READ: WINTER GEAR, PT. 1
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Softshell 3×1 Jacket
Colors: Black, red
Sizes: S – XXL
Essentially a one-stop shopping piece for upper body winter wear, Pearl Izumi’s 3×1 jacket offers a small handful of cold weather options.
Consisting of an outer softshell jacket and an inner Primaloft insulated jacket, the two pieces can be worn either individually or as a combo for the ultimate in sub-freezing fashion. And as an added bonus there is even a removable balaclava snapped into the softshell for those truly frigid days.
On several rides in the low teens with snow flurries, the 3×1 ensemble kept me completely warm and dry. Even when working up a sweat, it never seemed to get clammy inside, wicking moisture away surprisingly well. That said, even in these sub-freezing conditions the two front zippers were used in different combinations a fair amount to regulate body heat, which helped keep sweat buildup to a minimum.
Beyond the front zippers there are laser-cut vent holes in the softshell’s pits, and the Primaloft jacket uses soft, stretchy, uninsulated pit panels with three little vent grommets to help reduce heat build up. These features help, but pit zips and removable arms on the Primaloft jacket could be a great way to add more temperature versatility into the 3×1.
Breaking down the ensemble into individual jackets, the softshell seems a more realistic piece to use on its own than the Primaloft jacket, at least while riding bikes. As a stand-alone, it offers excellent wind and moisture protection and can store enough body heat to keep riders warm in the 30-50-degree range, with finer temperature tunabability dependent on what’s worn underneath.
The softshell’s articulated arms, asymmetrical cuffs and waist and Form Fit give the piece an almost second-skin feel when worn both on its own and with the Primaloft jacket. This is a welcome feature for the sub-freezing jacket market that may offer similar warmth, but in much bulkier and restrictive packages.
As for the Primaloft jacket, while it is an integral part of the ensemble on frigid days, on its own it’s an interesting piece. On one hand it’s a great dry-conditions insulator that can be easily stored in its provided stuff sack and thrown into a hydration pack or squeezed into a large jersey pocket. And it’s a nice general outdoors piece to have in the closet as well. But its wind and moisture protection is negligible, so if not accompanied by the softshell an additional vest or jacket would be necessary in wet or windy conditions.
All in all, the 3×1 is an impressive winter option that is packed with more technology and features than we have time to write about. For those riding in arctic temperatures on a regular basis, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better system. And if Pearl Izumi improves the 3×1‘s ventilation in the future, it may gain popularity a little farther south, too.
Smartwool Microweight Zip T
Colors: Black, Navy, Loden
If you’re not familiar with the benefits of Merino wool, Smartwool’s Microweight Zip T is a great piece to start with. Consisting of 100 percent New Zealand Zque Merino wool, the 150-gram, flat-seamed baselayer should be a top-of-the-pile piece for three of the four seasons.
Other than its impressive characteristics of wicking sweat away from skin and providing warmth even when wet, wool’s most amazing feature is its ability to stay odor free. I’ve been able to ride this baselayer four days in a row with only a slight hint that it wasn’t fresh off the clothes line. And more often than not, it’s been thrown back into the “clean” pile after debut rides from the wash.
This may not sound all that impressive to some, but with my overactive sweat glands and an unparalleled appetite for garlic, this statement should be taken as nothing less than phenomenal.
One slight issue when working with 100 percent wool is that creating a true form fit is near impossible. And though Smartwool did an impressive job with putting the Microweight Zip T solidly in the ballpark, the forearm sleeves and wrists on this piece are a bit baggy compared to synthetic baselayers. This makes slipping tighter-fitting cycling jerseys and jackets over its sleeves a little cumbersome, but this slight annoyance is a small price to pay for such great performance otherwise.
In addition, though Smartwool claims the Microweight Zip T won’t shrink from washing, the sleeves on mine didn’t seem nearly as baggy after several washes.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Transfer Zip-Neck Long Sleeve Baselayer
Colors: Black, White
Pearl Izumi is working with some impressive materials these days, and the Minerale thread this baselayer is made from is at the forefront. Providing UPF 30+ sun protection, amazing odor absorbance for a synthetic, fantastic moisture transfer, very quick dry time and a true form fit that allows just about anything to be slipped over it, the Transfer baselayers are my new favorite.
Cut specifically for cyclists, the Transfer features a drop tail, long arms, a tapered collar to provide protection up front while avoiding bunching in the back, and an 8-inch zipper with storm flap to help with temperature regulation.
Odor absorption isn’t quite as impressive as a wool piece, but it is night and day when compared to other synthetic baselayers or jerseys. And regulation of odor-inducing sweat, as well as moisture in general, is second to nothing I’ve ridden.
As a little experiment, this piece was even able to be ridden right out of the washer as a baselayer on a 45-degree day with the initial discomfort dissipating before walking out the door.
Mavic Propane Jacket
For riders who need as much insulation as they can get their hands on, Mavic’s new Propane jacket just might do the trick. Consisting of very lightweight, water-resistant materials encapsulating Primaloft insulation throughout, it’s is the next best thing to fabricating a jacket out of a high-end alpine sleeping bag.
One of the Propane’s most noticeable features is the asymmetrical main zipper up its chest. Designed primarily to reduce pressure and irritation to the Adam’s Apple, moving the zipper off to the side also reduces unwanted drafts on the neck. The zipper itself seals quite well, and features a zipper garage to further reduce neck irritation potential. Indeed, Mavic’s warmest jacket is definitely all about being cozy.
Additional features include an attached balaclava with internal stow pocket, forearm and flank vents, a giant zippered back pocket with 3 internal mesh pockets that seem too deep to be usable, a zippered internal pocket, and great glove interface cuffs that Mavic calls the Ergo Cuff.
Performance-wise, this jacket is truly designed for frigid days. How about 10 degrees? 5 degrees? It’ll keep you as snug as a bug in a rug.
But anything above the mid-20s and the Propane goes from cozy to claustrophobic, even with the flank and forearm vents wide open. However, with such lightweight materials and the compressibility of Primaloft, the jacket can easily stuff into a hydration pack if rising temperatures warrant a trailside wardrobe change.