After a few thousand kilometres of riding adventures I still find myself tweaking and refining gear choices. While there’ll always be some considerations based on seasons or how light I’m trying to go, I’ve settled on a few key pieces of gear that are always on the packing list. Here are a few things that seem to have found their way into becoming trusty companions on rides.
For context: I’m 6’4″ and 185 lbs. 34″ inseam. Longish (36-37) arms. Tall torso.
Arc’Teryx Phasic Sun Hoody
As a pale gingery fellow, sun protection for long days outside is a big consideration in my gear choices. I’ve ridden in long sleeve tops with some sort of collar for a long time as an alternative to sunscreen on arms and neck, but ears and face were still relatively exposed. Enter the sun hoody! I really like the Arc’Teryx Phasic. I picked this up in 2018 and have used it on pretty much every trip since.
The Phasic fabric is UPF rated as 50+ and is really light weight, wicks moisture like a champ, and even on the hotter days the fabric always felt to have a decent cooling effect. I’m pretty tall in the torso so finding a hoody that wasn’t tight and constrictive when on the bike was key, and the Phasic works well here, too. Fit-wise, it’s ‘regular’ – not overly slim but not baggy. The hood fits comfortably under my bike helmet, and again isn’t too bad in terms of getting too hot. It’s sized really well, allowing decent airflow, but not being too floppy.
Arc Teryx gear is on the pricier side of things and the Phasic is no exception. I balked a bit at spending $129 on a shirt, but it’s worked really well for what I wanted and has aged pretty well given how light the fabric is and for being worn every day on over 2000 km of riding. [Note: for 2020 it seems like the Phasic hoody has been replaced by the new Remige Hoody which looks really similar and has a lower price point].
Pros: light, comfortable, works well, save $ on sunscreen.
Weight: 140 g (men's large)
Pearl Izumi Sun Legs
Continuing on the theme of sun protection, applying (and re-applying) sunscreen on long hairy legs was never high on the enjoyment scale. Aside from the significant amount of sunscreen requiring a small bank loan to get me through the summer, bare legs inevitably accumulate layers of dust and mud through the day.
The Pearl Izumi Sun Legs have been a great piece of gear. Lightweight UPF 50+ fabric does a fine job at sun protection, at keeping the legs cleaner and even providing a bit of warmth vs. bare legs on cooler days. Yeah, the black fabric retains a bit more heat than the white version, but it’s barely noticeable even on hot days. The fabric is pretty light, and I’ve got a few small holes from catching them on the spikes on flat pedals, but otherwise they’re holding up well after 2000 km.
A note about sizing: follow their size charts. I’m normally a large in most pants, shorts, etc. but it’s key to get the sizing right for these so that they actually stay on your legs. I’m a pretty wiry guy so for me, the size small is the right fit even though I’m 6’4″ (the length is still good).
Pros: light, stretchy, sun protection, save $ on sunscreen,
keeps legs cleaner.
Cons: occasionally need to hike 'em up if riding long days,
light fabric can snag easily.
Tech: In–R–Cool® technology to provide optimal skin-cooling
effect and moisture management, BioViz® reflective elements
for low-light visibility.
Patagonia Nano Air Jacket
Full disclosure: I worked at a Patagonia store for 8 years and had great access to a lot of great gear. I’ve legitimately tried most of their light to midweight jackets that have surfaced since 2009, including the iconic Down Sweater and it’s synthetic equivalent, the Nano Puff. Both are great and do a lot of things really well, but when the promise of a full-stretch, synthetic, breathable midweight jacket came along in 2014 I was intrigued. My black first-generation Nano Air Jacket has definitely become my favourite overall jacket.
The Nano Air is insulated with 60 g of Full Range insulation, a warm-when-wet stretch synthetic insulation that was exclusive to Patagonia when it first hit the streets, paired with a stretch-woven polyester face fabric that’s treated with a durable water repellent finish that sheds light rain and snow quite well.
What makes the Nano Air my favourite insulation is it’s feel…it’s very supple, stretches nicely, regulates temperature really well, and feels quite nice next to bare skin (unlike the tighter nylon or polyester fabrics on so many jackets that can feel slippery and even a bit sticky when the jacket is wet or you’re working hard). While not fully windproof (hence it’s great temperature regulation), it blocks enough wind when riding at moderate speeds, and on really howling days a light wind jacket or hardshell layered over top is a very warm layering combo.
I’ve purposefully tried overheating the jacket on vigorous winter skate ski outings, and allowed it to get thoroughly wet in rainstorms; it seems like any moisture from sweat quickly moves to the outer layer, leaving the inside layer quite comfortable even in significant cold and damp. Rain and snow beads off quite well and even in heavy rain, it still seems like the inner jacket remains quite dry. The water repellent finish has continued to work well after 6 years, as long as the jacket is washed once in awhile and put through a medium heat dryer cycle.
I think the Nano Air line is now in it’s 2nd or 3rd generation, with the fit changing to slim as opposed to my regular fit, and a more abrasion resistant face fabric (mine still shows very little wear after several years of all-season use). There’s a hooded version, too, along with Nano Air pants and some even lighter “hybrid” styles with a more breathable back panel.
Pros: comfortable, good warmth for weight, stretch,
"breathable", versatile for multiple seasons, warm-
when-wet synthetic insulation
Cons: None? A bit pricey at $315...maybe slightly
less compressible and a bit heavier than a similar
warmth down jacket.
Weight: 365 g (men's large)
Patagonia Nine Trails Jacket
Sometimes a super simple lightweight, windproof and water-resistant layer is just the ticket to take the edge off an early morning chill, or when temps drop as you roll into Sparwood well past midnight at the end of a 200 km day.
The Nine Trails jacket is an old fave (this one’s from 2011) and has sadly been dropped from the Patagonia collection for a few years now, although there are still some used ones for sale through their Worn Wear store. The most similar jacket today is probably the Houdini, another Patagonia classic (I have one of those, too, but find it a bit less breathable and the light hood can be a bit flappy when riding).
The Nine Trails is pretty simple – front, low back and sleeves are a lightweight nylon fabric that’s windproof and treated with a durable water repellent finish; one inner pocket that doubles as a stuff sack; drawcord at the waist to seal out breezes; and a stretchy, highly breathable polyester mesh under the arms and on the back. This allows the Nine Trails to block wind where it matters, and efficiently dump excess heat out the back. The whole thing stuffs down really tiny and has reflective hits on the back and the chest logo.
Pros: super lightweight & packable, good water repellency,
Cons: ummm...not made anymore? A bit short in the body
(but maybe not an issue for folks who aren't torso-tall)
Weight: 130 g (large)