The Skycrest Insulated Snap Shirt and Stio Dulcet Soft Shell Pant have carried me through the coldest days of fall riding and will serve as an essential warm layer for winter commutes, mountain bike rides and cross country skiing.
There are so many options when it comes to lightweight synthetic-insulated jackets, but I found the Stio Skycrest Insulated Snap Shirt to offer a great balance of a performance and casual aesthetic. I’ve been wearing this jacket everywhere.
The Skycrest has the style of a button-down shirt in jacket form, offering a loose fit, snap front and a relaxed hem. The snap front and unfitted hem makes this jacket a good fit on the bike, providing plenty of air circulation. Between the jacket’s 60 gram insulation and windproof nylon, it had to be quite cold to wear this on a ride. As a performance piece, the Skycrest felt comfortable on an overcast 30-degree day or cooler. In a casual setting, I’ve worn the jacket into the 50s.
Synthetic insulation has several advantages over a fowl-based insulator: it’s water resistant, fast drying and less expensive. While synthetic jackets won’t pack as small as down, they’re quite compressible. I packed the Skycrest in a 4.5- by 8-inch stuff sack, and it could pack even smaller.
Both the Skycrest Shirt and Dulcet Pants have a DWR finish, helping them tolerate wet weather. Other details are loose-fitting elastic cuffs that can be pulled over your gloves to trap heat, and generous fleece-lined hand pockets. I don’t ever put anything in chest pockets, but these flap pockets are large enough to fit an iPhone 6.
I’m drawn to clothing that isn’t overly branded and there’s no text on the front of the Skycrest. You’ll find the Stio pinecone logo embroidered on the back and a small Stio tag stitched in the side seam.
The Skycrest Insulated Snap Shirt is available in Black Iris, Biking Red and Dresden Blue. Available in sizes XS-XL for $155.
Temperature management is one of the biggest challenges of riding through the winter. While a pair of waterproof, breathable rain pants offers excellent weather protection, they’re often too warm outside of all but the worst conditions. A soft shell pant is more versatile because it turns some weather, but offers far more breathability for most riding.
The Dulcet Soft Shell Pants are made of water-repellent nylon with a brushed interior. They have a skinny fit, a long cut and generous stretch. These pants are unlined which makes them suitable in a broad range of temperatures. I like keeping my legs on the warm side, so I comfortably wore the Dulcet pants over cycling shorts up into the low 50s. Doubling up over long underwear takes a little effort due to the slim fit and textured interior but the ankle zippers facilitate that by offering a wide leg opening. It’s like putting on snow pants; tuck your long underwear into your socks.
I often commute in hiking boots throughout the winter and the Dulcet’s long length and zippered ankle worked great for trapping my boot laces.
Unlike pockets on the average women’s skinny pants, these are large enough to use! My entire hand fits inside, so they’ll easily carry the essentials. The YKK pocket zippers have a catch preventing them for coming open; it’s a slight lift and pull motion to release the zipper.
The Dulcet Pant can be worn multiple days without washing. The water resistance allows mud to be wiped clean with a damp cloth. Stio recommends these pants be washed cold and dried on low. Drying is one way to to freshen up the pants DWR coating. Take a look at REI’s suggestions for keeping a DWR performing its best.
The Dulcet Soft Shell Pant comes in two colors: Tap Shoe (black) and Fallen Rock (tan). These pants hit below the natural waistline, but run true to the hip measurement. Available in sizes 2-12 for $150.
More info: stio.com
We recently published other reviews of women’s cycling clothing, including a technical hoody and cycling tights from Pearl Izumi, bibs and a wool jersey from Svelte London, and an insulated vest from Giro. Check them out!
Since receiving the Giro Insulated Vest, it’s become a staple layer for me on both city and mountain bike rides. Even when I wasn’t wearing the vest I carried it along, as its small pack size makes it a great option for these days of unpredictable weather.
The vest is nylon with a water-repellent finish and a very light, synthetic insulation. On high exertion rides, I wore it in mid-30 to mid-40 degree temps with a wool baselayer and into the 50’s for everyday hanging out. Overall, it only adds about a quarter-inch of thickness, but considerable core warmth, and its close-fitting nature makes the vest a great layering piece. When temps dropped below 35 degrees I layered it under a lightweight jacket. A grippy front zipper makes it easy to take the vest on and off with gloves on.
All of the exterior pockets—two front hand pockets and a rear pocket—have low-profile zippers, which are integrated in the vest’s side panel construction. The rear pocket is accessible from both sides of the jacket and is compartmentalized into three smaller pockets within a full, mesh back lining. This allows you to use the vest zippers for ventilation without losing anything from the pockets.
While $160 is a bit of an investment, the Giro insulated vest is a well-constructed and versatile piece that I’ll wear for years to come. giro.com
Search and State is a New York-based brand that designs and constructs cycling apparel in the Manhattan Garment District. The line has a level of simplicity that I appreciate, offering a concise assortment of riding basics. A color selection of black or sandstone is complimented by a few solids including gray, navy or olive (men’s only) and the clothing is void of graphics except for a thoughtfully placed SAS logo on a sleeve or a zipper lining.
