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Spyder Outbound Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater

The key to staying comfortable during winter bike rides is proper layering. For temperatures from 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit I wear three layers of clothing on my upper body. The first layer (closest to my skin ) is an Under Armour ColdGear Fitted Longsleeve Mock. For the middle layer I wear a Spyder Outbound Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater, and for the outer layer I wear the Showers Pass Touring Jacket (one of the greatest pieces of cycling gear ever made).

Spyder Outbound Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater

Spyder Outbound Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater

The Spyder Outbound Men’s Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater was designed with snow skiers in mind, but that is fine with me. If you ride your bike in the winter and depend on cycling clothing manufacturers to make all of your cold weather gear then you either live in the deep south or you are going to freeze to death. Clothing that was designed for winter cycling in Europe won’t even come close to meeting the needs of winter cyclists in the Upper Midwest of the United States.

This sweater is thicker and heavier than most lightweight fleece sweaters you will find, but it is not bulky and it will not impair your mobility. Spyder’s Website says this sweater was “made with engineered fabrics that deliver both the dry warmth of wool and the caress of cotton.” The advertising folks got it right this time—this polyester sweater is very warm, incredibly comfortable, and breathes far better than cotton. The sweater closes in front with a half-zipper, so you can regulate your temperature (those of you in Florida might find this hard to believe, but even when it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside you can overheat).

This will be the third winter I’ve used the Spyder Outbound Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater for cycling and I simply love it. Even after repeated washings the sweater still looks like new.

The Spyder Outbound Men’s Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater is available in six sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL) and appears to be true to size. This sweater comes in seven different colors, and since I don’t like the way Spyder names their colors I will tell you what they look like: Black, White, Red, Yellow, Tan, and two shades of Blue. The Outbound sweater is cut for men—if you are looking for a similar product for women I would try the Spyder Valor Women’s Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater.

Both the Spyder Outbound Men’s Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater and the Spyder Valor Women’s Half Zip Mid Weight Sweater are available at numerous sporting goods stores and from online retailers. I purchased my Outbound sweater from a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods store. The Outbound sweater has a retail price of $99 and the Valor retails for $89.

 

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Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket

Have you ever bought a cheap polyester cycling jacket from one of the “big box” sporting goods store? The first time you wore did you feel like you were wearing a plastic garbage bag? Those cheap jackets are usually not very breathable and they are often so loose-fitting that they create extra drag when cycling. If you are looking for a well-made jacket for cycling, running or cross-country skiing I would suggest you take a look at the Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket.

Pearl Izumi Men's Elite Barrier Jacket

Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket is a lightweight, breathable jacket that is both water and wind resistant. Though it will never take the place of “full-time” rain jacket like the Showers Pass Touring Jacket, it will keep you dry if you get caught out in the rain. This 100% polyester jacket is not insulated—its main purpose is to block the wind. I like to wear it over an insulated long-sleeve jersey when the temperature is in the low 50’s.

Pearl Izumi Men's Elite Barrier Jacket Zipper Garage

Zipper Garage On The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket

My favorite feature on this jacket are the Direct-Vent panels—they allow moisture to escape from under your arm pits and this keeps the inside of the jacket very dry. There is also a full-length internal draft flap (with zipper garage) to keep the heat in—or you can unzip it a bit to allow some extra air in. This jacket also has contoured  sleeves with elasticized hem and cuffs.

Back Pocket On The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket

Back Pocket On The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Jacket

This jacket only has one pocket—it is on the back of the jacket and is rather small. There is enough room to store your cell phone, keys and several gel packs, but it is not very easy to get into. This pocket closes with a strip of Velcro. There are reflective elements on both the front and back of this jacket to make it easier for cars to see you in low-light situations.

This jacket is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, and XXL) and appears to be true to size, though it does have a semi-form fit. The Elite Barrier Jacket comes in several colors, including Black, White, True Blue, True Red, Safety Orange, and Screaming Yellow.

