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SHOULDER SEASON CYCLING JACKET, BIB TIGHTS, AND MORE

Kitting up for cool fall and spring shoulder season rides can be challenging. Many of us will layer up over our summer cycling clothing, while others will wear a cycling jacket and bib tights suitable for winter riding with only a light base layer.

Both approaches can work. Neither is ideal. And, having to overthink whether we’ll be too cold or hot or when to stop to re-layer just adds another obstacle for some of us to train outside.

Fortunately, a wide range of cycling clothing is designed specifically for the times of the year when temps range from 40-60F/5-15C. Not having the right kit for the changing temps, threatening skies, and variable winds that characterize shoulder season isn’t reason enough to miss out on all the benefits of a good ride in spring and fall’s fresh air.

Depending on where you live, this two-part season straddles summer and can total 3-4 months of good outdoor riding or as long or longer as the summer season. This makes wearing kit ideally suited for these months worth having.

My fellow In The Know Cycling testers and I rode a range of shoulder season cycling jackets, bib tights, and other pieces from Assos, Gore, Rapha, and Santini.

Here are our reviews of the kit we think you, our fellow cycling enthusiasts, should consider.

CYCLING JACKETS, VESTS, AND JERSEYS

GOREWEAR PHANTOM JACKET – COMFORTABLE AND VERSATILE

Gorewear Phantom Jacket

On a day when the winds are blowing but could also ease during the ride, when the temps start at 45F/7C and end at 60F/15C or vice versa, and when I’d want to both look good and be seen, the GOREWEAR Phantom GORE-TEX INFINIUM Jacket is the one I’ll wear.

It’s comfortable, fits well, and is attractive, all at the same time. There’s a great combination of wind-proof yet breathable, roomy yet tapered, and versatile yet not gimmicky panels built into it. It’s a well-thought-out combination of performance, fit, and finish.

A cycling jacket cut for a shoulder season rider

Cycling jackets, like cycling jerseys, often come in one of two cuts – loose fitting or aero. The former gives you many options for base layer and jersey combinations, but it can seem like you’re giving up some watts in exchange for the versatility. The latter gives up nothing but limits what you can wear under it without the jacket feeling tight.

The GOREWEAR Phantom GORE-TEX INFINIUM Jacket gives me the best of both. It’s clearly a cycling cut with long, well-fitting sleeves and a torso tapered to give up little to the wind when I’m in an aero position. Yet the panels the Phantom uses under my arms and along my ribs have enough “breathing room” in their permeability and stretchiness to accommodate everything from a thin short-sleeve baselayer to a thicker long-sleeve jersey.

The Phantom’s wide center back panel also stretches to keep the jacket from flapping and breathes to keep my back from sweating.

The rear, stretchy portion of this cycling jacket’s 1.5″ or 40mm tall waistband has silicone beaded GORE logos inside that create a good seal against your bibs. It also has thin, 5mm tall, stretchy sleeve cuffs that hold the sleeves in place, either with or without wrist-covering gloves underneath them.

And with all that, I still find that a jacket (or jersey) collar can make all the difference. The Phantom shines here. It has a thin, soft, fleece-like feel, comes up about 2″ or 60mm from the base of my neck, and wraps it comfortably without being too loose or tight.

Of course, your jacket size and the relative proportions of your arms, torso, and neck all matter to whether you’ll fit as well as I do with the Phantom jacket. My proportions seem to fit in the middle of the bell curve, and this jacket in my size – the same as I wear for a jersey – is a great fit.

Comfort that matches the fit

Along with its great, versatile fit, the GOREWEAR Phantom Jacket’s comfort is central to why I love to wear it.

No matter what the temperature is, how hard or easy the wind is blowing, or how sunny or dark the skies are on a given shoulder season day, I’m comfortable wearing the Phantom. It seems to hold the heat I generate when I need it on a cooler day or let it out on a warmer one.

I never feel over or under-dressed with the Phantom and a base layer or long-sleeve jersey underneath. I might need 10 minutes on a cool morning to get my body temp up. But, once there, I’m good for the duration. And even if I’m riding hard on a 60F day, I don’t overheat in it.

It just regulates that well.

Features that you may never consider

I never pay attention to zippers unless they don’t work well. The Phantom’s central zipper works well.

And, given how I’ve described the comfort this GOREWEAR cycling jacket gives me in the range of shoulder season conditions, I also don’t pay much attention to its zip-off arm sleeves.

