Ah, the sleeping bulbs have burst forth from their wintry hideaway and the daffodils are a-bloom – spring has indeed sprung – but we can experience a year’s worth of different weather in a single ride at this time of year so it’s vital to make the correct clothing choices. Here's how to get it right.
A bright crisp morning can have a sting in its tail in the form of a biting wind. A cloudy sky can darken and dampen, or clear entirely and leave you hot and bothered. And day-long rides? Well, anything can happen in the space of a few hours, so it’s important to have clothing that can deal with anything and everything the climate can throw at you.
Luckily, fabric and material technology from Polartec allows modern cycling kit to offer more multi-condition performance than ever before, meaning you can focus on the ride, whatever the weather. Here we look at the kit you’ll need for spring cycling in comfort and the specialist fabric options that’ll help you enjoy it to the max.
The easiest way to avoid overheating on a spring ride is to start with an effective foundation – the base layer.
Many base layer fabrics target wicking and fast-drying to keep moisture moving away from your body; Polartec Delta does that and cools you down too. It is a bi-component knit that uses synthetic fibre to wick moisture away and deliver it to the natural fibre on the outer.
The natural fibre holds on to moisture just a little longer than if the garment was entirely synthetic. This means you benefit from the cooling effect of your sweat but without the fabric clinging to your body.
Add in additional benefits such as odour control and eco-credentials due to it being manufactured from 50%+ recycled PET plastic, and you can see why Delta is the perfect choice to keep close by.
dhb's Aeron Lab base layer (above), for example, has been thoroughly tested up to elite-level performance requirements by members of the Canyon dhb SunGod professional road racing team. It is available in sleeveless (£40), short sleeve (£45) and long-sleeve (£50) options.
You don’t have to be brave or foolhardy to wear shorts in spring: on good days they’re the perfect option; on not-so-good days you can team them with leg warmers to be ready for all eventualities. In any case, spring is the time to put your full-length tights back in the cupboard, especially if you have chosen the right shorts for the conditions.
Polartec Power Wool is a fantastically specialised hybrid fabric technology that uses both natural and synthetic fibres in a knit construction for incredible performance.
The synthetic fibres on Power Wool’s outer surface enhance the material’s durability and resilience without hindering moisture transfer. On the inner surface, Merino wool fibres make the most of its famed natural comfort, warmth and wicking ability, making Power Wool perfect for diverse conditions and levels of activity.
Santini’s Adapt bib short (above, £159) is just right for spring cycles, with Power Wool used in the sweatiest area on the back to stop perspiration from ruining your ride. If you fancy a little more coverage over the knees, you could always opt for three-quarter length bibs, such as Santini’s Adapt 3/4, which feature a Polartec Delta mesh back, offering another solution for excellent heat regulation.
The short sleeve jersey might be a staple of every cyclist’s wardrobe but there’s a great deal of difference between a good jersey and a great jersey. For spring, you want something that can do everything from acting as ‘just another layer’ to being your main outer, perhaps worn in combination with a set of arm warmers. Such wide utility means that material selection is key.
Polartec Power Stretch fabric takes all the wicking ability of Polartec’s other heat-regulating fabrics and incorporates it into material that can stretch for truly body-hugging performance and comfort.
Thanks to Power Stretch’s high-tensile strength, your jersey will always stay in perfect shape. And thanks to its four-way stretch, dual-surface sweat absorption and outer layer evaporation, so will you. Finally, remember we mentioned the importance of layering? With Power Stretch’s low-friction outer finish, it’s a perfect low-abrasion option for wearing underneath other kit.
Santini’s Delta Pietra jersey (above, £99) looks awesome, and its Polartec Power Stretch construction will help keep it that way, no matter how much you wear it. Considering its high levels of breathability and freedom of movement – and a Polartec Delta back panel for extra heat-regulating performance – ‘how much you wear it’ will probably be a lot.
For a little more warmth, especially in early spring, a long-sleeve jersey treads a perfect line between short-sleeve options and more weather-proof garments. This feature is all about hard-nosed function, not pose-ability and matters of opinion, but we tend to think long sleeve jerseys look more stylish in the right conditions, too.
Polartec Power Grid is an evolution of fleece technology, and this is very much a 21st Century super-powered fleece. The grid construction knit increases warmth and breathability while staying remarkably lightweight. The pattern also improves compression and wicking performance.
