THE BEST SPRING AND FALL CYCLING KIT
Riding comfortably early and late in the year means you’ll need to wear some of the best spring and fall cycling kit. Here are my recommendations for you.
For many road cyclists, the season never ends.
Those of us enthusiasts who are truly committed won’t stop riding at the end of summer. We’ll certainly ride outside in the fall. Depending on where we live, some will ride the roads during the winter while others grind-it-out on the trainer or do some cross-training to stay in condition.
As soon as winter fades and signs of spring emerge we’ll come out of hibernation and get on the road again.
Spring and fall riding can include cool temps, wind, wet roads, less sunlight and sometimes a combination of these conditions on the same ride. Riding earlier and later each of the last few years, I’ve realized that trying to save some money by layering up on top of my regular summer kit just doesn’t provide the comfort and performance I want to enjoy some of the best times of the year to be on the road.
Wearing kit specifically designed to work for you when you start your road riding season a month or two early in the spring or extend it another 2-3 months into the fall and can double the time you enjoy biking outside each year and add to the amount of high-value training you can do.
This post is about helping you decide on the best spring and fall cycling kit including everything jerseys and bibs to jackets, base layers, arm and leg warmers, socks and gloves.
If you are interested in summer jerseys and bibshorts, go here.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
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WHY TRUST THIS SITE AND MY RECOMMENDATIONS
In The Know Cycling is for road cycling enthusiasts like you and me who want to know what gear we should get next and where we can get it at the best prices from great stores. I do hours of my own testing and analysis on an entire category of cycling gear for each review and incorporate insights from other independent reviewers and riders I respect. I respond to most any question you have in the comment section of each post, usually within a few hours if I’m not on a long ride or sleeping (Eastern US time).
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WHAT MATTERS WHEN CHOOSING SPRING AND FALL CYCLING KIT
There are a handful of things that matter most when choosing kit for any season and several that are unique to the spring/fall, summer and winter seasons.
Looks and price are obvious starting points at any time of year because these are go/no-go considerations for a lot of us. If you like what you think a jersey or jacket or pair of bibs will look like and you can afford it, you are usually good to move on to what else matters. If not, it doesn’t matter what else that kit has going for it. So let’s cover looks and price first.
In general, spring and cycling fall kit don’t have as wide a range of colors and styles as you’ll see in summer. There does seem to be, however, more than enough to choose from that runs from a basic to a distinctive look. You’ll generally want a highly visible kit as many drivers don’t expect to see riders out on the road in March or April and the low sun and shortened days in the fall will put you in low light situations at times. I’d stay away from black, grey or white jerseys and jackets and choose bright or high visibility colors and any kit with reflective accents that announce your presence. High-vis shoe covers and gloves will also help you stand out as they are constantly moving and signaling your plans.
Expect to pay a bit more to kit yourself up to ride in the spring and fall. In part that’s because you’ll find yourself buying some combination of base layers, jackets, gloves or booties in addition to jerseys and bibs. You’ll also find that you want clothes that perform well in these cooler and often windier seasons and you can’t get away with average performing kit that you might in the summer. But, good performing kit for spring and fall isn’t generally more expensive than good performing summer kit.
Getting cycling clothing that has the right cut for your body is key to your comfort in any season. At the most basic level, kit will run either standard or slim.
When I say slim I’m talking about the width at your hips and shoulders. It’s much the same as when you talk about having narrow feet. I don’t mean “small” which would be both your width and length. Some of the best cyclists have a slim frame or narrow feet but are tall or have the same length as other riders who have a standard or wider body.
If I put on a medium, the size I wear, in bibs that are cut for slim frames like mine, it will fit fine. If I were put on a medium bib with a standard cut, I’ll have some room in the chamois area and around the inside of my legs, something I’m not going to find fully comfortable out on the road.
Even if you add a few pounds when you aren’t riding as much volume as you do in the summer, the added weight usually finds its way to your butt, gut and love handles. It doesn’t make your shoulders or hips any wider. You might want to go up a size if you find you ride a good deal heavier before and after summer but I wouldn’t suggest you go from a slim to standard cut if the slim suits you better when you are fit.
Clothing makers usually have charts to help you find the size that fits your dimensions best and whether a kit’s cut is suited to your body width. It normally doesn’t work to just drop down a size or half size on the kit you like if it is a standard cut and you are slim or vice versa. It’s kind of like buying shoes. If you have narrow feet and the shoes you like are only sold in a standard width, if you try on a smaller size to compensate for the extra width, you may find the shoes are too short and your toes get crowded in the front of the shoe.
Once you know your cut and size, fit comes into play. While recreational cyclists will often be fine with relatively loose-fitting bike clothes, most enthusiasts want a closer “race-fit” that wraps your body in high-performance materials.
Differences between race-fit kit come down to:
- how well it moves with you (stretch),
- how well it supports your leg muscles as they do the work (compression),
- how unaware your skin is of the kit’s seams as you rub against them,
- how well the bib chamois conforms to your anatomy,
- how well your legs are gripped but not strangled by your bibs,
- how flat and your bib straps rest and stretch with you as you get out of the saddle,
- how flat your jersey or jacket stays against your body as you move in and out of aero positions, and
- how well the sleeve length conforms to your arm length for a long sleeve base layer, jersey or jacket.
With the right cut kit that ‘fits’ you well, comfort is the final consideration. Here again, some things are common to being comfortable in every season, most notably your chamois and the wicking and breathability of the clothing layer closest to your skin. Some of what matters most are quite different between summer and spring/fall kit.