If it’s going to warm up to the point where I won’t want sleeves, I probably won’t want a jacket in the first place. Better to wear a base layer and jersey and some embrocation creme.

Of course, arm warmers are popular with some enthusiasts I ride with during the spring and fall. Yet, they often seem to come off early in the ride and take up a lot of pocket space that you might not want to carry around or use for nutrition on a long ride.

But, if you’re into a zipp-off feature or the functionality of a “convertible jacket” that Castelli popularized years ago, I find that GOREWEAR has improved on it in some respects with the Phantom.

Castelli Perfetto convertible jacket

Castelli Perfetto convertible jacket sleeves are attached at your biceps

The sleeves on Castelli convertible jackets like the current Perfetto zip off right at the middle of your biceps, similar to where arm warmers overlap or underlap a short sleeve jersey. In addition to not looking very well integrated, this seems to be an unnatural and uncomfortable place to have a break in your material.

 

Conversely, the Phantom’s sleeves come off between your shoulder joint and armpit. The zippers replace the seam sewn in a jacket or jersey at the same location, a more natural place that aligns with the creases and functionality of your body.

Gorewear Phantom Jacket shoulder season cycling jacket

The Gorewear Phantom Jacket is attached between your shoulder joint and armpit.

With the long sleeves off, the Phantom reveals short sleeve length sections underneath that were there all along and look quite natural as part of the converted jacket. There’s also an oversized rear center pocket they store into without looking like you’ve grown a hump on your back. And, the left and right pockets are phone-sized, which is narrower than normal. The right pocket also has a second zip pocket overlaying it for keys.

That said, zipping the sleeves back on is more difficult with the Phantom than with the Perfetto. So if you do most of your shoulder season rides in conditions when you’d be putting your stored sleeves on rather than taking them off, you may be better off with the Castelli design.

A distinctive look

While cycling jackets generally look different from one to the next, the Phantom has a rather distinctive look. Its two-tone colors – fireball red/black, neon yellow/black, army green/black, and grey/black – break below the chest and upper arms in the front and between the middle and outer panels in the back in the men’s version.

It is also made for women with the same color combinations, with the entire length of the sleeves and the width of the shoulders highlighted in the bright color.

The red and yellow options are also quite visible in the lower sunlight I often ride in during the fall and spring months.

The GOREWEAR Phantom Jacket’s price is also a good value for all it does compared to jackets like the Castelli Perfetto RoS intended for the same riding season. It’s often discounted below its full retail price of US$200, £180, €190 using these links to recommended stores Performance Bike and REI.

In The Know Cycling supports you by doing hours of independent and comparative evaluations to find and recommend the best road cycling gear and kit to improve your riding experience.

You can support us and save yourself time and money when you buy through the links in the posts and at Know’s Shop to stores I rank among the best for their low prices and high customer satisfaction, some of which pay a commission that helps cover our review and technology costs.

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GOREWEAR TORRENT JACKET – ONE FOR ALL

When it’s not clear what the weather may bring, the GOREWEAR Torrent Jacket is kit I’m sure to have on or with me. It’s versatile enough to cut the wind, warm me on a cool morning, shield me from the rain, and easily pack away once the weather settles.

I’m generally not fond of rain jackets or wind vests, which often seem one-dimensional. Many I’ve tried also don’t fit or breathe well during hard, fast rides. Putting one on seems like I’m conceding I will sacrifice some speed or comfort until I can get it off.

Cut and fit for cycling, not just inclement weather

The Torrent Jacket fits me nearly as well as a long sleeve jersey or light stretchy cycling jacket. It’s sized and cut for a cyclist riding in a cycling position. Even though it protects me the way a windbreaker or rain jacket does, it doesn’t fit like a typical one, and you don’t experience any puckering or flapping in the wind the way some do.

Fits like a cycling top rather than a windbreaker or raincoat

The light fleece-lined neck zips up without gaps, the arms are long enough when I’m stretched out on the bike, and the wrist and waistbands hold nearly as well as those on a jersey or lined jacket. A drop tail also tapers about 3 inches/7.5cm long to protect your lower back from any road spray. And the material has a bit of stretch in it as well.

The Torrent Jacket is a great option to wear over a light jacket, long-sleeve jersey, or even a short-sleeve one on shoulder season days when it’s often in the low to mid-40s F or single digits C and then warms up 5 to 10 degrees once the sun is higher in the sky and my legs and torso are warmed up.