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Barrier Jacket has a suggested retail price of $90. If your local bike shop does not have this jacket in stock you can easily find it listed at many online retailers, such as Amazon.com, L.L.Bean, Bike Nashbar. This jacket is machine washable (but the manufacturer recommend to you avoid the use of fabric softeners).

 

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Bonfire Radiant Ski And Snowboard Jacket For Winter Cycling

If you ride your bike in the winter and depend on cycling clothing manufacturers to make all of your cold weather gear then you either live in the deep south or you are going to freeze to death. Clothing that was designed for winter cycling in Europe won’t even come close to meeting the needs of winter cyclists in the Upper Midwest of the United States. One of the best pieces of winter gear I purchased last year was the Bonfire Radiant Ski And Snowboard Jacket.

Bonfire Radiant Ski And Snowboard Jacket for winter biking

Bonfire Radiant Ski And Snowboard Jacket

As the name implies, the Bonfire Radiant Jacket is designed for skiers and snowboarders. However, when the temperature drops below zero (Fahrenheit) this jacket will keep cyclists warm even on rides that last all day (or night) long. In fact, this jacket has several great features that most cyclists would love to see on our regular cold-weather cycling clothing. First, this highly breathable jacket is made with waterproof fabric. In case you don’t already know, waterproof fabric doesn’t mean anything if the seams are not sealed—and the seams on this jacket are totally sealed and waterproof. The jacket’s brushed tricot lining means it is very warm, but if you start to overheat you can open the full-length pit zips to let some of the heat out.

The Bonfire Radiant Jacket also has a great powder skirt to keep the snow that is thrown off your tires from getting under the jacket itself. The powder skirt has a small ID holder that is large enough to hold your driver’s license or a few business cards. There are a total of three large zippered pockets in this jacket—two on the side and one on the chest (a goggle pocket). The chest pocket also has a small opening in it so you can run a cord from an iPhone or other electronic device in pocket to your earphones. Other features include a detachable hood, key holder, and a 2-way center front zipper.

Since this jacket was designed for snowboarders it is a several inches longer than a normal cycling jacket—this is actually a good thing since it covers the groin area fairly well (guys, if I have to explain the importance of this to you then you have never been out for a long ride when the temperature was in negative numbers).

I wear the Bonfire Radiant Jacket on rides when the temperature is below zero. With just an Under Armor compression shirt and a thin fleece sweater this jacket keeps me warm and happy for the entire ride. With a thicker fleece liner this jacket should be good down to at least -20 (Fahrenheit).

The Bonfire Radiant Ski And Snowboard Jacket is available in three sizes (M, L, XL) and retails for $200, but both Amazon.com and evo.com have it available for $140. However, I am fortunate enough to live near a Salomon Acr’teryx Outlet Store and was able to pick up it up for only $119. All things considered, this is the best buy on a winter cycling jacket you are likely to ever find. All Bonfire jackets come with a one-year warranty against manufacturing defects (keep your receipt).

 

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Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket

If someone told me that I had to choose one brand of cycling clothing to wear for the rest of my life I would not hesitate for a moment to select Pearl Izumi. While no company can make perfect products every time (except Apple), Pearl Izumi comes very close. However, I don’t believe the Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket lives up to their usual high standards.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket has many great features, including a fabric that offers decent wind protection and water resistance. The convertible part of this jacket is the sleeves—they are held in place by two zippers and several pieces of Velcro. There is a great vent panel on the back of this jacket that provides excellent ventilation. The two zippered hand pockets and one Napoleon (chest) pocket are well-made and roomy. I was also happy with the amount of reflective piping found on this jacket. Both the shell and lining of this jacket are made of 100 percent polyester. Finally, there is an elastic draw cord around waist that can be adjusted with just one hand as you ride (to increase or decrease air movement inside the jacket). This jacket is designed early fall or late spring riding (temps in the upper 40’s or above).

