I am a huge fan of things that last. I have a 15-year-old ‘cross bike. I have a 30-year-old t-shirt that I still wear to the gym. I have the first-generation Shimano SPD/flat pedals on which I raced a couple seasons of downhill. This tends to be an indicator of the future performance of newer products by the same brand.
I put a lot of older cold-weather stuff to the test last week. On Sunday, November 30, the temperature at 7,522 above sea level, where I live, was about 45 degrees. At around 5,400 feet in Boulder, the mercury only claimed to about 23. I was underdressed, if numb toes are any indication. My head, arms and chest were fine, however.
I wore my three-year-old Rapha winter cap. This was not the wool version. This was mostly polyester, black, with the traditional short bill and earflaps. It kept me comfortable as could be expected, managed to wick sweat and did not freeze. Around and on top of this, I wore the Castelli Thermal Head Thingy. If you are not familiar, the piece is a multi-functioning tube of fabric with a fleecy inside. While it can function as a bandana, a skullcap or neck gator, I used it like a balaclava, around my neck, under my chin and over the back of my head, about a third of the way. It sealed out cold air around the edges of the Rapha hat’s earflaps and added an extra layer of protection over my ears. I love it.
Proving money isn’t everything and not all of the most expensive stuff is necessarily the best, my relatively inexpensive Performance brand long sleeve jersey was one of many layers. A 13-year-old Craft wind-blocking shirt was my base layer. The outer-most layer was my six-year-old Specialized winter jacket.
The Performance jersey, the newest of all of my clothing for this ride, has wind resisting fabric in the front and sleeves with warm fleece on the inside. It has a full-length front zipper, three traditional rear pockets, though one pocket had a headphone port and an extra zipper pocket for keys. It also has some reflective accents, but those were not a factor on this ride.
The Craft shirt has a wind-blocking chest section with wicking material throughout. It also has a very long tail which is great when bent over handlebars.
The old Specialized jacket has two huge, zippered back pockets, two front hand pockets and one upper chest zippered pocket, perfect for a phone or music player. Wind and water resistant with vents and more reflective accents.
I have some off-brand lobster gloves, SPA-brand, that I picked up at VeloSwap a few years ago. The first SPA product I baught, shoe covers, did not last long, but then my brand new Castelli neoprene shoe covers are also showing distressing ware less than a year after purchase. The lobster gloves have been great, with synthetic leather palm, long, elasticated gauntlet and fleece fabric on the back of the thumb and first finger, perfect for the inevitable cold-weather runny nose.
Again, I’m only pointing all this out because when the day comes that I have to replace any of this, I would happily shop the same brand to replace the ones I have. If you are in the market for new winter riding clothing, or have a cyclist on your holiday shopping list, check these brands and these clothing pieces out.
Have fun, be safe. I’m bundling up and going riding.