It keeps my whole upper body warm the way arm warmers alone can’t, yet I can remove it if the temp warms the way I wouldn’t with a lined jacket. If the wind is steady and making the temperature feel cooler than it is, I’ll keep it on to break the wind, yet my torso will still be able to breathe as if I had just a lined jacket and base layer on.

Easy off, pack, and back on

When it’s time to take the Torrent Jacket off, it packs nearly as small as an unlined vest or gilet and about as compact as arm warmers. I simply roll it up and stuff it in my rear center pocket with my phone and it pops up a few inches above the top band.

It tucks away neatly in a rear center pocket.

Doing a long, fast downhill on a cool day? I’ll put it on at the top of the climb in no time and then take it off when I get to the bottom. The zipper pull is big, and the slider connects to the teeth easily, even with full-finger gloves on. It zips up and down smoothly.

Rain or snow? Well, it’s made of GORE-TEX. Enough said.

If I ruled the design

The GOREWEAR Torrent Jacket is so functional and practical that I admit to thinking of it as a more versatile version of what Castelli introduced years ago with the now iconic Gabba jackets and their Perfetto successors, both made with GORE-TEX materials.

I may be getting a little greedy, but I wish the Torrent had the typical three rear pockets to store my ride nutrition and phone instead of a single vertical zippered pocket that opens the right side. That pocket is big enough for a large phone and a handful of gels, probably all I need for most situations when I plan to keep the jacket on for an hour or so.

And, if I wear it for longer rides, I still have my jersey pockets for storage.

Don’t use that Torrent pocket to store your jacket when you take it off. It’s too much work to stuff it in and pull it out. It also creates an uneven shape that doesn’t fit as easily in your jersey pocket. It’s much easier just to roll it up and put it in your jersey’s center pocket.

Small reflective bands below the biceps but large back zippered pocket

There are 1” or 2.5cm tall front-facing reflective strips on each of the jacket’s arms just below my cyclist’s puny biceps. That doesn’t seem enough, especially on the black model I wear and the navy and green it also comes in. GOREWEAR also makes the jacket in fireball red, which is more visible on the road.

Of course, front and rear blinky lights trump any reflective strips or bright colors, especially during low or flat light times of the year.

Better and less expensive than the sum of single-purpose kits

With the GOREWEAR Torrent Jacket, I’ve set aside my arm warmers, vest, and rain jacket, and I don’t know when I’ll use them again. The Torrent has become my one-for-all kit that performs just as well and, in some cases, better than any of those single-purpose pieces.

At US$230, £230, €230, the Torrent Jacket is more expensive than the individual pieces it replaces but probably less than their combined cost. And it’s much more versatile; you don’t have to think about which combination of pieces to bring on your ride. Cold, wind, or rain on a changing day of weather, it’s the only thing I need to worry about packing or wearing.

You can order the GOREWEAR Torrent Jacket at stores I recommend by clicking on these links to Performance Bike and Sigma Sports.

RAPHA PRO TEAM JACKET, VEST, AND JERSEY – CHOICES, CHOICES

When it comes to shoulder season kit, Rapha gives you a lot of kit options. My fellow testers Conor, Aiyana, and I tested the performance of several of these to understand what conditions they are best suited for.

Rapha takes the Pro Team name seriously. In most cases, it means aero fit. While I’ll say more about the fit of the individual tops we tested below, my strong advice is to carefully consider their sizing charts and the amount of extra body fat you might carry around in the fall and spring when you order them. At best, the sizes match your fittest summer self.

The Rapha Pro Team Long Sleeve Infinium Jersey, available at US$290, £220, €255 using these links to Rapha US or Rapha UK (15% off your first order), is more of a cycling jacket than a jersey suggested by its product name. You can, and we did wear it at times with just a short sleeve base layer, but it’s more suitable and robust as a jacket in shoulder season temps and weather conditions.

Rapha Pro Team Infinium Jersey cycling jacket

It keeps you warm and breathes extremely well across a wide temperature range. Conor and Aiyana rode in it comfortably down to the mid-30s F, low single digits C. While both admittedly created a lot of body heat on their rides, they each remarked how well this Rapha jacket did at the lower shoulder season temperatures compared to other jackets they’d worn.

I find it’s comfortable down to the low 40s F, but certainly in the range of most shoulder season jackets.

