THE TORRENTIAL WINTERIt’s been raining a lot here. I might hazard a guess and say it feels like the eons-long Californian drought has ended in the Bay Area, though I don’t think I’m alone in sort of secretly wishing it would return (if only for some dry riding time). Yes, even in this “realistic” weather we’ve been experiencing, I’ve been comfortable because I’ve recently been riding in some of Pas Normal Studios' winter line. As a mechanic I trend towards the more pragmatic and purposeful aspects of things. I look for long term durability over a multitude of esoteric and aesthetic attributes. Form almost always follows function in the scales of importance to me, but for most people’s needs, when the weather turns torrential as it has here, maybe “form” flies out the window. Pas Normal Studios, though, won’t so easily defenestrate form: They’ve handily mated it and function in a graceful union with their Winter Jacket and Winter Defend Bibs.
I imagine the folks in Scandinavia know a thing or two about cold and wet weather. With anything they're calling winter clothing, "function" had better be spot on. It has been cold lately here as well; all the things I've been told about living in California as a recent transplant must have been so-called alternative facts: These past few months have not been dry, and they have not been warm. Anyone looking at my Strava history can determine that I ride virtually everyday, albeit the same unwavering route to Above Category and back most days. I frequently commute on a fender-less road bike—gasp! On one such sub-40˚F ride, donning the simply named Winter Jacket with merely a long-sleeve, non cycling-specific baselayer and the Defend bibs, I was slightly overheated upon arrival at work. It was a dry morning and I must’ve been eager to get to lacing wheels, but I try not to commit first impressions to the conviction category too often. I let adaptation and circumstances weigh in over time. It was the ride home that very evening that my opinion truly settled in.
My commute, much like the many cyclists’ in Marin County, consists of riding on a path along the San Francisco Bay and through some of its surrounding wetlands. This area seems to catch a lot of “weather”, being exposed as it is. This specific evening’s ride home was seriously rain heavy—it echoed many memories of East Coast hurricanes and I was loving every second of it. Rolling up to my apartment, I began to realize how comfortable I was. Shedding the jacket and bibs, dripping water on my parquet floors, I was surprised to find my base layer completely dry. Sure, a little damp at the cuffs—probably due to glove selection—but the arms, neck, chest, and back, not a drop. My ass was wet, from the rear wheel spray, but my thighs were not. That’s just speaking of moisture issues, as far as warmth protection, the jacket performed very well, whereas the bib shorts worked overtime. Impressively so. There was a definitive line dividing my thighs where the lower thigh and leg was exposed to the cold rain and air and the protected, nay defended, upper thigh remained warm and dry. Were I smart, I would have been riding with the Pas Normal leg warmers that evening. This further tells me that had I been wearing a proper cycling-specific base layer, my morning ride would have had less overheating.
I have been wholly impressed with the effectiveness of the Pas Normal Studios leg warmers. They run almost too warm for me personally; the fleecing found inside them protects beyond expectation. I particularly found their grippers excelled in latching to my thighs. Nothing is worse than a wrinkly warmer while riding. The high-vis PNS and TKO logos are an appreciated safety touch. While the fleece interior keeps them toasty in the dry, I doubt their effectiveness in the wet - they do not have any sort of waterproofing or membrane to keep moisture out.
These winter pieces by Pas Normal rock my “function” criteria, so what about their aesthetic qualities? They’re black with mostly black logos, understated and sleek. "Form" taken care of - I'm easy to please. Diving deeper, though: The bib straps have a similarly effective gripper material on their underside. The fit suits me well. They remind me of some skinsuits I’ve raced ‘cross in, tight and race cut, gently pulling the back and abdomen into position. I don’t always ride as a commuter on a path, after all.
The jacket's sleeve tightness would probably do a better job of keeping moisture out if paired with a glove with better coverage. The usual three pockets found on most jerseys struck me as a little odd considering this is a jacket, but considering I usually just carry my phone and such in a waterproof phone case anyway, it doesn’t really matter. The zippered chest pocket is a great solution for stashing a phone without a protective case. The waterproof/windproof material the jacket is constructed out of not only looks rad, it makes me feel like I am a stealth-cloaked B-2 bomber, and it has a refreshing feel of durability.
Even if the drought returns, or one lives in a more arid climate, this jacket and the complimentary bib shorts would still fit in a well-rounded line up of cycling apparel, best suited for those early morning dew-moistened rides or to hang in the closet until the next wet weather excursion.
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