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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 11-12-08, 11:05 AM   #1
dlk
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softshell jacket vs regular shell

I'm looking into buying a jacket for winter wear. I'd like to get an insulated softshell jacket so I can skip out on extra layers that add to bulk, but from what I've read, many people here seem to prefer just a wind/weather resistant outer shell with insulating layers underneath. could people explain pros and cons of both? optimally, I'd like to buy something I can wear all the time (commuting and going out) which means something I can wear when I get more warmed up from riding (commuting 6+ miles) and short rides where I won't be generating as much heat but can still be wearing clothes that I could go out in (not having to worry about wearing a million layers). is this possible, or am I dreaming?
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Old 11-12-08, 11:37 AM   #2
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If you ride flat-out you need a layered system. If you can moderate your riding to prevent overheating at times then some built-in insulation is more convenient. When you are diving in and out of warm buildings after riding you need to shed a lot of layers rapidly and I find an all-in one winter jacket easier to handle.
I have 2 winter "softshells", a thin one for Oct-April and a thicker one for Dec-Jan.
Im not sure what counts as a softshell but both of mine have an insulated fleecy layer and a windproof/water-resistant outer lshell ayer.
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Old 11-12-08, 11:39 AM   #3
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I wore a Marmot softshell once because I forgot to bring my Sugoi (regular) shell to work. I have to admit, it kept me warm (microfleece lining) and windproof. The fit wasn't made for riding a bike, but it did reduce that bulky feeling. Doesn't breathe as well, but in cold temps, opening the zipper works fine.

Great, I just convinced myself to buy a softshell for biking, if the fit is right!
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Old 11-12-08, 11:48 AM   #4
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Think layers

Make sure to always think in layers. If you don't, you will have only one jacket to wear for one temperature range or activity level. If you want a jacket to wear around town and ride with, than you need to make a compromise to be either a little too baggy for riding or a little too tight for casual wearing. First, you need to know why softshells and hardshells are sold/sought after.

Soft shells:
These began a few years ago to help bridge the gap between shells and fleece. They breathe much better than WPB jackets, stretch to fit your form especially in a riding position, and buffer less in the wind as well. Unless it is pouring outside, you can get away with just a soft shell in most cases especially for the distance you are commuting. Go longer and in the same style of rain and you may need to layer a shell (Waterproof Breathable...referred to as WPB going forward). If you purchase a soft shell, look for one w/out a WP (windproof) barrier instead of one with one. This will allow you to regulate your temperature more during warmer conditions. You can purchase various windshirts to go underneath your softshell if it is more windy or colder outside. If it is wet too, skip the WP underlayer and just add the WPB jacket over your shell. Make sure it is a very light to allow you to pack it down small when you commute and have to pack it away. Also make sure to spend the extra coin on the most breathable material and treat it right from the beginning. If you do a $200.00 expense looks alot better over 10 years than $100.00 over 2-4. The cut should be just large enough to fit the heaviest amount of insulation under it that you would wear in the coldest temperature you would ride. Remember that if you pair the softshell with a WPB shell, you will make you SS significantly warmer w/out adding anything underneath the SS. I usually size mine to fit one thin, very stretchy wool or Polypro layer next to skin, than another medium weight layer usually a powerstrecth layer at most. Do not layer a regular fleece underneath as it will be too bulky.

Shells:
WPB shells come in various degrees of waterproofness and breathability. As stated above, spend the money to get one made out of Paclite Goretex or Event WPB material. They are the most breathable and waterproof. All WPB jackets will eventually "wet out" on the outer nylon layer if exposed to severe rain or over a very long period of time. This "wetting out" time will begin to happen earlier and earlier as you wear your garment and it needs to be washed. Go into your local gear shop and ask for "Techwash" and you would wash both SS and WPB in the same thing about 1-3 times/year depending on how often you wear the garment and how dirty it gets. After about 3-5 washings you will need to retreat the garment as well. They are really only needed when the rain gets harder or if your ride is longer. If it is warm (over 60 degrees for me) or really cold, you can have issues with the breathability of their fabric even if it is the best. Mine is really light,easy to pack, and always goes in my bag if it is colder out or there is a chance of rain. I would say I wear my SS over my WPB shell about 80% of the time.

If you want recommendations I can put that together for you as well. I am sure there is a thread already started that we could add this information to and additional information going foward. Just do a search and than we can add to that thread rather than start another complete one.

Good luck!

