What you wear to ride in the summer matters – you don’t want to be sweaty, and you want good shorts – but over winter, kit can make or break your ride.
I’ve got plenty of jackets that I think are ‘ok’, and tights that ‘do the job’, but when it comes to a long, cold ride, where I want to forget about my clothing and feel comfortable without even thinking about it, there are 3 fail safe items that I always have at the ready.
Of course, I’m a ‘lady’, and many readers out there will be men – but never fear, all of these items come in male varieties, anyway (as is pretty much always the case, you guys have all the luck in cycling kit).
Obviously, favourite kit will vary between riders – you may prefer waterproofs that go over your work clothes for a commute, or maybe you go for baggy MTB options instead.
Kit is personal. So, I’ll kick off the recommendations with my top 3 – but we’d love to hear you own top 3 pieces of kit, in the comments…
I was ecstatic when Castelli made the Gabba for women.
At around £100-150, depending where you get it, I know a lot of you are going to disagree. My argument is that since buying the Gabba, I now have no need for a separate windproof or waterproof option – the Gabba provides both in total comfort. I don’t need a packable (ever), and I have an item I can wear through spring, autumn and winter – simply adding a heavier baselayer come the coldest months.
Castelli once made a ‘pro’ Gabba, that came with a marker pen, so pro cyclist sponsored by other suppliers could still wear the item – not completely a joke, since many have been spotted hiding one – more on that here.
Often, kit that is water resistant is less breathable, stiffer, less flexible, and not as comfortable as a windproof softshell. The Gabba, on the other hand, has it all. Super light, incredibly soft to the touch, plenty breathable for harder rides, yet still warm (not very warm, mind – cold blooded riders will need layers). It’s not 100% waterproof, you’ll stay dry in showers, not in a downpour. To be honest, any jacket that keeps you dry in a downpour is too insulating for me to wear on a bike ride.
I bought my Gabba when they first became available to women (previous years, they’ve been a ‘men only’ item – cos women totally don’t ride in the rain, apparently), and I’ve worn it over, and over, and over again.
Men’s Gabbas come with long and short sleeves, the short sleeved designed for wearing with arm warmers.
2) Sportful Women’s Diva Bib Tights (Sportful Total Comfort Bib tights are a great men’s version)
I know – I’ve got a Castelli/Sportful addiction. If you’re not aware, they are both owned by the same Italian company. Well – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
I’ve always found that winter tights tend to bunch around the knees, with tons of excess material that doesn’t feel particularity supportive or useful on the bike. The result of this, when wearing those that come with a pad, is that it doesn’t stay in place, and those without a pad (to be worn over padded shorts) can move around causing friction where you absolutely don’t want it.
These bibs, however, are my first successful pair of effortlessly comfortable winter bibs. The ThermoDrytex Plus fabric is made for ‘cool and mostly dry conditions’, but they’re plenty warm enough for me, and they’ve got a soft brushed inner fabric that feels wonderful next to the skin. The pad is not overly thick, though adequate for long rides, and the full bodied upper means that you can wear a base layer without it untucking itself and resulting in cold-belly-syndrome.
Bib tights are of course different for men and women, but I’m pleased to add that my husband has two pairs, both by the same brand, and they are by far his favourite – for much the same reasons: breathable fabric, with lots of stretch, and a long lasting pad that stays put.
Seriously – I’m not doing it on purpose, and this post is not sponsored. I don’t just like the image of a scorpion on my kit, either. I’ve been through countless pairs of overshoes, by various brands (Altura, Hincapie, Gore – sorry guys), and these are the absolute best.
These overshoes make my feet feel like radiators. There is not other explanation. The neoprene material keeps heat (and moisture) in, and doesn’t let outside conditions – cold, wind or rain penetrate the wonderful outershell.
My only criticism of these is that I am on my second pair – the material is fragile, and it does tear at the toes, just as pretty much any other overshoe does – but perhaps a little more quickly.
So there you go – my top 3. Not in any way endorsed my Castelli – but I suppose sometimes you find a brand that just ‘fits’.
Over to you – have you got a top 3?
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