I don’t reckon I’m alone when I proclaim that this winter in the UK has absolutely sucked. It has sucked all of the enthusiasm and joy out of me that should have been on tap for a warming spring release. That release hasn’t really happened though, and I’m running pretty low on enthusiasm. Like a persistent smoker’s cough inside a crowded bus on the journey home from work, this horrible winter has hung around far beyond its welcome.
As much as I’ve been gunning to bust out the short sleeves and non-fleece lined bib shorts, the crummy weather has put those optimistic plans on hold. Waterproof jackets are still on rotation, merino baselayers are going through the wash on a weekly basis, and the thick socks and gloves remain at the top of the pile. Such is the reality of the current ‘springtime’ conditions.
The flipside of that awful coin is that I’ve been getting loads of time in cold weather gear that needs testing. I wasn’t expecting to publish a review on these items until later on this year, but given the weather is likely to remain rubbish for some time (and let’s be honest, some of these garments are usable all-year round in the UK anyway), I figured now would be as good a time as any.
Read on for my experience with four different garments from Italian motorcycle and mountain bike apparel brand, Alpinestars.
Alpinestars Milestone 2 Jacket
- Price: £150
- From: ZyroFisher
The Milestone 2 is Alpinestar’s premium softshell jacket. It features a waffle-pattern fleece lining for warmth, a windproof membrane to keep out the cold, and an integrated hood. It isn’t a waterproof jacket, but rather one that’s designed to keep you warm when it’s parky and blowing a gale out.
As you’d expect for the price, there are loads of bells and whistles on the Milestone 2 jacket, including large zippered openings available underneath each armpit for venting your sweaty pits. You get two large hand pockets on the front of the jacket, and there’s also a weird pocket on the left-hand sleeve that I found useful for stowing an emergency tenner, but not much else.
I’m using the small size on the Milestone 2 jacket, and for the most part it fits pretty well. There’s a dropped tail at the back for a little more muddy spray protection for your arse, and the hem of the jacket is easily adjustable via elastic cords that are stowed inside the hand pockets. The hood fits nice and snug over your noggin, though it’s not really designed to go over your helmet (see my questionable attempt in the photo below). For keeping warm during a mid-ride sarnie stop or for post-ride rehydration purposes, I’ve certainly enjoyed the warmth provided by that cosy fleece-lined hood.
The overall fit of the jacket is relatively close-fitting, so if you’re expecting baggy then I’d recommend upsizing. You will get a thick baselayer underneath – and that’s all I ever wanted given the warmth of this jacket – but there’s not enough room for much more than that. Because of the windproof membrane that lines the entire jacket, the fabric feels a little stiff and uncompliant. When you move around, the crisp fabric can sometimes sound like you’re hiding a newspaper around your torso, and occasionally I found it a touch restrictive around the chest or back of the shoulders. That may be the effect of all those winter stouts I’ve been drinking and pork pies I’ve been eating though…
Though not as flexible as lighter weight garments, the true strength of the Milestone 2 Jacket is made evident when the weather turns properly minging. The windproof membrane works a treat at shielding your body from the blow of winter’s Big Bad Wolf, and thanks to its close fit, the jacket is bolstered with impressive insulating qualities. I did find it could warm up pretty quickly on 20-minute long climbs up my local valley loops, though you can always unzip the front or open up the underarm vents to bring in some fresh air.
Given the style and function, I reckon this would be an ideal jacket option for shuttling duties. It’s more breathable than a waterproof jacket, so you won’t turn the shuttle bus into a sauna on the way up, but it has plenty of windproofing and insulation for keeping you warm on the way down the mountain. That aside, its casual style will appeal to those who are simply in need of a toasty warm softshell jacket without looking like a fluoro-covered commuter cyclist.
Alpinestars Outrider WR Waterproof Base Shorts
- Price: £95
- From: ZyroFisher
One of the more versatile all-year-round garments here, the Outrider WR Waterproof Base shorts are somewhat misleading in their name, since they’re not entirely waterproof. Only the crotch and the back half of the shorts are equipped with a waterproof rip-stop laminate, and that makes them more of a ‘spray baggy’ than a fully waterproof short – just in case you were wondering.
I’m a-ok with this personally, as it means the Outrider retains a degree of breathability over the front of your thighs while they’re pumping away on the trail. When you dash through puddles and slop through muddy bogs though, the back of the shorts – the part that cops most of the spray – is sufficiently protected to put a halt to moisture intrusion.
Available in a very broad range of sizes from 28 up to 40, the Outrider WR shorts have an average on-the-knee length and a nice and breezy fit thanks to the lightweight fabric. They’re comfortable and relatively unobtrusive to wear, with the black stretch panel on the upper backside of the shorts providing good flexibility for pedalling. On warmer days, you’ll want to make sure to avoid having uncovered skin in contact with the waterproof laminate – it can get pretty clammy on exposed legs if you’re not wearing knee pads or warmers.
As for adjustability, there’s a front zipper with a dual-button clasp, and Velcro tabs around each side of the waist allow you to tighten them down as you like.