Conor, normally a medium size, and I, usually a small, had to go up one size to fit into this Rapha jacket. Even with that change, it still fits like an aero jersey – no extra room around the middle, skin-tight along your arms, and no extra length below your waist with only a short Rapha emblazoned logo on a short flap below your back.

If you race during the shoulder season and don’t want to give up even a fraction of a watt of drag, this is the cut for you. It’s comfortable on any ride but not designed for those going out for a relaxed one.

Rapha Pro Team Infinium Jersey cycling jacket

High pockets that are hard to reach during a ride

This Pro Team jacket has average-sized pockets that securely hold whatever you put inside. But, consistent with its racing cut and fit, they open up so high on your back that I’m not sure the Rapha designers intended that you reach into them mid-ride. I thought it was just my bad shoulders that would limit me from accessing these pockets, but my younger and more flexible fellow testers also called out this design characteristic in their review notes.

The GORE-TEX Infinium material used throughout the jacket is a clear winner. Its breathability, wind, and moisture resistance create a comfortable cocoon that allows you to focus on your riding performance rather than your riding conditions.

And it’s also well made, with a solid front zipper and sturdy flat stitched seams around your shoulders.

In typical Rapha fashion, the jacket has a minimalist look. There’s a Rapha logo on the left sleeve, along with the one across your lower back, and rows of short, narrow stripes on the back of your left arm and above your waist on the left. This adds a stealthy look to the aero fit, not one to attract a lot of attention in low-light conditions.

If you want more visibility than the basic black jackets we tested, it also comes in dark red and lime green for men and pale green for women. Note that it’s lime and pale green, not neon green, neither of which strikes me as ones you’d see on the Rapha color palette. So make sure to have your lights on while riding fast in this cycling jacket during the shoulder season.

The Rapha Pro Team Long Sleeve Training Jersey, available at US$152, £125, €145 using these links to Rapha US or Rapha UK, is truly a jersey. But it’s as fitted as any race day aero jersey we’ve ever worn, with a lot of body-shaping stretchiness. Its sizing tracks those we normally wear in other brands’ jerseys, not the smaller ones we experienced in the Rapha cycling jacket reviewed above.

Rapha Pro Team Training Jersey

What makes it a shoulder season jersey? It’s more about the thickness and sleeve length of the base layer you wear under it and perhaps the vest you wear on top. With either, it can feel like wearing a jersey with arm warmers, only more comfortable and well-integrated. With neither, it’s more like a summer-weight aero jersey with long sleeves that keep you from getting too much sun on your arms.

There are 1 3/4″, 45mm long stretchy bands at the end of its sleeves to keep them in place and your wrists covered in cooler temperatures. You get the same fabric and size in the band that stretches around your waist, keeping the jersey from creeping up.

The collar is slightly taller than on most aero short-sleeved jerseys, though at about an inch or 25mm, not overly so.

Three slightly larger and lower pockets than on the Rapha Pro Team cycling jacket span the lower back of the jersey. But don’t think they’ll carry a lot or you’ll easily reach them. After all, this is still an aero-cut jersey.

This jersey is a good addition if you’re a fan of Rapha style. It has different shades of the same color on the torso and arms, a solid band across the left bicep, a modest logo on the lower front, and a brand name on the right rear pocket. The men’s jersey comes in navy, red, grey, green, and brown, while the women’s adds pink and olive color options and a multi-colored collage print version.

This is a jersey you can wear during the shoulder and summer seasons. It can be as versatile as you, assuming you’re racing or trying to ride as fast in the fall and spring as in summer.

The Rapha Brevet Insulated Vest is another option shoulder season kit option. Available for US$195, £160, €180 using these links to Rapha US or Rapha UK (15% off your first order), it falls between a wind vest or shell and a cycling jacket.

Rapha Brevet Insulated Vest

Conor likes the warmth this vest’s insulation brings and the wind resistance you get with most unlined vests and shells. It also has an extended tail to keep your lower back warm. Yet the Polartec insulation Rapha uses inside this vest is very breathable and thin enough to pack it away reasonably well when you want to remove it mid-ride.

The fit isn’t Pro Team aero nor a relaxed fit. It slots in somewhere in between, freeing you from feeling like you need to be riding in the drops or giving you a pass on getting in a good workout. To go along with that, the high collar can be zipped fully to keep your neck warm and comfy during the coolest part of your ride or zipped down a couple of inches when things warm up.

