Well, it's about full-on winter at this point and light, warmth, and clear skies are a limited commodity. Beards are starting to take on that untrimmed caveman look, flannel flashbacks are a nightly occurrence, and the thought of one more oatmeal stout actually starts to sound about as tasty as a cup of gas station coffee. A surefire way to cure these winter maladies is to venture out into the great outdoors. And what better way to do it than kitted out with some new MTB specific technical apparel designed to keep you warm and dry when the weather goes to hell in a fanny pack.
This fall, Nikki and I have been testing a large range riding gear targeted towards cold weather riding. Not north of the Arctic Circle cold, and not even New Brunswick winter cold, but good Pacific Northwest cold. We have tried everything from military-grade outer layers that could almost stop a bullet to feathery light jackets that you can stuff into a pocket. There are several options out there for both your top and bottom that you can mix and match to meet your specific needs depending on what winter looks like for you.
One thing you will see in the following commentary is where Nikki and I have tried to look into some of the environmental impacts of each of the pieces tested here. You know, just doing our part for the environment by testing about 40lbs of brand new gear from seven different brands shipped from all over the country and Europe. Thank me later. That being said, we do appreciate when brands make an effort to reduce environmental impacts.
About The Tester:
Pierce Martin is 5'11" tall, has a 31-inch waist, and weighs 160lbs on a low beer week. Usually, he is right in the middle of the bell curve wearing medium for most cycling shorts, jerseys, gloves, and helmets. Pierce lives in Hood River, OR where he spends his working hours as a desk jockey in the cube farm.
VelocioVelocio cranks out some high-end cycling apparel that might be targeted more towards your inner "roadie". But don't let the fear of some tight (aero) trail shorts scare you away, their tech is good. Velocio offers advanced fabrics with high quality and durability that are designed and tested for all-day adventures on the bike. By creating new designs from the ground up specifically for biking, the design of Velocio apparel is more slim and sleek fitting but is tailored for the riding position, so it feels good and works well for you when actually riding on a bike.
On the sustainability front, Velocio's jersey collection is made from recycled fabrics. They are also beginning to use recycled materials for bibs and other apparel where possible. Additionally, Velocio is also one of the increasing numbers of companies that donate 1% of all revenue to environmental causes. Bio-degradable packaging rounds out the commitment to a "Better Way" that guides Velocio's philosophy. I can get behind these efforts and I hope they can continue to lead and innovate on reducing environmental impacts. Kudos!Merino 160 LS Base Layer
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Light Grey (tested), Dark Olive
It seems that wool is finally making a come-back, and I couldn't be happier. The Merino 160 Long Sleeve Base Layer from Velocio is a versatile shirt made from mid-weight Merino wool. The fabric weighs in at 160g/m^2 (feels pretty mid-weight to me) and is super soft with a large waffle-like pattern that is comfortable yet wicking against your skin. Most companies these days have settled on a polyester/wool mix to improve durability and reduce drying times, and this base layer is in line with that, made of 28% wool and 72% polyester. The fabric is almost see-through due to the waffle print but still does an excellent job at providing warmth, while at the same time being very breathable.
This base layer is somewhat on the slimmer side in the size medium I tested, and I found that it fit quite well under every outer layer I tested this fall. It has a pretty long cut so keep that in mind if you don't like your base layer peeking out from under your outer layers. The neckline is pretty open and doesn't go up on your neck very far, but I was ok with that as I relied on outer layers to keep the chill off my neck if needed. The two-button henley style collar allows you to get a teeny bit more breeze if things are starting to get real steamy.
I really, really like the warm yet highly breathable aspect of this piece. Wear it on its own for the climb up if it's dry and you still stay warm but with plenty of airflow through the porous fabric to keep that working out in a sauna feeling at bay. Once you get to the top, just slap on your wind layer to seal off those little pores so you can stay nice and toasty for the way down. To top it all off, you get all the stank odor resistance of Merino wool.
This has become one of my all-time favorite pieces of gear and I find I have been using it as a base layer for everything from hobby jogging to skiing down snow-laden backcountry pillow lines. Oh, wait, scratch that last part, that was a dream. The PNW has pretty minimal snow as of yet.
Velocio Merino 160 LS Base Layer shown in Light Grey (size M).Trail Short
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Navy, Coral Red, Titanium (tested)
Ok, these are some spicey little numbers, don't get me wrong. Slim, form-fitting design, check. DWR water-resistant fabric, check. Nice white color, check. Wait a second, white shorts? For fall riding? Maybe not the best idea, see Exhibit B below.
