When you wear this piece for the first time, it feels much too stylish to be dragged through the muck. But like that pretty-boy quarterback who can actually stand up to the game’s rough and tumble, the Breakaway jacket performed for our tester when conditions required on road crud-splattered winter bike rides and blustery, wet day hikes. (It’s easy to wash, too; just put it on a delicate cycle and line dry.) A durable shell at the torso and arm areas keeps wet and wind out, while a four-stretch Climawool weave on the back and inner arms lets the piece breathes easily when doing aerobic activities like biking and running. The fabric blends merino wool with Lycra and nylon to create a warmer, more durable layer . There’s a front-panel chest pocket and cavernous back pocket to stash exercise essentials, without overloading the shell with zips and trimmings (no bad thing, as it cuts a svelte outline for uses other than outdoor exploration). A patch of reflective fabric near the bottom of the left sleeve also adds another layer of visibility that was often appreciated by our commuting cycle test team, while the stylish two-tone aesthetic didn’t scream that we’d rather be on our bikes—a touch of style that helped in more fashion-forward spots we occasionaly frequent after the long ride toward home.
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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.
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.
Inject a bit of joy into your daily ride by ditching the boring helmet of yore and wear burst of mad color and design from Portland, OR-based Nutcase. The structure of the helmet itself is fairly straightforward: an injection-molded ABS shell with a poly inner foam for high-impact protection, paired with three sets of differently sized internal pads to help achieve the perfect fit. Up top you find two front intake valves, with seven top-mounted and two rear-mounted exhaust vents, an adjustable spin dial for the perfect fit, and a great, anti-pinching cloth-lined magnetic chin strap that clasps together like magic—all of it CPSC-certified for safe bike riding. But Nutcase’s dedication to design—bright, brilliant patterns and colors (as well as more subdued varieties)—really set these helmets apart, from watermelon to polka-dot to paisley. The helmets do run hot compared to the more race-friendly models on the market. A midday urban ride in Portland and Washington, DC, left more than one tester warmer than a traditionally vented helmet, though they were great on 40-degree autumn mornings.. But these aren’t made for century rides in the heat of summer; they’re to let you express your inner child while on your daily commute. And naturally they make a bunch of equally fantastic (and equally safe) children’s helmets for $60.
katesrealfood.com, 2.2 ounces
When you hear an energy bar tastes good, there’s typically an unspoken caveat: “for an energy bar.” But take it from us, the new Tiki Bar just tastes really freakin’ good. It comes from the kitchen of Kate’s Real Food, one our favorite culinary creators who got started by looking for a way to recharge while riding the tram between steep-and-deep runs at Jackson Hole; their first bar was naturally dubbed Tram Bar. The Tiki continues that all-natural tradition, with a dizzying list of ingredients: mango, cashew, coconut, almond butter, and honey, all hand-mixed and crafted. It’s a peanut-, soy-, and gluten-free burst of sunshine that’ll warm you on the long outdoor days ahead.