Summer kit is mostly a question of whether and what kind of base layer to wear under very breathable, sweat removing, soft and stretchy jerseys and bibs. If you are heading out on your summer ride very early or ending it late, you might also bring leg or arm warmers to cope with a 10-15F/5-8C temperature change. You might also stuff a rain jacket or vest/gilet in your back pocket if a shower is possible.
For spring and fall road riding you still need kit that breathes and removes your sweat, but you also need additional capabilities built in to make you comfortable in these seasons. Bib shorts or tights, for example, should have fleece-lined material to keep you warm in cooler temps. When you ride on windy days, you’ll want the jerseys, jackets and even base layers with wind-resistant materials in their front torso and shoulder panels, and bibshorts and bib tights to have similar materials in your crotch, knee, and front leg areas. Some jackets and bib tights have water-repellant materials or treatments that will protect you for a while when you are riding on wet roads or when it’s misting, drizzling or you get caught in a shower.
HOW I SELECTED THE KIT FOR THIS REVIEW
High-performance, higher-priced clothing tends to build in better performance, more functionality and more versatility to work in different conditions than lower cost kit.
That said, you can’t really choose a couple of jerseys and bib shorts to serve you across all the situations you’ll be riding in during the spring and fall. Instead, you almost need a small wardrobe of kit of slightly different weights and materials to cover the range of temperature, wind and moisture conditions you’ll ride in during the spring and fall seasons. That’s what I tried to pick to test for this review.
Since I couldn’t do a good job of comparing five brands of cycling clothing for the variety of different spring and fall weather (for example, jerseys for cool, wind-free days, jackets for colder, windy days, bib tights for drizzly weather, etc.), I picked a number of kit pieces to test that my research suggested could become part of a seasonal wardrobe I could recommend one to you.
Living in the northeastern US, these seasons cover temps that range from near freezing (35F/2C) to quite pleasantly refreshing (55F/13C), sometimes in the same day. We’ll see wind-free days and on others winds that can blow steady up to 10mph/16kmph with gust up to twice that. Especially in the spring, we’ll get our fair share of damp weather and unexpected showers, and plenty of low sun and low light conditions in the fall. Sometimes I think I’d be better off skiing or sailing, two of my other favorite things to do those times of the year, were it not for their training benefits being limited mostly to wrist curls.
Not all this kit is high-priced, but some of it is. It’s all fit for performance – not loose, low-budget, underperforming stuff. Riding poor fitting clothes, beyond slowing you down, can be quite uncomfortable as they can trap the cold or won’t wick well or don’t move with you when it’s cool or damp or windy outside. Not fun. I want kit that will work well in the conditions we’re riding in and don’t want to put you or me through the ordeal of discovering that we’re wearing underperforming clothes when we’ve already committed to ride, enjoy our time on the road, and get a good workout in.
Working through the various kit reviews in much the same order I’d get dressed, here are my reviews.
The Craft Active Extreme 2.0 WindStopper Crew Neck Long Sleeve (USD$100 market price; Competitive Cyclist, Amazon, Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle) is best down to the coldest temps. It has a crew neck and uses the Gore Windstopper fabric in the front torso panels and across the front and back shoulders. That material is a little crinkly when you put it on and little less stretchy but those things are soon forgotten when you get up and riding. If you are wearing a jersey or light jacket with a wind-resistant front panel, it’s somewhat redundant but I’ve found that there are quite a few jerseys and jackets that don’t have any wind resistance so this gives you that fail-safe if you find yourself out on a windy day.
While the Craft fits snug, the Assos Skinfoil Spring/Fall Long-Sleeve Base Layer (USD$95/£75/€9; Competitive Cyclist, UK/EU Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles) is a closer “skin” fit and is seamless around the torso. It has some small ribbing woven into the fabric across the chest, back and shoulders which make my skin tingly when I first put it on. It’s a good feeling, kind of like my base layer telling me it’s “go time.” I imagine it’s there to keep some of the heat in while still wicking the sweat. Regardless of the reason, it works
(I know, snug, crinkly, stretchy, and tingly are just the kind of high-tech terms you can’t get enough of. If I had more descriptive ones, I’d use them! I try to stay clear of the blizzard of tech gobble-dee-gook used by the apparel makers that make everything sound way cool but don’t pass through the hype filter for helpfulness.)
Both these base layers breathe and wick quite well. The Assos is mostly (82%) polypropylene with the rest polyester while the Craft is all polyester with the wind-resistant panel woven over top of it in the torso. The Craft has a vertical channel weave while the Assos is a very small diamond one. Despite these material and weave differences, I didn’t find any difference in their wicking abilities – both first-rate.
Each works well under close-fitting jerseys and jackets and with thermal bibs that have quite a bit of mesh fabric coming up the back, the kind that most enthusiasts will wear this time of year. They are as thin as a late spring or summer base layer.
A couple of other notes. The Assos has white stripes down the arms and slogos (slogans and logos) front and back that are all woven into the base layer from the inside. One concern I had was that a wayward finger or fingernail or another piece of clothing would pull one of the many exposed threads on the edges of these stripes and slogos. Hasn’t happened yet despite many washes and wears.
Craft sells a few models with similar names, so be clear to get what you want. The base layer I reviewed above is the Craft Active Extreme 2.0 WindStopper Crew Neck Long Sleeve. You may see it listed with abbreviations such as the Craft Active Extreme 2.0 WS CN LS.
Craft also sells the Active Extreme 2.0 CN LS, Active Extreme CN LS, and Active CN LS models. These don’t have WS panels in front but are otherwise the same polyester channel weave and fit as the one I’ve reviewed above.
