Most of us have our favorite kit to wear on when the temperature soars during the dog days of summer. Or when it drops during dead of winter. But what about when the temperature is neither blazing hot nor freezing cold? The transition or shoulder seasons of spring and fall, when the temperature can be variable and the weather conditions changing. Enter the Gore Oxygen Classics kit – appropriately named after the Spring Classics when the weather can be cold and windy with a little rain thrown in just for fun.
What sets the Gore Oxygen Classics kit apart from what some other manufacturers offer for similar weather conditions is the Windstopper fabric. According to Gore, Windstopper technology provides total windproofness that “protects your body’s warmth from the chilling effects of wind and weather” while still allowing for maximum breathability that “prevents overheating and perspiration build-up by allowing moisture vapor to easily escape.” So Windstopper is to wind as Gore-Tex is to water – in other words, totally windproof. However, although Windstopper has water repellent qualities it isn’t fully waterproof like Gore-Tex.
Oxygen Classics Short Sleeve Jersey – $179.99 retail
At first glance, the Oxygen Classics looks just like most other short sleeve jerseys. But closer inspection reveals some differences. Even in an era where modern race jerseys are sporting longer sleeves, the sleeves are a tad longer than normal (on me, coming down to just above my elbow). The collar is higher – more akin to what you might expect to find on a long-sleeve thermal jersey. And the back is a little longer. These subtle differences reflect that the jersey is designed to help you keep warmer as the temperature gets cooler. Also, the full-length zipper is backed, which helps prevent snags but is also a wind flap – a small, but important, detail on a jersey that’s touted to be totally windproof.
The high collar is a dead giveaway that this isn’t a summer jersey
The flap behind the full-length zipper keeps the wind out
The other thing you’ll notice is that for a jersey that’s designed for cooler (even cold) weather riding, it has about the same bulk and weight of a warm/hot weather jersey. The Windstopper material isn’t appreciably thicker. Weight-wise, my size small Oxygen Classics jersey tipped my scales at 178 grams. That compares pretty favorably to 139 grams for a Primal Inertia QX5 race jersey designed for hot weather riding. And it compares even more favorably to the Castelli Gabba 3 jersey that weighs 291 grams (size large). Castelli invented the short sleeve foul weather wind and water resistant jersey with the Gabba, then took it a step further with their Perfetto that Pez reviewed here.
The Oxygen Classics jersey won’t weigh you down
According to Gore, the Oxygen Classics jersey is “tight fit” which is “very athletic and very close to the body cut” and can be considered the equivalent of race fit. On me, the jersey (size small) fits comfortably snug around my upper body. But the sleeves are just slightly on the “loose” side (admittedly, I don’t have The Rock’s biceps). And unlike a typical race jersey, the ends of the sleeve openings don’t have any compression or gripper material. So while the body of the jersey might be more race fit, the sleeves are something less than that, but not baggy. This design choice should make the jersey easier to use with arm warmers, since it’s intended for changeable weather conditions when arm warmers might be needed.
Another feature of the sleeves is that the tops are Windstopper material and the undersides are a mesh material, which helps make the jersey more breathable and to vent moisture.
The underside of the sleeve is to help the jersey – as Pink Floyd once sang – breathe
In a departure from most other race jerseys, the Oxygen Classics does not have an elasticized waistband to help hold the jersey in place. Instead, it relies on the tight fit of the jersey and a panel with wide gripper material panel on the inside of the “tail” of the jersey below the pockets. The theory behind not having gripper all the way around the waistband is to allow for more free movement at your lower stomach and upper thighs. Honestly, I’m not sure I noticed any real difference between the Oxygen Classics and my other jerseys that have gripper all the way around.