Erik
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Old 11-12-08, 11:54 AM   #5
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You're not dreaming, but the Golden Fleece might be hard to find. I find that most soft shells don't have enough windproofness to use as cycling jackets. They are great when the wind is up to 15 mph, but add on the speed of a bike and you can get chilled pretty quickly. The ones that are heavy enough to block out all the wind are often too insulated, and on the warmer days can be sweaty.

Thankfully, there are some good jackets out there made with Gore Windstopper [or the equivalent] that insulate enough, breathe enough and totally cut the wind. I really like my Craft WS Thermal jacket for these reasons. As far as fashion goes, it's in the eye of the beholder. Rapha makes a very attractive shell jacket, but it's flagrantly expensive. My Craft is fairly understated for a cycling jacket, but it's not going to work well with a tie and slacks.
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Old 11-12-08, 12:07 PM   #6
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+1 on Craft products. Right price and great product.
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Old 11-12-08, 10:40 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by dlk View Post
I'm looking into buying a jacket for winter wear. I'd like to get an insulated softshell jacket so I can skip out on extra layers that add to bulk, but from what I've read, many people here seem to prefer just a wind/weather resistant outer shell with insulating layers underneath. could people explain pros and cons of both? optimally, I'd like to buy something I can wear all the time (commuting and going out) which means something I can wear when I get more warmed up from riding (commuting 6+ miles) and short rides where I won't be generating as much heat but can still be wearing clothes that I could go out in (not having to worry about wearing a million layers). is this possible, or am I dreaming?
i'm using a soft sell jacket, underneath i got a soft jacket, on the top i got a reflective jacket, and inner layers i can use anything i want.
see picture
My Winter Head Gear
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Old 11-13-08, 09:31 AM   #8
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thanks for all the info, everyone! very helpful. I think I'll try out the softshell since riding in heavy rain freaks me out too much to do it very often if at all, and less bulkiness appeals to me.
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Old 11-13-08, 10:34 AM   #9
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I'm all about layering. I bought a non-bike specific jacket from ems.com that has armpit zips. It is actually described as a light insulator.
http://www.ems.com/catalog/product_d...82574488760917

I also have this guy from canari.
http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/766877

I plan on using the insulator inside the shell. Since both of them are somewhat stowable, I will shed one or the other.



If you want to have something for casual wear, why not pick up a polartec 200 fleece and use the above shell?? Once you get to your destination, pack the shell in your pocket.
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Old 11-13-08, 08:36 PM   #10
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I really like my Craft WS Thermal jacket for these reasons. As far as fashion goes, it's in the eye of the beholder. Rapha makes a very attractive shell jacket, but it's flagrantly expensive. My Craft is fairly understated for a cycling jacket, but it's not going to work well with a tie and slacks.

Talk to me about this Craft jacket, as I have been looking at it. What would you say the comfort range in temp is for you? Down to 0 degree days wit base layer? No chance?
Thanks
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Old 11-13-08, 11:00 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by dlk View Post
I'm looking into buying a jacket for winter wear. I'd like to get an insulated softshell jacket so I can skip out on extra layers that add to bulk, but from what I've read, many people here seem to prefer just a wind/weather resistant outer shell with insulating layers underneath. could people explain pros and cons of both? optimally, I'd like to buy something I can wear all the time (commuting and going out) which means something I can wear when I get more warmed up from riding (commuting 6+ miles) and short rides where I won't be generating as much heat but can still be wearing clothes that I could go out in (not having to worry about wearing a million layers). is this possible, or am I dreaming?
If you are just looking for a single jacket that works well on a bike for short range commuting and also is good for everyday wear a standard Columbia type Polar fleece lined nylon jacket works well. It is very warm for riding with just a single long sleeve wicking shirt underneath. And a lot less expensive than a cycling jacket. The only issue is that if you are riding hard and getting it really sweaty you would need two because you are going to have to wash it after every ride or so. And it can take a few hours to dry out. But for shorter easier rides it is a good option.

This is another reason that the layering method is better for riders who ride hard because they can dry things out easier and wash things easier.

Also, some of the larger department stores sell breathable soft shell casual jackets which are made from Powershield fleece without the barrier membrane. These jackets are stretchy and breath very well and are water resistant and often come in two tone colors that actually look quite good with slacks and tie. With a nice quality polar fleece jacket layered underneath is is a really good combination for both warmth and breathability. And would be good for short range commuting.

