Easing into winter riding? Looking for some gift ideas? Fabian Cancellara has suggestions.
The former classics star has teamed up with GORE Wear to help design an updated cycling product line with an emphasis on something Cancellara knows all about: riding in crappy weather. GORE, of course, is the relative of GORE-TEX, the fabric that’s been lining your rain gear since the 1990s or so and can be found in any number of clothing brands. But the people who bring you this ubiquitous fabric have been making their own clothing lines for a while, and are amping up their Cycling collection with the help of the Swiss Bear.
The full Cycling Collection ranges from baselayers to full kits to accessories top to bottom, and will cover you year-round. But I’ve taken a closer look at a nice mix of winter gear and with the help of a blast of Canadian air I can tell you, GORE Wear is ready for the cold months.
GORE-TEX INFINIUM Stretch Mid Gloves
Not every product sports actual GORE-TEX fabric, but their gloves do, and they run the gamut of options. I’ve been riding in the INFINIUM Stretch Mid Gloves, which on first glance might strike you as a good glove to get you through October, but are in fact much more than that. Light and thin, the stretch design keeps it very trim and snug, but with enough give to make it comfortable. Fit-wise, it’s stiffer than some of the gloves out there in the stretchy-fabric world (as opposed to padded gloves) but not that stiff.
And the tradeoff is the key. That slightly less forgiving material is GORE-TEX INFINIUM, the company’s signature lightweight, breathable, water-resistant and fully wind-proof fabric, which turns the Stretch Mid Gloves into something you can wear well past October. The back-of-the-hand panels also come with a thin fleece lining for insulation and minimal seams.
The end result is that they are truly warm. I have ridden in 30-degree temps as well as slightly warmer rain days and the Stretch Mid gloves check out. I haven’t gotten them drenched yet, just ridden in light rain, so I can only vouch for the performance in those conditions, where the water resistance had no problem preserving the warmth of the glove. I don’t doubt there is a low-limit to the temperatures they can withstand, being breathable material, but for the temperature ranges I’m actually willing to ride in, that’s not an issue.
Last thing would be some nice touches of leather on the palm for grip and a bit of material on the index finger for touchscreen activity. For a glove that’s currently on sale at the GORE website for $48.99 (down from $69.99) it’s a tremendous bargain and a really useful, comfortable alternative to heavy winter gloves.
GORE C7 Partial Windstopper Pro Bib Tights
Gore is offering a range of options for winter bibs, in their C3 (inexpensive), C5 Thermo (middlin) and C7 Windstopper (top of the line) materials. For the top of the line C7 items they come in knicker style, full bibs and shorts, all of which are built around the Windstopper material which is their patented fabric to block out cold air and rain. I was offered the C7 Partial Windstopper, which judiciously applies the technological advantages in the Windstopper fabric where it can be most effective, but builds in a bit more breathability elsewhere.
The Windstopper material is no joke. At first I wasn’t sure how to tell which panel was Windstopper, so I did an inhaling test to see if I could suck air through the material. For the fleece panels around the ankle, no problem. For the thigh panel, it was like having a ball gag in my mouth. In a couple rain rides it’s been bullet-proof, not absorbing any moisture. The Windstopper fabric does what they say.
Putting Windstopper material over the thighs and the whole crotch area creates a nice shield against the cold air getting to where you can least afford it. Combined with the Windstopper Cup chamois (standard chamois with another layer of Windstopper fabric), this is a real feature. The material is used for the butt panels too, to minimize the invasion of moisture. For the ankles, back of the thighs, and upper bib panels around the waist, Gore uses a standard lycra lined with soft, more breathable ultra-light fleece, which feels comfortable to the touch. Add in some beefy seam-stitching and you have a reliable winter layer.
Overall, the Partial Windstopper approach is a thoughtful combination for Northwest weather, where the full Windstopper effect might be too warm. The Windstopper feels a bit confining if you’re used to regular lycra — a solid tradeoff for winter protection, but no need to overdo it. But if you live in more of a snow belt, where you need all the protection you can get, you should probably spend the extra $10 for the full Windstopper effect. That said, I have worn them on a 30-degree evening and they were still warm enough, particularly in the crotch, which is usually the biggest test for winter gear anyway. Currently on sale at the GORE site for $139 (down from $199).
GORE Thermo Shirt
Now for the tops. Got a nice rain jacket? Gore has plenty of those — don’t we all? But sometimes you need a little less... or a little more. For those days, the Gore Thermo Shirt is worth considering. It’s made from a cross-hatch-patterned fleece material called Polartec Power Grid, which isn’t trying to revolutionize the winter cycling fabric scene — it’s just really snug and comfortable. The Thermo Shirt is cut to fit somewhat tight, with no loose material anywhere, so it can fit easily under an outer shell. On those extra cold days, this sort of layer feels like you’ve added another layer of skin from the waist up.
But on dry days, in the 45-55-degree range, the Thermo Shirt is all the outer layer you need. It lacks pockets other than a small chest zipped one, good enough to store a phone or car key, but I wore it mountain biking and it checked out very well. The full zip and breathability made it just fine for the hour going up, and the high collar and double layer cuff and hem made for a nice, slim-fitting but very maneuverable and reasonably warm outer layer for the 20 minute descent. Also I wear it around the house constantly. I’m literally wearing it right now in my drafty old house as I write this. That’s how comfy it is.
C7 Vent Bib Shorts
Are the snowflakes flying? Time to hit the trainer? Or maybe you’re on Peloton indoor cycling program? GORE has that part of winter riding covered as well with a line of bottoms built with extra ventilation. The top of the line are the C7 Vent bib shorts, which do everything they can to keep you cool and dry on a hot day or in a hot studio.
The bibs are designed with GORE’s lightest material: a fast-drying elastic fabric that wicks moisture off your body as you grind away, and a breathable, quick drying pad. The thigh and strap panels are ventilated for maximum cooling, and the upper portion of the bib includes sheer, breathable fabric in the back panel. A step up from the C5 Vent model, the C7 beefs up the Central Torso Architecture, holding the thigh, back and shoulder areas more firmly in place.
All of it works great as a bib designed for these specific conditions. The wide shoulder straps are more comfortable than the thicker stitched straps I’m used to - though probably not going to hold their integrity quite as long? We’ll see. Definitely the back ventilation is noticeable. Otherwise, the construction feels like a very firm, trim pair of bibs, like what you would want for road riding, with all of the construction details to make them a durable solution. Indoors, where all that matters is temperature control, they’re a go-to option.
For the moment I don’t see them on the website, but Wiggle has them for $179. The C5 Vent bibs are available on the GORE site marked down to $125.99. They lack some of the upper architecture but are otherwise very similar.
One last item... GORE sent me a pair of the C3 Active Trail Pants, a rain shell pant that, by its name, is designed for mountain biking but not a bad layer for commuting in the rain. They are not form-fitting, so we area talking about a pant you can slip over your riding outfit if, like me, you have come to expect the day’s rain to start as you’re packing up for the day to get on your bike. But the GORE-TEX Active fabric is very good at keeping out water - tested during a day of mushroom-hunting which consists of walking through wet ferns for three hours. And they come with features that can make them work on the bike, at least for short rides: reflective strips, cuff zips, and a grippy waistband to keep everything in place. Like the rest of these items, they are on sale at the company website, for $139.
Overall, GORE are offering some pretty substantial value. Winter gear gets expensive fast, so to be able to cover yourself head to toe for under $500 is saying something. Add in GORE’s advantages in textile design, particularly when it comes to blocking out the wind, and you’re getting a lot for your money. Hit them up over the holidays while the sales are going on and you’ll feel like you scored.