For the S1-J Riding Jacket, Search and State uses a textile called c_change, which is designed to adapt to its surrounding environment; to breathe in warm temperatures and insulate in the cold. The fabric is flexible and soft to the touch, with a little stretch and the resulting S1-J is very water and wind resistant, while maintaining some breathability. Read more about c_change here.
The lightweight, 6.5 ounce, jacket is fitted throughout the arms and body, with a roomy low-profile back pocket. Long sleeves and snug elastic cuffs keep your arms covered and the wind out, while riding. Due to its tailored style, it’s a great second layer over a jersey and thin enough to be worn under a vest in colder weather. On a low exertion ride through the city, in the low 50’s, I layered it over a long sleeve jersey and was totally comfortable. Lightweight jackets are often paired with small zippers, but that’s not the case here. The S1-J is equipped with sizable zippers that are easy to operate while wearing gloves.
Although the Search and State apparel is geared towards road riders, its simple, subdued, style is perfectly suitable for mountain biking and around town. It’s lightweight qualities make the jacket packable; the S1-J rolls down to a size of about four cubic inches. On mountain bike rides I carried it in my hydration and camera bag for when the weather turned cool.
The S1-J is available for men and women in black (tested) and sandstone. It retails for $255. searchandstate.com
Photos by Emily Walley
“In June 2014, Search and State commissioned Joseph Holway to deliver the fist S2R Performance Jersey from their sewing room in Manhattan to Golden Saddle Cyclery in Los Angeles. He completed the 3,000 mile journey in 21 days by bicycle, alone and unsupported. Joseph documented his trip solely through the use of his iPhone.”Tweet Print
Velocio launched in February of 2014 with a women’s performance cycling line. The apparel is the creative venture of Kristy Scrymgeour, owner of Team Specialized-lululemon, and designer Brad Sheehan and the result isn’t your average women’s bike clothing. Bold colors, clean lines and minimal patterns were the focus of the 2014 and 2015 line. They’ve since moved into making men’s clothing, inspired by the women’s collection. While Velocio is no longer a women’s exclusive brand they continue to—admirably—place women at the forefront of their identity, a rarity in the cycling world.
We watched and worked and created what we felt was missing: a women’s-centric collection developed from the ground up for women, a brand that is in no way an adaptation of a men’s line.
Light Long Sleeve Jersey – $179
The Velocio Light Long Sleeve Jersey is perfect for spring or fall. Italian made, this full-zip jersey doesn’t feel like my other cycling jerseys. It’s super soft against skin, beautifully constructed and easy to move in. Velocio’s clothing is designed to be form-fitting and I was happy with the comfortably snug fit of the small. It’s made in the traditional 3-pocket style with an additional water-resistant zipper pocket on the rear center. Bright color blocks on the cuffs and collar and tasteful reflective detailing make this item fashionable performance wear.
Since the jersey is polyester, regular washing is a must. Fortunately, the fabric doesn’t seem to hang on to smells. Although Velocio recommends drying flat, I have inadvertently dried the jersey and vest, multiple times on low, without any issue.
Wind Vest – $179
I feel a wind vest is essential for maximizing comfort on tweener days—a jacket’s too warm but you need something to keep the wind off your chest—and I’ve been very pleased with Velocio’s offering. It’s lightweight and packs small, making the vest a great item to throw in your jersey pocket or hydration pack for windy days and cool temps. The windproof front and side panels reflect the elements while the mesh back provides ventilation. It mimics the jersey, featuring three back pockets, color block accents and reflective details.
The vest is also designed with a tailored fit and fits great over the jersey. However, I was hoping to wear it over layers and looser fitting garments, but the armholes and figure-hugging design aren’t very forgiving in this regard. Velocio recognized this and scaled up their vests for 2015 to account for layers.
On a windy day, in the low to mid-50s, I wore both the jersey and wind vest. I’ve found the combo to be well-suited to evening mountain bike rides, as well. As my body temp started to rise I packed away the vest. Without the vest, the mesh side panels from the jersey’s armpits to waist allow the fabric to breathe.
The shoulder seasons can be difficult to dress for, but the Velocio Light Long Sleeve/Wind Vest combo make a great pair for these days of swinging temps. I’ll be wearing this versatile duo for many spring and fall rides to come.
Velocio has a 30-day guarantee. During that period you can ride in the product as much as you like to see if it’s right for you.Tweet Print
Were in the thick of it now. Winter. This round of Button Up & Bike is focused on a small group of go-to items that make a big difference in cold conditions. The prevailing characteristics? Warm, water repellent, and wind resistant. Some are an investment, but their functionality outweighs the cost. Many we’ve worn happily for years, biking and otherwise, and they don’t show signs of giving out on us anytime soon.
