We reached out to a few vendors, those that had a complete line of clothing for pretty much all typical cycling conditions that would allow a near ‘one stop shopping’ experience, to see what they would put together to outfit an MTB rider under a certain set of Fall through Winter conditions (my winter conditions, to be exact).  In So Cal we get very little rain and when we do, we just wait a day or so to avoid the clay soil and the skies clear up.  But things happen out there on trail and having something in the pack that sheds a bit of water can be really helpful.  Temps may get into the 30s, but typically we are riding from the 40s to the 60s, especially during the night riding season when we get the most bang for our riding buck by hitting the trails after work and after sunset.  We do get a lot of wind.  And we typically climb for long periods of time, then descend.  So good layering, moderate temp ratings with no heavy focus on H20, but an ability to fend off wind is a big plus.  Oh yeah.  One more thing.  I like bib-knickers.  So those were on my wish list – GrannyGear.


Dry under the Deflect H2O hooded jacket. I am happier than I look.

We begin with Specialized.

I was sent the following:

  • Merino base layer SS in size LG.  $70.00  Featuring VaporRize® moisture transfer merino wool blend fabric, the fit is form-fitting as a base layer should be.  Wool, especially the Merino blends, are simply amazing for the combo of warmth, weight, and overall livability.
  • Tall Winter Wool Sock 74, size LG. $20.00  Moisture transfer merino wool blend yarns make this a super snuggly sock to slip on.  My first thought was “nice socks”.
  • Deflect H2O Expert Mtn Active Shell Jacket, size LG.  $200.00   Gore® WINDSTOPPER® Active Shell wind/water-resistant and breathable woven fabric with mesh lining, many techy features like inner storage back pockets and a hood have this looking like a very nice piece of gear.  And its green.  Very green.
  • Deflect H2O Comp Mtn Short, size Med.  $90.00  Deflect™ 2.5 layer wind/water-resistant and breathable woven fabric and water tight zippers have this looking like a short for sloppy, wet conditions.
  • Therminal Mtn 3/4 Bib Tights with SWAT, size Med.  $110.00  Therminal™ insulating brushed-back fleece fabric, a wind front panel over the chamois front, and integrated storage sets this apart from any other bib-short or knicker I have seen.
  • Therminal Mtn Jersey LS, size LG.  $120.00  Therminal™ insulating brushed-back fleece fabric and an integrated hood have this looking like a tech-hoodie, suitable for trail and around town wear.
  • Atlas XC Pro Jersey SS, size LG.  $98.00  VaporRize™ moisture transfer knit fabrics and laser perforated venting with a simple look have this ready for layering duties.
  • Lodown Glove, size LG.  $25.00.  Not what I would call a winter glove, but that might be a good thing.

“Nice socks!” is what I thought when I slipped on those Merino wool Tall Socks.  Man…I could just walk around the house in those, sipping coffee and looking out at the wet day.  But I was going riding, making the most of an opportunity to ride in between rain storms before it really rolled in and shut the trails down.  I was wearing the Merino base T, the socks of course (in normal riding shoes), the Therminal SWAT knickers, a set of Merino arm warmers from my kit bag, the Deflect jacket, and a set of mid weight gloves.  It was a warmish storm so temps were in the mid to high 50s but dropping. Light sprinkling soon turned to steady light rain so it was a good test of what I was wearing.  The next time out I did some hill intervals to work up a good sweat, then rode a few miles of 25mph+ downhill on pavement to see how some of the gear treated me in direct wind and with a good lather going, simulating the typical binge and purge style of riding we see here…climb, climb, climb, then drop like a rock.  I also did a road ride into a headwind for a few hours to see how that worked out for the Therminal tights, etc, then mixed in some other trail rides, blending the new gear with staple items from my closet or gear bag to see how it all worked by itself and together with other things I had.  I think I have a pretty good idea of how the products perform in the conditions I used them in and where they might or might not excel.  So, in no particular order…

Merino Base and Tall Socks – Wow, these are winners.  As long as wool does not make you feel itchy, and the new blends are really good for not doing that, then you can forget about those old backpacking socks you had in high school that stretched out and felt like you were wearing burlap.  The base T only once made me feel a bit itchy on the first wearing during heavy perspiration, but never again during the times I wore it.  It was a great combo of warmth and wicking ability and I never felt clammy or ‘wet’ in it.  Not only that, after 4 wearings and many hours of riding, it has zero body odor to it.  Wool is perfect for use on bikepacking or touring trips if for nothing else than lack of stink.  The socks held up well for me, keeping me pretty darn warn even when wet on that rain ride when I wore them with regular cycling shoes.  I get cold toes by just looking at ice cubes, so warm socks for me are a big deal.  They have a moderate thickness, more than a normal sock by quite a bit, but not enough to require a larger shoe size to avoid circulation issues, unless your shoes are already quite tight.  Very nice.  Expect the base to fit very snug as it should.  You want that right against your skin to transfer moisture out and keep warmth in.  Total winners.

