You can do a lot with the right base layer, jersey and windbreaker, but they aren’t the sole answer for all conditions. Once temperatures drop into the 40s, I need more than thermal bibs and thin long-finger gloves to stay warm. These two pieces from Pearl Izumi have rounded out the package I’ve been wearing.
P.R.O. Pursuit Bib Tights
The P.R.O. Pursuit Bib Tights come in two versions—with and without pad. My pair included the pad, Pearl’s top-of-the-line P.R.O. Pursuit 1:1 pad. They are a terrific (and in my case, self-contained) solution to winter riding. With the wind-stopping and largely waterproof Softshell Panels in the front, you can ride into a rainy headwind and your knees and quads will stay both warm and dry. I know; I’ve done it. Softshell is a three-layer laminate that is used in areas prone to being hit with wind and water. However, the presence of the Softshell makes pulling these tights on a process. That material, like any wind-stopping membrane, has almost zero stretch, so getting them up my quads required a fair amount of tugging. The bottom line here is that these tights are cut for cyclists of modest muscle mass, even more modest than I possess.
I wouldn’t feel a need to note the challenge of pulling the tights up all the way were it not for the fact that with an integrated pad, if the tights aren’t up all the way, there can be some unrestrained movement of the components in the forward compartment—if you catch my drift—and that’s something which most of us prefer to minimize. This is why I often steer people to tights without a pad. Put your bibs on first and it makes sliding the tights up easier and it reduces your investment.
The P.R.O. Pursuits are bib tights that increase coverage of your midsection on cold rides. One crazy detail of cold weather riding is that if your midsection gets cold, chill causes you to want to pee. So extra coverage can help reduce the number of stops on a ride. However, the bibs weren’t strong enough to keep the tights from sliding down some over the course of a ride.
The P.R.O. Pursuit Bib Tights are $175 with the pad and $150 without. They come in five sizes (S-XXL) and one color. The chamois is excellent and it’s well-placed. I’d just prefer to have it in a pair of bibs that I pulled on before the tights. Separating the chamois from the tights can cut down on laundry too, giving you the opportunity to wear the tights more often. And who has three pairs of heavy tights?
These tights are warm and utterly windproof, which makes them perfect for blustery days. However, I’d like them better if they stayed put. Either a slightly more forgiving cut in the thigh or a stretchier material in back would help. Also, as it happens, while my thighs were a bit much for these tights, my ankles were a tad undersized and the cuff wasn’t entirely snug.
Men’s Elite Softshell Glove
The first half dozen times I put these gloves on, I felt like I ought to be donning a space suit. Or that there ought to be snow on the ground. But with temps often hovering between 35 and 45 degrees for morning rides, I’ve been wearing these. The remarkable outcome is that I can say they are the warmest cycling gloves I’ve ever worn. I’m stunned to be in a position to make such a statement. Yes, there was one day I wore these when temps rose into the low 50s and they had to come off, but I’ve suffered much less dignified outcomes. How many times have you done a ride with gloves that were too thin and gotten home with tender fingertips? Because I’m a touch typist and I type for a living, this is a sensation I detest. I want my hands to stay warm. And the Men’s Elite Softshell Glove has accomplished that without fail.
Let’s be clear, the fingers are a bit thick on the Men’s Elite Softshells. You wouldn’t want to climb on a bike with Di2 for the first time and do anything other than ride around in one gear, but despite their bulk, which is brought on by the use of what I must assume is a copious amount of Primaloft Gold insulation, I was able to shift Dura-Ace and Deore XT STI levers without issue. Di2 isn’t as easy, but it’s still doable.
The palm and fingers use a synthetic leather for a couple of reasons. First, it remains much more water resistant, if not outright waterproof. Also, synthetic leather resists stretching should it get wet in nasty conditions, so the fit stays consistent even in the awful. A curious visual detail of the gloves is a power icon positioned roughly at the fingernail of the index fingers. Honestly, I wondered if perhaps these were electrically warmed gloves at first. Alas, no, but they do hint at one of the gloves more impressive features.
In fact, that little icon refers to what is arguably the gloves’ most impressive feature; a special synthetic leather with electrical conductivity is used in the thumbs and index fingers so that you can operate your smart phone without taking your gloves off. It’s a detail like this that shows the gloves were designed by people who actually go on long rides. And it actually works.
The gloves have a reasonably long gauntlet with a velcro closure. The trick is to remember that the gauntlet needs to go inside the jacket on wet days, otherwise you wind up with water running down the sleeves to be poured directly into the gloves. Anti bueno.
Silicone grippers on the index and middle fingers aided my hold on brake levers, but I’d prefer a bit more gripper on the index fingers; a little streak of it below the fingertip, right at the first joint would do nicely. What’s there hits a bit below that for me. I’m a middle-finger braker on mountain bikes and the gripper on that middle finger was perfection itself.
The Men’s Elite Softshell Gloves come in five sizes (S-XXL) and two colors. At $60 it’s not a cheap pair of gloves, but compared to many less expensive gloves, I’d rather make the additional investment and actually wind up with something that keeps my hands warm.
Final thought: there’s power in warmth.
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