NEW SPRING AND FALL CYCLING CLOTHING
Kitting up for cool spring and fall riding can be a challenge. Many of us will layer up over our summer cycling clothing while others will wear bib tights and jackets suitable for winter riding with only a light base layer. Both approaches can work but neither is ideal.
I’m always trying to find ways to get on the road earlier in the year and stay out longer. Having to think too much about what cycling clothing to wear or worrying about whether I’ll be too cold or hot can add another obstacle at a time of year when shorter days, changing temps, threatening skies, and seasonal winds present more than enough reason for some of us enthusiasts to stay inside.
Fortunately, there is cycling clothing designed for this time of year when temps will range from 40-60F/5-15C. Depending on where you live, this “shoulder season” either side of the summer can total 3-4 months and make wearing kit ideally suited for these months worth having.
My fellow In The Know Cycling testers and I tried out some of the shoulder season kit from Santini, Assos, and Gore last October and November. I selected cycling clothing that provided different lengths of leg and arm coverage for those of you who like to use leg or arm warmers and those who prefer not to.
As we get back on the road this March and April, it’s time to share with you what we found.
The Santini Vega Multi Jacket and Adapt Bib Tight combination covers you fully but, as the names suggest, are well suited to the whims of changing cool spring and fall weather.
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.
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 or the fact I’ve only ever worn one pair of bib tights that I thought got it right (Castelli Sorpasso).
Santini’s Adapt Bib Tights were 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.
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.
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There’s little doubt that Assos makes among the best and most expensive cycling kit. There never seem to be enough superlatives to go around when I review their apparel.
In the midst of all the favorable reviews, it may get lost that Assos also seems to come up with cycling clothes (and weird names) designed for each season perhaps better than most. Our review of their Mille GT Spring/Fall Knickers, Mille GT Spring/Fall Jacket, and the Skinfoil Spring/Fall SS Base Layer show how they nail shoulder season kit too.
For the knickers and jacket, I asked fellow tester Nate to give me his assessment. (I held onto the base layer and did that review.) In addition to leading our club’s A-group rides, Nate commutes to work most days of the year. This gave him test conditions this past fall of mornings in the mid/low 40s and afternoons in the high 50s to low 60s. Add in a mix of dry and damp, misty but not hard rain, and he had a great environment for putting this kit to the test.
Here’s Nate’s report.
Mille GT Spring/Fall Knickers
This was my first experience wearing bib knickers. Typically in this temp range, I wear separate knee warmers with summer bib shorts, or lightweight bib tights which don’t have a lot of winter insulation. I can say that knickers are certainly more convenient than knee warmers, for obvious reasons.
On the flip side, the range of temperatures over which they make sense to wear is somewhat limited compared to shorts or full-length tights. Unless you’re in a climate where the temps hang in the 40-55F range for a long time, this is definitely a “transitional” item which is only a nice-to-have, but not a must-have in my wardrobe.
I will say that the chamois of the Mille GT Spring/Fall Knickers is sublime. I would expect as much given my similar experience with the Assos summer bib shorts (of which I own two sets). Compared to all other chamois I’ve worn, including those from other high-end brands like Santini and Sportful, Assos has just nailed it.
With the chamois in these knickers, they’ve created the ideal balance between enough padding without too much bulk, being loose enough to still feel like they are breathing and moving with you, while not being so loose that “things start to wander off”.
The Mille GT Knickers’ fleecy lining isn’t ‘winter-heavy’ but it sure feels nice to put on. It’s a cozy and inviting feeling like putting on cotton pajamas on a cold winter night, relative to other winter kits which tend to have more utilitarian and synthetic lycra or neoprene-like feel.
Of course, this lining makes the knickers a bit warmer than summer bib shorts + light knee warmer combo, further narrowing the range over which it really makes sense to wear them. I’d say 55F is the hottest temp where they would be comfortable, and of course, below 40F you’re probably wanting to have your calves completely covered. So 40-55F is the useful range, with high-40s being the sweet spot for these.
The fit, cut, size, etc. were all perfect for me (5’11”, 152 lbs). No issues being too loose and riding up from my calves onto my knees, nor were they too tight or constricting at the mid-calf.
You can get the Mille GT Spring/Fall Knickers for $199/£155/€179 at Competitive Cyclist, one of In The Know Cycling’s top-ranked stores, and at Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle, ones we also recommend.
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.
Skinfoil Spring/Fall SS Base Layer
What can you say about a base layer? If you haven’t worn a few different ones, and even if you have, they might all seem somewhat similar and you buy them on price.
I’ve worn a range of them from different brands at different prices and, frankly, there are performance differences worth noting and, in some cases, worth paying for.
The Assos Skinfoil Spring/Fall SS Base Layer is noticeably softer, more comfortable, is cut for and stretches with my torso better, and breathes, wicks, and smells better during a ride than any other short sleeve base layer I’ve tried. It’s the one I look for first when it’s time to get dressed.
I’ve probably worn and washed it 25 times between outside fall rides and inside trainer workouts during the winter. It’s held its shape and fit the same as the first day I put it on.
The Assos Skinfoil Spring/Fall SS Base Layer’s price of $85/£65/€79 might make you pause. As well as it performs and as often as I wear it, I think it’s worth it. If you agree, you can find it at Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles, and Wiggle.
I’ve traditionally associated the Gore brand with Gore-Tex or Windstopper fabrics used as a feature in another brand’s cycling or outdoor clothing. Occasionally, I’ve seen and tested Gore Wear brand clothing using those same fabrics in cold and rainy season kit sold by Gore.
It looks as if Gore is now trying to sell more of their own branded clothing and doing so alongside kit sold by others using Gore fabric. The C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Jersey and C7 Gore-Tex Infinium Bib Short+ I tested and reviewed here use the same Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper line of fabrics made into garments like Castelli’s Perfetto and Gabba kit, older versions of which I also wear.
Of course, the same fabrics in kit intended for the same conditions do not usually produce the same results. The cut, seams, pads, grippers, zippers, etc. and how it is all put together can, and in this case, does produce a distinctive kit.
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!
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.