The days are getting shorter, temps are dropping and rain is inevitably coming.
Winter is upon us and even in the desert the weather is changing. For those of us who are lucky enough to ride year round, it’s time for extra layers and rain jackets. For everyone else, this gear is just a phase before the snow kicks in, but equally as necessary.
Bontrager introduced its baselayer line last year, and this year the company stepped it up a notch, producing a full line up, from baselayers to jackets. Within the last three weeks here in the Northwest, the switch has been flipped from the lingering Indian summer to daily, full on torrential downpours. The quiver of Bontrager layers has not only survived, but excelled in everything from shuttle laps in near hurricane conditions, to frosty, early morning rides.
The Lithos Stormshell Jacket is the premier outer layer of the 2015 lineup and a true defender of dryness. With 10,000mm of waterproofing and Profila Stormshell fabric, this thing beads water like a slip-n-slide while also letting excess body heat escape. It has a semi-fit cut, meaning it follows body contours but allows for movement. This roomy fitting can easily accommodate under layers or even a thin down jacket if the temps call for it.
All the zippers are well placed and can be reached with any backpack on. The pockets sit above the waist belt, and the pit zips are high on the chest, rather than directly under the arms. The hood has plenty of room for a helmet, but can be cinched down for normal wear. The cuffs really stand out compared to a typical rain jacket’s static sleeve ends. Having both elastic and Velcro, they are easily adjustable and keep wind and rain out, but allow for maximum movement.
The Evoke Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey is the line’s mid-layer that functions well under the Lithos Stormshell or on its own if the forecast is mild. The Profila Thermal is designed to trap body heat by using active particles within the fibers that take in and then release moisture. It uses body heat to speed up this vapor movement, so the more energy your body is giving off, the faster it works. This thing keeps you warm and prevents any swampy feelings. The fit of the jersey is also semi-fitted, but it is very snug compared to the Lithos Stormshell—which has a true-to-size fit. The sleeves are a good length, but the drop-tail fit makes the chest seem tight, so consider this when ordering your standard size—the fitting was our one complaint. The jersey’s quarter zip lets the air flow, and a sunglasses wipe on the interior hem might seem superfluous, but it comes in handy quite often.
The bottom layer of Bontrager’s line up is the B2 Short Sleeve baselayer. A mix of polyester and Merino wool, this shirt is as comfy as it gets. Between its moisture wicking and (unofficial) non-smelly properties, it’s the ultimate bottom layer. The lineup also includes a long sleeve, hooded version for extra chilly weather. The baselayer is fitted, but fits about the same as the Evoke Thermal. It’s snug, but as a bottom layer this actually makes for a very comfortable fit.
The price point for the Lithos Stormshell Jacket is a bit high at $299, but honestly, it deserves this spot among the other high quality, waterproof outer layers available on the market. At $99, the Evoke Thermal is in line with any other base layers of its kind, and the B2 Short Sleeve’s $69 price tag is right about where most other merino layers are.
The whole lineup has a few different color ways: everything is available in black or some other 80’s-esque neon color, be it yellow, orange or blue. It’s up to you whether you want to be a night riding ninja or a pedaling traffic cone. However considering the darker days that are falling upon us, brighter can be better, especially if there’s any roadside riding between the trailhead and your garage. Overall, Bontrager has put together a quality lineup of layers that regulate body heat and can truly withstand severe riding weather.