Shimano dominates the road component market. But the road clothing market? Not so much. After a few rides in the brand's new winter S-Phyre pieces, I can say some of it is quite good and some of it, like the bib tights, isn't.
The hits: Shimano S-Phyre Wind Resistant Jersey, Base Layer and Toe Covers
The S-Phyre Wind Resistant Jersey ($299) is closer to a lightweight winter jacket than a jersey. Thin, thermal material throughout keeps you warm down to freezing or so temperatures during a moderate level of exertion.
The fit is relatively slim and longish in the torso.
Although perhaps not on a level with GoreTex Windstopper or Polartec's Neoshell, the Shimano jersey offers good breathability in a garment that negates the need for a wind jacket.
The front and arms feature windblock, while the back is a more porous thermal material.
I like the fit, especially the flush cuffs and the tall, lined neck that keeps the cold air out, even when in a low riding position.
The S-Phyre Winter Baselayer ($89) is a polypro/polyester blend that's soft, thin and effective at wicking. Shimano says the knit piece has a dual-density convex/concave design for wicking and moisture dispersement. I don't know what this means, but I can say that it's a comfortable baselayer.
I would call it a light winter baselayer. My ideal winter baselayer would be thicker, with a tall neck and a zipper for heat management.
The S-Phyre Insulated Shoe Covers ($79) are made of surprisingly flexible neoprene. I put off trying these because, without zippers or a Velcro rear opening, they looked like a huge pain to put on. But, despite my preconceptions, lo and behold, they go on easily — easier than many shoe covers with rear openings.
The Shoe Covers block the sole vents on S-Phyre shoes. Like any neoprene cover, though, these will keep your feet warm but also sweaty if you are riding hard.
I'd recommend them for rainy or snowy days, but for dry cold days I'd suggest a more breathable and insulated Windstopper bootie.
Similarly, the S-Phyre Toe Covers ($34) plug the sole vents on S-Phyre shoes and also have a little hole for the lower BOA dial.
The miss: Shimano S-Phyre Bib Long Tights
The S-Phyre Bib Long Tights ($319) have wind-resistant material on the outside of the thighs, but not the crotch. For me, this is backwards; it feels a little restrictive and, when you're sweaty from a climb, doesn't provide wind protection where you need it on descents.
The fit, for me, is strange: the legs are tight but the crotch area sits a little low, like a joggers fit. Adding to the weird fit and feel is the chamois design, which is split down the middle from the back towards the centre.
The upper has a front zip on the lower torso and the lowers are hi-vis, a style that's becoming common these days.
For less than the high price of the S-Phyre Bib Long Tights, I'd suggest you instead get a pair of Assos LL.habu S7 tights ($299), which have a windblock panel on the crotch and lower abdomen, plus an excellent chamois and overall construction.