Last edited by Hezz; 11-13-08 at 11:07 PM.
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Old 11-14-08, 01:51 PM   #12
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If you are just looking for a single jacket that works well on a bike for short range commuting and also is good for everyday wear a standard Columbia type Polar fleece lined nylon jacket works well. It is very warm for riding with just a single long sleeve wicking shirt underneath. And a lot less expensive than a cycling jacket. The only issue is that if you are riding hard and getting it really sweaty you would need two because you are going to have to wash it after every ride or so. And it can take a few hours to dry out. But for shorter easier rides it is a good option.
better yet.. go to Lands End....they have polartec 100/200/and i think 300 versions for way less than you would pay over columbia or northface.
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Old 11-14-08, 09:36 PM   #13
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I've also been looking at a softshell as well for winter riding. I came across a company called Triple Aught Design Gear (www.tadgear.com) They sell some tactical jackets ideally made for the military, but can be purchased by civilians as well. I just ordered one of their softshell jackets on clearance for $150 USD.

http://www.tadgear.com/x-treme%20gea...cket_rh_lt.htm

This jacket has the most pockets I've seen, plus an extended back hem for coverage, large pit zips, and a water/wind resistant exterior, made in usa. It is obviously not cycling specific, but I've read good things about this company on various forums. I'm hoping to use this jacket with some base layers for winter riding. I'll review once I receive the jacket.
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Old 11-17-08, 02:04 PM   #14
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softshell all the way. I never wear my hardshell anymore. I got a Foxwear, powershield. Stops wind, keeps you warm, custom made to fit your size, made in Idaho, inexpensive($80.00), nuff said. I own a Gore wind stopper vest, it is awesome but does not breathe as well as the powershield material from Foxwear. I'll stick a wool sweater under it in extreme temps though.

The owner, seamster is Lou, great down to earth guy. Highly recommended
http://www.foxwear.net/
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Old 11-18-08, 01:01 AM   #15
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I have Lou make all my winter stuff. I am very warm with his jackets, and tights. The prices are great.
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Old 11-18-08, 01:05 AM   #16
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I'd prefer a light weight , windproof outer jacket, so I can peel it off as it gets warmer..But, I am not convinced , when its below 40; that layering works with only a light weight outer shell. Does it.?.
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Old 11-18-08, 08:55 AM   #17
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But, I am not convinced , when its below 40; that layering works with only a light weight outer shell. Does it.?.
The outer shell's purpose is to stop the elements of wind rain and snow. Below that you layer, as many layers, and each layer having the thermal properties as is needed for the temperature conditions your going to ride in. Of course layering works, you just have to have the correct layers.
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Old 11-18-08, 11:45 AM   #18
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softshell all the way. I never wear my hardshell anymore. I got a Foxwear, powershield. Stops wind, keeps you warm, custom made to fit your size, made in Idaho, inexpensive($80.00), nuff said. I own a Gore wind stopper vest, it is awesome but does not breathe as well as the powershield material from Foxwear. I'll stick a wool sweater under it in extreme temps though.

The owner, seamster is Lou, great down to earth guy. Highly recommended
http://www.foxwear.net/
+1 (or is that +2 in this case as I am the 2nd person to referene Lou). Lou is great to work with. Where else will you get a custom made coat for around $82 delivered to your door. My Evap coat is excellent. It works well in keeping me warm, yet is able to shed tons of sweat without ever getting clammy. I've had a few other "breathable" coats, but nothing comes close to what the modern Fleece coats can do. The way Lou makes the coat is to make the main body of increadily wind resistant fleece. Just try to suck or blow air through it and you'll find it impossible. Yet the material still lets moisture pass out. Along the sides and sleeves Lou uses a thinner and much more breathable material. I went with the lightest material and I sweat a LOT. If I were easily cold I'd go with the medium thickness material. That material I can easily breath through. I might feel cool when I get on my bike, but within a mile or two I am aready starting to pull the zipper down a little. One extreamly cold days (like 15F or less) I will add a thin wind (suppossidly breathable) shell. My shell doesn't breath to save its life, so when I get to work I'll dry it inside out. If you think about it though that coat has the amazing apabilty of keeping me comfy from 20F to 50F without needing to wear anything more than a T shirt underneath. That is a 30 degree temperature swing. With the simple addition of an extra protective layer (or a warmer sweather underneath) it has kept me comfortable down to 2F (with a windchill of -26F... that was a COLD day). That makes for a 50 degree temperature range where this coat works well either on its own, or with a light additional layer. Now that is a flexible garmet.

I also just ordered up a set of winter (powershield) riding pants. My illuminite tights are nice and comfy from around 65F down to 30F, but below that they are simply not wind resistant and warm enough. I expect to be quite happy with the pants from Lou, but I only ordered them last week so I'll have to wait for them to arrive and for the mercury to fall a bit more before I can give a full review.