Another Craft model is the Active WS CN LS. Note the “Extreme” designation is missing. Rather than having a WS panel in the front added to what is otherwise an all-polyester baselayer, this model is all WS material and doesn’t stretch or wick as well as the reviewed “Extreme”.
There and others that are SS (you guessed it, short sleeve). Most of these come in men’s and women’s cuts. I provided you the links to the one I reviewed above but you can see the full collection at this link to Competitive Cyclist.
With all that’s going for these two, I have two simple considerations when choosing between them – which one is clean and then what’s the temp and wind like outside. The cooler and windier it is, the more likely I’ll wear the Craft. If it’s a moderate spring or fall day with temps in the low-40s or higher and without much wind, I’ll go with the Assos.
If it’s in the 50F/10C range or you run hot down to 45F/7C and there’s little wind, an inexpensive mid-weight polyester short sleeve base layer like any of these from dhb is plenty.
The Endura Transmission II Long Sleeve Baselayer (USD$55/£36/€40 MSRP/RRP; Tredz 10% off with code ITKTDZ10) is a lower-cost alternative to the Craft and Assos. In addition to its attractive price, I enjoyed the Transmission’s comfortable, moderately warm and good wicking base layer. It doesn’t fit skin tight like the Assos and wasn’t as warm as the Craft but it’s a solid performer to have around as an extra base layer for cycling and other outdoor sports or just to wear around the house on a cool day.
The sleeves run nice and long on this base layer and the cut allows for plenty of unrestricted movement in and out of aero, upright and out-of-the-saddle positions. It covers the lower part of your neck just up to your Adam’s Apple and has a breathable panel covering the nape of your neck. These same kinds of panels run the length of your sides up to your armpits.
The front, rear, and arm materials are more tightly woven but still have a lot of give. The body of the Transmission has a roughly even mix of polypropylene and nylon with the bulk of the seams facing outside the base layer rather than resting against your torso and arms. It breathes well and keeps me from overheating or getting sweaty even when I’m doing a max effort ride like high-intensity intervals or hill repeats.
Sugoi’s RS Core Base Layer (USD$80; Competitive Cyclist) was a lower-priced base layer and for that reason alone I was anxious to try it. While it does the basics, I found it didn’t compare well with the Endura.
The material is quite soft but doesn’t breathe or wick as well as the others I’ve reviewed in this post. It is fine for recovery or tempo rides. If you plan to go for a hard ride in cool weather, however, you will come back a good deal sweatier than has been my experience with other base layers I’ve worn underneath a jersey or jacket right for the temperature.
I first assumed it was just a warm base layer so tried the Sugoi a couple times with a lighter outer layer and found myself being too cool. Like many other base layers, it is mostly polyester (90%, the rest being spandex) but there’s no weave pattern in the fabric which, I assume, is there in most garments to enable your skin to breathe and your sweat to wick.
The Sugoi provides a nice skin-tight, stretchy fit but also has a lower, wider neckline more typical of a warmer spring or summer base layer. There is also a pretty thick edge sewn around the neck which I find kind of annoying. The arms are a good cycling length but they have a narrow panel of what seems to be the same material running the length of the outside of the arm for reasons I really couldn’t discern.
If you are a commuter or more relaxed rider, you might want to go to a Merino wool base layer for their ultimate warmth and ability to get multiple uses between washes. For enthusiasts extending their season with good training rides and perhaps a little friendly competition, I think a wool base layer will make you too warm and wouldn’t fit well under a close-fitting, somewhat aero jacket.
In this section and the next, I’ve reviewed a collection of bib shorts and bib tights that are each best suited to a different combination of temperature ranges, wind, or wet conditions during the spring and fall seasons. Rather than getting a few pair that essentially perform well in the same conditions, I suggest you get two or three different bibs that perform best against the two or three types of different conditions you are likely to experience where you ride.
In my case, for example, we don’t get as much rain as riders in the UK and I don’t go out if I think it is going to be wet. So I don’t have a need for water-resistant tights. About half the time it’s pretty windy in the spring and fall but the other half, there’s almost no wind. So I want at least one pair of bibs with some protection from the wind. Finally, I’m also happy to get on the trainer when it gets much below 40F/4C so I’ll only need one pair of bib tights for those occasions when I do go out on days below those temps. Instead, I’ll go use two or three pairs of bib shorts in my normal kit rotation for warmer days.
Everyone has different tolerances to heat and cold and some of us run hot or cold ourselves compared to our cycling friends. So knowing yourself is important too in figuring out what to get. As a reference point, I’ve reviewed the kit in this post as someone who is probably slightly more tolerant to cold than what I see in my fellow riders and as one who doesn’t run particularly hot or cold compared to them.
The shorts in this section are all considered “thermal bibs”. They have fleece type lining in parts or all of their panels and are designed to keep you warm in colder temps. Using some embro cream instead of leg warmers, I found the thermal bib shorts I reviewed for this post warm and comfortable down to the 45F/7C range without much wind.
I’ll bring a pair of leg warmers if it is going to go below this temp or I’m likely to encounter some wind during the ride. With those on, you can ride these bibs down below freezing temps. They are that warm. If I know it’s going to stay in the 45F/7C range or get cooler I’ll just go with a pair of bib tights like those in the next section.
Whether to deal with warmers at all is also a personal choice. I’m not a fan of leg or arm warmers in part because I’ve never found them as comfortable around the knees, elbows, and grippers as bib tights or a long sleeve jersey and also because I hate carrying extra gear just “in case”. If I’m starting a ride on a cool spring or fall morning that I know is going to warm up considerably or in mid-afternoon when you know it’s going to cool down a lot, yes, I’ll bring them.