A fairly wide gripper panel to help keep the jersey in place
The gripper panel doesn’t go all the way around
The biggest difference between the Oxygen Classics jersey and other jerseys is the rear pockets. Gore decided to make the middle pocket wider (wide enough to accommodate an iPhone 6S sideways) and the two side pockets narrower. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this design choice. Certainly, the larger middle pockets allows you to hold larger items. But, for me, the two side pockets were too narrow to easily put anything in larger than an energy gel/bar. A pair of rolled up arm or knee warmers barely fit and required a bit of work to shove in. It’s also not as easy to reach in and grab something. That said, for the stuff they’re able to hold, the pockets don’t cause jersey sag. And one nice touch was a smaller zippered pocket on the back of the middle pocket. It’s always good to have a secure pocket for keys and an ID.
The middle pocket is big enough to fit an iPhone 6 or similar size smartphone
Besides the rear pockets, my only other real “nit” with the Oxygen Classics jersey is that it’s full-on murdered out black. I realize that the some folks love the “elegant” and “classic” look of all or predominantly black kit, but if you’re worried about being seen while you’re out riding, all black is not where it’s at. Especially since the Oxygen Classics kit is targeted for riding at times of year that are more likely to be overcast and possibly rainy, black seems like an incongruous color choice.
Oxygen Classics Bibs – $249.99 retail
The first thing you notice about the Oxygen Classics bibs is that the bibs part isn’t like other bib shorts. Instead of bib straps, the Oxygen Classics has what amounts to a sleeveless mesh material top with a full-length front zipper. In effect, a built-in base layer. One word: Brilliant!
Why didn’t anyone think of this before? The built-in base layer is just brilliant!
It’s a little bit harder to get on and off, but the top of the bibs negates the need for a separate base layer
Like the sleeves on the Oxygen Classics jersey, the leg length on the bibs is probably just a tad longer than normal (coming to just above the knee on me). In fact, the actual product designation of the Oxygen Classics bibs is “Short+” which explains the slightly longer leg length. Also like the jersey sleeves, the fit of the leg openings isn’t as tight as you might expect – largely because the ends don’t have any compression material or gripper. But just as arm warmers are easier to use with the jersey, the Oxygen Classics bibs more easily accommodate knee warmers.
The leg length on the bibs is longer than most
One property of Windstopper material that takes getting used to is the fact that it’s not nearly as stretchy as lycra. It actually feels a little “stiff” to stretch. Unlike lycra and other stretch fabrics that feel like they can stretch forever, Windstopper stretches and then just stops – reaching its stretch limit much sooner. That makes getting into the bibs a little more involved – requiring a little more work and patience to get them on. I’m imagining it’s a lot like wiggling and squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans. It also means paying careful attention to Gore’s sizing chart and fit guide. If you’re in between sizes and could usually squeeze yourself into a smaller size pair of shorts, bibs, or tights, the Windstopper fabric might not stretch enough and you might need to go with the larger size instead. I usually wear a size small and that’s what size my Oxygen Classics bibs are, but it’s always a good idea to try before you buy if you can.
Once on, the Oxygen Classics bibs are very comfortable. The Windstopper material is actually very soft to the touch on the inside – smooth and Ultrasuede-like. And the integrated baselayer is more comfortable than conventional bib straps.
Under 200 grams for bibs isn’t much different than summer weight kit
The chamois is Gore’s Oxygen Light seat insert. Presumably, it’s a variation of the Oxygen seat insert designed for long distance riding (Gore claims 4 hours). Other than being a different color (dark gray instead of blue), it looks a lot like the Oxygen seat insert on my Gore Oxygen Windstopper OS bib knickers, which means it’s dimpled for breathability and has a central channel to improve blood flow in the urethra area. The padding is relatively firm and medium density that feels a lot like memory foam. The front panel of the insert uses a felt-like material that protects the … ahem … “important bits” … from windchill but is also breathable for moisture management.
The chamois is slightly dimpled
The front panel material is soft and windproof
Ride Like the Wind
Obviously, the Gore Oxygen Classics kit is not what you want to wear when it’s 90 or 100F degrees with sweltering humidity. But once the temps dip into the 60s and below, it’s incredibly versatile across a wide range of weather conditions.