This jacket is available is sizes Small through XX-Large and several colors, including Screaming Yellow, White, Black, True Blue, True Red, Black Plaid and Coffee. The Screaming Yellow jacket is a Hi-Viz Yellow and if you buy this jacket I would recommend this color. Unless you are trying to get hit by a car I would avoid the Black jacket at all costs. I found the jacket to be true to size.

Inferior Zippers On The Pocket

Inferior Zippers On The Pocket

My only problem with this jacket are the zippers. The main zipper on the front of the jacket is fine, but the zippers on the pockets and sleeves are horrible. It took me over five minutes to get the sleeves back on because the zipper just didn’t want to close. I found the zippers on the pockets to be very difficult to use while riding. The zippers are so tight I had to stop my bike and hold the fabric around the pocket just to close it. The inferior zippers make this jacket something I could not recommend.

Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Convertible Cycling Jacket retails for around $100. I bought mine from Amazon.com for $70, then immediately took advantage of their return policy by sending this jacket back for a full refund. It’s really too bad, the jacket has so many great qualities—but that doesn’t mean much if the zippers don’t work!

 

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Showers Pass Touring Jacket

The Showers Pass Touring Jacket is one of the most versatile pieces of cycling clothing I own. Not only is it one of the best rain jackets you can buy, but it also doubles as a shell for winter biking as well. This jacket has many great features, but I will only be able to cover a few of them here.

Showers Pass Tour Jacket

Showers Pass Tour Jacket

The first thing you will notice about this jacket is that it has a roomy cut that allows you to layer your clothing (especially helpful in the winter). The ventilation options on this jacket are incredible. It has two 12-inch two-way pit zips, a full-length back vent for flow thru ventilation, cinch-cords at the hems and highly adjustable cuffs. The 3M reflective taping on the arms and back is superb. This jacket also has a drop-down tail for when the rain just won’t stop and a light loop on the rear vent so you can attach a flasher. The zippered chest pocket has an audio port so you can keep you iPhone dry on the worst of days, yet still listen to your tunes. All of the exposed zippers are waterproof and I’ve never had them fail. The rear pocket is large enough to carry just about anything you need.

This is not a lightweight jacket you can store in your back pocket for emergencies. If you wear this during the summer you better hope the rain doesn’t stop until you reach your destination (unless you have panniers to store the jacket in). If the sun comes out while you are wearing this jacket it is going to get very uncomfortable within just a few minutes.

My favorite use for this jacket is as a winter shell when the temperature drops below 35 degrees. Because of its generous cut you can layer your clothing and still have room to breathe. I start with a simple Under Armour compression shirt, then, as the temperature drops, add a lightweight fleece jacket. When the temps are in the single digits I wear an Under Armour compression shirt and a heavier fleece jacket (one made for snow skiers) and finally the Showers Pass Touring Jacket. Because of the large rear vent I’ve never had a problem with condensation with this jacket.

The Showers Pass Tour Jacket is available in three colors: Black, Electric Blue and Yelling Yellow. Why on earth anyone would wear a black rain jacket is beyond my ability to comprehend. I know the black jacket does a great job of hiding dirt, but it also makes you nearly invisible to traffic (even with the reflective strips). Riding in Ninja Mode might appeal to some, but I think it is stupid. Buy the Yelling Yellow jacket if you value your life.

The list price on this jacket is $150 and I think it is worth every cent. Unfortunately, the hood for this jacket is sold separately ($25 and it only comes in black). I don’t need the hood in the winter because I wear a balaclava under my helmet, but it is well-made and really comes in handy in the rain.

 

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Performance Clear Rain Jacket

The Performance Clear Rain Jacket is the cheapest rain jacket I own—it is also the jacket that has seen the most use. This jacket was never intended to be a high-end rain jacket for touring. It is designed for you to stuff in your back jersey pocket on cloudy days and pull out when the rain starts.

Performance Clear Rain Jacket

Performance Clear Rain Jacket

I have owned this jacket for four years and take it with me on 20 to 30 rides a year, and end up using it on about half of those rides. The jacket rolls up easily and I use a Livestrong armband to keep it wrapped up in my jersey pocket when I am not wearing it.

