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October 23, 2015
Whether you're browsing online or in-store it can be tricky to discern between the various fluoro coloured winter jackets and plain black winter bib tights on offer. Finding winter kit that works for you and where you ride is essential to keeping you motivated and positive through the darkest months, whether you're nipping out for an hour after work in the newly-dark evenings or setting off for 6-hours of Sunday base miles. Below we've picked some of the stand-out items for the 2015/16 season and given a bit of extra opinion on their relative merits, so if you can't make in into the store you can benefit from some of our advice.
Castelli Pavé: Fully Waterproof, Incredibly Breathable, Super Light
The Pavé is the ultimate waterproof jacket - not just for winter but for any time it rains. The incredible eVent fabric (more waterproof and breathable than its competitors) keeps you totally dry and breathes so well that you won't work up a sweat inside. Castelli's design for the Pavé ensures a snug 'on-the-bike' fit (i.e. short and the front, long at the back, articulated shoulders and long sleeves) to avoid any un-aerodynamic flapping, and at only 189 grams it is small and light enough to fold up into a jersey pocket.
Castelli Gabba: A Jacket in a Jersey - Waterproof, Windproof, Breathable
The Gabba has become legendary - the ubiquitous black jacket/jersey pulled on by the pros when the rain starts and often paid for with their own money in the absence of anything as good from their sponsors. The Gabba's fabric is fully waterproof and windproof but without taped seams it won't keep you as dry as the Pavé, however its unobtrusive jersey-like fit and its breathability make it a perfect 3-season piece for chilly starts or uncertain weather forecasts. Available in long sleeve, convertible and short sleeve versions, the latter making a great pairing with the Castelli Nanoflex Arm Warmers for ultimate versatility.
Pearl Izumi Pro Aero WxB: Fully Waterproof, Race Cut, Stand-Out Colours
This is a great looking new jacket from Pearl Izumi, both green and pink options (yes, they are both men's!) sure you get you seen in a sea of fluoro yellow. Extremely 'racily' cut the Pro Aero WxB gives you full coverage from wheel spray at the back while its short front and long arms ensure you are comfortable in the drops. Fully waterproof material with sealed seams and 30,000 g/m2/24 hr breathability ensure you can still ride hard without the 'boil in the bag' feeling.
Pearl Izumi Pro Softshell 180: Warm, Fully Breathable, with Wind and Water Protection
Softshell is ideal for cold, dry weather, its high levels of breathability making it ideal for wearing over a number of layers in the depths of winter or just a baselayer when the temps rise. It will block the wind keeping the chill out and in the case of the Pearl Izumi Pro 180 will keep out the worst of the rain too. Thermal panels on the arms and back ensure any excess heat can escape. With reflective elements and 2 zip-up rear pockets it's the ideal piece for those long winter base miles.
Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier WxB (& Women's): Fully Waterproof, Semi Form-Fitting
This is a good option if you still want a performance waterproof jacket but with a slightly more relaxed fit able to wear over clothes for commuting or maybe for MTB and cyclocross use. Otherwise it has the same 10,000/30,000 waterproof/breathability ratings as the Pro Aero WxB and the same highly visible colours.
Castelli Sorpasso Bib Tights: Our Warmest, Comfiest Winter Bibs
Being warm when you start your ride but not too warm once you're up to speed is one of the key factors in enjoying winter riding and retaining motivation through the dark and chilly evenings. In the Sorpasso tights Castelli have achieved this by combining a tighter knit thermal fabric on the front and a more open knit on the rear in order to achieve both protection and ventilation. Combined with a comfy Air seat pad, grippers on the ankles to keep them in place and reflective zips to get you seen, they tick all the boxes.
Castelli Nanoflex 2 Bib Tights: Nanoflex Technology Keeps You Dry as Well as Warm
Made from the same fabric as their ever-popular arm and leg warmers, Castelli's Nanoflex Bib Tights employ a water-resistant fabric to keep you dry in all but the worst of downpours with no negative impact on breathability. Seeing the water bead and roll off will put a smile on your face when your riding buddies curse the downpour and seek shelter!
Castelli Illumina Women's Thermal Cycling Tights: Comfy Female-Specific Tights
With a cosy fleece lining to the Thermoflex fabric the Illumina tights feel warm the moment you put them on and give you the confidence needed to get out the door on the coldest of morning or evening rides. Most importantly in a non-bib tight the wide waistband is soft and comfortable, while the female-specific KISS Air seatpad will keep you comfortable on the longest of winter training rides. Reflectives on the ankle zippers are eyecatching and help to make you seen on dark roads.
They may not be the most glamorous bit of kit but a good baselayer is essential if your fancy outerlayer is going to do its job properly. A baselayer should be tight-fitting next to the skin, made of a specifically sweat-wicking material, and suit the specifics of your temperature while riding as well as the climate in which you ride. Castelli's Flanders range are a great winter option with two thicknesses and will keep you riding through the coldest conditions.
Your hands bear the brunt of the cold wind which can drop well below zero at cycling speeds even when the air temperature is positive, so a good pair of gloves is essential to happy winter cycling regardless of whether it's 10 minutes to work or 6 hours of base miles. Because you still need to be able to articulate your fingers to brake and to change gear, thin windproof fabrics are present in almost all of the winter gloved that we stock. Added insulation such as on the Castelli Estremo will keep you warm well below freezing.
Cold wet feet are equally miserable but also quite easily solved with a pair of overshoes. Simply slip a pair over your shoes (naturally) and you'll keep the rain and wind out and the warmth in. The Endura Neoprene Overshoes have been our best-sellers for years.
While it isn't true, despite what your mum says, that you lose most heat through your head, it is certainly a good idea to wear a hat when out on the bike. A combination of cycling speeds and modern, highly-vented helmets are a recipe for brain freeze. Choices range from a simple beanie-style hat in thin, windproof material such as the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap to the proper pro-stylings of the Castelli Difesa Cycling Cap with peak and flip-down earflaps.
Arm, Leg and Knee Warmers
A slightly alien concept for the non-cyclist but an ingenious piece of kit for the initiated, arm, leg and knee warmers are ideal for the changeable conditions of spring and autumn when your ride starts cold but warms up. Either start with them on and store them in your jersey pocket when you warm up, or take them out with you and slip them on when the chill descends. A great way of extending your nice summer kit into autumn before it becomes jacket weather. The Castelli Nanoflex Arm Warmers are an excellent pairing with the Gabba short sleeve jersey.
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