Gore Xenon 2.0 Windstopper Active shell >> $200
The lowdown: Packable, windproof jacket from the king of fabrics
Pros: Fits in a jersey pocket while still providing more wind protection and insulation than most light wind jackets
Cons: May not fit all body types
As a collective, we curse Isaac Newton and his most painfully obvious of quotation: “what goes up must come down.” The mountains outside Boulder, Colorado, are a haven during the warm months, low in traffic and high in vistas and lactate, but quickly devolve as winter approaches into a realm only frequented by the truly mad, or the cleverly prepared. Dressing to comfortably climb for half-an-hour at nine miles per hour, huffing and puffing and sweating, then descend at 40 mph, frigid wind whipping at dampened clothing, is an undeniable skill.
Gore’s wind-proof, lightly-insulated Xenon 2.0 jacket has quickly become a favorite tool for accomplishing that very task. It is slightly thicker than the average single-ply wind jacket, with a partial mesh liner to help hold in a bit more heat, but is still completely packable in a jersey pocket. As always with Gore fabrics, the Windstopper Active Shell fabric is highly breathable and still completely wind-proof.
A single zippered pocket above the extended tail will hold a phone or tube, but we have yet to actually use it, preferring to keep everything stashed in a jersey underneath so the jacket can be easily and quickly stowed away. Soft, elastic cuffs at the ends of the sleeves keep cold air out, but can still be stretched over a glove for easy removal. Reflective logos all over maintain visibility in the quickly-fading light of winter, and a long tail has kept road spray off our chamois.
Fit is slim, designed around a narrow waist and medium shoulders. The cut is such that standing upright is quite awkward, as the front pulls up to the belly button and the chest material stretches tight. Hunker down into a normal riding position, though, and the tailoring makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s this jacket’s leading attribute: provided you fit a somewhat athletic shape, the cut eliminates loud flapping material on the chest, shoulders, sleeves or anywhere else, even during high-speed descents. The fit worked for both myself, at 5-feet-10-inches and 145 pounds, and Lennard Zinn, who fits a similar build but is more than six inches taller. The long tail and long arms are tailor-made for the tall and skinny crowd.
The Xenon is the quickly-removable icing on our clothing layer-cake, pulled out of a pocket and thrown on for the bitterly cold descent off Flagstaff early in the morning, or donned from start to finish of a ride under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the cut works for your body type, the Xenon is absolutely brilliant.