Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review: adidas Supernova Winter Tights and Supernova Winter Jersey

Wintertime is without doubt a period when kit testing becomes a 'sink or swim' style judgement; the torrential rain, gusting winds and freezing temperatures mean that if kit isn't up to scratch, then you'll soon find out! I've been putting in the miles in the new adidas AW14 range over the last month, and I'm pleased to say it has been keeping me comfortable and productive on the bike.

There are some interesting new technologies in this kit: there's the Cocona carbon fleece fabric with its windproof and insulating properties, the Thermodream fabric with its micro-pocket insulation, and there's the strong close fitting cuts that feature in the adidas kit with their large drop-tail hems to keep out unpleasant winter drafts.

In this review feature I look at two of the signature pieces, the Supernova Tights and Winter Jersey.

adidas Supernova Winter Tights

For all weather cyclists, winter tights are definitely one the most valued pieces of kit as you charge through the wet and cold months at the year-end. They'll protect your legs from the elements and keep them functioning. They will also be what protects you from numbness and discomfort around the saddle area, with their endurance seat pads cushioning you from the rough winter roads.

The adidas Supernova is a high-end tight, with a fairly high price point to match. However, they've squeezed a lot of technology into these bibs, and they certainly keep you riding in comfort on those long base mile ventures.

The first thing worth mentioning is the fit. Adidas seem to have really upped their game on cycling kit fit, and this product uses their new FORMOTION® articulated cut, which gives a sportier and more contoured profile than most. It is very comfortable, with its flowing seams that wrap the material around your legs.

The material itself is also impressive. It's a fabric I haven't come across before, but serves its purpose very well - the MITI hollow-fibre Thermodream sounds a bit like the name of a fancy heated mattress, but in effect it works in a way not that different from a duvet; trapping pockets of air within the material to give greater insulation in cold conditions.

The outer fabric is a windproof soft shell material, which also has a degree of water-repellency - enough to shrug off the odd (frequent) November shower. The combination of the windproof and waterproof outer and the thermal inner, means that these have stayed toasty even in very low early morning temperatures.

The cut works well from an insulation perspective too. The strirrups around the ankles prevent the fabric riding up and giving you chilly ankles, whilst the high cut front and back help to give an extra layer of insulation on your torso. These kind of features make these tights very capable of providing comfort even in the coldest months.

Your legs are kept warm and dry, but the CyTech Endurance 2 pad also does a great job of keeping your undercarriage in comfort. This pad is well proven, and has featured in a number of shorts that I've tested and use regularly. It gives great comfort even on lengthy winter training rides, and I used a CyTech pad on the Falmouth-London without any signs of saddle sore (pretty much the best accolade I can give).

Overall, these are a very impressive pair of winter-ready bib tights. The fit is superb (I have a size small), the pad is one of the best out there, and the fabrics and cut mean that you'll be kept well insulated and protected even when the elements are against you. One of the best pairs of bib tights I've used.   

adidas Supernova Winter Jersey

To accompany the Supernova Winter Tights, there is the matching adidas Supernova Winter Jersey, which promises to provide equal protection for your upper body.

This year, I seem to be finding myself wearing "winter jerseys" far more than "winter jackets"; technology has progressed so that you get as much protection from a close fitting thinner fabric winter jersey, as you do from a traditional winter jacket. That's a great thing in terms of less weight and bulk in your winter kit.

The adidas Supernova Winter Jersey seems to have significant input from people that ride bikes in the winter time, and as such it really is a strong performer.

Starting from the bottom up, you get a nice low drop-tail hem, which helps to protect your lower back from the cold. Then progressing upwards, there are three rear pockets and one zipped pocket that provide plenty of storage space for tools and winter rations - the central pocket even has an elasticated loop in it, so you can secure a pump or jacket without the risk of it bouncing out - neat!

The jersey features a full length zipper, with reflective detailing and a zip garage on the high cut collar. These features combine with the wind-resistant outer fabric to enable you to regulate body temperature with ease, whilst also allowing you to seal the jersey up and protect from the Arctic winds.