Rapha Brevet Insulated Vest

Conor stylin’ in the Rapha Brevet Insulated Vest worn over the Pro Team LS Training Jersey

You get the full Rapha shout-out with the brand’s recognizable stripes and signature logo across the chest and back. They are all reflective, adding important functionality to the style when you wear them in low light, which often accompanies fall and spring riding.

Rapha Brevet Insulated Vest

The color options – Navy with pink and white stripes, purple with blue and grey ones, and olive green with a deeper olive green stripe and a silver one above it – are also vintage Rapha.

The Rapha Brevet Insulated Vest is a good option in your shoulder season quiver. Conor also wore it doing his winter uphill ski touring and Nordic skiing, of course, all to keep him in shape for the cycling shoulder season that followed.

 

ASSOS MILLE GT WIND JACKET

There’s little doubt that Assos makes among the best and most expensive cycling kit. There never seem to be enough superlatives when I review their apparel. I’ve been a fan and recommended almost every piece of Assos clothing I’ve ever tested.

But, for me, the Mille GT Wind Jacket isn’t truly an Assos, even though it carries the name.

Assos Mille GT Wind Jacket

It does what it’s supposed to do and at a fair price

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to like about the jacket.

The Mille GT Wind Jacket packs down to easily fit in an average-sized rear pocket. There’s no pouch or bag to put it into, but I find that can be a time waster when I’m trying to store away an extra layer.

This cycling jacket stops the wind that often comes with a fall or spring day ride and eliminates the chill of a misty morning ride during those seasons. At the same time, it’s quite breathable, easily keeping me from overheating or feeling clammy.

The Wind Jacket’s cut is forgiving. It’s not aero, but neither is it roomy. I’ve easily worn it over a summer-weight and heavier shoulder season long-sleeve jersey.

I like the sleeve length and how the thin, full-circumference wristbands stretch and hold in place. The zipper works quickly and easily with no baffle to navigate. And a full-length, stretchy waistband keeps the jacket from hiking up.

Even the color options – an orangish red and lime green in the original Wind Jacket I tested and a bright yellow in the C2 version – are eye-popping. They go beyond the pavement-colored black and grey that are your only options from those that use the GORE SHAKEDRY material that took this highly packable, wind and water-resistant jacket segment to a new level.

And I can’t argue with the price. It’s not cheap, but compared to how well it does what it’s supposed to and stays out of my way when I don’t need it, the Wind Jacket, like others in the Mille GT line, is worth it to me at about US$110, £75, €90 for the original and US$150, £120, €140 for the C2.

So, what’s not to like?

Assos sets a high bar for others to reach for. I always expect Assos kit to be far better performers than others. And their kit almost always delivers.

The Assos Mille GT Wind Jacket doesn’t deliver at that superior level.

Like other brands, the sleeves and shoulders flap in a strong wind. The same happens once I start creating my own apparent wind entering the aero speed zone at 18-20mph/29-32kph. At least it signals to me that it’s time to lower my torso.

Like other brands, the jacket looks like … how do I say this… a previously worn male prophylactic. I know cycling enthusiasts wear all sorts of clothes that look odd to non-cyclists. But this Mille GT Wind Jacket and similar ones from GOREWEAR, Rapha, Castelli, and others that use GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY all look the same – like shiny, crinkled, used condoms.

And while SHAKEDRY jackets are windproof and waterproof and typically cost 2x the price, the Mille GT Wind Jacket won’t keep you dry in a steady rain.

True, I don’t go out if I know it will rain. But if the weather is iffy, as it often can be on a shoulder season ride, I’d like to pack a jacket to protect me against rain and wind.

Is it asking too much of Assos to make a jacket that does all that the Mille GT Wind Jacket does and is also unflappable in the wind, unwrinkled in its look, and impenetrable in the rain?

And before you start directing me to the Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket at 3x the price, let me add to my list of requests for an Assos jacket that does all of the above at a Mille GT price.

Assos sells a C2 version of the Wind Jacket that claims to be “rustle-free.” It was introduced after I tested the original version. Hopefully, that’s a good start.

But Assos materials and workmanship are usually a level above, a level that makes me feel and appreciate the difference it makes in my riding experience.

This is undoubtedly a very good wind jacket, perhaps as good as any serving that purpose. And it’s a good value for what you get. I just wish it that much better in the ways I’ve described. That would make it a true Assos.

