Fat bike clothing is still an anomaly for most bike apparel companies, but not for the Swiss direct-to-consumer-brand Qloom. Qloom's website clearly states its focus with a "Wintertime starts now!" message and an image of cyclists on snow.
Taking knowledge gained from nordic skiing and biathlon, two other highly aerobic winter sports, Qloom goes deep in fat bike gear with two men's jackets as well as two women's jackets. Qloom's marketing man Stephen Downey remarked: "Throughout our Winter line, we’ve utilized exceptional fabrics with sport-specific cuts to deliver killer performance and an unequaled fit for rides in the nastiest conditions."
Qloom Watson Lake jacket specs
- Performance fit
- Four-way stretch, water-repellent outer fabric
- Structured fleece internal fabric for warmth and wicking
- 360° pattern construction guarantees freedom of movement
- Fixed hood with elastic binding
- Draft-free, snug-fitting fleece inner-cuff
- Full length YKK zipper with chin protection
- Zippered rear pocket
- Front and rear reflective logos
- 85% Polyester, 15% Spandex
- Black or white colors available
- Sizes: Small – XX-Large
- $199.95 / €199.95 / AU$N/A
Just like the Watson Lake pants, the jacket fits trim. It's definitely a performance cut but with 15 percent Spandex still allows plenty of motion. If it didn't have that stretch it would likely be constricting.
The inner fleece fabric, high collar and seriously tight wrist cuffs all combine to trap in the warmth and keep the cold and snow at bay. With just a thin wool base layer I was content down to -9.4C / 15F temperatures, but of course your mileage may vary. When riding in warmer conditions, a simple unzipping of the main zip let body heat escape.
The hood fitted over my helmet and stayed out of my field of vision, the sleeves were long enough for my gangly limbs, even when I slid off the back of the bike, and the jacket's rear panel had enough length to keep my lower back and rear end covered. The large, zippered rear pocket proved to be useful as well.
Shielded from the elements
The more I ride in the soft, white stuff, the more I realize it's the ideal place to ride like an idiot. Wearing superb weather-resistant gear also increases the propensity to ride carefree, knowing I'm not going to be a soggy, shivering mess if and when I eject and make pear-shaped dents in the snow.
With the water-repellent outer fabric, aforementioned tight cuffs, and dual waist / dual elastic draw strings at the bottom hem, the Watson Lake jacket did an exceptional job of not absorbing moisture, sealing out the snow and preventing the cold from creeping in.
It wasn't all smashing and crashing in the snow however. I also rode the Watson Lake jacket on a couple of long gravel road rides. The jacket's weight and subsequent warmth were much appreciated. It was definitely more insulated and provided more wind and weather protection than layering with a simple winter jersey yet didn't suffer the bulk and excess of a non-cycling specific garment, such as a ski or mountaineering jacket.
I'm a bit picky, make that very picky. So while I noticed these details, a lot of people may not.
First off are the wrist cuffs. They have an extra gaiter to seal out the elements and worked very well for that purpose. But they also just barely allowed my big hands to squeeze through, which made taking the jacket off challenging.
Next up, there's only one decently cavernous, zipped pocket on the rear, and no pockets on the sides which I would appreciate for glove storage and possibly a bit of venting. Speaking of venting, there are no pit zips, but I've found lowering the main zip allowed more than enough breeze through.
Lastly, the zipper pulls are tiny, so grabbing them with gloved hands is difficult. I'm basically splitting hairs, as these are minor things that in no way hinder the jacket's incredible on-bike, in-the-cold-and-snow performance.