Winter Cycling Gear

With winter rapidly approaching, I had to invest in some winter riding gear. I technically needed to invest in fall riding gear as well, but thought I should get started with the winter gear as I knew this would take quite a bit of time figuring out what would be the best gear for Kansas City winter riding. I had a strong idea it would be Castelli, but wasn’t 100% sure. I’ve recently taking a liking to Capo, but once I find something I like, I stick with it and right now it’s Castelli. My search lasted for at least three weeks and I soon became torn between the Radiation 1-2-3 jacket by Castelli and the Mannaggia jacket also by Castelli; both jackets are from the Rosso Corsa line which is top of the line for Castelli. I ended up selecting the Mannaggia as the colors of the jacket matched my bike and appeared to be a bit more eye-catching, which is important in the winter as we lose daylight. I initially ordered a large which is what I’ve been wearing as far as the Castelli jerseys and bibs go, but ended up having to return it for an extra-large. The jacket was a little snug under the arms; everything else was perfect. My guess is, it’s the cut of the jacket as it’s extremely fitted and when you put a base and jersey under the jacket, it gets tight real quick; not to mention it’s Italian made and the European cuts do tend to run a little smaller. Additionally, this jacket’s cut is completely different from any other jacket they sell. It was designed after a European touring motorcycle jacket. Also, I have purchased several Castelli items and with each of those purchases have come across comments recommending buying a size up. I do not recommend that unless you like your gear on the looser side vs form-fitting.  Anyway, the XL worked out great and I’ve actually used it three times already. I can’t say enough about how well the jacket is made and how comfortable it is. It looks amazing with my bike as well. I mentioned a base layer before. I opted for Craft Pro Warm base shirt which is made in Switzerland and was originally designed for snow skiing. I will probably purchase the matching base pants for when I’m off the bike and playing in the snow with the kids. As expected, above average cycling gear is pretty expensive. Good jackets can run well over three hundred dollars and pants can get up there too. Speaking of pants, I feel I found an exceptional riding pant (bibtight) for an exceptional price. I opted for the Castelli Sorpasso bibtight. These pants are just as described; light weight, comfortable and do an amazing job of keeping you warm. I absolutely love these pants and am ecstatic that I purchased these. They also have the Progetto X2 seat pad which my bib shorts have and are by far the most comfortable seat pad I’ve tried to date.  I did buy these in a large. Note: I am 5’8” and weigh 167 pounds. You can easily fit into them if your 5’9” and 175. Any taller and you may want to go to an extra-large. I also purchased the Castelli Diluvio glove and shoe covers. These are unique in that they are both neoprene. Castelli swears by this product and I couldn’t pass them up as my hands and feet are the first to bother me on a cold day. I’ve tested the gloves a few times, but have not worn the shoe covers just yet. So far the gloves are exceptional. I’ll post more about these items as the temperature drops. I also purchased a Castelli skull-cap and Warmer balaclava. The skull-cap is right on while I can’t say the same for the balaclava. I haven’t tried the balaclava out in the cold, but have tried it on and I’m not crazy as to how it fits around my face; specifically how it covers my mouth and nose. Basically, it’s not form-fitting enough and sits about three-quarters of an inch from my nose and mouth instead of stretching across my nose, mouth and chin. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way, but not sure. If you look at the two balaclavas offered by Castelli, you’ll see that their standard balaclava seems to have a smaller opening. Not sure if the openings are actually different in size, but it appears they are from the Castelli site.  I’ll have to give the one I purchased a try once or twice before knocking it though. I also wanted to mention that a lot of the gear I mentioned is not available locally in KC. Other than the Sorpasso bibtights (Trek Store of Kansas City) and the Craft Pro Warm base shirt (Elite Cycling), I purchased everything else online. I did have to return a few of the items due to sizing issues, etc, but outside of that, I got what I wanted. Note:   if you purchase online as I often do, make sure that you become familiar with the return policy before pulling the trigger. The other bit of advice would be to make sure the company you’re purchasing from is stateside or offers two-day air at no extra charge and has a strong customer rating. I also mentioned earlier that I was purchasing my winter gear before purchasing my fall gear. Well after long deliberation, I’ve decided to pull the trigger on the Castelli Trasparente wind jersey. The reviews of this jersey are off the hook; many claiming that this jersey is Castelli’s masterpiece. I can’t wait to try this bad boy out. I went with the black and white jersey. It comes in three colors; red and white, black and white, royal blue and red.  Of course this jersey is part of Castelli’s Rosso Corsa line. Two parting notes; First, you may need to invest in a heavy-duty bibtight that allows you to ride in extremely cold or windy temperatures. These tights usually don’t come with padding and requires you to wear your summer bib shorts or something similar. I recently looked at a pair of Bontrager wind pants as they’re called and was quickly reminded of my wetsuit I used to wear water skiing in South Florida during the winter months; much thicker and considerably heavier than my winter bibs. Not sure if I’ll be riding in that cold of weather this year, but we’ll see. While looking at these tights I did come across what I think may be an invaluable find; a Bontrager long sleeve base jersey. I call it a “base” jersey as it didn’t have any rear pockets. What made it exceptional is that it had a balaclava built into the jersey. At the bottom of the sleeves are thumb loops designed to prevent the sleeves from creeping up. The thumb loops caught my attention, but I struggled with would I wear them under my gloves or over my gloves; research tells me they should be worn under the gloves. Note: Castelli recently redesigned the Trasparente by doing away with the thumb hooks. Testers of the original design complained about not being able to get their gloves on with the jersey placed over their thumbs while others complained, that the additional material covering their palms and thumb, created a slippery surface resulting in less grip. Second note; there are more than just four seasons when it comes to cycling hence the need for several different sets of clothing. The following is the list I’ve come up with: winter, winter extremely cold or windy, early spring, spring, late spring, summer, early fall, fall, and late fall. Some of your spring and fall items can be interchanged, but outside of that, you’ll need to make some room in your closet if you want to be properly clothed. Ultimately, don’t sacrifice quality to save a few dollars. You can pretty much say that about everything in life, but when it comes to cycling gear, it’s dead on. You want to be comfortable while protecting your body and you want to have as much flexibility as possible.

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~ by Leo J Esposito on December 4, 2010.

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