Let's be honest, riding outside through the colder seasons is hard, and choosing winter bike clothing that helps you embrace, rather than endure the conditions is even harder. But for any rider aiming to hit peak form later in the year, maintaining a base through these early months is essential. And while some riders are able to adapt to garage trainer days, for most, being out and moving through the air is the only cycling experience that counts.
For those plucky all-season adventurers, staying the course through winter all comes down to dressing appropriately for the ride at hand. Luckily, few cycling clothiers take performing through the winter as seriously as Q36.5. And judging by the popularity of their Fall/Winter '21 collection, the Italian brand's heady combination of local manufacturing, exquisite tailoring and premium fabrics is starting to turn heads. So today, I'll walk you through a handful of pieces that have become absolute staples of my winter bike clothing wardrobe.
A caveat here is that I live and primarily ride in and around San Francisco, California. Compared to more snowy and mountainous areas, our winters are on the mild side. While we don't see the same sheer cold as some places, we get our fair share of torrential rainfall and quite often some downright frigid windchill. Adding to the complexity are the region's ever apparent microclimates - it's not out of the ordinary to experience a 10-20 degree temperature change throughout a ride. Versatility is a must around these parts, and that's an asset wherever you ride.
The Adventure Vest
The Adventure Vest is a relatively new addition to the Q36.5 lineup, but it's been an absolute game-changer for me. Gone are the days of winter gear simply meaning overly bulky (and to that extent, heavy) fleece-lined pieces. The first thing you'll notice is just how light the Adventure Vest is. It's barely got more mass than a standard prior generation wind gilet. In addition to being fully windproof, it's also equipped with a highly effective insulation layer built into the front. Q36.5 call this UF Air Insulation. It essentially feels like a super light and minimal fleece material, but it's proven to keep me warmer than any old bulky winter vest I've had before. The fleece lining continues up through the tall collar to help keep your neck nice and toasty.
It's remarkable just how comfortable this piece is. Again, it's lightweight and fits nice and snug, so there's no annoying flapping in the wind. When the sun comes out, you can unzip it, and it's no more cumbersome than a summer vest, or roll it up and pop it into a rear jersey pocket. Speaking of pockets, this vest has some of its own! Historically Q36.5 have designed their vests with pass-through openings that function as quick access vents to jersey pockets, but I prefer to have pockets on my outermost layer for quickly stashing gloves or snack wrappers.
If you ride in the extreme cold, there's also a full-on Adventure Jacket. It's an excellent piece, but we've all found it can be a little overkill for our area, and if you're doing any kind of intensity riding, it can quickly turn into a sauna. So for me, the vest is an excellent middle ground. I typically wear it over a Hybrid Que or our ACX Long Sleeve jersey, and whatever base layer seems correct for the day's conditions.
The Rain Shell X
As I mentioned earlier, we're no strangers to extreme rain, and this winter has been pretty typical for the region. For me, a good cycling rain shell is an absolute must. No matter how cozy or insulating your bike jersey might be, in my experience, once it's soaked through, it's effectively useless. Many times this year, I thought I'd read the forecast right for cold but clear skies, only to find myself caught in a surprise shower or climbing into hyper-dense fog. Maybe I'm just weak, but it's remarkable how quickly you can go from cozy to absolutely miserable, especially if you have to take a descent soaking wet. Needless to say, I've learned never to leave home without an emergency rain shell.
Q36.5's latest iteration of the Rain Shell X is lighter and more breathable than ever while being impervious to the wet stuff. When layered with the right pieces underneath for the temperatures at hand, I've been able to get through all-day excursions in the rain while staying comfortable. The extended cuff cut is excellent at protecting your wrists from weather exposure, the extra-long collar keeps your neck nice and warm, and the rear access ports keep your pocket contents protected yet still accessible. Even when it's not raining, when paired with a light long sleeve like the Pinstripe X Jersey, I find it can be an exceptional low-bulk solution to keeping you warm.
But, with our constantly shifting winter conditions, what I love most is how tiny it packs up. Just roll it up into a jersey pocket (or bar bag if that's your style) and be ready for any rain or wind emergency.
L1 X Bib Tight
I'm often surprised at how many people I see out in their standard summer bibs when out riding in the winter. For those uninitiated, let me tell you, proper winter bibs tights are worth their weight in gold, and the Q36.5 Long L1 X are some of the finest. The L1 X tights feature a densely knit fabric for superior wind protection and a thin fleece-like lining on the inside for added warmth. Not only do they keep you cozy as you move through the cold air, but they also do a remarkable job of holding off pesky road spray when the ground is wet. A dry chamois means a happy rider, so protection there is most welcome.
Q36.5 do make a thermal bib short, but I'd rarely want to shed layers from my legs in true winter conditions, so I tend to prefer the simplicity and comfort of a full length tight over a bibs and warmers combination.
If I'm honest, I'm the kind of rider who hates to wear gloves. Like skaters who wear thin, minimal shoes for "board feel", I prefer the direct contact of my bare hands on the hoods or tape. Unfortunately, I've got long, boney fingers with terrible circulation, which means it doesn't take much for my hands to get unbearable cold. Up until recently, warm gloves meant bulkier ones. As much as I can't deal with frozen fingers, I can't deal with riding in gloves that feel better suited for a boxing match than a bike ride. That all changed when I got a pair of the Q36.5 Anphibio gloves.
At first glance, they look like classic old wool gloves, the ones that look cool and do a good job for casually walking around town but do next to nothing when confronted by the wind. But, as they say, don't judge a book by its cover. The Anfibios are some of the most weather-proof bike gloves I've ever worn. Don't believe me? Try filling one with water and see how long it holds. Hiding within the knit fabric is a rainproof membrane. This sandwiched layer provides excellent protection from the wind and rain. It also stays nicely insulated while still breathing enough for your hand not to get clammy. Even when they're soaking wet, they somehow keep on working, all while maintaining a tight and minimal fit. They've got plenty of dexterity, and they're smartphone compatible, so you can still easily take a mid-ride selfie to prove to your followers that you got out and braved the rain. I truthfully have not used a winter glove as good as these.
I've been riding for quite some time, and over the years, have put my fair share of different winter pieces through the wringer (and the washer). However, the kit I've covered here has unquestionably made riding and training through the winter a far less arduous task. I've even found myself wishing for rain just for an excuse to put some of this gear to work! And as that (and the ever-present San Francisco fog) is set to continue as we roll into spring, these pieces will see plenty of use in the coming months.