PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Northwave Winter Skins: Warm & Flexible

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Northwave Winter Skins: Warm & Flexible
SONY DSC Northwave are more than just shoes… The Evolution Tech jacket, bib tights and Body Fit base layer and X-Cellent booties land just in time for the cold – here’s the review.



Northwave have been in the cycling game for 20 years now. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that I saw my first pair on a friend that had just traveled through Europe. This was a pretty long time ago, way ahead of the internet picture boom and long before the US had the flood of super cool products landing, so I remember distinctly seeing two very bright and very different colored shoes on his feet…

They were Northwave’s Entry into cycling with their Integral MTB’s…

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Fast forward a few decades and Northwave are still firmly into the shoe game, but as designers they’ve branched out into other logical lines and with that, I landed their Evolution Tech Jacket and tights as well as their X-cellent shoe covers and the Body Fit Evo base layer.

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Northwave have a deeper history in winter sport (Snow board boots) that cycling but their exposure to that lifestyle has given them a pretty good design base to produce the latest kit. The Evolution Tech Jacket is a great example…

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The primary technical fabric is the X-Lite Membrane. The most notable characteristic here is that it’s packing 3 functional material layers while remaining VERY thin…

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The top layer’s functions are durability and permeability. The second layer is the X-lite membrane that is highly wind resistant but still allows for moisture escape. The third layer against your skin is a light fleece layer that is soft against the skin and has enough pile to allow for a bit of an insulating layer but primarily functions to pull moisture off the skin to be transferred out through the X-Lite membrane.

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This jacket was designed for fairly complete coverage and temps from the 20’s to 50’s (f), so the X-Lite is found on the majority of the jacket. All of the Red panels and most of the black panels of fabric are X-Lite. Only the under arm and inner arm sections of the jacket are not.

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The remaining material panels are “Vuelta” material. It’s a very soft-to-the-skin fabric with a bit thicker / fluffier feel (while maintaining a cycling appropriate fit).

Vuelta is designed primarily for stretch, insulation and breathability. These panels don’t have the wind protection of X-Lite and that is by design to better regulate heat as you’re working hard in the cold… Too much wind blocking material and you’ll overheat, sweat too much and ultimately wind up colder, dehydrated and generally performing poorly…

On the surface these 3 materials look pretty similar…

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Pictured above, the two bottom fabrics (red and black) are X-Lite while the top is Vuelta…

Inside the two materials are very similar looking, with the light fleece pile of the X-Lite being similarly soft to the touch and only a slight tone change is notable to the eye.

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There is notable difference in stretch / pliability between the Vuelta and the X-lite. Both materials feel soft to the touch inside and the X-Lite has some stretch but the Vuelta material is darn near like a warm liquid layer against your skin. It is very soft and pliable.

The X-Lite’s pliability is actually really good relative to its wind blocking. The jacket is very comfortable while on the bike.

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That’s likely aided by good forethought in pattern and cut with the arching side panels being mostly responsible for the jacket conforming across your back while bent over to grip the bars.

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Comfort is further aided by the Vuelta material being cut part way up the back of the shoulders at the sleeve (2 above). There’s no material tugging at the back of your shoulder as you reach down in the drops…

The details are everything you would expect and at least one that you wouldn’t expect but is damn welcome…

Of course there’s an overlap to prevent draft through the Zipp…

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And there’s little Zipper pockets bottom and top to protect from rubbing skin and other kit…

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And Northwave put a BIG pocket out back for stuffing as well as a stretch panel across the back (printed with their name) for easier movement…

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And inside that stretch panel there are separated silicone grippers that keep things in place while allowing for lateral movement low-down…

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The Collar is high enough for reasonable protection, and there’s the mandatory pocket for those of us that can imagine doing anything without some form of electronic distraction (complete with cable hole inside)…

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Speaking of “distraction”, it seems like drivers these days have been trained to the fact that they can run us over with almost no penalty as long as they say “it was an accident”.