You can order the Assos Mille GT Wind Jacket at BTD (BikeTiresDirect) and Sigma Sports.

 

SANTINI VEGA MULTI JACKET – VERSATILE AND BREATHABLE

Jackets are often singularly designed for either rain or wind resistance, as a long-sleeve jersey alternative, or for winter warmth. The Vega doesn’t fit any of these descriptions yet approaches several simultaneously.

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 the wind as Gore-Tex but breathes just as well. It doesn’t block out the moisture like a dedicated rain jacket but breathes the way most don’t.

You’ll be warmer wearing the Vega than 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.

Santini Vega Multi Jacket Cycling Clothing

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 train seriously rather than get extra miles in, my body will throw off enough heat to need a breathable jacket. That’s what Vega provides me.

Wearing a medium, I found the Vega a close, comfortable fit around my 5’10”, 146 lb body. The jacket’s arms were short on the bike, and the cuffs were loose around my wrists. While this gave me the option of tucking my gloves under the cuffs, I prefer a jacket with 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 found the equally long Santini medal pendant annoying on my chin when I got down in the aero position.

Santini Vega Multi Jacket

I loved the visibility of the bright orange color, especially in the low-light months. The pockets are also deeper than most, which makes 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. You can order it for US$175, £45, €155.

 


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SHOULDER SEASON BIB TIGHTS AND WARMERS

ASSOS EQUIPE RS SPRING FALL BIB TIGHTS S9

If you’ve ever worn a pair of Assos bib shorts, you know they are one of the best, if not the best, you can buy. I rate their mid-priced endurance series Assos Mille GTS Bib Short C2 the best performer among similarly priced bib shorts from over 15 brands.

The higher-priced racing series Assos Equipe RS Bib Short S9 is even better. It has a slightly better pad, a more form-fitting cut, and straps that keep the bibs of more aero-positioned riders in place.

Assos Equip Spring Fall Bib Tights S9

And the Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall Bib Tight S9 is still better and even more expensive ($330, £245, €270). And, no, they don’t make a Mille version of the Spring Fall tights, only knickers.

But before you scroll down to the next review, let me tell you why I love these tights and why you might be able to justify the price.

What makes the Equipe RS Bib Tights so good?

Assos is renowned for its chamois across all of its bibs. And the Equipe RS chamois is the best I’ve ever ridden in. That’s not a surprise, but it’s worth starting there when pointing out what separates these Spring Fall bib tights from others.

And Assos almost always sets the bar others attempt to reach with the material they use in their kit. The Equipe RS Spring Fall Bib Tight S9 material is another bar setter.

A thin, fleece-like material lines the inside of the tights with a shimmering tight knit on the outside. I feel the right amount of stretch and compression evenly applied across all my muscles, from my glutes down to the tendons around my ankles.

One seam runs up the back of each leg and meets across the top of my butt, just where the lower parts of the straps begin. Unlike so many bib tights and leg warmers I’ve worn over the years, you do not feel even a hint of the seam or bunching behind the bend of your knees, let alone in the backs of your legs.

And boy, do these bib shorts keep my lower half warm in the wind and breathe when the temps rise! I typically prefer to ride in bib shorts whenever I can during the spring and fall, even if my legs will be cool during a 10-minute warm-up or later in the ride. But with these Assos Equipe RS Bib Tights, I want to put them on even when I know the temps will get into the mid to high 60s F or near 20C when I’d almost always ride in bib shorts.

To update an overused phrase, these Assos tights are as comfortable and fit as a second skin, but perhaps more like the thin fur of a leopard’s skin than my own.

I’ve only ever worn one pair of bib tights I enjoyed before testing these. The Castelli Sorpasso has been my go-to shoulder season bib tights for those days when I just didn’t want to deal with the wind and lack of sunshine against my legs. They also didn’t bunch behind my knees and stretched pretty well.

But the compression, chamois, and zipper-free ankle closures make these much better and have made the Sorpasso a backup if the Assos are in the wash.

A cut that gives you options

While the Spring Fall Bib Tights S9 slot into the Assos’ Equipe RS (for Racing Series) line, it doesn’t stop you or me from wearing them comfortably if you aren’t a racer. I’m not and don’t spend a lot of time in an aero position in the spring when I’m often still building my fitness or in the fall when I’m more about getting every last bit of the season in that I can than going my fastest while doing it.

Instead, I find the Equipe RS kit, and these bib tights give me options.