This jacket is made of vinyl and is both windproof and waterproof. Due to a full-length mesh strip that goes from the cuffs up to the armpit and back down to the waist, the jacket is fairly breathable. Instead of a zipper, this jacket closes with a strip of Velcro that makes it very easy to adjust. Unfortunately, the Velcro strip is not well attached to the jacket, so be careful when opening the jacket. If you spray a bit of Elmer’s Fast Tack Spray Adhesive on the back of the Velcro strip it should stay in place for a long time.

This jacket is available in both clear and yellow. The clear jacket allows people to see your jersey, but the yellow one makes a lot more sense for use on rainy days. Both jackets also have a reflective strip on the back for added visibility.

The Performance Clear Rain Jacket has a retail price of $20 and is available at Performance Bicycle stores and on their Website.

 

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Performance Ultra Rain Jacket

I used to hate riding in the rain. Several years ago I wouldn’t even go out for a ride if there was rain in the forecast. However, now that I am better equipped for inclement weather, rain doesn’t bother me near as much. A few months ago I purchased the Performance Ultra Rain Jacket and today was the first time I had a chance to try it out.

Performance Ultra Rain Jacket

Performance Ultra Rain Jacket

As far as usefulness is concerned, this jacket is in the middle of the pack. It is far better than the lightweight rain jacket I sometimes stuff in my jersey pocket when it looks like it might rain and the Showers Pass Touring Jacket I wear when it is really pouring. Since the jacket is made of a ripstop nylon laminate it does a great job of stopping both wind and rain.

The downside is that this jacket is not very breathable. With the large pit-zips wide open I still found the jacket a bit to warm even when the temperature was is the high 50’s. After two hours in the rain I don’t think any rainwater got through this jacket. However, the inside of the sleeves were really damp from the poor ventilation. As with any rain jacket, you will find it much more comfortable to ride with a very light long-sleeved jersey—it will keep your arms from sticking to the sleeves.

This jacket has elastic wrist cuffs with a Velcro closure. I left my cuffs open so the sleeves would cover part of my gloves and increase air-flow as well. The entire jacket can be folded down into the one large rear pocket, and then worn around the waist with the attached stretchable (but not adjustable) belt.

Performance Bicycle offers this jacket in both blue and yellow. Personally, I think you must have a death wish to ride in the rain in a blue jacket. The yellow jacket shows up well in the rain, but it lacks any reflective piping (except for the Performance logo). The lack of reflective material on this jacket is unforgivable, especially since Performance sells a cheap $20 jacket that has a fairly generous amount of reflective striping.

This jacket is available from the Performance Bicycle Website and at their retail outlets. The retail price for this jacket is $100, but I’ve noticed that Performance Bicycle often has it on sale for under $70. I think this jacket is still overpriced at $70.

 

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Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket

If I had to limit myself to only one cycling jacket it would have to be the Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket! I live in the Chicago area and it’s not called the “Windy City” for nothing. The Gore Phantom Jacket is made with Gore’s famous WindStopper fabric and it really makes riding on windy days a lot easier.

Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket

Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket

This jacket not only stops the wind from penetrating the fabric, but since it is designed to be tight-fitting it reduces drag as well. While they do not claim the jacket is waterproof, I have found it to be highly water-resistant and very breathable. The sleeves easily zip off and leave you with a great vest with quarter-sleeves. It has reflective accents to make your presence known in low-light situations and has the best pockets of any of the jackets I own.

I rode with this jacket during the winter in temperatures down to around 25 degrees (I was also wearing a Performance Polar Jersey and an Under Armour Tactical Longsleeve Crew). I could have ridden with this jacket in colder weather, but I really didn’t want to ruin it with all the grit, grime and slush that splashes up on me in the winter months.

I purchased my jacket from REI for around $170, which is about the same price you’ll find on Amazon.com.

 

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