Color choices aside, the trail shorts from Velocio are a pretty standard trail offering that pair well over a base layer for fall/winter riding. The advantage of having a water-resistant short is that they provide more breathability than a pant but still can keep your thighs (and most importantly, your chamois if you roll that way) from becoming completely soaked while pedaling around in a drizzle. This is often the case for us here in the PNW during the fall/winter where a lot of times we will be pedaling around out of the full brunt of the rain under tree cover, but still getting lots of small raindrops scattered from overhead. These stayed pretty dry for me when riding this fall in all but the heaviest downpours.
These are some of the slimmest shorts I have tested, so keep that in mind if you plan to layer over bulky insulation or wear heavy knee guards. Things can go all Michelin Man in a hurry if you're not careful. Despite being pretty fitted, Velocio's assertions of the cut favoring actual riding do seem valid, as I hardly noticed these when pedaling or enduro-ing. A slightly longer cut in the front of the knee gave a little bit more coverage over light knee pads or base layers, but inseam the is still pretty short. A single waist adjuster and a thigh pocket on either side keep the garment weight low compared to other options out there.
Velocio trail short. Velocio's fabrics look and feel high end.
Exhibit B - That's why white maybe wasn't the best choice.Ultralight Rain Jacket
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Ultramarine, Gold Yellow (tested)
Velocio's Ultralight Rain Jacket seems more targeted towards road and gravel riding than MTB, but it's still a trusty switchblade that belongs in your winter shredding arsenal. First of all, this minimalist jacket is quite lightweight without many pockets or zippers to add m
to the whole mg
equation. It's easy to stuff in a hip pack, "just in case". The fit is 3D shaped and, as per the shorts, it's designed and cut for a riding position (meaning no bulbous jacket beer belly hanging down as you ride). Finally, the jacket is constructed out of eVent fabric that claims it doesn't need a build-up of moisture or heat to start becoming breathable. Great for those big climbs in the rain, followed by a high-speed descent. Trust me: you don't want to be experiencing a steamy sauna inside your jacket for the ride back down; it rapidly turns into a freezer.
Again, similar to Velocio's other pieces, the fit is quite slim and as such, it isn't the easiest to layer up under, especially if you need more than mid-layer insulation. There is a mild drop seat hem to help keep some of the rear tire spray at bay. Personally, I prefer having a hood on a rain shell just in case I want to use it, but Velocio's offering doesn't contain one. As compensation, the collar is pretty tall and did a good job of sealing up around my neck (with a nice soft fleece lining). On the arms, the lycra/elastic cuffs are soft, yet provide a snug fit for keeping water out (I put them under my gloves instead of over, which worked well for me).
For rain protection, the eVent fabric did an excellent job keeping all moisture out: I had zero water intrusion. Of particular note was the high quality taped seams. Additionally, the large back vent did seem to help minimize sweat collecting across the shoulder yoke. Overall, due to the extremely small packed size and low weight, this is an excellent choice to throw in your pack if a fall ride threatens to get wet. That is if you are comfortable with ponying up north of $300 USD.
Velocio Ultralight Rain Jacket shown in Gold Yellow (size M).
Large back vent helps keep moisture flowing through.
Jacket stuffs down quite small.
GiantGiant is not the first name you would think of for winter cycling apparel, but they offer a wide variety of well thought out cycling-specific items. From arm warmers to cycling balaclavas, you are bound to be able to find an option to serve your cold-weather needs available at your local Giant dealer.
Although Giant is an advocate and supporter of many important and amazing programs such as IMBA and the World Bicycle Relief, it is unclear on their efforts to reduce environmental impacts. Unlike Velocio, I couldn't find any details on whether a jersey was made from recycled fabric, and I couldn't find any details on whether Giant subscribes to 1% for the planet or something similar. I would think if Giant was doing these things they would be screaming them loud and proud, but maybe I'm not clicking on the proper link. Just something to keep in mind.Transfer Long Sleeve Jersey
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Grey / Black only
A lightweight wicking base layer is an important foundation for your winter riding kit and helps to keep the sweat off your back and transfer it out to the environment, which is important for staying dry and warm. Giant's Transfer long sleeve Jersey is a very lightweight and breathable base layer made from TransTextura fabric with mesh at the back and sides for extra breathability. The fabric is of the very silky smooth polyester feel, and the mesh is super fine.
The fit of the Transfer is on the slim side and the sleeves are nice and form-fitting. Thanks to the fitted design, I found that it easily disappeared under any outer layers I tested. On particularly cold rides I would "layer up" and stack two or three layers with the transfer jersey against my skin, a warmer base layer over that, and a wind shell to ward off the elements. This gave me lots of options, depending on temperatures and levels of exertion, allowing me to easily adjust warmth and breathability throughout the ride.