Happy riding,
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Old 11-18-08, 11:53 AM   #19
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I have a softshell I ride in and love it. Stretchy, windproof, warm and lightweight that I can wear from autumn until spring. My one complaint is the back of the jacket is a wee bit too short and has a tendency to ride up.

I bought mine from Lands End (check the overstock section for any sales!).
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Old 11-18-08, 12:18 PM   #20
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more help needed! ok, so the softshell I had my heart on, this jacket from adidas has breathable mesh (but lined with light fleece) underarms and sides. considering I wanted to use this jacket as a winter coat substitute I am thinking this would probably be a problem, am I right? of course I want to have breathability but wouldn't that make the jacket not warm enough for winter (let's say if I get off my bike and am walking a few blocks)? on the other hand, I'm not sure since I have little experience with this. maybe this is a common feature of winter soft shells? I'm also interested in the Foxwear that people have all given great reviews of, but those jackets also seem to have breathable panels. basically, I am wondering, do I need to be on the look-out for something that is totally wind-proof, or are these breathable panels ok?
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Old 11-18-08, 03:11 PM   #21
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maybe this would be a better option? patagonia wind shield jacket
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Old 11-18-08, 05:39 PM   #22
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If you plan on riding in 20 - 40 degrees, rain or shine, then I would recommend a total windbloc type construction. This will provide adequate water repellence also - something you will need if you're in the rain any length of time. The disadvantage is the upper limit - which I've just sort of estimated at being somewhere around 40, give or take. Obviously a zippered front helps venting to some degree but, it will still have an earlier upper limit than the partial windbloc approach.

For fair weather riding, 32 degrees and above, I think the partial windbloc (chest and arms) is all you will need. And, stick a medium weight wool baselayer (ie., Ice breaker 220 - 300 g/m2 weight) under the softshell, and you will be good to 20 degrees. Merino wool is particularly comfortable to the point of feeling luxurious and, an effective insulator. Should you sweat some, it doesn't stick and it doesn't smell. A near perfect cycling baselayer. With a thin wool baselayer only, you can ride to probably 65 without much need to start stripping. So, the advantage of partial windbloc jacket is more venting/breathability thus a wider temperature range of applicability.

Either of the jackets you are looking at seem nicely thought out and made. Both Addidas and Patagonia are well known in the quality apparel circles (especially Patagonia).
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Old 11-19-08, 09:28 AM   #23
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Craft Windstopper Thermal jacket not for winter cycling

Hello,

Please don't make the same mistake I did and buy the Craft WS Thermal jacket and expect it to keep you warm in the cold. It doesn't. Craft advertises it as a winter jacket, but the design flaw with it is that the WS material stops about an inch short of either side of the zipper, so cold air pours in through the stretchy, breathable material, and your chest freezes. I sent pictures of this to Craft, along with a request for help, and have been blown-off. This jacket may be good if you do not encounter winds and it is mild out (^55 degrees), or your winter is in the deep south or Hawaii. If you need real winter cycling-specific jackets, look at Giordana, Castelli, and others companies like them, or use the tried-and-true windbreaker with layers and be wet. Best of luck.
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Old 11-19-08, 11:34 AM   #24
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Hello,

Please don't make the same mistake I did and buy the Craft WS Thermal jacket and expect it to keep you warm in the cold. It doesn't. Craft advertises it as a winter jacket, but the design flaw with it is that the WS material stops about an inch short of either side of the zipper, so cold air pours in through the stretchy, breathable material, and your chest freezes. I sent pictures of this to Craft, along with a request for help, and have been blown-off. This jacket may be good if you do not encounter winds and it is mild out (^55 degrees), or your winter is in the deep south or Hawaii. If you need real winter cycling-specific jackets, look at Giordana, Castelli, and others companies like them, or use the tried-and-true windbreaker with layers and be wet. Best of luck.
Where were you yesterday? I just bought that jacket and your right, the windstopper is not in the center along the zipper. Looks like it's going back.
Thanks!
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Old 12-03-08, 04:24 PM   #25
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which soft shell jackets are you guys using? it seems like everyone makes one now. Do these softshells need pit-zips or do they breath enough on their own? I was thinking of getting a polartec windpro jacket (no membrane) and then I could put a hardshell with pit-zips over the top of it.

I almost bought the lands end softshell ($50 on sale) and even Champion C9 from Target makes a cheap one ($35!!) that seemed to have good wind resistance (although poor sealing at the waist and wrists). I'm heading to LL Bean soon to see what they have. I will say that the quality difference between the cheapies and the patagonia, cloudveil, and marmot's i've tried on is noticable.
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