The interior fabric is a luxurious fleecy brushed material that keeps warmth sealed in, it's retaining its soft and deep pile feel as well, even with multiple machine washes.

When it comes to sizing, adidas labels the Supernova Winter Jersey as having a "slim fit", much like the adidas Supernova Summer Jersey. I wore a small size in that jersey, so opted for the same in this garment. The cut is a little closer than the summer option, which makes it slightly tight in places (in hindsight, I probably would have opted for a medium to give more length in the sleeves and a slightly more roomy feel), but the fit itself is spot-on for a "race trim" and provides a great silhouette.

As a whole, this is a great winter warmer. It has everything you need from a mid-weight winter layer in terms of insulation, wind protection and storage, and it has a nice close fitting cut to avoid flapping material in the winter gales. Another great bit of winter kit.

Shop adidas apparel at adidasspecialitysports.co.uk (Link)

adidas cycle kit is available at Wiggle (Link)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Hints and Tips: Wet Weather Clothing Accessories

Photo - RB-Create
Wet weather has hit the UK in abundance in the last few weeks, and I've had more damp rides than dry ones.

The old mantra of "there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad kit choices" rings truer than ever in damp, dark and cold conditions, so here are a few accessories that are definitely the "good kit choice" and should make things more bearable when the heavens open.

GripGrab Neoprene Gloves

I've been using neoprene gloves for years, but up until this year it has always been for sailing... Neoprene provides fantastic protection from the wet and cold, and even if the water does infiltrate into the gloves, they remain warm (something you don't get with polyester gloves). 

During the 2013 Festive 500 I did in fact end up drafting in a pair of my Magic Marine neoprene gloves to use in the torrential downpours; they worked well, but I was very pleased to hear that GripGrab were bringing out a cycle specific pair earlier this year. 

These new GripGrab gloves have fast become one of my go-to riding accessories when the heavens look like they're about to open. Unlike other neoprene gloves that I've tried, they have a stunningly good fit. They also have a padded and grippy palm (with GripGrab's very durable DoctorGel pad); this makes them comfortable enough to be worn for prolonged winter miles in the saddle.

The long cuff helps to create a good junction with a waterproof jacket, and like all GripGrab products, the little details have been considered, like the reflective detailing on the back of the hand.  

Neoprene gloves are one of the big things for autumn/winter 2014, and there's a good reason for that. In the UK conditions, they're a clothing accessory that will provide unparalleled protection from the wet, and when combined with a good liner glove, they are great for really cold conditions too.

GripGrab RaceAqua Overshoes

Probably my favourite overshoes, ever? These are top-end protection from wet roads in all kinds of conditions; whether it's summer downpours or winter hail storms. 

The RaceAqua is fairly clearly designed by people that love bikes, and understand what riders demand in a set of overshoes. Versatility is the name of the game: the upper fabric is stretchy and thin, yet waterproof and durable; that means it's capable of keeping your feet dry, warm and aero all at the same time, at whatever time of year.

For 2014, the RaceAqua got a significant re-design. It was a great cover before, but it now has a better elasticated seal added to the cuff, and a zip garage/flap to make things even more aero. It also now comes in Storm-Trooper white! (I got a pair because they're good for visibility, honest). 

These have had more outings that I can count, and they continue to perform well. The thin water-shedding fabric means they dry quickly after use, and the Kevlar lowers mean they don't wear through when you are forced to walk in them. A great protective accessory for your feet in wet conditions.

GripGrab products are available exclusively from Wiggle in the UK (Link)

SealSkinz Waterproof Cap and Mid-Length Socks

SealSkinz have been making waterproof socks for a good few years now, and I think I've owned a pair for the majority of that time. They're a pretty invaluable accessory when you're taking on wet roads and mud caked trails, and mine get a significant amount of use in the wintertime.