Not much to say here, this is a pretty basic long sleeve jersey that works well as both a standalone jersey for warmer fall days, or as a base layer under a jacket to provide wicking and extra warmth on colder days.Transfer Shorts
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black only
The Transfer shorts from Giant are another DWR treated piece that pairs well over longer insulating layers for cold weather riding. Slightly heavier duty than the shorts from Velocio, the Transfer shorts are constructed from Giant's TransTextura 4-way stretch fabric which has excellent elasticity while at the same time being abrasion-resistant. There are two zippered pockets—one on each side—if you need to stash keys, etc.
I tested these in size medium, and the fit is very middle of the road: not too slim and not too relaxed. Giant's website shows velcro waist adjusters for dialing in fit, but the pair I tested had a large metal hook and fabric loop mechanism instead. While this might be more durable, I would have preferred a standard velcro tab, as it was surprisingly tricky to remove and replace the hook to get the size right. Once things were set, though, it was all gravy; and I didn't have to monkey with the adjuster again.
In the rain, these are not very water-resistant and would soak through pretty quick. You don't get any extra coverage at the knee either with the straight cut at the bottom, which can lead to some soaked knee pads or underlayers. On the ventilation front, there aren't any vents or additionally openings, but the fabric is pretty lightweight and breathable so I didn't find myself ever feeling the need for them.
These shorts seem better suited to fall/spring riding when things are dryer and temps are on the warmer side. They have excellent mobility thanks to the stretchy fabric and feel great while riding. They just probably wouldn't be my first choice for heading out the door if anything more than a drizzle was in the forecast.
Proshield MTB Jacket
Giant Transfer shorts shown in black (size M).
Waist adjuster hook mechanism.
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black only
The Proshield MTB Jacket is a fully waterproof jacket built explicitly for mountain biking. It is constructed from Giant's ProTextura Plus fabric which has similar marketing claims as most PTFE fabrics on being waterproof yet breathable (it's rated at 10k/10k). To me, the fabric has a much more soft-shell feel, with a good bit of stretch to it. The jacket also has zippered pit zips and some laser cut venting on the back (covered by a flap) for additional breathability. Finally, there is a detachable hood with draw-cords that can go over your helmet.
The fit of this jacket is roomier than the skinny little trail dancing number from Velocio, yet still has an athletic cut without having a boxy feel to it. There is a drop seat on the hem, but nothing so crazy that it approaches "cape" territory. The hood is a little bit finicky to remove and install, but once you have it on, it feels just like a normal hood and fits over a helmet with tons of room to spare. Although all that extra space does make it hard to keep on your head while at speed. One distinctive feature of this jacket is the large, oversized magnetically sealed flap that covers the front zipper. The magnetic closure and large zipper pull make it easy to take on and off, even with bulky gloves. Plus it seals up quickly without having to fuss around with any buttons, snaps, or velcro.
The 10k waterproofing ability of this jacket isn't Gore-tex (28k), but it's on par with other waterproof/breathable jackets at this price point. The seams are all fully taped, and the wrist and neck openings seal up nicely and did a good job of keeping moisture out when things got nasty out. I did do a fair bit of climbing in this jacket, and yes, while it did get sweaty and moist in there, given the price point, I've no complaints.
Overall this would be more of a jacket I would take out if I knew that I would be riding in the rain, and less of a backup to stuff at the bottom of my pack. It's very comfortable to wear, especially on the bike when that little bit of stretch to the fabric can be appreciated. This is a solid choice considering the stretch fabric, the optional hood, and the overall bang for the buck as compared to some other jackets out there.
ProTextura Plus fabric is more of the soft-shell feel.
Detachable hood has tons of coverage over a helmet.
Large storm flap with a unique magnetic seal keeps water and dirt out.
7meshDebuting in 2015 in Squamish, British Columbia, 7mesh makes "Alpine-Grade" cycling gear for mountain biking and road cycling in any weather. Tested extensively in the wet and snowy winters of the BC Sea to Sky Corridor, 7mesh has a wide variety of outerwear to keep you comfortable during all-day pursuits into the unknown. 7mesh has a higher-end fit and finish to their products (along with a matching price tag), but you definitely get what you pay for here.
