Winter Biking Tops

Riding a bike through cold, sleet and snow requires a litany of specialized equipment, not least the jacket and top you wear against the wind.

Over the past two months, in temps ranging from 40 degrees down to near zero, I tested two new tops made to provide warmth, comfort, freedom of movement, and breathability while pedaling fast through cold weather.

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The King Arthur Jacket by Castelli, a company headquartered in Milan, Italy, is a sleek, hold-your-chest-high road racing shell made of a stretchy polyester fabric. It fits tight and blocks out wind with aplomb, cuffs and collar sealing close to skin.

Specially-cut sleeves on the King Arthur cause your arms to push subtly forward and out from the body, positioning hands naturally on handlebars. An offset front zipper keeps your chin from rubbing wrong on the collar. Three small jersey pockets on back accommodate energy gels, an inner tube, and a small pump.

Castelli (www.castelli-us.com) made the King Arthur primarily for above-freezing temps, wind and water protection its main aim. But I found the $240 shell to be good for temps down to about 15 degrees, depending on how many layers you fit underneath.

I’m just over 6 feet tall, and a size large King Arthur Jacket fit me perfectly with one base layer. However, doing it over again I’d have tested an XL to accommodate another layer underneath the tight-fitting shell.

Ibex’s Amparo Jersey — my second specimen this season — is a $135 merino wool top with next-to-skin comfort. I.e., the fine wool blend does not scratch or itch.

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What the wool does do is breathe exceptionally well, wicking sweat quickly off the skin. Ibex touts “superior temperature regulation” with the Amparo, and with its full-zip front and magical warm-but-airy fabric I’d agree with that pronouncement wholeheartedly.

For winter riding, the Amparo works as a base layer or part of the system underneath a shell like the King Arthur Jacket. It is too light and breezy to be worn as a top layer in temps under 40 degrees.

Ibex (www.ibex.com) is one of my long-time favorite clothing companies, with smart design, quality construction, and great material. The Amparo is a prime example of the company’s craftsmanship.

Posted by Alex Baillieul - 04/02/2008 09:26 AM

I haven’t tried their heaviest jerseys yet, but their lighter weight short sleeve wool jerseys are awesome. With our latest order of stock from Ibex, I ordered a Fausto SS top. The wool is awesome next to the skin and I agree that it is almost magical as far as temperature regulation is concerned. So far it has been perfect for everything from 40F – 75F. Check out our site, www.bayinghound.com , for more info on Ibex and their great wool products.

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