Also, while I get the idea behind knickers – cover the knee tendons and ligaments that are sensitive to cold but don’t restrict the calf muscles that are less so – they’ve always seemed like an indecisive choice and a piece of kit that are hard to fit right.
It’s become a cliché but my experience with the Assos T.tiburuShorts_s7 confirms there’s just nothing better than Assos bib shorts. You kind of take for granted that the chamois is going to be a step above the others, and it is. They’ve figured out how to cover and align the pad with the butt anatomy (or at least mine) and how to get the pad to move as if it were part of you in a way most other shorts don’t. Quite amazing.
What I really love about the Tiburu, in particular, is the comfort and warmth of the waffle-pattern fabric that wraps your legs, backside and lower back and moves as if it were part of you.
It’s more comfortable than any towel, robe or sweatshirt I own and I’m not cranking it out at 90+ rpm in any of those. I’m sure there are all sorts of technical explanations for this but that’s for someone else to explain. It’s just the most comfortable pair of shorts I’ve ever been in regardless of the season or conditions.
They are cut under the belly button in the front, good for easy access should I need to take a pee and so I don’t sweat across my gut. The straps are also wide and stretchy, the kind that you put in place and forget. The best kind.
Grippers are a moderately stretchy elastic material with some narrow silicone dashes on the inside to hold your leg or leg warmers in place without grabbing you. There’s also a thin, flexible layer of wind-resistant material coming up your front-side that covers your privates and flares out to cover your lower abdomen and deflect any wind chill.
All in all, an amazingly comfortable, wonderfully executed pair of bibs. It’s my first pick when I reach into the drawer. Considering how well they perform and how often I wear them, they are totally worth the price IMHO.
Gore C7 Gore-Tex Infinium Bib Short+
I tested Gore’s Oxygen thermal bib shorts a couple of years back and found them wind resistant, warm and comfortable but with a boxy cut, loose grippers, and an average chamois. They seemed a bit pieced together and not as well-executed as those from Assos, Castelli and others.
The Gore-Tex Infinium Bib Short+ couldn’t be more different from the earlier Gore bibs I reviewed.
First, they clearly are a stretch fit. From the 2.5″, 65mm tall grippers up through the lengthwise leg seams, around the inner thighs and up the lower back, they fit you like a comfortable, tailored glove.
Adding to this warm embrace of a fit is a mesh base layer that’s sewn into the top of the bib shorts to create the feel and fit of a one-piece cycling suit. They keep every part of the shorts in place without the need for waist, back or love-handle cross elastic sections the way few bib shorts with straps I’ve worn ever have.
Mind you, I’ve have never had the need for or dared show up at a group ride wearing a one-piece suit. Those are for racers rather than mere mortal road cycling enthusiasts like me. But after loving the fit and comfort of this Gore one-piece-like bib short, and knowing that I’ll wear a jersey over top of it, I’d wear one-piece bib shorts like this one over those with even the best straps eight days a week.
Add to this a chamois pad that’s ample and thins nicely at the edges and 3/8″, 10mm wide, reflective taped seams running down the front of each leg and covering the gripper seams in the rear. It’s extremely well thought out and executed.
Oh yeah. About the Gore-Tex Infinium with Windstopper Technology (long-*ss-name) fabric. Of course, it’s part of the package too.
With that fabric, I feel I can wear these bibs fall, spring or summer, almost no matter the weather. The Windstopper part keeps them warm without the need for thermal or fleece lining down to the mid 40F range no matter the wind or weather. Below that, I’d probably put on some leg warmers.
While they are perhaps best suited for 50-65F/10-18C days regardless of the breeze or precipitation, I found myself quite comfortable wearing them when the temperature rose up to 75F/24C on a windy fall day. They breathe well enough to do that.
Had Buzz Lightyear had the chance to wear these, his famous catchphrase might have changed to something like: To Infinium and Beyond!
While I can and prefer to ride with the total freedom bib shorts provide on most spring and fall days, the Castelli Sorpasso bib tights are the reason I don’t hesitate to cover them if I’m going to do a recovery ride or am unsure just how cold a fall or spring ride it’s going to be. I find they are nearly as comfortable as riding with shorts and a lot more comfortable than wearing leg warmers.
Are you thinking that I haven’t found a good pair of leg warmers yet? Perhaps. Certainly nothing as comfortable as these bib tights. Or perhaps you are wondering if these are so loose from the knees down that they feel free to me? Hardly.
No, what I love about these slim-cut bib tights starts with a great chamois pad that both cushions in the right spots and provides great coverage in colder temps and ends with uncannily aligned movement and compression from straps to stirrups. (Well not actually stirrups; there aren’t any stirrups in bib tights of course. I was just looking for a phrase that meant top to bottom without actually using that overused phrase.)
Tights are awfully hard to get right. More than just integrating the cut, fit and comfort of bib shorts with added material that runs the length of your legs, you’ve got to figure out how to give unrestricted range of motion so the front and sides of your knees to do their thing without having material bunch up or irritate the back of them. You also need to have the leg material flare to make room for your calves yet also taper the bottoms to get a snug fit above your ankles. And all of this with an equivalent amount of compression from quad to calf.
That’s hard enough to explain. I can’t imagine how hard it is to pull off. With material panels that widen as they angle to the outside of each knee, another piece on each leg that runs from your hamstring to just above your calf and a third that wraps the calf, the Sorpasso pulls of the combination of fit and comfort that moves with you, provides even compression, breathes, wicks and keeps you warm throughout these seasons. It’s well thought out and executed, right down to the elastic closures at the bottom of the legs and the tab you can hold with one hand as you pull on the zipper with the other.