Similar to Giant, I struggle to find details on environmental sustainability practices by 7mesh. I couldn't find any information on any recycled content or manufacturing practices that go into each piece. Neither could I find mentions of contributing to 1% For the Planet or similar causes. Again I could be missing a link on the site, but I just couldn't find anything specifically "green" on the site.Northwoods Wind Shell
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Eclipse (tested), Serrano Red
If it isn't raining out, a wind shell has become my most used piece of gear for fall and winter riding. Usually, I do most of my climbing in a jersey or base layer, and then quickly slip on a wind shirt or jacket for the descents. It's amazing how much warmer that extra layer will keep you when blasting down an exposed ridge in high winds (we have a lot of that here in the Gorge). Having a lightweight wind shell that you can just stuff and stow or remove from your hip pack on demand is a huge game-changer, particularly if you favor going light and fast vs. the kitchen sink pack load.
7mesh's Northwood shell is a high-quality piece that meets and exceeds all of my requirements. It is lightweight, has a usable hood, and stuffs into its own pocket. To top it all off, it looks really sharp, too, utilizing 7mesh's phenomenal fit and subtle, yet stylish color combinations (which I really like).
While riding, the jacket blocked out all wind and kept me much warmer on all but the most frigid days. Keep in mind, like all wind shells, it isn't the most breathable, so it's usually good to remove it if you know there's a big climb coming. There aren't any pit zips or vents for extra ventilation, but I favor minimalism, so I'm ok with that. Plus it keeps the weight down. There is a DWR coating in case you get caught out in the rain, but this isn't a hardshell: the Northwoods will soak through eventually in rain and snow.
The fit was spot on for me and worked well for layering over everything from skin-tight jerseys to bulkier fleeces. The hood fits darn near perfectly over my Giro Montaro helmet and deploys easily: I used it whenever I wanted to keep a bit more chill off my head or from going down my neck. It also stayed put while riding. One nice thing about the Northwood's built-in storage/stuff pocket is how nice and oversized it is; you can easily and quickly stow the jacket away without feeling as if you're wrestling a bear.
Overall, I would highly recommend this as a must-have wind shell if you don't already have one. Note: I also tested 7mesh's excellent insulated Freeflow Jacket and the Guardian rain jacket. Both are also top-notch options (especially the Freeflow jacket, one of my new favorites) for this time of year; it's worth checking them out.
7Mesh's Northwood shown in Eclipse color (size M).
Hood fits well over a helmet without any flapping while riding.
Storage pocket is nice and oversized. No over-stuffed sausage rolls here.
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black, Moss (tested)
If you haven't tried full-on rain shorts in a rainstorm, you are missing out! Having a rain short allows you to spend hours out in the rain, as opposed to some of the standard DWR treated options out there that will eventually just soak through. Usually well before the midpoint of a hard ride. Additionally, as compared to a full-on rain pant, a rain short provides more range of movement and greater breathability while riding.
The Revo Shorts from 7mesh are a fully waterproof option that is fairly lengthy (they have an 18" inseam). I like to call these my Pantalones Piratas as you get a bit of a pirate look while wearing them (Arggghh!). On the technical details, the Revo Short is crafted from heavy-duty GoreTex 3L with fully taped seams. Construction has been updated from previous iterations to move the crotch seams and gussets to the side of the shorts for increased durability and wear resistance. There are both waist adjusters and belt loops depending on your preference. The two front pockets have drain-holes in case you happen to get some water in them, something I haven't seen before this side of surfwear.
Compared to the fabric of the Velocio and Giant jackets, this Revo's fabric has a much more traditional "hard shell" feel to me, and I'm ok with that. The few times I tested these out in the rain, they were absolutely bulletproof. These are probably best suited for pedal missions in full-on rainstorms, but I would probably take something a little lighter duty for mere drizzle or showers.
I tested a size M, and in that size, these shorts have a ton of room for layering. But 7mesh sizes their shorts roomy; realistically I should have had a size S; size M is for a 34" waist. The long length of these shorts completely covered my knees while riding (even while pedaling), and the articulated legs felt comfortable without any unwanted bunching. One issue I did have, though: occasionally the opening on the bottom of the short would catch on the top corners of my bike's rear triangle. This was a little startling and threw me off balance a few times; a shorter inseam or a way to cinch down the cuffs might have helped alleviate that.
If you need to get out on the sloppiest, wettest rainy days, these shorts should be at the top of your list.
Revo Short with long articulated knee coverage.
Waist adjusters or large belt loops, choices abound.
Hailing from the cold dark winters of Norway, Norrøna is typically known for its skiing and mountaineering gear, but they also have some highly technical gear for biking. Their main Fjørå line for mountain biking has a wide range of items from lightweight base layers to insulated waterproof outer layers.