Assos Equip Spring Fall Bib Tights S9

A low-cut waist, one leg seam, two strap attachment points, no back panel, and no zippers or grippers

For example, there’s no back panel built into these tights. The rear straps that attach to my lower back and the top of my butt keep the chamois in place without needing a robust back panel. Without that panel, I can choose the base layer or jersey weight to wear without thinking about how breathable the panel will be.

Note also that these Assos Equipe RS bib tights, like the bib shorts in the same line, are cut lower around the waist and across your sides than most. Think below your belly button and love handles.

This will create a little overhang for some of us, and certainly for me in the spring and sometimes in the fall. Perhaps it’s more than a little. Not ideal, but maybe it’s a little spring and fall reminder that training in the kitchen is as important as training on the bike.

We’re all different, but I actually like that little reminder. I can see my progress, dropping weight in the spring and keeping it off in the fall.

And if you are as fit in the shoulder seasons as in the summer, there’s no reason to have more material there than you need. Go ahead and admire that fitness!

Lastly, no grippers or zippers close these bib tights at the ankles. The stretch built into them makes such extras unnecessary. You can put your socks under the tights without a worry about how well either will stay in position or whether they will create added pressure around your lower legs.

These Assos bib tights eliminate the need for leg warmers to extend your summer or thermal bib shorts and the hassle of removing and storing the warmers during your ride. You’ll also save the cost of buying warmers to extend your outdoor road season.

You can order the Assos Equipe RS Sping Fall Bib Tights S9 using this link to Performance Bike and Sigma Sports.

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 due to my bull-headed sense of manhood, or so few bib tights seem to get it right.

Santini’s Adapt Bib Tights are a welcome surprise. The Polartec fabric makes for breathable (there’s that word again), 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.

Santini Adapt Bib Tights

While I wear the medium, the legs run long for my 5’10” height. There are no zippers to synch down the tights just above the ankle, and I have to pull the extra material up above my knees to keep the tights from puckering below them. Even doing that, and with no panel cuts around the knees, there is a bit of bunching behind them. While I find that irritating when first setting off on a ride, the suffering in my legs and lungs during a good workout usually makes 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 like the straps that keep 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.

You can order them for US$180, £155, €170.

MAAP TEAM EVO THERMAL BIB TIGHT

I always like wearing MAAP’s Team Bib Evo bib shorts. They combine a solid pad, consistent compression, and a supportive back panel with comfortable, stretchy, breathable materials.

I also know it’s go-time when I put them on – their cut is for the fit version of me. Among the fifteen or so bib shorts I’ve rated from leading and boutique brands, the MAAP is a 1st tier performer.

So when I looked to expand my bib tights options to extend my season into the fall and get me out on the road earlier in the spring, I dug into the MAAP catalog to find its long-legged sibling.

It’s harder to get a pair of tights to fit you as well as bib shorts. In addition to doing everything from your quads up to your shoulders right, there’s a lot to get right from the knees down.

Some are too loose around the knees, don’t handle riders with different leg lengths within a size, struggle to get the leg bottoms to hug but not strangle the area above your ankles, or thermoregulate as temps change.

For me, the MAAP Team Evo Thermal Bib Tight does all of these things well while extending the fit and comfort of its Team Bib Evo shorts to its tights.

There’s nothing worse than the irritating bunching of tights or leg warmers behind your knees during a ride. MAAP appears to eliminate this with a clever angled seam that wraps around your leg above your knee and keeps the material tight behind it.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical that this design would work and fearful that the seam in the rear would cross directly behind my knee. It didn’t, and once I got those concerns out of my mind, I never sensed the tights there any more than anywhere else down my legs.

Likewise, I didn’t see how the lack of overall height or an inseam length in the MAAP size guide would account for different leg lengths.

Here again, MAAP seemed to figure this out. The 1¼”/3cm tall ankle gripper, combined with contoured lower leg panels and stretchy fabric, made for just the right length for my 5’ 10”/70cm height, even in the size Small recommended by my waist and hip measurements.

Stout yet stretchy and comfortable straps keep the bibs in place. And like the bib shorts, the mesh back panel of the bib tights kept my back from getting sweaty.

A light fleece lining keeps my legs warm down to about 40F/5C without getting overly warm at 60F/15C. It’s an old-school approach to temperature regulation but one that works as well on these MAAP bib tights as I’ve experienced with newer, more technically sounding fabrics.