Yes, zippers. I prefer them as you don’t have to worry about getting your foot through the narrow ankle opening at the bottom. Zippers all do a good job of keeping the cold from getting in the tights from riding up your leg.
Lacking wind or water-resistant materials, I wouldn’t try to wear these on a real windy or near freezing day and I likewise wouldn’t ride them in the rain. Those aren’t issues for me as I’m on the trainer inside when that’s going on outside. (Soft, I know). If you are an all-season, all-weather cyclist, Castelli makes these with Windstopper panels for your thighs and knees called the Sorpasso Wind Bib Tights (use the same store links above to find them.)
I’d make sure you take care to drain your main vein before heading out – the front panel is cut below your belly button but has non-elastic piping across the top that doesn’t make it easy to gain access without removing the straps. The straps themselves are thin, work fine, but aren’t anything special. The mesh back panel doesn’t even try to handle the job of wicking, delegating that to your base layer rather than trying to compete with it. Makes sense
These tights shout Castelli… or at least feature the Castelli name in big letters atop a 10 inch, 25-centimeter-long and 1¼ inch, 3-centimeter-wide fire-engine red stripe running along the outside of the quads and another running the length of your outer shins. These aren’t fluorescent or reflective but they are loud and the shin stripes may improve your visibility somewhat. You can order them with yellow fluo stripes but that wouldn’t be very Castelli of you.
The stitching attaching one of the red quad stripes was poorly sewn so I returned it for replacement. More a cosmetic than a performance issue but an issue nonetheless.
The Sorpasso has been in Castelli’s line for a half dozen years. Last fall they introduced the Sorpasso 2 with straps and back support similar to what they offer in their Premio bibshorts (for my review of those, click here and scroll down a bit). Their Sorpasso and Sorpasso 2 list price (MSRP/RRP) can be quite high but you can usually find them on sale at 2/3rds that price including at the stores with good customer satisfaction ratings like the ones I’ve provided links for above.
Santini Adapt Bib Tights
I seem to be quite comfortable wearing thermal, fleece-lined bib shorts down to about 40 degrees and putting on some embro or leg warmers only if it’s windy. Maybe it’s my bull-headed sense of manhood.
Santini’s Adapt Bib Tights were a welcome surprise. The Polartec fabric makes for breathable, full-leg protection without being as thick and stiff as many winter tights.
The wool-like material used in the wide upper back panel and the fleece used for the lower back panel that continues down either side of the amply-sized chamois pad made my back, inner thighs and privates quite comfortable. More simply said, things are warm and happy where it matters most.
While I wore the medium, the legs ran long for my 5’10” height. There are no zippers to synch down the tights just above the ankle and I had to pull the extra material up above my knees to keep the tights from puckering below my them. Even doing that and with no panel cuts around the knees, there was a bit of bunching behind them. While I found that irritating when first setting off on a ride, the suffering in my legs and lungs during a good workout usually made this (and all else) fade in comparison.
A reflective patch of diagonal pinstripes surrounding the Santini logo covers the lower legs of these bibs. I also liked the straps that do the job of keeping the seat in place while being light and unobtrusive. The straps stretch enough for easy pee access even with the bibs covering my stomach and the love handles.
These are quite pricey at $230/€230 and available through Santini’s online store here.
Sportful Fiandre NoRain Bib Tights (USD$220/£122/€118; Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction, Wiggle)
Sportful doesn’t run as slim cut as Castelli, Santini and other classically Italian kit but it’s not quite a standard width either. Somewhere in between the two. It does size a little short. If you are nearly 6 foot or 1.8 meters tall, as is Nate who tested these, you’ll likely want to go a size larger to get the length you need. Switching from a medium to a large provided the right length while not being loose around his 32” waist.
As the name suggests, these bibs are designed for wet conditions, best shedding water in a mist, drizzle or even steady rain better than others we’ve tried. They also come with a pull-out rain panel that runs across your butt that looks a little silly with the bright red vertical line highlighting your crack.
However, as Nate found, the panel avoided that instant soggy feeling when he was caught in the rain without having put on his rear fender. There’s also extra NoRain material added around the knees and thighs that don’t hinder (or highlight) your lower body functions or comfort.
These Sportful bib tights aren’t just for wet weather through. They are breathable and all-around comfortable in dry spring and fall conditions too. Key to their comfort is the bib’s first-rate chamois. Its thickness varies, putting extra padding where it should be and avoiding it where it doesn’t provide any extra benefit.
A couple of things to point out that the experience of wearing these bibs many times in different conditions reveals. First, pull the tight closing zipper away from your leg before you zip or unzip it unless you shave your legs year-round. Second, the bib straps aren’t the softest so are best worn with a base layer, no matter how warm out.
That said, these have become a favorite of Nate’s, one that he wears from 50F/10C through winter’s sub-freezing temps and precipitation long after I’ve retreated to the trainer.
The difference between a spring/fall jersey and a jacket seems to be in the eye of the beholder or perhaps the torso of the rider. Personally, I consider a jersey to be a relatively thin layer worn over a short or long sleeve base layer. A jacket, on the other hand, is made to be warmer and more weather resistant than a jersey and something I would wear over a jersey or a heavier base layer.
There doesn’t seem to be a common view on this, however. Some clothing companies call what I would call a jersey a jacket and vice versa. What I’ve done in this and the next section on jackets is to group them the way I just explained it rather than what companies call them.
Unless your body runs really cold, you should be able to stay warm and repel the wind in the spring and fall with the jerseys below down to somewhere between 40F/4C and 45F/7C. On warmer days, go with a short sleeve base layer. On cooler ones, use a long sleeve base layer like those I reviewed above.