Comfortable, lightweight and relatively breezy spray baggies that deliver good protection when riding wet trails. If it’s dumping down with rain, there’s no doubt you’ll be getting wet. But for riding in changeable shoulder season conditions during spring and autumn, these are terrific shorts that’ll keep you drier for longer.
Alpinestars All Mountain 2 Pants
- Price: £130
- From: ZyroFisher
Though I never expected I would, this winter has seen me develop a brand new appreciation for riding trousers (or pants, depending on where in the world you were educated on such topics). Aside from the obvious warmth benefits over riding shorts, trousers also give your legs further protection against mud and dirty water spray. It’s quite nice riding trails and not having that sensation against your bare skin, but better yet, at the end of the ride you can just peel off your trousers to reveal your clean legs underneath. Not only that, but you’ve only got a pair of mucky trousers to wash – or just dry for another day – instead of endless layers of sodden shorts, socks and kneepads.
Unlike Alpinestar’s Vector pants, the All Mountain 2 pants are made from much lighter fabrics for better breathability and flexibility. They’re not hardcore downhill riding pants for riding at warp speed and crashing in, but rather lightweight riding pants for general trail riding.
Like the Outrider shorts, the All Mountain 2 Pants come in sizes from 28 to 40, though they’re only available in the UK in understated black. The waist gets stretchy adjustable Velcro bands, and there’s a front zipper and a button clasp. Other features include discreet zippered thigh vents, zippered hand pockets, and zippered cuffs for dialling in the fit around your riding shoes or boots.
The majority of the All Mountain 2 Pant is made from a two-way stretch fabric that is nice and lightweight, and comfortable on bare skin. However, there’s a load of room underneath for wearing full-length bib tights in winter, or bulky knee and shin pads for those wearing hidden protection. To bolster durability, Cordura panels are implemented for the crotch as well as the inside of each knee and lower leg. This Cordura fabric is particularly useful around pointy things like chainrings.
I’ve worn these pants quite a lot over winter, and while they do work as intended, I can’t say I’ve found them perfect. My current benchmark for riding pants/trousers are the excellent ION Shelter Pants, which offer exceptional comfort and flexibility despite a close-fitting cut. In comparison, the Alpinestars All Mountain 2 Pant falls a little short in terms of its fit, with some areas being quite baggy and loose, and others being a little too short and tight. They’re quite baggy through the knees and lower legs, leading to excess fabric flapping around the knees and ankles. The zips around the cuffs work, but the Velcro compression straps could do with some refinement. They’re also a bit short up around the crotch, which means you can’t lift them up high enough over your waist without things getting a little too tight and restrictive around the unmentionables. A higher waistband would be a good improvement to the fit of these.
Though the fit and adjustability could do with some refinement, I still wear them a load, and the durable construction has held up very well to a load of winter abuse.
Alpinestars Descender 2 Windproof Jacket
- Price: £85
- From: ZyroFisher
Easily my favourite garment in the Alpinestars range, the Descender 2 is a superlight windproof jacket that’s designed to provide you with protection from the wind, some water resistance, and not a whole lot more than that.
Available in a variety of colours that includes ‘Acid Yellow’ and ‘Rio Red’, and in sizes from Small through to XX-Large, the Descender 2 Jacket is constructed from a lightweight 2.5 layer rip-stop nylon fabric that means it’ll pack down to the size of a large potato. It stows easily in the bottom of your backpack, and I’ve regularly stuffed it inside my fanny pack when heading out for a ride where the conditions look to be somewhat turbulent. Keeping the look and fit streamlined, there is no hood on the Descender 2 Jacket.
The lack of gizmos means that there isn’t any adjustment to the fit of the Descender 2. The hem is elasticated, as are each of the cuffs, but the jacket is shaped so well that I never felt like it needed to be tweaked anyway. The sleeves have enough length in them to accommodate my erratic rodeo-riding style, and the elastic cuffs surprisingly stayed over the top of gloves without any annoying creep.
I really like the fleece-lined collar – a nice touch that adds noticeable comfort around the neck when the front zipper is closed all the way up. I also like the permanent ventilation panels around the back of the shoulders, though it’s worth noting that these are rendered useless if you’re wearing a full coverage backpack. My fanny pack? No worries there.
As for weatherproofing, I have been regularly surprised at how effective the Descender 2 Jacket is for keeping rain out – even though Alpinestars says this is more of a windproof jacket. For riding through mist, mizzle or just a light shower, I never felt like I wanted anything heavier duty than this – particularly because the Descender is so nice and breathable for when you do steam up on the climbs. And if you find yourself getting really toasty, then it’s quick and easy to rip off and store for the climb, ready to be whipped back on in time for the descent.
A very lightweight and compact jacket that stuffs down to a small size that is ideal for keeping inside your regular riding pack. The Descender isn’t a full-blown waterproof jacket, but it does offer usable cold-weather protection that’ll suit warm-blooded riders that value flexibility and breathability.
|Product:||Milestone 2 Jacket, Outrider WR Waterproof Shorts, Descender 2 Jacket, All Mountain 2 Pants|
|Price:||£150 (softshell jacket), £95 (shorts), £85 (windproof jacket), £130 (pants)|
|Tested:||by Wi Barrett for 9 months|