For those of us in northern climes, the cold weather has arrived and it’s time to break out the winter cycling kit. So for those hardy souls who can channel their inner Eddy Merckx, here’s my look at how La Passione’s PSN Long Sleeve Rain Jersey, PSN 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts, Insulated Alpha gilet, Winter gloves, and Merino base layer, Merino socks and Winter overshoes stand up to cold weather.
Cold weather riding is all about having the right layers and accessories to mix and match based on weather conditions. Italian brand La Passione has a veritable smörgåsbord to choose from.
- PSN Long Sleeve Jersey Midweight
- Prestige Thermal Jersey
- PSN Long Sleeve Rain Jersey
- PSN Windproof Jersey
Everyone has different tolerance levels for cold and how they approach staying as warm (I think “not cold” is a more appropriate description) as possible. For me, protecting against windchill is a bigger factor than thermal insulation. So you would think I would have chosen the PSN Windproof Jersey, right? Instead, I decided to go with the PSN Long Sleeve Rain Jersey. Both are actually very similar in that they use a 3-membrane fabric that’s windproof and waterproof. The Windproof Jersey is slightly heavier fabric and fleece-backed — so presumably warmer but interestingly La Passione rates the Rain Jersey to a lower temp: 41F/5C vs 43F/6C (the Rain jersey is a thicker material so maybe that’s why). Go figure. Honestly, for the kind of winters we typically get here in Babylon on the Potomac, I think either jersey would be just fine. But I chose the Rain Jersey partly because it was rated to a lower temp and figured a base layer would provide added thermal insulation for colder temps and partly because the Virtus Red, which is a reddish/purple-ish wine-like color, is a unique color that my wife liked (OK … maybe that had more bearing).
Form fitting but not quite race fit tight
Construction-wise the Rain Jersey consists of two front panels, two side panels, a single rear panel, set-in sleeves (which have three panels), and a collar. All the panels are serge stitched. The collar is high cut (think turtleneck) and lined with a soft fleece-like fabric that’s perforated for airflow/wicking. The sleeves have a wide stretch laser cut cuff panel at the end. The cuff and the underarm panel both use a soft fleece-like stretch fabric.
Laser cut cuff that’s snug but not constricting
The underarm panels are a warm more breathable thermo fleece fabric
The back of the jersey has three large pockets. A nifty little touch is a small drain hole at the bottom of each pocket so that they won’t fill up with water if you’re caught out in a downpour. What the Rain Jersey doesn’t have is a secure zipper pocket (which the Windproof jersey has so not sure why La Passione chose to omit it on the Rain Jersey).
Drain holes for riding in the rain – along with a reflective strip and La Passione’s Hold The Line reflective logo
Speaking of zippers, the full-length zipper on the Rain Jersey has fairly beefy teeth and zipper garages top and bottom. As you would expect in a winter jersey, a wind flap runs behind the length of the zipper on the inside. The zipper pull is a cam lock. When it’s lifted up you can pull the zipper up or down. But when you lay the zipper pull flat, it locks the zipper in place.
Open (left) to zip up or down and closed (right) to lock the zipper in place
Getting back to the back of the jersey … One thing that’s different about the Rain Jersey from most other jerseys is the extended back/tail — what La Passione calls a storm flap. This is a stretch, waterproof material (but feels different from the jersey material) with a silicone gripper strip at the bottom. The result is more posterior coverage in the riding position – largely for rain and road splash on wet roads, but it should provide a little bit extra for warmth and against the wind too.
Silicone gripper all the way around
The storm flap adds some length to the back of the jersey
High collar for warmth/wind protection and the storm flap for extra posterior protection
La Passione’s fit advice for their long-sleeve jerseys is the same size as you would wear for a short-sleeve jersey and I know from experience wearing La Passione that that meant a size small for me. The fit of the Rain Jersey is short of race fit — in other words, form fitting around the torso but with a little give in the arms to allow for comfortable movement. But for such a tight fitting jersey, there’s room to layer under it. In addition to a base layer, I found I could wear a long sleeve jersey (if I need extra thermal insulation) under the Rain Jersey so that it becomes more like a jacket layer.
La Passione PSN 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts – $175
Even though I’m a skinny, lightweight ectomorph with relatively low body fat for natural insulation, for some reason I prefer 3/4 length rather than full-length tights for winter riding (except for the coldest of days that call for full-length thermal tights and my wife and daughter questioning my sanity).
