2015 Holiday Gear Guide: Apparel

By Mike Deme, Josh Tack, and Alex Strickland

Marmot Isotherm Hoody ($250)

When the seasonal temperatures abruptly move into the lower number range, we all need a go-to garment to get us through that transitional period so we can keep the pedals turning as long as possible despite the crispness in the air, so put Marmot's Isotherm Hoody on your radar. When I first unpacked the Isotherm, my first thought was that it wouldn't make a good cold-weather cycling jacket because it looked and felt like I would overheat quickly while wearing it. Well, looks (and feels) can be deceiving. I've been wearing it in temperatures ranging from 38 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and it's handled the range with aplomb.  

The key to the Isotherm's ability to adapt are there three fabrics used in its construction. The first is Polartec Alpha insulation. According to Polartec's website, Alpha “was originally developed for the U.S. Special Forces when they required a more advanced insulating material in their combat uniforms. This fabric is a new technology with active insulation that regulates core body temperatures during both dynamic and static activities. This latest advancement in adaptable breathability helps eliminate the need of shedding or adding layers while on the move.” I couldn't have said it better. The second is Pertex Quantum Fabric, an extremely lightweight, windproof, and breathable ripstop fabric that allows the Alpha insulation to fully loft. And finally, the soft-shell shoulder and sleeves allow heat to quickly escape from these areas. All in all, it's a great combination of technology. The only times I felt that I was borderline overheating was when climbing out of the saddle, but once back into less stressful pedaling, I quickly found myself quite comfortable again. 

Other features of the Isotherm Hoody are, well, a hood with a cord adjustment (and that can fit nicely under your helmet in case of extremely inclement weather); zippered chest and hand pockets; and interior mesh pocket; elastic bound cuffs and hem, zonal mesh lining, and Angel-Wing Movement, which allows for a full range of motion.  –MD

Montane Trailblazer Stretch Jacket ($225)

Yes, another fantastical creation driven by the modern human being's desire to stay warm and dry while being rained on and sweating. Talk about Quixotic. But we're nothing if not stubborn, and while this idealistic goal may be impractical, the pursuit can sometimes result in products that do make our lives more enjoyable. Montane's Trailblazer Stretch Jacket is one of those products. Constructed using Aquapro Dynamic, a fabric described thusly on Montane's website: “a bi-component waterproof laminate fabric with a membrane that is both hydrophobic and hydrophilic; under normal use it breathes through hydrophobic transpiration but during high exertion and upon reaching a critical level of internal humidity the fabric has an extra turbo boost of hydrophilic breathability that draws vapour perspiration through to the outside of the garment.” 

Well said, and while I may not bow entirely down at the alter of techno language, I will vouch for the effectiveness of the Trailblazer. I used the jacket on three rides ranging from cold and windy to wet and wild. During and after each ride, I was an comfortable as anyone should expect to be under the circumstances. 

The Trailblazer features a four-way stretch design and offers a colossal list of attributes, including 15mm taped seams, articulated arms, a YKK AquaGuard front zipper, stretch panels on the sides, micro fleece at the inner collar neat the mouth and chin, and shaped cuffs with adjustable closures. My two favorite features are the three-way adjustable hood that fits over a helmet (particularly my small-profile Limar Carbon Ultralight) and the two zippered front pockets that are positioned higher and more forward than typical hand pockets. 

Snarkiness aside, the Montane Trailblazer Stretch is a serious jacket for serious people who like to remain active outdoors regardless of what the weather is meting out.  –MD

Swiftwick Aspire Socks ($17)

You know you’ve got some coming your way, so they might as well be good ones. I’ve seen a lot of cycling socks and I keep going back to the Swiftwick Aspire socks. I wouldn’t call them compression socks, but they do have an element of compression that helps keep them from bunching up or falling down. While lightweight and thin, they are still durable enough to get you through a season of hard riding. You’ve got a good variety of colors to choose from, as well a few cuff length options. The four inch cuff is my favorite, and Razzle Red has been my color of choice of late. They are a bit spendy as far as cycling socks go, but worth it.  –JT

Zackees Turn Signal Gloves ($75)

Leave no doubt about your turning intentions with an honest-to-goodness turn signal on the back of your hand. Zackees has built a bright and extremely easy to use turn signal glove accomplishes its intended purpose with ease while still providing a decent cycling glove. It should be noted that I’m not a fan of half-finger gloves, so the Zackees likely wouldn’t be in my rotation on that fact alone, but my initial skepticism about the signal itself was quickly laid to rest. Two small metal terminals — on on the inside of the thumb and the other near the inside of your index finger’s knuckle — close an electric circuit on the glove when touched together and activate the bright LED signal on the back of the glove. The motion to activate was extremely intuitive and I never had to worry about clicking something off when I returned my hand to the bar. The LEDs are bright enough to see in full daylight, but it’s the hours around dawn and dusk when the lights provide a much-needed punch to your hand signals against glaring sunlight and deep shadows. They’re not cheap, but if your commute contains plenty of turns and traffic these gloves could be a perfect addition to your cycling safety wear.  –AS

Voormi Eleven.9 Hoodie ($150)

Yes, $150 is a lot for hoodie. Maybe too much. But then again, in the case of the Eleven.9 from Colorado startup Voormi, maybe not. Made from merino wool harvested from sheep in the U.S. and treated with a durable water repellant, this hoodie packs a surprising amount of tech in a decidedly non-technical-looking package. From the outside, it looks like a plain old sweatshirt (except for Voormi’s small logos on the chest and shoulder, both of which prompted a few people to stop me on the street and ask about the brand), but I found the wool weave to be extremely durable and surprisingly water resistant. The inside is a soft waffled pattern that’s comfortable against the skin and actually reminiscent of Patagonia’s long-running R1 insulation fleece. Though it doesn’t pack up extremely small, I brought it along for a week-long inn-to-inn tour where I was lightly loaded and knew I’d be spending plenty of time off the bike. I wore the Eleven.9 every day of the trip and found it to be cozy after a long day of riding and able to shed drizzle and insulate well for cooler days on the bike. It’s an effective insulator, though, and unlike more technical pieces doesn’t have zippers or vents to bleed heat on climbs or when the sun comes out. It’s not cheap, but for a piece of sourced and made-in-America clothing that I very well might wear 100 days in a row this winter, it’s totally worth it.  –AS