merino wool basesocks

jacketDeflect H2O Expert Mtn Active Shell Jacket –  The claims of breathability in a piece of winter gear always seem to be overstated in my experience and that goes for this jacket as well.  Not saying it is anything like a plastic tarp, and this is better than many I have worn, but I still found it to heat up in there when climbing even though the mesh liner kept it from feeling clammy against my skin.  Frankly, I think they, they being all the makers of gear like this, overstate this claim of breathability and I am not sure how that is even rated/measured.  I have not ridden some of the super high-end jackets that claim to be the best at this, but I find that soft shell garments are better for letting you deal with steam from high efforts.  Now, with that said, I still find this to be a very well done jacket and a great core piece of gear for any MTB rider.  The cut is just right…snug enough to keep warmth close to you but loose enough to allow for a couple of layers underneath.  Long arms and a long tail section; the hood that has enough ‘give’ to be worn under a helmet yet allow for head turning, etc, let the jacket roll with whatever position I had myself into on trail.  Nice features abound.  The main zipper finishes off-center and adds a fleecy patch so the chin stays un-bothered.  The hood has a drawstring if the weather really closes in and a tiny visor too.  At the back of the right hip is a zippered access that allows you to reach the three small mesh storage pockets in the back of the jacket, each with a  flap closure to keep things in there.  You also could access jersey pockets and/or SWAT storage that way.  Drawstring waist adjustment and velcro wrist closures keep it battened down.  I wore it in an hour of light rain and it never let anything through.  I wore it on a 25+ mph plunge fresh off some hill repeats and never felt a hint of wind or cold creeping through to my soaked jersey so the Gore Windstopper did just that…stopped the wind from chilling me down.  This would be welcome in most any MTB riders hydration pack or gear bag.  I even love the color.

Below are pics showing the zipped access to the inner mesh back pockets and the nice collar set-up.



shortsDeflect H2O Comp Mtn short – When I first looked at this, I thought “this would be killer for sloppy days on trail”, something we have little of.  Sealed zippers and coated panels make this thing into a raincoat for your butt.  The waist has a velcro/elastic strap for sizing adjustments.   What I did notice to the negative was a couple of things.  The cut is a bit odd.  The legs are long which is good, but even when I first put it on and was walking around the house, I could feel restriction at the top of the knee/thigh with every step and doing a knee raise was met with a big pull across the leg warmers as the fabric of the short drug over the knee.  This continued on trail and was very annoying.  As well, on one ride where it was not wet and only somewhat cold, I wore just a meshy short liner under it and found it had built up a lot of moisture in there, soaking the liner much more than the ride really called for.  Those things make me want to wear this only when the trail conditions require a sealed up short that is a barrier between me and wet grunge.  I can live with the so-so breathability under those conditions, but the cut is a bummer.  Still, if it was a nasty day, I would wear it anyway.  We just do not have much of that where I live, but I bet some parts of the country would love this garment.

hoodieTherminal Mtn Jersey – A techy hoodie, perhaps?  The fabric in this is delightfully fleecy-snuggly.  Yes, I said snuggly.  Again. The fit is semi-loose, tighter in the arms, which are cut long and have thumb-holes at the ends to keep them in place.  I found this jersey to be a slight bit of a miss for me, although under the right circumstances maybe not so.  It breathes well, being that it has no shell or windproof type build, so that is good.  It also does a really good job of transferring sweat to the outside of the garment, keeping it feeling dry against your skin.  I had it hanging up after a good ride where I was pretty damp afterwards from sweat.  Running my hand outside the Therminal jersey, I could feel wet-ness.  Doing the same on the inside showed it was totally dry.  Impressive.  It is thick enough to buffer the cold air under most pedaling speeds, but when the pace picks up or the cold air hits, the air moves through it enough to either cool nicely or chill badly, depending on the situation.  Could we have a bit more wind resistance toward the front of this jersey?  Obviously a shell over it would fix that, and that would be a very warm combo.  A base, this jersey, and the Deflect jacket over it would be a really toasty deal and could be great for rides into the 30s.  I also think the hood is not all that useful for trail riding, unlike the thin and water fast one on the jacket.  Now here is a thought…add a snap to that hood that allows me to bring it around my neck like a balaclava OR use it as a hood if’n I wanna’ and you would have something there.  I would toss my cash at the version of this jersey that is a bit more sleek, the Therminal LS Jersey.  Now, that does not mean the Therminal Mtn Jersey sucks…actually it is quite nice and it would be great on its own for a bit more causal trail ride or something where speeds were slower, like maybe a Fat Bike snow ride in mild winter conditions where the warmth and ability to move moisture would be more of a concern than how it feels on a fast downhill.  It would be great for casual rides that included a trip to town as it looks pretty ‘normal’ and has that hoodie thing going on.  And as I said, in combo with a shell for the faster sections of the ride, it would be a good, heavy middle layer and I would not be surprised if that is the way I use it later on this year.

