I am no fair-weather rider. In fact, I get few greater pleasures than a good powder day on my ‘cross bike. If given the choice between wrapping produce bags around my socks for extra waterproofing and stuffing my gloves with ski boot warmers or staying in and sipping cocoa while I watch it snow, the former wins — although in an ideal world I would do both.
When I buy winter riding gear, it gets put through the ringer and tested on days from mild to comically cold. A few of the women’s-specific items in my arsenal this year have delighted me with their warmth and comfort on biting days this winter, so for the ladies that push the pedals through it all, here are my top picks for jerseys, baselayers and tights that I’ve been riding this season.
Castelli Trasparente W Jersey FZ >> $150
The lowdown: Women’s long sleeve jersey is windproof in front, wicking and insulating in back
Pros: Has the right protection where you need it most; high neckline
Cons: Zipper chafes a bit; no internal pocket holes for headphones
Starting with my top pick, I’ve never owned a jersey that I’m as devoted to as the Castelli Trasparente jersey. Windproof front panels and breathable, brushed thermal fabric in back make for comfy riding regardless of whether I’m riding at fast speeds, a bit overdressed, or slowly warming up on a ‘cross course. If I were to pick just one winter jersey to own for the rest of my life, this would be my hands-down pick.
The two fabrics are easy to recognize, by color, on my jersey, although there is also an all-black version and a black-and-white option. All white fabric on the jersey pictured is Windstopper X-Lite, a soft, lightweight and stretchy fabric that protects from wind and moisture. While some windproof fabrics feel plasticky and stiff, this feels like an ultra-thin Gore-Tex and is particularly comfortable. Castelli claims Windstopper X-Lite is splash resistant, and I was impressed with how dry I stayed in the snow and on days with slushy splash. Water instantly beads up, and I haven’t experienced it penetrating the fabric.
The jersey isn’t particularly suitable for wet riding, though, because the fleecy, cherry-colored fabric on the back and sleeves will take on water. The thermal fabric is extra cozy, keeping my back dry and warm, and the extra stretch makes the jersey all the more comfortable and fitted without sacrificing windproofing where it matters.
I’m ever thankful for the warmth offered by the high neck, which is slitted in back so it fits comfortably and doesn’t choke around my neck. It does zip up the center, though, and the zipper is a bit sharp, but I often wear a buff underneath, so it hasn’t bothered me much.
The elastic band on the bottom doesn’t have silicone grippers, but it sits pretty loosely at the waist with the relaxed fit of my jersey and I haven’t experienced it ride up — a pet peeve I’m not quick to forgive, especially when it’s cold and the wind starts blowing on my belly and lower back.
The reflectors are understated and elegant. Three decent-sized pockets fit a small stockpile of food and layers, and the oversized zipper pull is easy to locate and adjust in heavy gloves. Besides the technical features, I just find the jersey nicely fitted, attractive and able to hold up to the elements well enough that most of the time the jersey and appropriate baselayer suffice without a jacket. Spending $150 on this jersey is well worth the money, in my opinion.