It's hard to tell from the photos that Trevor took here, but this was a pretty frigid day out shooting. Drizzly rain hovering right around 35°F, patches of snow, and deep muddy puddles to ride through had left us all shivering like drowned rats. Pulling on the Norrøna gear to get some photos was like stepping into summer: It seemed that I was instantly warmer. While shooting (lots of hurry up and wait) it was shocking how much warmer these items kept me than the rest of the test gear, and I was quite forlorn when I had to move onto the next kit. If you need riding gear for cold, miserable weather, Norrøna has got you covered.
Norrøna has a detailed road map on how they are working towards 100% sustainability, becoming more socially responsible, and reducing environmental impacts. They also donate 1% of total sales "For Nature". Additionally, on Norrøna's website, each product has a dedicated "Footprint" section that tells you about the recycled content, fabric impacts, and factory lists that go into making the item. Another leader here, other companies follow suit!
Fjørå Powerwool Long Sleeve
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (S tested)
Colors: Indigo Night Blue (tested), Bamboo Green
The Fjørå Powerwool Long Sleeve is another excellent Merino wool base layer. This base layer is made from 31% wool and 69% polyester which increases durability and allows for faster drying. It is similar to the option from Velocio, but the fabric has a bit more wool content and is slightly more tight-knit. This leads to a bit more warmth, but at the expense of some breathability. Both are amazing options and I highly recommended either; you just have to choose if you want a bit more warmth (Norrona) vs. a bit more breathability (Velocio).
The fit is pretty slim, which works great as a base layer. The torso length is a bit on the long side as well, so it may stick out under outer layers if you don't tuck it into your pants/shorts. Additionally, there is a bit of drop seat to keep that plumbers crack at bay. There aren't any neck zippers or buttons if you want some extra ventilation. The wrists have a nice, long, stretchy cuff that does a good job of staying in place and keeping out unwanted chills. Note: in Norrøna tops I wear a size small, as compared to medium with most other brands. The fit of the size S was just to my liking and felt about the same as most other mediums to me. Something to keep in mind.
These wool base layers have become my most used items this fall. They are so versatile that I find myself wearing them for everything from plumbing to pubbing. I highly suggest picking one up.
Powerwool Long Sleeve shown in Indigo Night Blue.
Norse gods keeping your handlebars on course.Fjørå Infinium Pants
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Hot Sapphire Blue, Caviar Black (tested)
Norønna's Fjørå Infinium pants are a water-resistant wind stopper pant meant for those days when the wind is howling, the snow is blowing, yet you still need to get outside. Layering these bad boys over an insulating layer will allow you to go out on all but the most forbidding days. The front, knees, and seat of the pants are constructed from windproof/water-resistant GoreTex Infinium, while the rest of the pants are made from the lighter duty wind-resistant/water-resistant Flex1 fabric from Norrøna. This provides maximum wind protection where needed but still has full-frontal blastage protection while shredding, yet there's still some breathability in the areas out of the full brunt of the weather and trail debris.
For these pants, I tested the size medium which was plenty roomy for my size 31" waist. I probably could have sized down to the small, but this allowed me to wear any layer underneath that I desired, and I was able to dial in the fit using the waist adjusters. Additionally, the large zips on the ankles were big enough that I could put on and remove the pants without taking off my shoes. This is a welcome feature, especially when you're on the side of the trail rushing to cram on a pant in a bitterly cold wind as a storm approaches.
These pants are actually way more breathable than you think. I think this might be due to the windstopper material being focused in the front, knees, and seat only. There are also vents on the middle and upper thighs to really get the airflow moving. I would always layer these over lightweight long underwear, and I actually never got hot and sweaty with these during my testing. Although I think the warmest temperature I tested in was around 45°F (although it was sleeting during our photoshoot).
Overall these are another versatile piece from Norrøna that will allow you to extend your riding season through the winter, especially if you live in an area with colder, dryer, windy winter weather.
Fjørå Convertible Alpha60 Jacket
Infinium pants lock down tight while riding and large zippers open up when needed.
Large vents promote airflow and shed moisture when needed.
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (S tested)
Colors: Indigo Night Blue (tested), Sulphur Spring
The Fjørå Convertible Alpha60 Jacket is an insulated jacket that can be converted to an insulated shirt by removing the sleeves. The front of the jacket is made from a windproof material, while the back is constructed from Norrøna's breathable and lightweight Flex1 fabric. Insulation duties are handled by a healthy dose of Polartec Alpha60 insulation. This jacket is crazy warm. Note: greater than 50% of the synthetic fibers in this jacket come from recycled materials.