Castelli Perfetto Light and Light 2 Short Sleeve Jersey (From USD$105/£60/€87 MSRP/RRP; Competitive Cyclist. The Perfetto comes in short and long sleeve models and a convertible jacket. I bought and am reviewing the short sleeve one here for those warmer spring and fall days when it’s too cool to wear a summer jersey without a wind vest but too warm to put on a long sleeve jersey.
I like that the Perfetto comes in bright red and fluorescent yellow front panels for the lower light conditions in these seasons. They also make it in black, blue, green, red, and grey. The back is always black save for the tailpiece which covers the upper part of your rear end, matches the color of your front and has reflective edging. There’s also a reflective edge across the top of the pockets. If you are riding in a somewhat aero body position, these edges will help you be seen by cars coming from behind (along with your always-on blinkie, of course)
The price is quite reasonable compared to other spring/fall jerseys when you consider that you can usually find a 20% off Castelli sale of going several times a year.
The Perfetto has the light version Gore Windstopper fabric built into the front and is very breathable out the back. You should wear a base layer at the lower temperature range, however, as I found your back can get cool after sweating without the warmth of a base layer
While the Perfetto is comfortable and warm for me down to around 50F/10C even with a little wind, it also is comfortable into the low to mid-60s F, mid to high-teens C range without overheating. I don’t like to cover my arms in this temperature range and prefer the close fit of the Perfetto jersey over the looser fit of a vest over a summer weight jersey.
If you are one that regulates your comfort with arm warmers and a vest that you put on or take off during a ride but want to eliminate that hassle, I’d suggest one of the long sleeve jerseys below rather than the long sleeve Perfetto. The latter is really a renamed Gabba, one that is constructed with heavier Windstopper in the front and a less breathable back. It will be much warmer than the Perfetto, well beyond just adding sleeves.
There’s been much hype around the Gabba (for good reason) and Castelli is promoting the Perfetto as the next Gabba. There are a lot of similarities in fit (slim) and performance (wind, rain) but the Perfetto is really for warmer spring and fall weather and more breathable than the short or long-sleeved Gabba.
The Gabba was a benchmark for spring classics weather that a lot of other companies have copied. With the Perfetto and the colder weather Alpha (reviewed below), you have the benefits of the wind and rain resistance with two garments that cover the range of temperatures you’re likely to see in the spring and fall without much overlap. They both provide the breathability and warmth you need for the conditions you wear them in. The Gabba doesn’t cover the highs and lows of this range the way Perfetto and Alpha do. Yes, I have one of each.
As with other Castelli gear, the Perfetto is cut for slim riders. Fit ones at that. You might want to order your normal size and a size larger and see which one fits better. If you ride in the spring a few pounds or kgs over your normal summer weight, definitely get it a size larger than normal.
Gore C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Jersey
If you know the history and adoration among cyclists for Castelli’s iconic Gabba jerseys and jackets and their Perfetto successors, both made with Gore-Tex materials, you’ll appreciate the value of having a jersey that you can put on and be confident it will comfortably protect you when fickle spring or fall weather turns windy or rainy.
When you then look at the C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Jersey, you’ll recognize it’s designed to compete with the Castelli models.
After wearing the Gore jersey, however, I noticed some key differences that for me, make it more versatile.
Perhaps most importantly, the C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Jersey is cut fuller than the Castelli models. Better said, the C5 is cut right. Even when I’m in my best shape, and that’s certainly not the case in the Spring and usually not in the Fall, I’ve got very little room to breathe in my medium size Perfetto, the same size that fits me just fine on so-called Italian cut kit including other Castelli jerseys and jackets.
The C5 isn’t loose but it does offer room for the mesh base layer integrated into the C7 bib shorts. There’s also room to put a short or long sleeve base layer over top the mesh for cooler days or to make the short sleeve C5 comfy down into the low 40s if you want to use arm warmers.
Part of that extra room also comes around the neck. The scallop-shaped collar offers me a bit too much room unless I’m wearing a base layer with a taller neck than normal.
The C5 jersey sleeves are 1.5 inches longer and have superior grippers to the Perfetto. This lands them south of where my biceps would be if I had some, providing more arm coverage and warmth.
While they both have a silicone waistband, the Perfetto one wraps my entire waist while the C5 silicone stretches only across the back. Below it, the Perfetto’s tailpiece is a good deal longer and wider than the C5’s.
If you are using your Gore-Tex jersey in the rain, you’ll get far more coverage of your backside with the Perfetto. When the roads are dry and you don’t need it down, there’s less of it to store with the C5.
These fit and cut differences lead me to be more likely to pull out the C5 jersey for a ride on a cool, windy, dry day. I’ve got good options on how to layer underneath it. When it’s somewhere between 55F to 65F and with a chance of a shower, I’ll go with the Perfetto.
Assos Mille GT Jacket Spring Fall
This Mille GT Jacket Spring Fall is somewhat different than others I’ve worn, insofar as it has windproof panels across only the chest, rather than completely windproof or not at all. I figured it might work nicely as a replacement for my usual approach in this temp range: an LS base layer, SS jersey, plus sleeveless wind vest (for mornings when 50 or below, but not usually in afternoons when warmer). Also, sometimes I opt for arm warmers and a sleeveless base layer instead of the LS base layer… but arm warmers have their own inconveniences, especially with biceps as non-existent as mine.
