Hey all. I've been lurking here for a while, trying to prepare myself for my first season of winter riding. While the search feature on this forum has been good to me, it's also led to a strong case of paralysis-by-analysis; there's so much information, I just don't know what to do about my top two layers.
I know that I want the top layer to be a completely waterproof hardshell and the next-to-top layer to be a softshell fleece. I'll also need a waterproof overpant. But here is where the paralysis comes in: All this gear is expensive. I'm a student without a lot of money. So where will I get the most bang for my buck?
Here's what I've been looking at:
Perfect hardshell: Showers Pass Elite 2.0. ($240) I haven't been able to try it on yet, but I've heard way too many good things about it. Since I wear a backpack a lot (if I bike more than two miles, the backpack goes on the rear rack, but I'm a student and I walk around too) I'm definitely concerned about the durability of eVent, but this is definitely the standard. I also really like the fit of the Novara Stratus 2.0 ($160). I tried on a Showers Pass Touring and hated the fit. I mean, I really hated it.
Perfect Softshell: Marmot Sharp Point. ($150-$250) I tried on a bunch of softshells and this is the best combination of warmth, mobility, and style that I've found.
Perfect Rain Pants: Foxwear Neoshell ($120). This is the only rainpant I can find that I have a reasonable expectation that it can breath. And even then, I'm feeling pretty dodgy about it.
Respectable Hardshell: J&G Breathable Rain Jacket ($100) It just looks like a completely generic, solid performer.
Respectable Softshell: Marmot Gravity ($100-$150) or Mountain Hardwear Alchemy ($100). I'd lose a little mobility and warmth, but I don't lose any style.
Respectable Rain Pants: I actually don't know what would fit in this category.
Bad Hardshell: Performance Ripstop Rain Jacket ($60). Cheap, somewhat sauna-like.
Bad Softshell: Any softshell for less than $60.
Bad Rain Pants: Performance Ripstop Rain Pants ($40)
For the least amount of money (definitely under $400), what combination of the above should I get to maximize my comfort? Obviously, if you have strong feelings that the best in an above category isn't listed, I'd love to hear that, too. Is there any reason I should buy something really nice now, then wait until I have more money to buy something else really nice?
Random information: I'm 6'2", 200 pounds with a narrow waist (32"). My commute is 11 miles each way, seven miles on trail (plowed), three on city streets, one on suburb streets. I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN. Also, style counts. I want to be able to wear any of this off of the bike.
Thanks for reading!