Barrier to Entry, Part II

Barrier to Entry, Part II

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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  1. Ron

    Here in Seattle the temperatures have been hanging in the 20s, which is quite unusual. In the usual rainy 30s and 40s weather I just keep on riding my semi-lengthy commute through the winter but have faltered in this sub-freezing temperature range. I’ve found that in order to maintain a safe and comfortable degree of warmth in the 20s I have to really layer up like the Michelin tire man, at which point movement of the hands and legs is noticeably more difficult. I already wear either the Velocio HW cross bib or the PearlIzumi Amphib tights, perhaps with a Ibex wool leggings layer as well as shorts w chamois but find that once the thermometer gets into the 20s nothing so far has helped as much as I’d like. I’ll look closely at what you’ve shown here, as well as typical ‘fat bike’ apparel.

    1. Michael

      I really like the Amfib tights too. Everyone is different – I like them for temps from about 40 down to about 25 over shorts, but then put them over medium tights with chamois down to mid-teens, where I draw the line for pleasure riding (below that, it is commuting in Carhartts and big jackets on bikes with flat pedals). You might try layering the Amfibs over some lighter chamois-ed bib tights, Ron. Also, get good shoe covers – they make a huge difference (I have Castellis of unknown vintage), as do those tall thick waterproof socks Showers Pass makes (SP make really nice soft- and hard-shell gloves too). With good upper and lower coverage, you can wear somewhat lighter gloves and have better feeling on the bars. Those would all make the cold snaps in Seattle more pleasant. But keep an eye out for black ice!

    2. Winky

      Love the PI AmPhibs. I’ve owned a pair for over 10 years. Still going strong.

      I can also attest to the quality of those PI Elite Softshell gloves. Best winter gloves I’ve ever ridden in.

  2. TomInAlbany

    Padraig, For riding in the 30s (and maybe 20s) and wet, think northeast US, would you think the PRO PUrsuit Bib tights would do the trick or would I need a base layer for my legs? (Note: I would buy without a pad and wear shorts or bibs underneath.

    Also, I don’t see any mention of keeping feet warm and dry. I’ve got VeloToze but, I assume they’re not up to the task of keeping toes warm in the conditions I mention above.

    Cheers! -Tom

    1. Author

      Temperature sensitivity is a challenging point in discussing the usable range for cold weather gear. I suspect that for many riders long accustomed to New England winters (a strength I’ve lost), these tights will probably be good into the 20s. My experience with the fit is that a base layer won’t be possible beneath these tights.

      I didn’t review anything from Pearl as regards footwear, which is why you didn’t see anything on that.

      If I were in your shoes (hahahaha), I’d try wool socks, shoes, then an oversock and then a size up in VeloToze. It’d take 10 minutes to put on, but I suspect it would help.

    2. Nik

      For keeping your feet warm, I highly recommend Specialized Defroster Trail shoes. That’s the mountain bike version for SPD cleats; I think they have a road version also, but I have SPD pedals on all my bikes and don’t think it’s wise to walk around in road shoes when there is ice on the ground.

      Those shoes cost $200 (a year ago) and they keep my feet warm and dry with just a pair of wool socks. They are easy to put on and take off, without having to struggle with shoe covers. They are good for rain, as long as you have rain pants that are long enough so that the cuffs cover the top of the shoes. They are not suitable for wading through streams.

      I just checked on the Specialized web site and they are marked down to $146. That’s a really good deal. I have no affiliation with Specialized, I just like some of the stuff they make.

    3. Lyford

      I’ve had some sucess in cold weather using the old plastic-bag technique: thin liner sock, plastic bag, wool sock. The plastic bag keeps the insulating layer from getting damp from sweat, and my feet stay warmer longer.
      Shoe covers certainly help, and insulated ones (neoprene, for example) help more, but I’ve been much happier in cold weather since I bought winter shoes.

  3. Jeff Dieffenbach

    For winter MTB and fat, I’m loving my 45Nrth Japanthers. I’ll occasionally wear them for CX course inspection, suspect they’d work fine for road as well. They’re tight–I’m 44 in my Giro MTB shoes and 45.5 in the Japanthers. They’re quick to go on–step in, cinch the lace, close the inner ankle flap, close the outer ankle flap, and zip. My only concern is the zip, which is fairly tight. I won’t be surprised if I get zipper failure at some point, but as I’ve worn them, it’s taking less force to close the zipper, which bodes well.

  4. Kev Stevenson

    A winter revelation… Bar Mitts fit to your handlebars – more common on motorcycles.
    No more numb fingers & they feel like they’ll last for ever…

    The Spesh shoes (boots really…) mentioned by @Nik above are well worth investing in.

    For toasty toes on a budget.- thick neoprene overshoes and ski socks.

    1. Author

      Bar mitts are a pretty genius development. They are a no-screwing-around method to keep your hands warm. But if anyone ever ran them in California (the Sierras excepted) we’d be called out for being softer than brie. If I lived in Minnesota, I rather suspect that I’d have a winter bike on which they remained year-round.

  5. Lyford

    As for underdressing for fear of being “called out for being soft”: I don’t care any more. I don’t care what the Belgians do.

    Look, I understand the rewards of pushing yourself, but freezing your hands and feet because you’re worried about the “HTFU!” crowd is just stupid. It’s also dangerous. Frozen hands make for poor bike control. Frostbitten toes are nothing to joke about.

    If I’m warm and comfortable in cold weather I’m going to ride longer and enjoy it more. Isn’t that the point?

    1. Jeff Dieffenbach

      Lyford, +1!

      Cyclists are better off when cycling is inclusive. That means inclusive of drivers (don’t blow red lights or otherwise break the law–it gives us all a bad name) and inclusive of cyclists.

      We want MORE cyclists. That’s better for those of us who’ve been riding for years and better for those of us who are just starting out.

      Over the last two years, I’ve shifted my riding much more to dirt (and snow). One, I find it more interesting. Two, I find it safer (no one’s texting and driving on the Columbine climb!). Three, I find the community more inclusive. I’m nuts about CX. I’m a middling Cat 4 who practices with and gets (affectionately) heckled by Cat 2s and 3s. MTB and fat, same thing–there’s a welcome-with-open-arms vibe that’s great. Roadies? I love my club (MacGregors out of Weston MA!), but once I stray away from riders I know well, the community seems a lot colder. Maybe that’s because I don’t shave my legs?

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