Of all the pieces in a cyclist’s wardrobe, the item that is most often overlooked, the piece that is most likely to be underestimated for its value, is the base layer. Done well, a base layer can make hot days feel like spring and wintry days as pleasant as sitting on your couch. I’ve recently been wearing two base layers—one with long sleeves and one that is sleeveless—from Gore that feature Windstopper barriers.
I’ve tried a fair number of wind-blocking base layers over the years and they have been uniform in their effectiveness. But they’ve all had one serious liability: Once you get good and sweaty, they cling to you and feel rather clammy. It’s not exactly an endearing quality.
I need to back up a second. Ideally, when dressing for cold temperatures, it’s most helpful to have any wind block layer laminated into the outer-most garment so that warm air can be held in the loft of the inner layers. That is without doubt the best way to layer for riding in cool weather. So, that said, why even bother with a base layer that puts the wind block mere millimeters from your skin? Well, I’ve learned over the years that these things can be handy for rides where you really don’t need that outer layer, but every now and then a descent or an open farm field the wind howls across can make a long-sleeve jersey and traditional base layer not quite enough. I’ve done races where I didn’t want to wear a jacket or vest, but needed an extra little something for that first hour. Bingo.
And then there’s the simple fact that I’ve been sent some really attractive long-sleeve jerseys by Rapha and Road Holland, and I’d rather show them off than some jacket that’s going to make me too warm. Most wind-blocking base layers will add another three to five degrees in range to your traditional LS jersey with base layer.
Now here’s where the long-sleeve Gore Windstopper base layer is different from every other wind-block base layer, such as Castelli’s: The Gore adds a thin layer of polyester between you and the Windstopper. At low heart rates, low enough that you don’t sweat much, wind-blocking base layers are perfectly comfortable. The trouble is once you go hard and start sweating, they cling to you like Saran wrap. It’s kinda gross, if you’ve got the presence of mind to think about it. Usually I found that I was just uncomfortable, but I’d experience a full-body yuck as I pulled it off later. To combat this, I’d often add yet another ultra-thin base layer, at which point you start wondering if maybe the vest wasn’t a better idea, but for years my team vests were pocketless and the thought of fishing under the vest to get to food kept me using wind-block base layers in those early spring races.
By adding that thin layer of polyester to the Windstopper, Gore’s base layer feels like every other base layer I own, but when I get sweaty, it doesn’t cling to me. The Windstopper layer is added to both the arms and the chest, but just the half that faces the wind, so overall it remains an incredibly breathable base layer. While I’ve got other long sleeve base layers, since first using this, I have to admit I have yet to use one of the others. The single biggest factor tipping matters in its favor is that I can go downhill without suddenly being chilled to the bone.
Gore offers the base layer in short-sleeve and sleeveless versions. While I haven’t tried the short-sleeve version, it seems to make a bit more sense to me because if conditions are cold enough to warrant the Windstopper layer, then I’m going to be wearing arm warmers with that short-sleeve jersey and I’m going to want coverage for the tops of my arms, that little bit left bare between the end of the base layer and the start of the arm warmer. That said, I have used the sleeveless version and have found it great for those days where a short-sleeve jersey, arm warmers and a traditional base layer just isn’t quite enough.
As base layers go, these things aren’t cheap. The long sleeve has a suggested retail of $79.99, while the sleeveless variety is only $59.99. That said, the wonder of Google can deliver one of these devices to your doorstep at a pretty healthy discount. Unfortunately, the depth of the discount available online makes this a product that isn’t terribly beneficial for bike shops to carry—who can compete with those prices. And ultimately, that is the conundrum that Gore faces. They really aren’t that well known for their cycling apparel and unless bike shops really get behind them and stock their stuff, that isn’t likely to change.
Still, the advantage may be theirs; I can’t think of a cyclist who couldn’t benefit from owning one these.
I’m in Park City, Utah, attending Press Camp, an event organized by Lifeboat Events. One of the partners in Lifeboat Events is Lance Camisasca, the former director of the Interbike trade show. Press Camp is a trade event for bike companies to get serious face time with the media. Sessions are broken into 45-minute blocks, of which I routinely ran over, but we’ll get to that.
That Camisasca is the former director of Interbike probably says something about where he thinks the industry is headed and whether or not he thinks there’s a problem with Interbike’s business model. As a means to reach the media, in only one day here, I have to say that I think it is entirely more effective. I was able to have real conversations with people in the industry, some of whom I previously knew, some of whom I didn’t, and discuss their product line in some depth without having someone interrupt us to ask for some stickers.
The funny thing about the increased time allotted for meetings is that I still never seemed to get through anyone’s full product line. For me, most of my mission was to identify products that I would be interested in reviewing at a later time.
I really welcomed the opportunity to meet the team behind NeilPryde bikes. The Bura SL, shown above, was really impressive. If the numbers I saw are accurate, it has one of the highest stiffness-to-weight ratios of any bike on the market. While they are doing a number of interesting bikes, this one was particularly interesting.
This frame features an asymmetric seat tube design without sacrificing any BB stiffness. And while all the engineering that goes into their frames appears to be very well done, I didn’t expect a brand new to cycling such as NeilPryde to have the ability to surprise me with weight and stiffness numbers that rival those from companies like Cervelo and Cannondale.
Stan’s NoTubes has moved into wheel production and these three rims show the evolution of one of their rims. Material was added at the spoke bed (center and left) as well as at the bottom of the brake track to increase lateral stiffness.
Of the many products out there I get requests for, perhaps the single most frequent category I’ve heard about in the last six months to a year is road tubeless. We’ll be rectifying that omission in the near future. I’ll make sure to ride some tubeless-specific wheels as well as convert some ordinary wheels to tubeless. Should be fun.
Guru seems to be best known for the carbon fiber bikes. What you may not know is that they started with TIG-welded steel bikes and then moved into titanium and aluminum before moving into Scandium. No matter what frame material you’re interested in, their delivery time is stunning. Few companies can offer a bike in less than a month, and Guru is delivering.
Guru has been on my radar for some time. I’ve been aware of the brand and some of their successes in racing, particularly in triathlon. That said, I’d never seen one of their titanium bikes up close. We’re discussing a review of one of their bikes and I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’m as interested in their titanium bikes as I am their carbon fiber ones. That just doesn’t happen.
This helmet by Kali Protectives can be used either for cross country or the road; the visor is removable. What was most interesting about Kali’s helmets was that they are using a much lower density foam closest to the head. By using lower density foam more energy is dissipated before the head feels any impact. To use the lower density foam the vent holes have to be smaller and less frequent, but in the event of a crash that results in head impact, you could be substantially less traumatized.
I’ve been itching to get a chance to discuss Enve’s new Smart System rims and wheels. I’m currently finishing up a short-term review of a pair of wheels built with the 34 rims. And they were nice. The wheels that Enve’s Jason Schier and Simon Smart most wanted to discuss were the 67 (BTW: don’t say “sixty-seven,” say six-seven”). This is the mid-depth of the three wheels and it’s the one where they claim the greatest benefit of the new rims comes into play. Stay tuned.