Ordinarily, once the temps drop into the 50s, I wear a baselayer and wind vest to keep my core warm. But with the Oxygen Classics kit, I can just wear bibs (thanks to the built-in baselayer) and a jersey to the same effect. The longer jersey sleeves and leg length come into play and represent a marginal gain of sorts by covering more skin so less is exposed to cold air and wind.
And if the sun comes out and it warms up into the high 60s and even low 70s during the ride, I can still stay comfortable enough and not overheat in the Oxygen Classics kit. Unzipping the full-length jersey zipper also makes it possible to ventilate and stay cooler in warmer weather.
On the flip side, if the air gets chillier, I can add arm warmers and/or knee warmers (also Gore Windstopper) if I feel like I need a little more. The Oxygen Classics kit with arm and knee warmers has been able to keep me warm enough on rides down to almost 40F. If the wind is really whipping, you can always go Full Monty and layer on a Windstopper wind vest for a little extra insulation and wind protection. I’ve done that with 20mph wind at 40F.
That the same kit can be comfortably worn across a temperature range of 40-60F (4-15C) is nothing short of remarkable. And it’s why the Oxygen Classics bibs and jersey are a perfect combo for fall and spring riding when changing weather patterns can happen during the course of a ride.
Ultimately, what you really appreciate about the Oxygen Classics kit is the windproofness. It’s important to remember that in cooler weather that just the speed of riding creates windchill. Throw some real wind into the equation and you will marvel at just how well Gore Windstopper fabric works – it easily wards off wind that you would otherwise feel “rip” through regular material. In many ways, protecting against windchill is more important for being able to stay “warm” than wearing something that is more “thermal” or “insulating.”
And it’s not just the windproofness protecting your upper body and all-important core. Keeping the windchill off your thighs makes a difference between feeling cold and being warm enough.
On top of being as close to perfect as perfect gets for transitional weather riding, because of its light weight and minimal bulk, the Oxygen Classics bibs and jersey have also become part of how I layer when the temps drop into the 30s and below freezing. Based on the four factors that determine coldness for me: temperature, wind, sunny or cloudy, and humidity, I can mix and match stuff with the Oxygen Classics kit to achieve the Goldilocks “just right” effect, for example:
• If I need a little extra thermal insulation, I can wear a thermal base layer under the Oxygen Classic bibs’ built-in base layer.
• Colder still? I can layer a long-sleeve jersey over the Oxygen Classics jersey (with arm warmers underneath for extra warmth and wind protection, if needed).
• Even colder? I can layer thermal tights over the Oxygen Classics bibs (with knee warmers underneath for extra warm and wind protection, if needed).
• Bone chilling cold? I can wear either a Windstopper thermal vest or thermal jacket (if the latter, I might be able to do without the arm warmers or long-sleeve jersey).
If you haven’t guessed by now, I really love the Gore Oxygen Classics bibs and jersey. Because of its versatility, it’s my “go to” stuff once the temperatures go south of 60F. And it’s become one of my favorite bits of kit almost to the point where I look forward to riding in what I call Belgian spring weather, i.e., cold, a little windy, and with some dampness in the air. It should even hold up to light rain, but I’m no longer an on-purpose Rule #9 rain rider.
If you ride in mixed bag weather, the Gore Oxygen Classics bib and jersey is as close to perfect kit as it gets. You’ll find yourself wondering how you managed to get by without it. And – if you’re like me – you’ll want more than one set because you’ll be riding in it more often than not. Chapeau, GORE!
• Get more info here www.goreapparel.com
• BUY The OXYGEN Classics Bibshorts at AMAZON here
PEZ contributor Chuck Peña is a former weekend warrior racer who now just rides for fun, but every once in a while manages to prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. He lives in Arlington, VA with his wife (who is his most frequent riding partner), his daughter (a junior golfer who takes great joy in beating him all the time, but at least he’s still faster on a bike), and their dogs. You can follow him on Twitter @gofastchuck