What I hadn’t remembered, or perhaps didn’t notice when I looked at the bib shorts, is that the MAAP Team Evo Thermal Bib Tight gives you some style options that break away from the somewhat mundane world of black bib tights.

In addition to black, you can get these tights in what I would call navy blue, olive green, and baby blue. Those last two colors and the unabashed flat lock seams are refreshingly different than what I see elsewhere in my drawer and on the road.

Priced from US$195, £175, €225, you can order the MAAP Team Evo Thermal Bib Tight in men’s and women’s sizes from Sigma Sports. They perform nearly as well (and are similarly expensive) as the Assos Equipe RS S9 tights but give you a styling change of pace.

RAPHA MERINO LEG WARMERS

I’ve written about my preference to ride in bib shorts on all but the coldest and dampest days or in the best, most comfortable, and breathable big tights during the shoulder season.

But if you prefer leg warmers, the Rapha Merino Leg Warmers are some of the best Conor and I have ever tested.

Rapha Leg Warmers

Leg warmers have to do a few things well – stay in place, not irritate or bunch behind your knees, and, of course, keep your legs warm and comfy. Looking good and compactly stowing away is also nice, but not at the same priority level.

Even the most expensive leg warmers are inexpensive relative to the price of most any other kit except for socks, fingerless gloves, and perhaps a few other items.

The Rapha Merino Leg Warmers are the most comfortable leg warmers we’ve ever worn. That characteristic was the first thing that appeared in Conor’s and my test notes. To emphasize his take, Conor called them SUPER comfortable.

You’d expect Merino wool leg warmers to be comfortable, especially compared to those made of synthetic materials, as so many are. But these Rapha leg warmers are more comfortable than even other Merino leg and knee warmers Conor has tested.

They also strike a nice balance between warmth and breathability. While fine for shoulder season temps, they aren’t warm enough to wear all day below 40F/4C, yet they don’t get too hot or clammy even into the low 60s Fahrenheit, high teens centigrade.

Rapha Leg Warmers

For those who wear their leg warmers over their shorts…

There’s also no feeling of bunching behind your knees, perhaps because of the soft wool and the right amount of stretch built into the warmer. Even the seam is hard to locate by feel.

Relative to synthetic leg warmers, these Merino wool ones are much lighter. That and the 10mm tall, rather sticky, and elastic gripper keep these leg warmers in place better than any Conor or I have ever worn.

Rapha Merino Leg WarmersAnd they roll up into a very compact space, about the same volume as a tall pair of socks or an extra pair of full-finger gloves you might bring for a shoulder season ride.

No, they’re not compressive the way some synthetic leg warmers are. And being black wool, they look more like a stocking than a piece of cycling kit.

But for all of the more important things that they do so well and far better than those we’ve worn before, these are a great alternative to thermal bib shorts and embro, bib tights, or traditional leg warmers.

At $80, £65, €75, they are expensive, at least for leg warmers. However, if you like to wear leg warmers yet put up with a lot that you don’t like about them, the Rapha Merino Leg Warmers will make you love leg warmers.

And if you like the feel of Merino wool, Rapha also makes a Merino arm and leg warmer bundle for $115, £90, €105.

You can order them by clicking on these links to Rapha US or Rapha UK (15% off your first order).

10 comments

  • Nice reviews as usual Steve. What temps do you recommend the Assos tights? Did you try the more expensive S9 Equipe tights? I bought the Castelli tights 3 years ago on your recommendation, and they’re good but chamois is not IMO. Assos S9 bibs are 5 years old and still in great shape!

    • Rick, The review is for the S9 Equipe tights. I’ve worn them down to about 40F on a sunny day and up in the low 60s F on a grey fall, windy day. Agree that the S9 pad is better than the Castelli Sorpasso I recommended a few years back but the freedom the Sorpasso gives behind your knees is unrivaled. They are also a bit lighter, perhaps best in the 45-65F range. Steve

  • Affirmation for the Gore Torrent Jacket. Thank you, Steve, for the review and suggestion.
    Jacket is a worthwhile investment , comfortable and quite versatile…with ability to stow in rear pocket.
    Opted for the Fireball color for visibility (somewhere between red and orange).
    Wore it today on a 50F/10C ride with a light thermal jersey underneath. Cuts the wind extremely well. Haven’t had it on in the rain yet.
    Get the sizing right…I went with a US Large…which is also known as a EU XLarge.

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