On my first ride, I opted to try the Mille GT Jacket as an LS jersey rather than a jacket and wore it with only a sleeveless (summer) base layer. This would have probably worked nicely but there was one problem- the windproof panels don’t extend quite far enough into the shoulder and armpit region, and thus those areas felt cold and drafty. So future rides I kept the SS jersey on and used it more like the light jacket for which it is marketed.
Overall, it’s a high-quality jacket, but whether or not it’s ideal (versus my traditional approach) comes down to expectations on temp changes over the course of a long ride (or full day in case of my AM/PM commutes). With this jacket, you’ve committed to both the arm cover (which you would otherwise get from an LS base layer) AND also the wind block (which you would otherwise get using a vest).
Depending on how you look at it, this jacket provides some flexibility on the arm cover (easier to take off than to carry extra base layer to swap) but takes it away on the wind-block (relative to a separate wind vest). First world problems obviously, but if you’re interested in just one piece of kit (i.e. you don’t like layering) and you don’t expect much temp change and want to lightly cover arms and provide a windbreak only at the chest, this is a perfect solution. It’s just not that hard to get the same solution with separate pieces of kit, IMO- so again, this is more of a niche solution like the knickers.
Certainly, this jacket can be a layer under other warmer pieces as the temps drop further… it’s not at all bulky (even the windproof part) and there is no excess material, so unlike the knickers (which one is unlikely to layer), this is still a very useful piece across a lower range of temps.
Again, this Mille GT Jacket fits me very well. The arm length and cuff diameter is great, it’s cut about 1″ shorter than I would like on the front at the waist, but it has good coverage in back.
There are a couple of other design details that I appreciate.
- It has one large central and two smaller side pockets, instead of 3 equal-sized pockets like most kit. This is nice if you’ve got a bulkier jacket which you want to shed and stash in the middle of a warming ride. The wider pocket gives you this flexibility without making you feel like you’re over-stuffing a standard pocket.
- I hang my jackets on hooks. Other jackets tend to get stretched and malformed right below the neck-line by the weight of the jacket pulling on the “sharp” hook. This jacket has an extra plastic panel sewn in just the right spot to reinforce against hook stretch. Smart!
You can get the Mille GT Jacket in a range of front panel and sleeve colors including black, white, yellow, red, and blue starting at $179/£155/€179 from Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle.
Santini Vega Multi Jacket
Jackets are often singularly designed for either rain, wind resistance, as a long-sleeve jersey alternative or for winter warmth. The Vega doesn’t fit any of these descriptions yet approaches several of them at the same time.
Breathable was the one-word description that kept coming to mind as I wore this jacket in different cool weather situations. The Vega Multi Jacket’s Polartec fabric is not as impenetrable to wind as Gore-Tex, but it breathes just as well. It doesn’t totally block out the moisture the way a dedicated rain jacket would, but it breathes the way most don’t.
You’ll be warmer wearing the Vega than you would a long-sleeve jersey and cooler than with a winter jacket using the same base layer you’d normally wear under those. However, if you wear a lighter or heavier base layer, you can dial in the Vega for the conditions you are riding in a way you can’t with the others.
On warmer days, say 50F with no wind, I’ll wear a light, short sleeve base layer with this jacket. On cooler or windy days, I’ll put on a long-sleeve, heavier base layer or one with wind-stopping fabric across my torso under the Vega.
If I’m using these cooler months to seriously train rather than just get some extra miles in, my body is going to throw off enough heat that I need a breathable jacket. That’s what the Vega provided me.
Wearing a medium, I found the Vega a close, comfortable fit around my 5’10”, 146 lb body. The jacket’s arms were a bit short on the bike and the cuffs were loose around my wrists. While this did give me the option of tucking my gloves under the cuffs, I much prefer a jacket that has stretch cuffs to seal off any air coming in.
There’s a nice, 35mm wide baffle under the zipper and a form-fitting butt cover. Both of these help in wet weather. I did find the equally long Santini medal pendant a bit annoying on my chin when I got down in aero position.
I loved the visibility of the bright orange color, especially in the low light months. The pockets are also deeper than most which make room for an extra set of gloves I like to carry for variable conditions and the extra tube, tools, and food I’ll pack for some early season gravel rides. The center pocket also has a handy zip sleeve for keys and other valuables
The Vega Multi Jacket comes in orange with black highlights and black with orange highlights in both men’s and women’s sizes. At the time of this review, you can find it for $177/£154/€187 at Chain Reaction Cyclist and Wiggle, two stores I recommend because of their combination of excellent pricing, customer satisfaction ratings, enthusiast selection, and reader support.
The Alpha is clearly a Castelli jacket made to be worn over a jersey or thermal base layer. With it range of insulation and ventilation options at the throw of a couple zippers, it best suits me at temps from 25F/-4C to 50F/10 though I’ve ridden it comfortably on days when it warms up above that range. I’d expect you could take it out on colder days but I’d rather be on skis and indeed have worn it comfortably under a winter coat in far lower temps while out on the slopes.
It has a robust Gore wind breaking outer layer, something I’ve found quite nice when you are riding in crosswinds or into 10-15mph headwinds created either by Mother Nature or your own foolishness going downhill in near freezing conditions. And when I get caught out in a cold rain or even a snow squall in the late fall or early winter, it was sure nice to have an outer layer that resists the precip as well as my ski parka but that still rides with the fit of a jersey.
Let’s just say I’m a pretty fearless male once I put the Alpha on. Maybe that’s where the jacket’s name came from.
Interestingly, the Alpha weighs the lightest of all Castelli’s jackets for this temperature range yet it offers the most insulation and breathability in their line and is the only one with Gores’s top windproof fabric. I’m not quite sure how they accomplish all of that but it sure works for me. It’s got mesh and a covered vent across your upper back to let the heat out that direction and a separate zippered insulating inner layer that allows you to open the front of your wind-protecting outer layer without exposing the cold to your base layer.
