Craft Winter Gear

Bianchista HQ has recently been riding in some items from Nordic brand Craft, designed for winter conditions. Craft is a brand born out of Sweden, with a sterling reputation for their extreme weather baselayers, and they champion their clothing range with an innovative 3 level layering system, ensuring you can pick the ideal combo of gear for a specific temperature range. Often on those horrible cold and wet rides, the secret to staying warm and comfortable is the combination of the right layers, not one garment massively thick and warm, but a subtle combination allowing for your body to properly regulate its own microclimate. Its reputation for quality cycling gear has been long tested within the pro-peloton, and recently the new pro team venture of the Shleck brothers has signed a three year contract for Craft to provide not only their pro team racing kits, but all manner of accessories and warmers too. Also on board with Craft this forthcoming year is top women's racing outfit Hitec Products UCK, so perhaps look for Craft to expand their ladies top end gear perhaps, having the perfect group of testers in such a fast bunch of gals.
The three items on test are the "Active Rain Pant", a pair of slim fitting waterproof overtrousers, from the level 3 system, meaning the item serves an ideal outershell to protect from the elements. Next up are the "Thermal Tights", again from the 'Active' range - a pair of thermal fleece-lined waist tights with a chamois. Finally on test is the "Rain Jacket" from their Performance range. Crafts 'Active' range is good quality training wear for the budget conscious, offering competitively priced pieces to get you out and in the saddle. The jacket is taken from the higher up 'Performance' range, geared at those training several times a week all year around, boasting advanced moisture transportation and made from soft and flexible fabrics.
The jacket surprised me when donning for the first time. The cut doesn't seem becoming of its bright yellow material. I expected a commuter cyle loose comfort fit, something akin to an Altura jacket, however I was pleasantly surprised. The jacket is slim and figure hugging, crafted into a great example of 'race cut'. The arms were tight yet allowed for a longsleeve underneath, and cut at the perfect length to avoid draughty wrists. the body of the jacket fit very nice indeed, resulting in a very flattering outline, again with the right amount of room for one long sl;eeve jersey underneath to insulate on those sub 5 degree rides.
The yellow was not fluorescent, so I didn't quite get the commuting 'nodder' feeling, which was good for someone who doesn't ride a hybrid. In fact I enjoyed wearing the jacket on foggy jaunts out to Surrey, it giving me piece of mind I was visible to lazy morning drivers. The jacket lacked any way to regulate temperature in way of underarm zips and such, but that didn't seem to bother too much, on warmer rides I tended to plump merely for a merino baselayer with the Rain Jacket serving as my outer-shell. 
One large zipped pocket adorns the rear of the top, and large it is, fear not hoarders as I suspect a whole days provisions could be easily stowed away with room to spare. So, how did it fare in a deluge I hear you ask? well with a simple moniker like "Rain Jacket" I expected nothing but complete proofing from our British deluges.... and I was not disappointed! I wore the jacket on several rainy commutes (one a full on snow storm in early December) of around 45 minutes and the jacket performed admirably. I arrived to work with my torso completely dry (with the exception of some sweat!) the top had acted as a complete impenetrable barrier to the elements, not allowing anything to permeate through whatsoever. The jacket is perfect for those roadies who commute, or train in a changeable climate. On a club run it would be very nice to be many miles from base and caught in the rain only to be sporting such a jacket as this one. The colour may put many off as its seen as a nod to the commuter style, but rest assured its dapper tailoring more than makes up for the colour, and it certainly wont look out of place teamed with a pair of luxury bib longs and ridden atop a high end carbon steed.
I put some miles in wearing Crafts Thermal Active tights over the festive (and freezing) season. A modest looking pair of half tights with a blue thick chamois, these tights have to be one of the warmest and softest garments i have ever worn. Made with two types of brushed thermal roubaix styled fabric, these tights were very snug indeed. I presume the crotch and top thigh area are made in a slightly different fabric in order to properly regulate temperature - but overall these tights really impressed on the warmth front. On the back of the leg is a reflective floral motif - definitely not my cup of tea, although other ladies out there might dig that kind of feminine vibe.... but personally I though it looked a little naff, but bearable on the commute for sure. And that's just my won hangups on the whole Hawaiian flower debate so I wont let this put me off talking about the tights from a functional point of view.
The chamois was relatively comfortable on riding out and about on the commute and errands, but I would struggle to get on with it on a longer distance ride. It wasn't overly breathable, and one could really tell the difference to th4e higher end Cytech
A cute little coin pocket is hidden on the inside waist of the trousers, ideal for stashing the flat white £2, or even a small key.
Now, rain pants arent something you see too many roadies out and about in around the lanes... they are definitely more of your standard commuter-issue clothing. However, I recently spotted this video of cyclocross legend Molly Cameron out on a training run in Japan wearing some rain trousers. So that's got to be an endorsement right?
These overtrousers have a nice slim cut to them, helped in no small part by the velcro tighteners around the calf, meaning its easy to get them fitting snug and avoid any mishaps where the pants are caught in the crank. A shaped knee area also allows for comfortable tracking of the knees during the pedal stroke, again its a small detail that makes a world of difference to comfort when miles from home is a deluge. The material is a soft shell like affair, but not literally 'softshell' if that makes sense? Its waterproof yet avoids that tacky, stiff rustly appearance a lot of overtorusers tend to have. A mesh liner will avoid that nasty plastic feeling on your leg, and braces are supplied should you wish to secure them tightly on a ride. These braces are removable - and to be honest iv clocked up a fair few rain soaked commutes in them sans braces and they still fit just fine. But its nice to have the option I guess....
Reflective piping snakes down each leg, catching headlights amply as expected. These rain pants surprised me, as I was always quite averse to such a 'commuter style' bit of kit as overtrousers, but I must confess to having had my opinion changed by these. Its mainly down to my experience some years ago of some awful baggy and rustly numbers, so I deem them a valuable addition to the wardrobe of someone who likes to commute even when its tipping it down! Lastly the trousers have a very strong looking reinforced seat area... so rest assured no matter what saddle is ridden, you would be hard pushed to wear a hole in these. Iv also donned them when working at sports matches and such where there's every chance il have to sit in the rain for 2 hours, and also for some walking whilst back home in Yorkshire (the price is half of some walking specific trousers out there).
The velcro fasteners on the rear
Re-inforced seat area - very tough indeed!

1 comment:

Michael said...

The Craft stuff is great. My wife tried the Craft Zero Extreme base layer and loved it. She bought me one and it's great. We live in a great weather city and don't need a ton of winter gear, but the Craft base layers are perfect for those early morning rides when it's chilly to start and work to wick sweat later when the day warms up.

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