Walz Plaid Wool Ear Flap, $33: This 100% wool cycling cap from the Walz Winter Collection is my favorite for the cold months because it keeps the wind out of my ears and looks cute. The flap is generous over the ears and provides more than enough room to tuck away unruly hair. Walz caps are all U.S.A. made and feature many styles and patterns, in addition to personalization options. -Emily
Neck gaiter: A neck gaiter can really help hide from the elements. I really like this gaiter because it’s not squeezing my face, fogging up my glasses while I attempt to breath. This is an old Buff Windstopper that doesn’t appear to be available anymore, but you can pick up a slightly different version with the Bicycle Times logo in our online store. Surly makes a wool, moisture wicking neck gaiter and Marmot has a GORE-TEX gaiter. Both look like they have a similar fit and would get the job done. -Trina
Ryders Eyewear Via Photochromic glasses: The Via Photochromic glasses automatically adjust to the amount of sunlight you’re currently dealing with. Wearing sunglasses does not always work in the darker winter months so a transition or tinted pair of glasses is great for protecting eyes from cold and snow. The Via’s have wrap-around coverage and fit under my helmet with issues. Retail price: $100. There is a less expensive version of the VIA with a non-transition lens tint, designed for medium to bright light for $50. -Trina
Wool jersey: This is a must for my cycling closet. The Bicycle Times wool jersey has three back pockets and is made of merino wool. Merino wool is soft, comfortable and warm. I’ve had my wool jersey for three years and have put it through the wringer. A few minor sewing repairs have been in order, mostly due to battles with a thorn bush. Price is $125, but on sale right now for $90. -Trina
SmartWool NTS Mid 250 Baselayers, $100: Merino wool is the queen of all baselayers. Who can argue with apparel that’s warm, moisture wicking, and odor resistant? SmartWool baselayers come in mid, light, and micro weight. I’ve found the mid-weight Zip T and Bottom the ideal candidate for cold weather, but because merino is ace at temperature regulation I can wear it comfortably all day. I like the high quarter-zip collar to vent or block the wind and unlike some long underwear tops, this one is presentable when worn solo. -Emily
Bar Mitts, size small, $75: How I pedaled through winters past without these things, I’ll never know. What a difference! Wind and moisture be gone, these neoprene sleeves are the answer to cold cycling hands. Most days I wore only a pair of mid-weight gloves and my hands were toasty; at times too warm! I didn’t have any issues shifting or braking, but I’d recommend sizing up to a medium for a little extra space and ease of getting your hands in and out while riding. There are also versions for drop bars or flat handlebars. I’m confident that these neoprene sleeves will keep my hands happy for years to come, making them well worth $75. Or, scoop up a pair on closeout for $45! – Emily
Outdoor Research Aspect Jacket: Any softshell is great for cycling, but I’m partial to the Outdoor Research Aspect Jacket due to its large chest to waist vents. I begin my ride with them closed and unzip as my core temperature rises. The body is roomy compared to your average softshell making it great for layering; I often wear two wool shirts and a fleece vest underneath. The collar and waist have an elastic drawstring to trap heat in and the bright color is good for daytime visibility. Outdoor Research no longer makes this jacket but the Showers Pass Portland Jacket has similar characteristics at a price of $175. -Emily
Novara Stratos Gloves: I have trouble keeping my extremities warm in the winter, especially on a windy day, but these waterproof Novara gloves do just the trick. The elastic cuff allows me to cinch down over my jacket keeping the heat in and the elements out. I’m a one finger on the brakes kind of person so I prefer to have my middle and index finger separate. Unfortunately, the Stratos are no longer available in women’s, but the men’s are still out there for $38, and they’re tech compatible. -Emily
Hiking boots and wool socks: Hiking boots are generally what I wear in winter or rainy weather. These LOWA boots have GORE-TEX lining, are lightweight, waterproof and breathable. A pair of good boots with wool socks (sometimes 2 socks), result in happier feet. The LOWA Bora GTX I’ve had for 2.5 years and they’re still in great condition. A good pair of long-lasting hiking boots will cost you about $120-$250+. -Trina
Craft Women’s PXC Storm Tight, $125: These Craft tights are breathable and warm, making them great for both city riding and mountain biking. They’re 100 percent poly, with a super soft lining and a wind resistant front. The stretch fabric and ankle zip allows me to easily pull them on over long underwear or jeans. They also have an opening by the knee that provides a little more movement while pedaling. -Emily
Vittoria Arctica MTB, $245: I had trouble finding women’s SPD cycling shoes that were winter friendly in a size 6.5, so I was thrilled to stumble across the Vittoria Arctica MTB. You’ll usually find me in my hiking boots on city commutes, but I wear these for longer rides as well as for mountain biking. The waterproof membrane and neoprene top keeps the moisture out and the knobby sole keeps you from slipping around at the store or in the woods. Vittoria offers narrow and wide widths as well as low volume upon request. -Emily
Want to ride all winter but on a tight budget? Check out our post Winter Riding on a Budget!
Now go ride!
Don’t let us keep you, button up and bike!Tweet Print