knickersTherminal SWAT Knickers –  OK…I love knickers.  Always have since back in the day when I bought a set of Boure’ knickers that I wore till they just fell apart years later.  I like how they cover the knee and yet do not require the full commitment that tights do.  Yes, you can do the same thing with knee warmers and regular shorts, but that has nowhere near the style statement that knickers bring to the trail.  They are the handlebar mustaches of cycling pantaloons.  These Therminal SWAT knickers are very nice, what with panels of fleecy-ness in the front along with a wind panel at the chamois front, and that felt very good when riding into the cold.  What at first pedal stroke felt like they would be too thin and light, after I had ridden a while kept me much warmer that I would have thought.  It seems that the Therminal panels do well to retain body warmth.  I have ridden in them from the mid 40s to the mid 60s and they were decent at the lower temps as long as I was generating some body heat and only were just a bit warm at the high end of that temp range. They were even decent when wet although that would have only gone so far.  Wearing these under baggies would be quite warm, although I never used them that way as it was never that cold when I was riding.  I also have had very good luck with the better Specialized chamois and these have been good so far on the longest ride, that being 5 hours.  I even used them on a road bike ride and they did a great job of keeping me well protected during a long slog into a headwind on a cooler day.  However, keep in mind that if the day gets hotter, they are ‘knee warmers’ that do not come off.  SWAT is very interesting:  SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) technology incorporates bikes, riders, and equipment by putting all necessities in a clean, sleek, and aerodynamic location that’s easy to access.  On the trail rides, at first I had not used it as I always have a hydration pack.  But on the road ride, I stuffed a Lezyne wallet dealie with my car keys and phone into the center pocket of the SWAT bib and used the two side-of-the-thigh sewn in pockets for carrying a route sheet and some Shot Blocks.  That was pretty cool.  I bet the gravel guys would love this as they typically eschew packs of any kind and often wear double jerseys  just to add on-the-body storage.  Later, on another MTB ride, I was using the left side SWAT interior pocket to keep my cell phone in, but this time I was stopping and taking lots of trail pics.  I found that, with the long fingered Lo Down gloves on, that inserting my phone in there required more dexterity than I could repeatably demonstrate.  I just could not feel the opening in the mesh pocket, even when standing still.  Regardless of that it is nice out of the box thinking here Specialized, and the Therminal SWAT bib knicker is a keeper.

Atlas SS Jersey and Low Down gloves –  The Atlas jersey is a good item in the layering system and has a semi-relaxed cut, no roadie style rear pockets, etc.  It really is a simple item with some high techy fabric that feels nicely stretchy and seems to work really well as a layering system, although not a critical one for the way I used it.  It did the job, looked nicely mountain bikey with the cut and color, and just did its job.  The Low Down gloves were good to see in the box of goodies.  I had been using them a lot last spring when I crashed in them and killed them.  They have no padding in the palm (which I prefer), pre-curved fingers, and a wrist closure.  I also was able to operate a touch screen phone in them.  Obviously not a winter glove, they are a good ‘tweener’ glove where the back of the hand and fingers has enough thickness to the meshy fabric to keep you warm.  I typically carry a glove like this to change into later after the morning chill has given way a bit, or, begin in it for the night ride and change to the warmer glove later for the descent.  I also like to have a glove like this for long climbs where I am generating enough heat to soak a warmer glove in sweat, something that works against you later on when you really would like a dry, warm winter glove.  Along with the Answer Products Fall Line XC gloves, which are great in the same conditions but not as durable as the Low Down, these are a good choice for two season riding out in SO Cal….Fall and Spring…and maybe a bit more.  A really good ‘core item’ glove and welcome in the gear bag.

Atlas jersey lo down glove


Final thoughts:  With the wide selection of clothing that Specialized has and the support of the dealer network (bike shops), they make it pretty easy to put together a kit for most any cycling endeavor.  My fav of the test box-o-gear?  Well I think, if I had to pick one thing, that the Deflect H2O Expert Mtn Active Shell Jacket would have to be on the top podium step.  Not as stuff-able as some more windbreaker-ish options out there (it does not pack down really small), it is the type of jacket that would be just what you want in your pack when the weather closes in and gets dicey and is a level above the typical windbreaker or shell.   The reasonable amount of water resistance and the excellent wind stopping fabric, along with the ability to close the jacket up around you would make it a welcome item to crawl into during a ride.  Smartly done and useful.  But then there were those socks…they were really nice socks.  Hmmmm….I may have to pick two favorite things.



Note: Specialized sent over this winter clothing selection at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test/review. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.