An innovative aspect of this piece is the detachable sleeves which come off as one single piece using two zippers and two buttons at the back of the jacket. Another interesting feature is the front zipper which has two possibilities allowing you to either completely close off the jacket or have a long mesh vent opening down the middle (see below). I had never seen this before, and I was surprised by how much a bit of ventilation down your front helped to regulate temperature on the climbs. The number of venting options here makes this a very versatile jacket that you can easily customize for the temperature of the day and the exertion level.
Fit in the size small felt on par with size medium from other brands. I would say this is right down the middle of the slim fit vs relaxed fit spectrum, which allows you to wear it under or over other layers as desired. The torso length is on the longer side with a drawstring for keeping things locked in place. The collar is tall and protective which does a good job of keeping the elements out. A singular front chest pocket lets you stash a few necessities.
Overall this is by far the warmest piece I tested this fall. The new style of long fibrous insulation (almost like your grandmother's shag carpet) does a great job as compared to traditional insulation for providing warmth yet still being breathable. Although things can still get a little bit sweaty on longer, high exertion segments. The Fjørå Convertible jacket might be overkill for all but the most frigid days, but the extra warmth sure is appreciated when you need it.
Convertible alpha60 Jacket with the sleeves on.
And with the sleeves off (also notice the double duty mesh vent zipper).
GiroGiro is a well-established name in the cycling apparel game, offering everything from elite carbon-soled road shoes to half-shell BMX style helmets. Based out of Santa Cruz, California might not be the ideal location for testing cold-weather gear, but Giro actually has a well thought out and affordable collection for keeping the wind and rain at bay during the dark and cold winter months.
Giro has a large link on the front page of their website detailing their Renew series of cycling apparel that is made from reclaimed fishing nets and other ocean debris. Additionally, Giro strives to use Bluesign approved fabrics where possible, which are fabrics approved by a 3rd party to meet certain environmental impact criteria. For each item on their website, Giro lists whether they use Bluesign fabrics so if that is something that is important to you, you can verify before purchasing. Note that none of the items I tested here were from the Renew collection or use Bluesign fabrics, but I am glad at least Giro is making some efforts to repurpose excess plastic material to lower environmental impacts.Havoc H20 Short
Sizes: Adult 30, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38, 40 (32 tested)
Colors: Black, Dark Red, Midnight Blue (tested), Storm
Giro's Havoc H20 shorts are a fully waterproof option of their standard Havoc enduro short. Compared to the standard offering, the H20 variety is made out of a 3 layer stretch waterproof fabric with all seams completely sealed. DWR coating keeps the fabric from getting too soggy and maintains breathability while out riding in a downpour. A Cordura seat panel improves durability for the butt to muddy saddle interface (mud is basically tiny rocks.Sitting on tiny rocks and pedaling for hours isn't exactly nice to most fabrics. Just sayin'). Venting is handled by large, water-proof zippered vents right down the middle of your thighs.
The fit on these shorts is pretty standard. The size 32's I tested were (as they should be) slightly too large for my 31" waist, but I was able to easily snug things down with the waist adjusters. The length is right in the middle of the spectrum and didn't totally cover my knees while climbing, but completely covered them while descending. There's a velcro strap on the leg opening to taper the fit at the knee which I appreciated as it kept the fabric of this short from catching on my rear triangle (which often happened with 7mesh, as mentioned above).
Again, for riding in the rain but with warmer temperatures, a waterproof short comes in real handy at keeping your important bits dry while still allowing for a good amount of breathability. The slightly shorter cut and thigh vents ensured that the Havoc H20 was more breathable than the Revo, albeit at the expense of the increased waterproof coverage that the 7mesh short provides.
Note that I also tested Giro's Havoc riding pant (not waterproof) which was an option I really enjoyed for colder but drier riding. Make sure to check out Nikki's review of those pants with the women's gear.
Velcro straps allow you to lock things into place.
Adjuster for dialing in the fit.
Large thigh vents provide lots of airflow.
Sizes: Adult S-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black, Midnight Blue (tested)
For a lot of people out there, winter riding doesn't necessarily mean a lot of moisture. Cold, dry air and maybe some light fluffy snow are something a lot of riders experience during a season of winter riding. This is where a softshell comes in handy, providing wind protection, mobility, lots of stretch, breathability, and softer fabrics, but at the expense of the armor plate style of total waterproofing that a hard shell gives you.