To this, Northwave have offered up a couple of details that no Jacket should be without.

First, of course, is a color that’s hard to miss. The second is a reasonably large patch of reflective materials placed smartly to the outside of the jacket on both sides, at the elbows…

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But the last thing was a DAMN nice surprise. The Yellow fabric at the back isn’t simply reflective, it actually houses an LED Light strip.

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Use is fairly straight forward…

And once activated, it sits in a very visible spot on your back and is an odd enough color, along with flashing that will be pretty easily seen…

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This is a great feature that I wish every piece of winter wear came with these days… Something like this on the back (AND at each Shoulder) would be a great addition and they’re just one more precaution as it seems like our danger level is at an all-time high on the road.

Riding the Evolution Tech Jacket. It’s designed and executed well. The stitching and materials are very good and the fit is genuinely bike ready.

Its wind proof nature has been moto tested at speeds 2-3 times what you’ll face on a bicycle and the performance is solid.

Moisture transfer is also very good. Admittedly, using this (and the tights) required a little travel to get to a temp low enough where this jacket functions best, but I’ve also used it into the upper 50’s and while this jacket is more suited to the 30’s and 40’s, I can at least say that working in the upper range of heart rate and sweat at 54 degrees was still pleasant. It didn’t leave me with the “sausage casing” moisture and heat trap that some wind gear can.

Suggested Retail (converted from the Euro price) is $243.

The Evolution Tech Bib Tights are next

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Fabric wise here, we are virtually identical to the Jacket, with the combination of X-Lite and Vuelta…

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X-Lite covers the front of the tights from the ankles over the front of the thighs in separate panel cuts to aid in freedom of movement at the hips and knees…

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It runs all the way up to the Zipp-opening belly panel.

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The Vuelta material takes up station out back, also starting at the ankles…

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And the Vuelta continues in all its super-soft / super-stretch goodness all the way up the backs of the legs to include the back panel of the chamois and part of the lower back of the bib…

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The tag inside actually does a handy job of explaining where the X-Lite (white) is versus Vuelta

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The Treasure air chamois seems to be a reasonably thick pad, but it’s a little deceiving…

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This is basically a two layer pad system with a reasonably thing top (skin side) layer with holes so large that calling them “perforation” is like calling Sebatsian Vettle’s F1 championship points lead “diminutive”. But, like Seb’s Redbull ride, the real magical ability (“cough tractioncontrole cough”) sits hidden…

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Take a look at the XXX marking above and the surrounding area outlined in red is roughly the size and shape of a second pad that is split to allow independent movement and with a bit of a pocket that mimics a saddle with a center cut relief zone.

The bulk of the pad really isn’t very bulky, while the shock absorbing is substantial…

The other material found in the Bibs is a breathable mesh at the shoulders and, Like the Jacket, the build quality / stitching is really well executed…

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Riding the Evolution Tech Bibtights is much the same as the jacket…

The interesting bit is the performance of the Chamois.

I was honestly prepared to hate this as it appeared to be a bulky slab until I put it on… Its flight out front and the holes make it fairly breathable. And there is very good cushioning at the sit-bones with virtually no bunching in the middle because if the split second pad…

There’s more padding here than I generally like, but there’s also no down side to it because it moves freely and doesn’t pack up… I especially appreciate the extra bump damping when it’s cold.

In short, I want bib shorts made with this pad now too…

I’m also happy with the cut and flexibility of the rest of the panels for the tights. Generally speaking, when you put wind resistant materials over the knees, you can feel the material stiffness. Northwave’s Biomap process (used for the jacket as well) works pretty well though and the use of the Vuelta and shaped panels works. The one thing that I might change is to add a flat seam in on the red panels that run over the tops of the thighs near the knee, but that’s more in principal than in function. You can feel them when you’re putting tights on with the idea of reviewing them, but there’s no bother when you’re riding. And when I think about it, flat seams punch the surface to make the joint and that may not be as favorable / durable in sealing a joint from wind over the long term versus a seam that is secure and folded under inside…

The compression for these is good but not super high. The Vuelta material teams with the X-lite to conform and stay snug, but they’re not strictly speaking a compression garment. My priorities are warmth, breathability and comfort more than compression in winter and frankly with cold, compression is less a concern in any case…

Retail for the Evolution Tech Bibs is $203.

