A wispy jacket that can be scrunched up and stashed in a pocket, you’d be forgiven for accidentally putting this out with your plastic-bag recycling (big mistake, though, given the price tag). In fact, this jacket may qualify as the biggest example of looks can deceive. Our tester managed to put this piece to the sword on fall and winter bike rides when conditions would fluctuate from balmy to windy to wet. The lightweight jacket—designed after the transparent rain capes worn by pro cyclists to allow for visibility of sponsors’ logos and race numbers—is surprisingly warm and comfortable. In fact, our tester even wore this out during a late-night bar hop and was pleasantly surprised to be the recipient of multiple compliments and requests to finger the lightweight micro ripstop nylon (yeah, we know, the sacrifices we ask our gear testers to make here at Gearzilla…). But cycle-specific detailing like the elastic cuffs, a drop tail, laser-vents, reflective logos, and a burly DWR laminate do keep it firmly in place on the saddle.
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Okay…Invisible may be a stretch. But the Hovding helmet certainly qualifies as the stealthiest helmet on the market. The helmet is fully disguised as a short, over-padded scarf that gas-inflates with a burst of helium when internal accelerometers and gyrometers indicate abnormal movement. Think of it as an airbag custom-designed to cover your head, one powered by a rechargeable battery that plugs into a USB port (approx. 18 hours of coverage per charge). The product is the brainchild of two Swedish cyclists who were annoyed by the clunky, fashion-frozen helmets on the market and set out to make an invisible one. Seven years later with more than $1 million in venture capital funding, the Hovding hit the market in 2012, and has received a slew of European awards. Question is: will it win the hearts of the helmet-abstaining urban hipster? The different “shell” styles (which retail for $75) that cover deflated helmets should help.
Available in M and S sizes; If the bag inflates during an accident you can’t re-use the helmet. You can return it to be recycled and Hovding will offer a replacement discount. They also analyze the “black box” inside the helmet, which records ten seconds of crash data to help inform future product iterations.
As one tester who’s spent over a decade urban cycling can attest, 2012 marked the year of the hard helmet. Legions of single-speed city riders (like our tester) have gotten over the vanity of biking sans protection. And most of ‘em have eschewed the cycle-obsessed, aerodynamic designs for skateboard-inspired models like those made by Bern. In East Coast locales it seems as if Bern has cornered the market. With helmets like their G2, it’s easy to understand why. But let us not pigeon-hole the G2 as solely a cycling helmet. Bern has made its mark on the ski and riding scene as much as in urban cycling circles, and this versatile helmet is equally at home on the slopes as it is in the saddle. The all-weather helmet is made of Bern’s proprietary “Zipmold” hard foam, a liquid foam-injection process that delivers better weight-to-strength ratio, resulting in a lighter, low-profile helmet that meets all the safety standards. The snap-in winter liner adds additional warmth—a feature we loved on blizzard-condition days, or when we faced temps in the teens during our daily commute. Up top, an easy-access slide lets you adjust the airflow through eight strategically positioned vents, which is a great feature as you ride (or ski or bike) into spring. And when the snow melts and you are relegated to just the bike, swap out the winter lining for the EPS Summer Comfort Liner ($15) and keep on pedaling. We tested it in warm fall temps, and didn’t overheat (thanks especially to the vents), but we suspect the helmet could prove hot in the humid, 100-degree-plus days of late July and August (likely something specific to this helmet). One bit of advice: before ordering, assure your fit is spot-on. Unlike some bike and snow helmets, there’s no fit adjustment here, a feature that certainly reduces the weight but also could prove prohibitive if your hair style (and corresponding hair volume) varies more than David Bowie’s.
The helmet includes a goggle strap clip in the back; audio knit liners with speakers in the ear pads are available for $60
If you’re like us, your bike cost more than your first car, so it’s a bit unsettling to watch it gather dust during winter months. But the right apparel can keep you riding year-round—even during the horrors of ice, sleet, and snow. The trick is to invest in pieces that block the wind, and provide sufficient insulation while wicking and dispersing sweat. Craft, the Swedish company known for its innovative base layers, has also developed a stellar reputation for functional outwear for high aerobic activities like biking, running and, cross-country skiing. The Active Thermal Wind Tights have a comfy chamois that involves a seamless, laser-cut pad and four-way stretch fabric. The new-for-2012 chamois is laser-cut to remove unnecessary bulk, and has a foam core that our testers deemed nearly as soft as a down pillow. The chamois also boasts antimicrobial and hydrophilic properties, which help downplay the inevitable moisture build-up and odor. The body of the pants is a symphony of proprietary weather-fighting fabrics that unite to block wind while keeping you toasty warm and sweat free. How? The multi-panel is designed to map with specific fabrics to accentuate stretch, wicking properties, and warmth exactly where you need them. The inside is a square-channel microfleece that’s coupled with a softly brushed poly/nylon blend (Craft’s C392 proprietary fabric). Not only is it soft against the skin, it sucks up moisture like a paper towel. Outside is a trio of wafer-thin laminated polyester, polyamide, and elastic yarns that blocks wind and allows for excellent freedom of movement. An elastic panel in the front eliminates the bulk of a zipper or button closure, and expands sufficiently to helps keep you comfortable, even on long rides after a a big lunch. For early morning and evening riding, reflective printing provides 360 degrees of reflective visibility.
Beer? Bikes? When two great things come together, we’re left only to wonder why it hadn’t already happened. Released this month the new guidebook Hops in the Saddle marries the best of Portland, OR: its expansive craft beer scene and its copious bike-friendly city streets. Written by Portland locals Elle Thalheimer, Lucy Burningham, and Laura Cary, each bike route has been carefully crafted to show the best of the city’s five neighborhoods, complete with detailed maps and cue sheets, catering to riders of all levels. The book also provides great “Bike Nerd Extended Routes”, and details on the city’s best breweries, bottle shops, and beer-, bike-, and budget-friendly bars and restaurants, written with both in-the-know authority and a sly sense of humor. Oh, and buying this book also means you’ll have to visit Portland—which is something we heartily endorse.