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Road Tested: Beat The Spring Chill

The right clothing can go a long way toward keeping you on the road, and happily warm, through cold morning rides during the early spring.

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Keeping your legs warm while cycling is not only a necessity for comfort, but also to help prevent injuries. A good pair of winter tights (or knickers or even fleece shorts, as we found in our testing), can go a long way toward keeping you on the road, and happily warm, through cold morning rides during the early spring.

A good pair must provide adequate insulation while remaining relatively snug, which is a tall order. Many times manufacturers don’t take into account the inflexible nature of many insulated fabrics, and they do not adjust their patterns or sizing charts to accommodate. As a result, many cold-weather pieces fit differently than their Lycra-only counterparts intended for warm weather later in the season. Paying a visit to your local bike shop to try early-season clothing in person can help to ensure you get a comfortable fit.

We scoured the landscape in search of the best cold-weather cycling bottoms. Here are a few of our favorites.

G.S. Panache Fleece Bib Short, $200

One of the best things about an insulated bib short is that, when worn with knee or leg warmers, they can double as a bib tight suited to low temperatures or by themselves as weather starts to improve. We reached for the Panache Fleece Bib Short over and over, as the fit and chamois were great, and the short length made them one of the most versatile pieces of cold-weather kit in our test. The Roubaix fleece kept our quads warm and able to function in cold conditions. The elastic on the bottom of the short was snug without being too tight, and silicon grippers helped to keep warmers firmly in place without reducing blood flow to the legs. The stretch chamois provided the perfect amount of cushioning without feeling bulky. We also appreciated the stylish graphics of the bibs, something present throughout the Panache line.

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Rapha ¾ Bib Short, $245

The Thermoroubaix material used to construct the Rapha ¾ Bib Shorts kept us plenty warm in cool to cold conditions. The Cytec chamois has uniquely shaped padding, and we found it is located right where you need it and almost non-existent where you don’t. The shoulder straps were shaped in such a way that they helped keep the ¾ Bib Shorts in place without giving so much as a hint of restriction. As with all pieces from Rapha, the small details on the ¾ Bib Short are what really set them apart from the others and ensure that you’ll reach for them over and over.

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2XU Compression Cycle Bib Tights, $275

These bib tights offer the benefits of increased circulation and blood flow that come with compression garments in a package that is slightly more suited to cooler weather. While the material is not insulated and wouldn’t provide enough protection on downright cold days, we found them comfortable on cooler days (think early spring weather). The fit was spot on and the chamois was one of the better ones in this test. As is typical with a compression tight, the ankle openings are quite tight, which might require wearing a sock on the outside of the tight. Despite the obviously snug fit, the 2XU Compression Bib Tight was comfortable and moved easily on our tester.

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Mavic Equipe Bib Tight, $160

We found the performance of the Equipe to be equal to and in many cases even superior to many tights that come in at nearly twice the price. The fit of the Equipe tight was excellent, like most pieces we’ve tested from Mavic. The balance between a form-fitting cut and comfort is a fine, and Mavic managed to hit the nail on the head with this tight. The Teflon treated Super Roubaix fabric provided a good balance of insulation and breathability, while also managing to protect against the wind.

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Sugoi RPM Bib Knickers, $110

Leave it to a Canadian company to design excellent clothing for colder weather. The RPM Bib Knicker from Sugoi is a reliable piece of clothing suited to very cold temps. If you live in an area with a long winter, these can help you survive until the thaw. For those in more moderate climates, this piece is better suited to the winter. The paneled construction and flexible flat-lock stitching provided excellent movement. Combined with an elastic fabric, the RPM was one of the more comfortable bottoms in our test. The RPM did have a more race-oriented fit, so sizing up might be necessary to find a knicker that fits correctly. An excellent chamois rounds out the package.

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Capo SC-12 Roubaix Carbon Bib Tights, $240

Capo is a California company that follows the Italian rules when it comes to cycling style and innovation. The SC-12 is their medium weight winter tight, and we found them to be a reliably warm and comfortable option on those ‘in-between’ days where finding the right balance of insulation and breathability can be challenging.  The tights feature zippered ankle openings and fly, which are thoughtful additions that improve the SC-12’s comfort and wearability. The fit is racer-inspired, so we suggest going up a size, especially if you are still working to shed those extra pounds gained during the winter. The chamois used in the SC-12 was comfortable and provided enough padding for even a long 5-hour day in the saddle. The combination of Super-Roubaix and Thermo Roubaix fabrics are masterfully combined and used in all of the right places and led to a bib tight that was one of our favorite pieces of clothing in the entire test.

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