Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Ultimate Guide to winter mountain biking, fat bikes, gear, apparel, lights and trainers. We are taking a deep dive into all manner of cold weather mountain bike gear, with round-ups and reviews of fat bikes, tires, wheels, apparel, trainers, lights and more. To see all the articles, head over to our Winter Guide Hub Page.
Unless you live in a perpetually warm and sun-splashed locale, dressing for wintertime rides can be tricky business. The right outfit for that long chilly descent may be too toasty when the trail turns back uphill. The key is finding apparel that keeps you warm, but also breathes well and wicks moisture away from your body. Of course looks and comfort count for something, too.
During the last two and half months, we’ve been testing all manner of winter riding apparel, from budget priced to budget busting. Some of it flashy, some subdued. In this second installment of this three-part series, we’re revealing our Ultimate Head-to-Toe Freezing Weather Kit, with freezing being defined as roughly 20-31 degrees. You can check out our Ultimate Cold Weather kit here and stay tuned for our final round-up on kit suitable for truly arctic rides.
In all cases, we offer this important caveat: What has worked great for us wont necessarily be perfect for you or your weather. Some people’s bodies simply run hotter (or colder) than others. And obviously a sunny 25-degree day in Colorado (our test HQ) is not the same as 25 degrees with lots of bone-chilling Midwest humidity mixed in. That said, we stand by all the products featured here, each one offering exception performance, value, and sometimes both. Here’s a full round-up from the inside out.
Bontrager B3 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Baselayer
As you’ll soon discover, we’re big fans of Bontrager’s entire line of cold weather apparel. Here we give the nod to the merino wool B3 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Baselayer due to its taller neck, soft-on-skin feel, superb moisture wicking, and that handy zipper, which allows for critical temperature regulation. Fitted cuffs and a drop tail enhance overall performance. Price: $110 | More info at www.trekbikes.com
Bontrager RXL Softshell Bib Tight with inForm Chamois
You’ll feel a little bit like a longshoreman when you pull on these robust softshell bib tights. But on truly freezing days that’s a good thing. Standout features include windproof and water resistant material that has an almost wetsuit like feel on the front and upper back area that’s kept us warm and dry across a variety of temperatures. Add in a comfortable higher-end chamois, and great core coverage, which is key to staying warm when the mercury plummets, and this is truly a great wintertime piece. There’s also a handy frontal zipper that makes calls of nature easier, and the legs have an elastic gripper, semi-locking zipper, and scalloped ankle cuffs that help keep snow out and make these tights easy to get on and off. Sizing tends to run a little big, so try before you buy, and consider sizing down if you’re in between. Price: $165 but currently on sale for $90 | www.trekbikes.com
Voler Black Label Wool Jersey
There are many great winter-weight jerseys on the market, but few are actually made in the USA like Voler’s Black Label Wool Jersey. But manufacturing locale along isn’t what earned this skin-soothing merino wool winter top a place on our Ultimate Kit list. Indeed, we love the understated look, sturdy (and easy to grasp) full length zipper, and trifecta of secure rear pockets. Of course it also breathes well and doesn’t get soaked even when you heat up. Price: $139 | More info at www.voler.com
Gore Power Trail Windstopper Soft Shell Jacket
While the near-$300 price tag will scare off some, this jacket starts to feel like a bargain when you list out all the features. There’s an oversized zip pocket on the back for storage, a pair of ventilation zippers with integrated zipped pockets up front, a zip-away drop tail, a concealed zip pocket on the chest, and a grippy main zipper pull that’s easy to manipulate with gloves on. Reflective tape at the hem increases low light visibility, while fleece lining at the collar enhances comfort, and elastic sleeve cuffs keep heat in and cold out. But none of this matters if the jacket doesn’t keep you warm and dry, and here again Gore delivers. The windstopper material with fleece lining has worked as advertised, especially when the sun sets (and temperature plummets) on short winter days. And if you don’t like this color (which admittedly isn’t our favorite) the jacket also comes in red, dark green, and black. Price: $280 | More info at www.goreapparel.com