of running water over the glove for several minutes with no signs of water ingress.  Although keep in mind that these are not advertised as rain wear; rather that is the domain of the Storm Shell glove.

The only small drawback is the color which means they are likely to get grungy looking in MTB use, although they do come in black.

Bontrager Stormshell Glove – Let the rains come down – $99.99

DSC07456This glove for me had a so-so fit in that it felt a bit crude inside, like I could feel the seams of the materials, and curling my hands up felt a bit tight in there.  I did get a feeling that they were settling in though, and getting more comfortable as I rode.  I love the rugged construction and they suggest to me a proper mountain biker’s nasty weather glove, looking like they would shrug off trail spills and grime without complaint.  I let Navy Mike take these to Wales (yes…THAT Wales) for a December-time 50 mile MTB ride in that foreign land of wet and cold.  The gloves kept him happy in high 40s to low 50s temps, and of course it was rainy, wet and muddy.  That is a pretty good test of what this glove will do for you, and a better one than I could do here in So Cal.

Bontrager Race Thermal Bib Short – No chilly-willy – $119.95

shorts cut 1I honestly did not expect to get a lot of use out of these, preferring to ride in a bib-knicker of some kind in cooler weather, but I have used these a lot!  Yes, they do not have the styling panache of knickers, but if the day is likely to start cold but then warm a great deal, then this short will not keep you trapped in ‘knee warmers’ like a knicker or even worse, a tight would.  What makes that happen, as compared to a normal lycra short, is the fleece lining backing, allowing them to work in a pretty wide range of temps, from say, the 50s into the low-mid 70s and still be OK.  And with a set of knee or leg warmers, they are versatile, allowing you to ‘layer’ effectively.  I have been in them for several 4+ hour rides with no comfort issues with the fit or the chamois.  The leg grippers work fine and do not offend, although I do wonder what the rubbery section is for on the OUTSIDE of the legs at the hem.  I did notice I was shredding it off in little black bits when sitting at the local In and Out bench seating.  When worn under a close fitting baggy short and with knee/leg warmers, you would be pretty warm well into the 40s.  A bib short like this is a staple item for sure.

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Note: The manufacturers of these products provided them at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.