Continuing our look back at the last 12 months, we take a look our favourite cycling clothing that doesn't break the bank.
From DHB's Pace bib shorts, which go toe to toe with shorts twice their price, to the same brand's impressive-for-the-cash waterproof Signal jacket and Altura's hi-vis Night Vision tights, there are relative bargains to be had here. They all have one thing in common - a top rating.
DHB Signal jacket
DHB’s Signal is made from the same 2.5-layer waterproof and breathable fabric as the company's cheaper (£40) Minima jacket, but it feels a little heftier. A Teﬂon surface coating does a great job of beading water off.
Many cycling jackets are road-orientated and have a short front to avoid bunching when you’re leaning forward. Instead, the Signal has a longer-than-usual front for better coverage in a slightly more upright riding position. Your extra £15 buys you an impressive pile of useful features. An external storm ﬂap Velcros over the zip for added protection, while collar and hem drawcords and Velcro tabs on the sleeves enable you to batten down the hatches if necessary.
DeFeet Dura gloves
Not for the coldest winter days, DeFeet’s Dura gloves are still a classic cycling product. They’re made from Coolmax, Cordura and Lycra, and have very little padding but excellent grip thanks to the dozens of grippy rubber DeFeet logos covering the fingers, thumb and palm.
A wide elasticated cuff helps keep your wrist warm too. Good for temperatures down to about 5°C or so, these are thin enough to wear as an inner when the temperature drops further. Warm enough for cold days, cool enough for warm days, DeFeet’s Duras are a genuine year-round product. Black wool and tougher neon yellow Cordura versions are also available. Sizes S-L.
DHB Pace bib tights
The Pace bib tights are one of the results of DHB redesigning much of their range for this winter. It’s no surprise to see brushed Roubaix fabric, which is something of a standard in thermal tights.
Rather than stick with simple six-panel construction, DHB have introduced a couple of extra panels that result in excellent ﬁt on the legs with minimal bunching behind the knee. There are no foot loops, but the inclusion of ankle zips means the legs can be sufﬁciently snug to not ride up but not impossible to get into. Also helping access is a short front zip, which makes the Pace both easier to put on and less awkward when you need to make a trip to the bushes... All the zips are decent YKK items which should last the course.
Inside is a decent one-piece moulded Cytech Giro pad, which is a healthy thickness and well thought-out shape. Reﬂective trim by the ankle zips and a reﬂective logo on the back provide extra-visibility ﬁnishing touches. The DHB designers’ work has clearly paid off – the Pace’s ﬁt and comfort is a match for considerably more expensive tights. That they've managed to get these out for £45 is nothing short of amazing – it’s hard to see why you’d pay more when these are available.
Endura Dexter Windproof winter gloves
At only £26 Endura's Dexter gloves represent superb value for money for the performance. On the bike the palm ﬁts to the bar perfectly with no bunching of the padding, while grip detail on essential ﬁngers helps keep the brakes and gears under control. The Dexters are insulated enough for UK-style winters. Our only slight gripe is the snot wipe – we prefer to wipe with the heel of the thumb. That's hardly a deal breaker though.
Fox Live Wire jersey
The Live Wire jersey boasts that understated cool Fox styling that we’ve come to love. It has a performance fit – not too figure-hugging, but with cross-country/trail looks. The length is good and it doesn’t ride up. Other cross-country-esque features include a full-length zip, three rear pockets to stash tubes and other bits and bobs in, and a slightly dropped rear hem. We love the addition of a glasses wipe, hidden inside the hem.
The main body is made from 100 per cent micro-grid polyester, which is light and very comfortable to wear. It also has perforated sections that run the entire length from shoulder to hem, which makes sure that air circulates really well. It comes in a bunch of colours and would make a great summer or autumn jersey. Well worth the money.
Altura Women's Quantum Baggy shorts
These will be an excellent intro for those who aren’t sure whether baggies are their thing. An 11.5in inseam means they give plenty of coverage to legs and come in a good range of sizes – our size 14 test pair was realistically large and it’s good to see a brand catering well for bigger sizes.
The liner is a very simple, lightweight Lycra and basic foam pad affair that reflects the value price tag, but the outers are abrasion resistant woven nylon and proved to be tough, shrugging off crash damage and undergrowth grabs. They’re reluctant to soak up water and are quick drying, so perfect for British ‘summer’ riding conditions and, combined with a voluminous leg cut, are light enough to remain cool when temperatures rise.
Velcro waist tabs pull from the rear forwards, fine-tuning waist volume effectively, though if you need to pull them in a long way the excess fabric bunched at the rear isn’t particularly flattering and belt loops seem excessive on top of the secure double popper/zip fly.
Polaris Pilgrim Long-Sleeved jersey
We’re going to ’fess up – the Pilgrim didn't jump out at us immediately. There's no ‘look at me!’ graphics, slouchy attitude or seductive slither of fabric. But when we pulled it on the fit felt good, neat around the shoulders and through the sleeves, with cuffs that stay up on command, but with the raglan construction providing plenty of movement.
Through the body it’s relaxed enough to feel easy without being flappy, and even on tall testers, the back was plenty long enough. But enough dwelling on our sleek(ish) reflection and on to the bike, where the Airbase fabric does sterling work wicking away any dampness and drying out quickly too. The extensive flat-lock seam construction does keep things smoother and more comfortable, especially under a pack – and is a mark of more expensive jerseys.
Fox Evolution 3/4 length undershorts
Keeping our bits warm on winter mountain bike rides have been the excellent Fox 3/4-length tights, with their snug fleecy lining. Designed to be worn underneath shorts or trousers as a liner, they’re very comfortable and lovely and warm.
Using a quality anti-bacterial anatomical padded insert, the Fox liner is great for all-day rides and extended sessions in the saddle. Our only gripe is that the Evolutions were often a little on the too-warm side, but they’re perfect for hitting the trails in freezing conditions.
Altura Night Vision waist tights
Like Altura's other Night Vision items, these padded Lycra tights have prominent hi-vis strips and logos. There are large reﬂective patches on the thighs and on two opposite panels on the lower legs, so headlights behind or to either side will easily pick out the cycling-speciﬁc movement of pedalling.
They don’t look too geeky in the light of day either – notwithstanding that you're wearing tights! Fit is good and while they’re not ‘winter thick’, warmth is ﬁne down to around 0°C, and the large synthetic pad helps prevent wind-chill where you don’t want it. They’re available in sizes S-XXL, and come in women's and bib versions too.
Gore Oxygen Light overshoes
One of Gore's lighter pairs of overshoes, the Oxygen Lights actually proved surprisingly warm even during long, bitterly cold rides, thanks to the Windstopper soft shell fabric.
In our experience lighter overshoes aren’t that much colder than thick Neoprene ones – they just don’t keep your feet warm for as long. Even in temperatures down to zero these should be good for up to an hour or so. If your commute or regular winter rides are longer than that, or if you tend to suffer from cold feet, heavier overshoes or even winter road shoes are worth looking at, but for spring, autumn and shorter rides these will do the job, without your feet getting as clammy.