This venting system keeps you from overheating and sweating if you are doing a hard turn or cranking it out going uphill. Castelli even thought to offset the zippers so there’s no interference between them. It’s really quite ingenious.
Despite the Alpha’s colder weather rating, it’s still form-fittingly snug so you are best riding it with your elbows and back bent. As with all Castelli kit, this one is cut for the slim riders among us. I seldom wear it with anything thicker than a thermal base layer and the “fit like a glove” and breathable comfort gives me a similar feeling to riding in the summer despite the temp being half of what it is during that season.
While it lacks any reflective accents, I find the red version to be quite loud for daytime riding. It comes in black and more muted steel blue and grey options, none of which will stand out like the red I favor.
While often on sale well below the MSRP/RRP, the Alpha is not cheap to start off with. For me, its range and comfort and the likelihood I’ll wear it for a good number of years and many days each of those years has made it one of the best deals amongst all my spring and fall cycling kit.
Chances are you’ve heard and read a lot of great things about this jacket. This is one case where the performance lives up to the hype, or where you can ignore the hype and just enjoy the performance and value.
An outer layer that is both highly visible and highly reflective is the ideal combo for spring and fall cycling when you may find yourself riding on either side of dawn or dusk. A bright color makes you visible in the sunlight and a lot of reflective strips make you visible to cars when the sun goes down. Add in a low price and you’ve got my attention.
All of this attracted me to the Altura Night Vision jersey. With its fleece like lining throughout, this is more of a jacket than a jersey. It’s not as warm as the Castelli Alpha but is definitely warmer than all of those I’ve put in the jersey category. I wore it with a short sleeve base layer in temps above 50F/10C and with a long sleeve one below.
The high-vis yellow panels make up all of the front torso and shoulders and wide sections down the arms and back. The reflective strips are large and plentiful down the arms, sides, back and back pockets.
The challenge I have with this Altura is the fit. When I wore it before washing, I found it to be more of a casual rather than performance fit in my normal medium size. There was plenty of room under the arms to stretch out on the bars and so much room across the chest that it bulged at spots along the zipper.
After washing (in cold water and air drying, as with all my cycling clothing), it dropped a half-size or so. Was this to be a transformation from a casual to a performance fit? Unfortunately not. The sleeves would only fit spaghetti arms and when I got on the saddle, my arms could no longer reach the bars without resistance from my jacket. Surprisingly, the bulging material remained.
I’ve since read many user reviews that also report similar size issues. My recommendation is to only buy the Altura a size larger than you would normally wear and if you are ok with wearing a casual fitting jacket. That kind of loose fit is not what I like when I’m out on the road in spring or fall and when I’m rounding into shape or trying to keep it but if you are more of a summer rider wanting to pick up a month of riding safely on either side, the fit (size larger) and visibility would be a good option for you.
I haven’t done a comparative review of warmers, gloves, socks, booties and the like. But, for those of you who may wonder what I use (and to pre-empt your questions with answers), here are the accessories I wear.
SOCKS– I have lousy circulation in my feet and hands, probably as a result of getting frostbite a few too many times while out skiing. I use DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks (Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Amazon) which are half and half merino wool and nylon with a little bit of lycra mixed in. They are so damn comfortable and warm, I wear them around the house instead of slippers in the winter and they fit fine into my summer cycling shoes.
BOOTIES – Staying with the keep it warm and visible theme, I use a pair of neon yellow Gore Overshoes (Competitive Cyclist, Amazon). They are a great fit over top of my Specialized S-Works shoes, the under-shoe strap is pretty durable and they cinch up nicely up and easily. With these and the Woolie Boolies, I can wear my summer shoes without my feet getting cold.
GLOVES – I use Craft Hybrid Weather Gloves (Competitive Cyclist, Amazon, Bike24) for spring and fall days when it’s just a bit too cool to wear fingerless gloves. They are warm but thin and have a nice wind-proof mitten cover you can pull out from a small zip pocket atop the glove if it starts getting cool. I’ve got the fluoro yellow model but they also come in neon green, hot pink and basic black. They are inexpensive and do the trick.
On the coldest or wet spring and fall days that I ride, I pull out my Gore-Tex Gloves (Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle). They are very warm without being clammy or thick. The top side has a Gore-Tex cover which deflects the wind, the inside is fleece and the underside is leather. They’ve also got a nice cuff which covers my wrist and cinches up with Velcro. The leather takes a bit of breaking in and there are probably warmer gloves out there but these work for me. They do run small so might want to order a size up in addition to your normal size and return the pair that doesn’t fit after trying them both on.
LEG AND ARM WARMERS – I’ll admit to being a Castelli fanboy. Not because they send me kit to demo but because I love nearly every piece of Castelli I’ve ever worn. The cut works for me, the design is first-rate, the fit and comfort are great and their kit, while expensive, is usually on sale at a price that makes it a great value for the level of performance I get out of it and the number of times I wear it.
That said, I’ve tried Pearl Izumi and Gore leg warmers. The former was really priced right but lost their shape and didn’t stay up after wearing them a dozen times one spring and the later just didn’t stretch well enough being made of the Windstopper fabric and it bunched up behind my knees. Talk about wrecking your ride!
I do have a pair of Castelli Nanoflex Leg Warmers (Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles, Tredz 10% off with code ITKTDZ10, Tweeks Cycles) for those days when I’m headed out on 3-hour or longer spring or fall rides and have no idea what the weather will be like on the way.
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