Testing cycling gear during a Minneapolis winter is not the most appealing proposition, even on the most unseasonably warm days. As if navigating ice patches, potholes and salty streets aren’t enough, the cojones-shrinking wind-chill will make even the toughest rider consider joining a spin class at the gym. But as the well known adage goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing choices.” And for February rides in Minneapolis, nothing could be more appropriate than a winter kit from Panache Cyclewear.
Panache hails from the endurance sports capital, Boulder, Colorado, a city where newborns are swaddled in spandex, so you know they take their cycling clothing seriously. There is no shortage of companies that make bike shorts and jerseys but what sets Panache apart from the herd is their attention to detail and quality. I recently tested out some pieces from their fall-winter collection, which around here has me covered about eight months out of the year.
Photos by Gishani
I tried the fleece bib shorts ($200) and the long sleeve jersey ($160) on a couple of 30 degree (that’s Fahrenheit) rides up and down the Mississippi River. Worn together, along with some leg warmers and good thick gloves, I was as comfortable as if it was a June afternoon. This was surprising because the pieces don’t feel much thicker than regular warm weather cycling wear. But the secret is the thin layer of Roubaix fleece inside (named for the Hell of the North spring cycling race) which packs tremendous warmth for its light weight. The jersey has side stretch panels which keep it from being constrictive, a full length zipper and three generous rear pockets. Sleeves are cut long so there’s never a gap for cold air to chill your wrists. The jersey isn’t windproof, but paired with a good base layer and a vest, you’re good to go down into the 20s.
If you’re not wearing bib shorts, you’re missing out. They may look a little silly on their own (please don’t wear them this way) but under a jersey, they are far more comfortable than regular shorts. Bibs forgo the elastic waistband in favor of mesh over-the-shoulder straps to hold them up so you don’t get the cutting and chafing you get from standard shorts. They also keep your midriff and lower back covered if your jersey rides up. Panache’s fleece-lined bibs have a cushy Pro-Stock™ chamois pad for all-day comfort and the Roubaix fleece keeps your legs toasty.
Panache cycle wear can be bought as is, with Panache’s sleek black and white graphics or you can order it custom printed with your cycling team’s name and sponsors (you do have sponsors, right?). One bit of advice, the kit was designed in Boulder, so the pieces are sized for wiry guys with single-digit body fat percentages. Be realistic when you order and maybe opt for a size larger than you’re used to. Black may be slimming but it can only go so far.