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Cold-weather cycling jackets

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Wintertime bike riding is not for the meek. Numb hands, slippery sidewalks and unplowed trails, windburn, road spray and endless dark evenings can make even the heartiest two-wheeler surrender to a stationary bike indoors at a health club.

To ease the pain of riding during these deep, dark months, I recently tested two new jackets made just for wintertime cycling. The Race Face Sky Juice 2 and the Showers Pass Elite Jacket are both lightweight shell jackets made to shield wind, keep out all form of rain, sleet and snow, and breathe and move with the rider pedaling on the go.

Stylish and form fitting, the Race Face Sky Juice 2 jacket costs $149 and is made of a waterproof and breathable polyester fabric. It has a youthful, freestyle-inspired look, articulated elbows, waterproof zippers, a fleece-lined collar, rear stow pocket and twin hand pockets.

Sky Juice 2

The Sky Juice 2 works as a rain jacket year round, and in the winter it will keep you warm and dry when worn on top of a base layer shirt and a fleece. For storage in a backpack or pannier, it folds down to the size of a bike water bottle.

Overall, the Race Face jacket (www.raceface.com) is lighter, more packable, simpler and better looking than the Showers Pass Elite Jacket. It’s also $30 less expensive.

But on all other fronts, Showers Pass (www.showerspass.com) beat out Race Face by a long shot. The Showers Pass Elite Jacket, for example, breathes significantly better. Where the Race Face jacket felt clammy during high activity, the Showers Pass Elite Jacket breathed beautifully, thanks to its multiple ventilation openings and the incorporation of a new fabric called eVent, which the company says has 50 percent more vapor transmission over standard Gore-Tex.

Elite Jacket

Other nice features include a neck closure to block cold air; a zippered back storage pocket; 3M reflective taping on the arms and back; two-way waterproof zippers on the front closure; pit zips; a fleece collar; gusseted cuffs; and an optional hood.

Like the Race Face jacket, the Showers Pass Elite works as a raincoat in warmer months and is good for winter with adequate layering.

The Elite Jacket costs $179. It has long strips of reflective taping, and it’s the color of a big yellow school bus, making it highly visible to cars on the road. The jacket kept me warm and dry on several nasty bike commutes through slush and snow, and its performance has definitely eased the pain of riding during this cold, wet and sloppy time of year.

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