Posted by Editoress on 12/15/13
As I'm writing this, it is below freezing and snowing (again); a condition that most of us in Canada will be facing for the next few months. However, that doesn't mean you have to stop riding - some of the most fun I've had on a bike is in the snow! On the road all you need is clear, dry pavement (you can even skip dry with mudguards), and off-road either hardpack snow or just frozen trails.
Links to previous days at bottom of page
But, if you really want to enjoy 'other season' riding, then you need to make sure that you are dressed properly - nothing can kill the pleasure quicker than being frozen. So, this brings us to Day 8 of our Canadian Cyclist Christmas Guide - cold weather cycling kit.
The goal here is to wear something that both keeps you warm and wicks away the moisture and heat you build up when you are exercising - it is NOT fun to start out all toasty, only to overheat, get drenched in perspiration and then get really chilled. So, it is a balancing act, and clothing companies have steadily been getting better over the past few years as they develop engineered fabrics.
We have been testing tights and jackets from a couple of companies over the past month, and both would make great presents for the cyclist on your list. One thing to keep in mind is that you should be prepared to spend more than your standard shorts and jersey - there is a lot more material, most of it is highly technical, and these are normally items that you use for multiple years.
Bicycle Line is a German cycle clothing company, distributed in Canada by ARG Sports of Montreal. This is pretty high-end stuff, and it shows in the workmanship. Multiple fabrics are used for different sections of each garment, to provide maximum performance. We tested the Velvet jacket ($399 MSRP) and the Polare bib tights ($299 MSRP).
Both provide exceptional comfort, with gussets at joints to allow proper movement, elasticized cuffs and little features like flaps behind zippers so wind can't blow through, double stitched seams and reflectorized piping. The jacket comes with earbud port for your phone or music player and a three compartment rear zippered pocket. The tights have a bib that comes up to mid-chest and some of the best knee gussets I have ever tried.
A couple of comments: these fit tight, so be prepared to go up a size (length is fine); this is what I would call cold weather gear, as opposed to cool weather - I rode as low as -8C without getting chilled, but would probably find it a bit of overkill for high positive single digit weather (they do make lighter weight stuff as well).
Louis Garneau should be no stranger to Canadian riders; they have been outfitting us for generations as Canada's largest cycling clothing manufacturer. We tried a jacket and bib tights from the newest line - Course. The Course jacket ($139.99 MSRP) is really more of waterproof shell then a jacket, since it has no lining. The seam sealed cut is form fitting, with the longer arms and back that is required for cyclists. It comes with a zippered back pocket, reflective piping and a gripper on the back to stop it riding up. One nice little touch is a small zippered pocket on the left forearm, which is perfect for a key, cash and/or credit card. For cool damp days this is a great jacket, or it could be used on colder rides with some layers underneath. It is light enough that you could even stuff it in a back pocket if the weather warmed up (or pull it out, if it cooled down.
The Course Elite bib tights ($249.99 MSRP) are meant for colder temperatures, with a combination of fabrics to protect against wind and water, while wicking moisture and offering some muscle compression and support. The bib comes mid-torso with a zipper, and the tights have a gusset at the knee for movement.
Garneau also sent along a pair of their Thermal Extreme booties ($69.99 MSRP), which are probably the most highly engineered booties I have ever tried. Constructed of 3mm SBR neoprene, they easily fit over any cycling shoe without interfering with the cleats. If you get cold feet wearing these puppies then start watching out for polar bears...
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