The Body Fit Evo was the thing that had the least “wow” factor when I first opened the big Northwave box…

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I thought, “underwear… ok, what else”.

Then I pulled it out of the box…

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And I noted that this wasn’t just some heat stamped design of bones on a base layer… Instead the skeletal design was actually stitched in with a different material front and rear…

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The design has a bit of a feel to it as well as being a very slick bit of needlework…

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From collar to Lumbar vertebrae, this is the nicest fitting, most comfortable and conforming undergarment I’ve used to date from any cycling clothier…

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The main material is a hollow Polypropylene microfiber. It is very soft, very light and highly flexible…

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Riding the Body Fit Evo really does mate with their suggested temp range of 23-55 degrees(f).

The density here means it’s perfect under the Evo Tech jacket for 30-40-50 degree temps but it’s also a FANTASTIC mate under a simple winter long sleeve jersey that, when paired with a wind vest, could be a combination depending on Jersey thickness that suites the 40’s to 60’s…

It wicks moisture well and holds its shape/form when sweat soaked. It provides just that little bit of space between the top layer and your skin to be a chill buffer and it’s thin enough that it won’t barbeque you until you get above temps where wearing a base layer like this is pretty stupid…

I wish Northwave would have sent 10 of these as they’re suitable for darn near every day bicycle use from November to April here in Arizona and they’re also PERFECT for winter moto rides as a layer under the leather…

Retail for the Body Fit is $88.

The X-cellent shoe covers are at the foot of this story…

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Again with the X-Lite…

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This time the membrane is a bit different mix, still wind proof but also with a water proof top layer on the white sections… This bootie is fully sealed with all the seams taped.

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The inside of the X-Lite panels for the shoe also feature a slight fleecing layer. Maybe only 20% as fuzzy as the Jacket or tights, but certainly enough to act as a very slight stand-off / insulator simply so there is a little space between the snug fitting outer membrane and the shoe it’s self. Just enough to keep cold from transferring as easily.

Fully sealing the X-cellent is an interesting step as there is no bottom to the booty. Instead there’s a Velcro closure that acts to snug the sides of the shoe and hold it in place…

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There are also a couple of reflective material stripes up the sides of the zipper.

Another Velcro closure at the top acts to secure the Zipper in place.

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The center flex panel (sandwiched between the white X-Lite panels is Neoprene…

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The back and borders of the shoe cover are all a rubber/PU material that seems to be pretty darn tough, which makes sense given its location and the fact that it’s also acting as the most stressed material once the shoe is fully secure…

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Riding the X-cellent shoe covers seal the package…

I didn’t understand why Northwave would bother to seal the X-cellent covers until I put them on and snugged them in place.

At bike riding angles, and given the way the material wraps around the bottom of the shoe, not much moisture will work its way back up into the cover. Conversely, allowing for ventilation will be a big plus.

Given there’s little insulation here and a fully exposed sole, I’m guessing that the covers will have an operating temp range that bottoms out below the temperature that I will ever be riding, but If I put a number on it, I would guess that you’ll want a more insulated booty some place nearing the high 30’s or low 40’s.

Retail for the X-Cellent covers is $61.


All of this gear is on store shelves in Europe now. TBD for North America as Northwave will be distributed through Hawley.

I know the shoes are rolling so here’s hoping that we get Northwave’s Kit in the US as well!

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan
Charles@pezcyclingnews.com


Note : if you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to : manager@pezcyclingnews.com

 

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