My current pair are the new Mid-Length Mid-Weight SealSkinz socks: they're a similar length to high-cut summer socks, and provide a great balance between bulk and insulation. Whether you step off the bike into a muddy puddle when you open the gate on that off-road venture, or you need extra protection from road-spray and wind-chill whilst racking up the winter base miles, these are a sure fire way to keep your feet dry and warm.

Another great wet weather accessory from SealSkinz is the Waterproof Cycling Cap. Traditional cotton cycling caps do a good job of protecting your head from downpours and wind-chill, but this cap takes things to the next level. It uses SealSkinz's A.D.D (Aqua Dynamic Design) technology to provide a waterproof yet breathable layer. It has a mesh lining too, which seems to help to wick away moisture. The short and stiff peak moves the drips away from your face and protects from spray, whilst the elasticated headband should mean it fits most riders' heads. It's lasting very well even with machine washing too.

SealSkinz products are available at Wiggle (Link)

To round things up: waterproof socks and caps, overshoes and neoprene gloves will all do wonders for making wet weather riding more enjoyable. If you really suffer you can opt for all of them (I often do!).

Wet weather riding is never likely to be as great as warm weather miles, but some essential accessories can help to make you a lot more comfortable, and provide good protection for your extremities.

They might be small accessories, but they'll make a big difference.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review: Primal HiVis Arm Warmers and X1 HiVis Jersey

Fluoro kit is very much still in fashion, and it is a great way to add a bit of hi-vis safety to your team kit or normal riding apparel in the low-light conditions of autumn and winter. The HiVis kit from Primal is up there with the best, and I've been testing out their arm warmers and X1 jersey for the last month or so, on everything from the daily commute to my 300 mile Falmouth-London ride.

Primal Hi-Vis Arm Warmers  

These have been used almost non-stop so far this autumn/winter. Team Wiggle kit is largely black in colour, and as a result I tend to be a little concerned about visibility to oncoming and pursuing traffic. Using these arm warmers certainly adds some colour!

The warmers themselves are very well designed and made. I have a size medium, and the length is perfect; slightly longer than many warmers, so you avoid the uncomfortable exposed gap at the top or bottom of the tube. 

They are nice and narrow too, so they hug your arms throughout their length, and you don't get any aggravating "slippage" over the duration of a ride. They also just have one single seam down the inside of the arm, so there is no itchy abrasion or annoyance on the elbow. 

They have been bombarded with spray, mud and grease throughout testing, and yet they seem to come out of the washing machine looking like new each time. Impressive for such a light coloured garment. 

A great accessory for any cyclist.

Primal Hi-Vis X1 Jersey

The Primal X1 short sleeved jersey is great as a complement to the HiVis arm warmers, or to be used on its own as summer/autumn ride apparel. It's not the most technical or feature-packed jersey in Primal's range, but it has a very affordable price tag and some great attention to detail in the design.

The X1 jersey uses Primal's 'Sport Cut', which is a bit more relaxed than their 'Race Cut', and ideal for longer hours in the saddle or for commuting. The fabric is the same as that used in the Primal Black Label Lucent Jersey, and is a comfortable and durable material called HexaDri; it seems to work very well at moisture management, and has remained comfortable even when the temperatures have risen on hotter autumn days.

The jersey has three well elasticated rear pockets to stash all your kit in. It also features a high quality zipper, which from my experience of Primal apparel lasts very well.

Of course, the real merit of the X1 jersey is its visibility aid. The fluoro panels and reflective detailing built into the stitching on the seams, makes this significantly more visible to approaching traffic than your standard jersey. I've worn this in dusk conditions, and it certainly feels like you have a bit more presence on the road.

Both great bits of kit then, as seems to be the norm with Primal apparel. There is a real attention to detail both in fabric choice and design styling. Staying safe and being seen, can now be done in comfort and with no performance penalty it seems - ideal!

Primal Apparel is available from Wiggle (Link) 

View the range at primaleurope.com (Link)
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