Cycling Jackets; The Ins and Outs of These Essential Outer Layers (+ Sugoi Jacket GIVEAWAY)
So it’s official, winter is upon us. The snow is flying and the temperature is consistently chilly. What does this mean for us and our bikes? Time to hang up the towel until next year? NO; the answer to year round biking can be found in the perfect cycling JACKET. But of course, it can be difficult to find the perfect jacket because there are so many options to choose from. Lightweight, breathable, packable, waterproof, windproof, heavy duty, etc… What do all of these descriptions mean and what are they actually going to do for us? Get some answers about the world of jackets in this buying guide, hopefully it helps you match your needs so you can exactly what you want.
What are you going to be using the jacket for? This should be the first thing you ask yourself when you decide you want to make a purchase. I have found a great way to answer this question is to think about it when you are riding. It may sound basic but if you are consistently riding canyons, for example, you may find you feel great on the way up with just a long sleeved jersey, but are chilled to the bone on the decent. This would suggest that you need something that is easy to put in the back pocket of your jersey for the accent (packable), and able to break the wind for the decent (windproof). So before you do anything think about what you want this jacket for.
There IS a difference between a cycling jacket and regular jacket. The attention to details that biking companies put into jackets make your life much easier, and more comfortable. Here are some of the differences to keep in mind as you look at cycling jackets:
- Longer in the back than the front (aka drop tail hemline). This cut is designed for the way our bodies are positioned on the bike; bent at the waist, leaning forward. If you hopped on the bike with a regular jacket you would soon find the small of your back freezing and exposed!
- Reflective piping. This is the metallic looking strips that are usually stitched into the seams of cycling jackets. You will notice that as soon as the surrounding area becomes dark, if light is directed at these strips they actually put off a surprising glow that is attention grabbing. Reflective piping can help keep you safe when riding on the road at night.
- Pockets. Cycling jackets should definitely have pockets, but don’t be alarmed if you find them in different places than your typical ski jacket. Back pockets are great for road and commuting storage (either top access or side access with a zipper). A breast pocket is a plus, you might find they are good for smaller items such as keys and cell phones. And regular front pockets are great for hands when off the bike (be careful not to put anything in them if they do not have zippers, things might go bouncing out!)
- Waist cord and wrist cuffs. Make sure there is some way of tightening the jacket around the waist and at the sleeves to prevent, minimize the airflow under the jacket while on your ride. Of course there are many different options for this; velcro, elastic or zippers. Choose what you like, but make sure this is a feature; you will be grateful for it when temperatures drop suddenly. Conversely, the loosening of the waist cord or wrist cuffs can help cool you, if you are too warm.
So what does all the jacket ‘jargon’ mean? After you understand the basic fit of a cycling jacket, you then move on to the catch words of certain jackets…
- Waterproof vs. Water Resistent: Plan and simply, waterproof means the jacket should be able to withstand a downpour, keeping you dry. Water resistant means the jacket can withstand the effects of rain, snow or sleet, but is not going to keep you dry in these conditions for an extended period of time.
- Windproof: Impervious to wind.
- Packable: The ability for the jacket to fold or bunch into a very small size so that you may ‘pack’ it along where ever you go. Usually jackets are labeled ‘packable’ of they have a small pocket that they can actually be packed into.
- Breathable: The way the jacket transfers your body heat away from you. This is seen in a couple of different ways; zippered vents, sleeves of the jackets actually zipping off, and certain materials that are actually designed to let your body out while still keeping the elements out. Breathability is very important! If you don’t find something that is breathable you will feel like you are wrapped in plastic wrap and will be dripping with sweat by the end of your ride.
Review of Novara Jackets
With all of this new information about jackets under our belt lets take a look at some new 2012 Novara (REI brand) women’s specific jackets. (All the pictures throughout this article are the Novara women’s jackets).
The Novara Headwind Bike Jacket (as seen above). This jacket has forever changed the way I think about comfortable commuting. It is cozy warm, stretchy, and breathable (yeah jargon!). The front panels are windproof up to 35 miles per hour which is is hugely important for everyone who commutes. The back and side panels are made from a fabric that wicks moisture away, which is key to staying warm. It also has easily accessible pockets both on the front and on the back, my one complaint would be that the front pockets don’t zip, meaning you can’t put anything in them. The Headwind is finished off with a detachable hood that can fit under or over your helmet. This jacket is great for those who commute or road ride in chilly weather and want a mid layer or an outer layer! (MSRP: $99.50)
The Novara Express 2.0 (as seen above). This is your handy waterproof, lightweight, zip venting companion. You will be happy you had it when you find yourself in an unexpected rain shower or on a foggy morning. Novara does not cut any corners with this waterproof jacket, all the zippers are water sealed and all the vents are protected so you don’t get wet when you are trying to cool off. The drop tail hemline and tight fitting cuffs prevent the weather from getting between you and your ride. Don’t get caught on potentially wet days without the Express 2.0! (MSRP: $89.50)
The Novara Conversion (as seen above). This just might be one of the best ‘everything-in-one’ jackets! It is water resistant, very lightweight and can convert into a vest with a quick zip of a zipper. The cuffs and the hem bunch with elastic and the mesh lined back keeps you cool and sweat free. There is also reflective piping along the back to help with visibility, of course the bright yellow also helps with being seen! (MSRP: $79.50)
Note: Although REI provides jackets for review, they do not reimburse or give product to keep in exchange for product reviews.
Sugoi Versa Jacket GIVEAWAY!
Sugoi a British Columbia based company has worked within the running, biking and triathlon industry for over twenty years and has been mastering the art of quality, performing clothing that is designed to make your sports enjoyable no matter the weather. They are offering to give away one of their outer layers, the Sugoi Versa jacket. (MSRP: $120). It’s a great convertible jacket with easily removable magnet attached sleeves and 3M Reflective piping on front, side and back for added visibility.
Other features of SUGOI’s Versa Jacket:
- Mesh ventilation for maximum airflow
- Removable sleeves with magnetic attachments
- Reverse coil separating zip with guard
- 2 comfortable front zip pockets
- 1 zip back pocket
- Dual adjustable shockcord
- Contrast elastic bound armhole
SUGOI Versa Jacket GIVEAWAY Rules:
Comments must be submitted by Thursday Dec. 15th. Please be sure to include a first name AND a valid email address. Cycle & Style will choose the winner randomly from the best comments on this post! This prize can be mailed to an address within the US or Canada. We’ll contact the winner and get the appropriate address–so please use a valid email address so we can reach you in a timely manner.
SUGOI will send the appropriately sized Versa Jacket to the winner!