Giro's Ambient jacket is more of a traditional softshell piece. The jacket's DWR coated outer is made of a four-way stretch, windproof/water-resistant three-layer fabric, while the inner is lined with a fleece-like material. A large, non-removable hood fits nicely over a helmet. There are reflective bits on the jacket as well, perfect for visibility in the dark or during bike commuting (I actually found this jacket perfect for riding to work on cold frosty mornings). There are also some nice wrist gaiters that I always enjoy for keeping the jacket/glove interface locked neatly in place. Finally, there aren't any pit zips on this jacket, but a few small laser cut holes in their place for ventilation.
I found the softshell outer layer actually did a pretty good job of blocking out moisture without becoming saturated. I didn't have this out in any full-on downpours, but I did experience lots of little sprinkles and I still stayed totally dry and warm. The hood was a welcome addition for blocking wind chill down the back of my neck and keeping my head warm. The fleece material is very warm, but not as breathable as the new high tech Polartec Alpha insulation that was used in the Norrona jacket (that also costs a lot more). Keep in mind this jacket is on the bulkier side as well, and not the easiest to stuff into a small pack.
In the size medium, the fit was perfect for me. There is plenty of room inside the jacket for layering underneath, but it's a bit too bulky to layer it under something else.
Pairing his jacket with the Havoc H20 shorts turned out to be a potent combo for riding in pretty cold temps, and I found myself using it a ton this fall. It covered temperatures ranging from around 20°F to 45°F with ease without becoming too cold or too hot. Consider the $150 price tag and this rapidly becomes an appealing option for anything from bike commuting to cold weather shredding.
Hood has an excellent fit over Giro's own Montaro helmet.
Wrist gaiters seal in warmth and pair well with winter gloves.
SombrioSombrio is another company that hails from Vancouver, BC and produces rugged and stylish mountain biking apparel designed and tested for full send. More on the freeride/DH end of the spectrum, Sombrio has its roots planted in the radical riding that grew up on the North Shore of Vancouver, and you can see how that has influenced their design and intended use of their products.
Details on environmental practices are slim to none on what I could find. There aren't any details on recycled content in clothing or manufacturing practices on each piece of gear. Additionally, I couldn't find any environmental causes or sales donation schemes that Sombrio participates in. Again, I may be missing these items, but hopefully, Sombrio makes that material more available if so.Squall 2 Jacket
Sizes: Adult XS-2XL (M tested)
Colors: Moss (tested), Black
Here is another wind shell option, this time from Sombrio. Made out of Sombrio's S-Tek Lite fabric (92% Nylon, 8% Spandex), this wind shell is on the heavier duty side compared to some of the super lightweight options out there and I really felt that I could take on some gnarly, exposed BC descents while wearing it.
This jacket only has a 3/4 length front zip. This actually worked quite well for me, as I didn't have to fumble around with cold fingers trying to line up a teeny little zipper, so I could just pull the jacket out of its pocket, pull it on over my helmet, zip it up and go. All in record time. Furthermore, the hood has an excellent fit over a helmet and stays in place during high-speed runs.
The large rear pocket serves double duty as a storage pouch. Bonus, there are straps attached to the storage pouch that turn it into a fanny pack! With lots of room for a multi-tool, a few gels, (and probably even a can of beer), you could completely ditch your standard fanny pack if you wanted and just ride uber lightweight, but still, have all your essentials. Talk about the complete package!
The fabric of this jacket feels heavier duty than the fabric from 7mesh and has an almost silky softshell like feel. As a result, it really does block out all wind and has a nice bit of stretch to it, although it does get pretty sweaty during high exertion. I would choose this over the option from 7mesh if I wanted a bit more wind protection and durability over the breathability of the 7mesh. Keep in mind it is also slightly bulkier. The 3/4 zip and fanny pack storage option are both super handy features in my book. Both jackets are excellent options overall, though.
Hood fits well over a helmet.
The Wallace Chaos Jersey
Large rear pocket holds lots of stuff.
Jacket also stuffs into the rear pocket as a fanny pack.
Sizes: Adult XS-2XL (M tested)
Colors: Wallace Print
We all wish we could have the riding skills and flow on the bike of Reece Wallace, and I like to think wearing this piece gets me one step closer! Similar to Giant's Transfer jersey, the Wallace Chaos Jersey from Sombrio is a lightweight, long-sleeve option with no insulation. Fabric construction is a standard MTB jersey affair with a silky polyester feel. This is best as a standalone piece on warmer days for climbing and as a lightweight wicking base layer, and I would often wear this on mild fall days and layer it under a wind shirt for descending.
