Frightfully cold NorCal winter mornings don’t exactly beckon me to throw a leg over Giacomo (my dearly beloved bike). I prefer balmier temps—at least above 55°F—and dry (if that’s not asking too much). It’s true. I’ve gone a bit soft in my sixth decade. But, there’s Strava appearances to keep, and tall tales to be told, so I ride.
Like many of my epoch (the Golden Age of Steel Frames) I’m your standard issue, uppity, elite cyclist (read: snob) who likes to look sharp on the bike. Off the bike, I’m in dirty dungarees.
The days around Festivus provided the opportunity to put this high-performance gear through its paces on the deserted backroads of Lake County, California (the redheaded stepchild to Sonoma County—with even BETTER riding).
I stuck a finger out the door to take a read on the conditions before making my selections, and for the first time in weeks, I couldn’t wait to brave the elements. From base layers to face masks, the fine folks at Specialized provided lots of options for a chilly ride on Giacomo.
It was chamois time – hold my calls.
At 5’5” tall, I have a slim cyclist’s physique—e.g., scrawny upper body, with thighs that would make a thunder clap blush. So, I was pleasantly surprised by the ergonomic cut and slightly generous fit of this base-layer garment.
Intentionally cut for a woman’s hourglass physique, this thermal jersey has a mountain bike vibe, with a longer hemline designed to stay put over your lower back. Its articulated sleeves are also cut long to cover your wrists—and fill the gap between your gloves when on the bars.
Power Grid—Polartec’s answer to the waffle-weave garments of yore—is a hydrophilic fabric that provides increased surface area on the interior, that quickly wicks sweat away from your body to help keep you warm and dry—critical when riding in in cold or wet conditions.
As a base layer, the jersey’s front kangaroo pouch confused me from a usability perspective—until I used it. With a hidden zipper pocket inside, this handy pouch provides a secure place to stow a phone, cash, or keys—AND your cold mitts—when you’re waiting on your riding pal to fix that flat.
Stylish enough to wear on its own, the Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey goes great with trail running, ice-skating, stone skipping, garlic farming, llama herding, x-crossing skiing (and apres ski cocoa sipping sessions), or a post-ride croissant and caffeine pit stop (smack talk optional).
It’s just that versatile. (I’m wearing it right now.)
Trail-Series Alpha Jacket
Next on the bod, Specialized’s low-key, high-performance, Trail-Series Alpha Jacket for Women. The Alpha Jacket takes its name from Polartec’s Alpha® Direct Insulation – a super lofty, featherweight open weave fleece that wicks sweat away quickly, while maintaining and regulating body temperature exceedingly well.
Super lightweight, the Alpha Jacket packs a whole lot of textile technology into a few ounces. When used in conjunction with the Thermal Jersey, and Trails Series Wind Jacket (more on this piece later), the Alpha Jacket replaces the need for multiple garments.
In short, this jacket is almost a game changer. Almost.
I really wanted to LOVE the Women’s Alpha Jacket. Unfortunately, it left me in the “friend” zone. Specialized, you forgot about my lovely lady humps.
Cut straight from shoulder to hips—front and back and side to side – the Women’s Alpha Jacket fits like a down-sized men’s version—with nominal curve-flattering, feminine tailoring. The zippered hand pockets provide convenience, but “pooch” open when unzipped—disrupting an otherwise tidy silhouette—and adding bulk to any already boxy waistline. No thank you.
Lastly, the not-quite-tall-enough (or snug-enough) collar gaped open when zipped up. Another indicator this garment was likely adapted from a men’s pattern and simply made small.
I’d like to see a tailored, tucked-in waistline (similar to the Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey), and in-seam zippered pocket to unify the layering “system” element, and smooth the front of the jacket. Adding a zippered rear stash pocket (I’m old school like that) would make the Women’s Alpha Jacket damn near perfect. And, perhaps I doth ask too much … but an interior, moisture-resistant chest pocket, super-sized for big ass phones, would rock my tiny world.
I still give the Trail Series Wind Jacket high marks for its surprisingly high performance, but hope next year’s model takes my lady curves into consideration.
Women’s Trail-Series Wind Jacket
Specialized, you’ve pushed the needle back into the LOVE zone with the Women’s Trail-Series Wind Jacket. If not for its distinctive NOT PINK color —I’ve been wearing the Dusty Turquoise version (and now, I have a new stripper name)—then for its eco-friendly fabric made from recycled polyester. Huzzah!
A fantastically functional and fashionable wind jacket—that offers a whole lot of utility (and style) in a featherweight little package, the Trail-Series Wind Jacket’s handy Kangaroo pouch (with secret zipper stash), and beautifully designed, under-helmet hood, eliminates the need for numerous bulky layers.
Worn together these three pieces made for an exceedingly comfortable, if not downright stylish ride—in some pretty cold temps.
Lastly, it’s easy to take on and off, and packs up and stows nicely into its own zippered pouch. Now, if the Alpha Jacket only had a rear pocket to slip it in to.
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