Power Grid is so technically effective and comfortable, you can even wear it next to your skin, meaning that on warmer days your long sleeve jersey could work just as well as a single layer.
Nothing better proves just how stylish long sleeve jerseys can be than the Altura Icon LS (above, £70). But it’s certainly not all style without substance: the Power Grid fabric choice and overall design have been specifically tailored to stop chills, while reflective highlights and ample pocketing offer you the chance to keep on riding.
We’ll come to full cycling jackets in a mo, but for riders who want some spring weather-proofing without the extra bulk, modern all-weather fabrics allow less substantial garments to be used as the primary outer layer. As always, though, your choice of material is crucial, with insulation, wind and rain resistance paramount when facing a mixture of conditions.
How can you have the waterproofing you need to keep rain and spray out while at the same time getting the breathability required to allow sweaty vapour produced by your body to escape?
Polartec NeoShell is the answer. This fantastic fabric is soft, stretchy, lightweight and highly durable. Most importantly, though, while its sub-micron membrane structure is impressively breathable, it’s also been extensively engineered to keep wind and rain well away from you.
Sportful’s Fiandre Pro (above, £220) looks like a typical short-sleeve garment on first viewing, but look a little closer and you’ll notice some interesting details. For example, the Polartec NeoShell material and minimally taped seams mean this is a short sleeve option that’s ready for a fight with the conditions. Meanwhile, its high levels of thermoregulation and body-hugging efficiency mean it’s great to wear.
Now we get to the big guns, starting with your cycling jacket which has to work incredibly hard so you need to prioritise technically ability. A jacket should be warm, breathable, durable, practical, comfortable and your first line of defence against changeable spring weather. How can it do all these things? There is a way…
Polartec Power Shield Pro may look and feel like a simple softshell material, but it’s a super-versatile option. This resilient three-layer fabric protects against strong winds, rain, snow, and even abrasive surfaces without sacrificing anything in terms of warmth or comfort.
You don’t need to worry about overheating or self-produced moisture. Unlike traditional protective layers, Power Shield Pro’s microporous membrane allows sweat vapour to move outside easily without the need for high internal pressure.
Although it is highly water-resistant, Power Shield Pro has sacrificed a little waterproofness for this extra breathability. You’ll be especially grateful on rides in changeable conditions when you’ll stay comfortable even when working hard.
Santini’s Liège Bastogne Liège jacket (above, £199) has been created to cope with the trials and tribulations of one of pro cycling’s toughest one-day classics. As well as complete protection from the rain and superb warmth, the LBL jacket’s efficient aerodynamic fit helps to keep performance unaffected. Weather? What weather?
For added warmth in spring, exactly where you need it, nothing beats a gilet – because if your core temperature starts to drop, it can be a long and lonely road home. Simply add a gilet as your final dedicated layer to protect from biting spring conditions and keep riding in comfort.
Polartec Alpha is ground-breaking active insulation – which uses lofted fibres connected to a solid mesh core to create consistent warmth and optimum breathability without the need to remove layers – that was developed for elite US military, who required a superior insulation system for extreme temperature variations during the start-stop conditions of combat. Polartec Alpha is equally well suited to the challenges of spring bike rides.
The Rapha Brevet (above, £130) shows how thin and lightweight a Polartec Alpha gilet should be. The Brevet features reflective detailing for visibility and a water-shedding DWR (durable water repellent) coating for added protection in rain showers. It’s also easy enough to pack away, but thanks to Alpha’s peerless performance, you’ll probably forget you’ve even got it on.
Arm and leg warmers might not look like much, but they can be the difference between feeling the eye-wincing cold of an early morning ride and spinning on without a care. The best thing about them is, if you decide to ride longer when the weather has warmed up, it’s no problem – just whip ’em off, stick ’em in a pocket and they’re ready if you need them again later.
We mentioned earlier that Polartec Power Shield Pro is an awesome choice for the fabric of a cycling jacket, but it’s just as effective as leg and arm warmers. As the ultimate combination of thermal insulation and protection from the elements, Power Shield Pro offers weather resistance while remaining light, breathable and — all importantly for tight-fitting garments such as warmers — pleasingly comfortable to wear next to the skin.
With Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric used throughout, these are simple bits of kits with highly adept technical abilities that will have you facing any spring cycling condition with confidence.
For more information on the entire Polartec range – and what it can do to help you stay comfortable and perform at your best on your bike this spring – head over to www.polartec.com.