The Wallace jersey fits well, the fabric feels comfortable, wicks reasonably well, and the graphics are cool. The Royal Canadian Air Force's digital camouflage design on the front looks great in person and the sublimated graphics are nice, in that they won't fall off over time (sublimination makes the graphics permanent vs. silkscreen). The completely white back is an interesting choice; maybe they wanted you to compete with your friends to see who can create the coolest mud spray design on your back?
Overall a solid option as a simple, lightweight, very breathable, and slim-fitting base layer.
The Wallace Chaos Jersey.Pinner Short
Sizes: Adult XS-2XL (M tested)
Colors: Black (tested), Deep Jade
The Pinner shorts from Sombrio are a heavy-duty, DWR coated riding short targeted to all-season riding. Constructed from Quattro Flex Dura fabric (90% Nylon, 10% Spandex), the Pinner shorts are durable yet still retain a good bit of stretch. Pockets abound on these burly bad boys, both front and back, meeting my packrat storage tendencies. Additionally, large thigh vents allow you to blow off some steam if needed.
These shorts are on the larger/bulkier side with plenty of room underneath for layering. The size medium was a tad big for me but I was able to use the waist adjusters to get things right. The length was also on the longer side; longer than Velocio by far, and slightly longer than the shorts from Giant and Giro.
I didn't use these shorts in full-on rainstorms, but mainly for colder, clear, dry days where they performed admirably. The fabric does a great job of blocking the wind and has a nice stretchy feel to it without any bunching or binding. I appreciated being able to open up the thigh vents while climbing to help regulate temperature.
These are an excellent option if you are in need of a bit more freeride or DH durability when ripping through the wet soggy underbrush.
Lots of pockets and vents for your storage and airflow needs.
Waist adjuster and button fly.
POCPOC is a company from Sweden that aims to reduce the consequences of crashes and save lives. Starting with helmets and body armor, POC makes a large range of gear and apparel meant to protect and perform while being stylish at the same time. With a long history in the snow, POC now has a range of cold weather MTB items designed to keep you riding all year long.
Details on environmental impacts and manufacturing processes are not readily evident on the POC website. I couldn't find any information on whether each piece of gear contained some recycled content. Additionally, it is not clear if POC donates some of it's net sales to environmental causes or anything like that.
Note that we were only able to get an outer layer jacket from POC for testing this fall, but there are some options for pants and shorts (including the Resistance Enduro Shorts that I tested this spring) from POC which would be good possibilities for keeping your legs dry and warm.
Resistance Pro Enduro Rain Jacket
Sizes: Adult XS-XXL (M tested)
Colors: Black only
POC's Resistance Pro Enduro Rain Jacket is a durable wind and waterproof jacket meant for taking on rugged enduro stages when the weather goes full hurricane. Constructed from a 3-layer fabric in the body and Vectran abrasion-resistant sleeves, the Resistance Pro is wind and waterproof with fully taped seams and waterproof zippers. In typical POC form, the Resistance Pro is offered in the color black only. Although outside of their norm, please excuse the bright orange gloves from POC pictured above which may have caused permanent eye damage to the children in the next galaxy over. Maybe it is time for POC to branch out into some new colors?
The Resistance Pro features a cycling-specific cut and a massive drop seat hem that inspires your inner Bat Man as you blast down the trail with your "cape" flapping in your wake. The fit is on the slimmer side, and I didn't have too much room underneath for layering anything more than a mid-layer in the size medium I tested. The sleeves have a longer cut at the top of the wrists for additional coverage of your hands and gloves and are constructed out of the military-grade Vectran material. I feel that I could crash on a motorcycle at high speed and slide for a city block on pavement and the fabric wouldn't even get a scuff. Additionally, they have plenty of room underneath for elbow pads if desired. Zippered pockets that perform double duty as vents provide a bit of airflow if needed. There is no hood on this jacket, although the neck is pretty tall with a nice fleece brushed collar that seals up tight for keeping moisture and wind out.
The fabric on this jacket has a very "hard" shell feel and totally blocks all wind. I didn't get to test this item out in any rainstorms, but it does appear to have high quality taped seams and the fabric feels impenetrable so I would hope it would keep the rain out. The breathability isn't the best on this jacket, so things definitely got a bit sweaty on most climbs while wearing it.
This probably wouldn't be my first choice for a rain shell: it lacks a hood, it's a bit heavy (430g vs. 190g for the similar shell from Velocio), and the fit is a little on the tight side for layering underneath. But if you need high durability and abrasion resistance on some rugged, wet, enduro stages, this would definitely be a worthy option. It almost looks and feels like it would be a good option for moto riding as well.
Long rear drop hem and back pocket.
Vectran material is highly abrasion and crash-resistant.