The 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts are made with a heavier stretch material that’s fleece backed (called Super Roubaix® Endurance). Design-wise, they’re like regular bib shorts (relatively high cut front, Y-back, and wide straps) except longer – the legs fit about mid-calf on me.
“Bib shorts” is a bit of a misnomer. They’re not shorts. They’re really more like knickers.
Laser cut bib straps and a wide Y-back
The leg bottom hem has silicone gripper only on the front half
Construction-wise, the 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts have seven panels exclusive of the bib section. The bib part is a perforated (for airflow/wicking) stretch material with two wide laser cut, lay flat straps – which I find more comfortable on my shoulders and are becoming more the norm on bibs.
High cut front and the wide back panel is a mesh fabric for airflow/wicking
Of course, the real “money” of any pair of bib shorts is the chamois/pad. La Passione uses a pad sourced from Elastic Interface (top level pad makers who supply chamois pads to a number of different manufacturers). Based on La Passione’s description:
- Developed for extra-long distance rides – even more than 7 hours
- Plain, soft wings allow for greater freedom of movement and protect the inner-leg area
- Hybrid Cell System insert
It’s similar to the Road Performance Force pad, but La Passione customized the pad by increasing foam density for greater comfort and shock absorption. That said, the pad doesn’t feel overly thick/bulky so that you feel like you’re wearing a diaper. The padding itself is soft (meaning cushioned) but firm.
Center channel for blood flow and perineal relief with some perforations at the front for airflow
Sizing for the 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts is the same as La Passione’s bib shorts, so that means a size small for me. I know from wearing La Passione bib shorts that they like to do compression on the firm side and that was no different with the 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts. Expect to have to “work” a little to get in them on. Once on, the first word that comes to mind is “warm” because of the fleece. The second word is “comfortable” because of the way they fit — firm but not sausage-like.
La Passione Insulated Alpha Gilet – $155
A gilet is probably the most versatile and quintessential piece of cycling kit. For me – except for the coldest and windiest of days — a gilet is usually all I need as outerwear when I ride. It’s all about keeping my core warm (or at least warm enough). What I really like about the La Passione Insulated Alpha Gilet is that the outside front is a windproof material and the inside front (as well as the top part of the back) is lined with a Polartec fleece for added warmth. The back is a mid-weight stretch fabric. The bottom of the gilet is a stretch hem with silicon gripper to help keep it place while riding.
The Alpha Insulated Gilet zipper isn’t quite as beefy as the Long Sleeve Rain Jersey but still relatively substantial — with a full-length storm flap behind the zipper, zipper garages at top and bottom, and a cam lock zipper pull. There’s also a second regular zipper pull below the cam lock zipper pull. This allows you to unzip the bottom of the gilet for easy access jersey pockets. I like the idea of two zipper pulls, but it can sometimes be a little bit fiddly when you first zip up. Just remember to pull the zipper pin all the way down through both zipper pulls and into box — otherwise, when you zip it up the bottom of the zipper can come undone.
La Passione recommends the same size for the gilet as a jersey, so that meant a small for me. And the fit is snug enough that you don’t have to worry about it flapping in the wind.
A vest by any other name is a gilet
La Passione Winter Gloves – $50
The La Passione Winter Gloves use a 3-layer membrane fabric that’s windproof and water repellent and feels a lot like neoprene. Interestingly, La Passione doesn’t provide a temperature rating for the gloves (their Deep Winter Gloves are rated from 25° to 43°F / -6° to +4°C).
The palm and thumb have suede like material to help provide grip. A neat feature is a flap on the forefinger so you can uncover your forefinger to use your smartphone without having to take the whole glove off. I have other gloves that have a different material on the forefinger that’s supposed to be smartphone compatible but it actually working can be hit-and-miss. If you really need to use your smartphone mid-ride, La Passione’s solution is more foolproof.
If you must use your phone in the cold, La Passione’s forefinger flap is a brilliant idea
Fit-wise, my hand measurement was in-between XS/S and M/L per La Passione’s sizing chart. I generally wear a size small in gloves so went with XS/S. The glove material is stretchy so the fit was actually spot on — form fitting without being too tight. Plus the finger length fit was perfect.
La Passione Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer – $70
The right base layer is essential to keeping your core warm enough in cold weather. There’s a lot to be said about modern technical fabrics, but sometimes tried and true works just as well — if not better. La Passione chose to combine time proven merino wool for warmth combined with a synthetic for fast drying to create a thin, lightweight thermal base layer.
The La Passione Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer is essentially a long-sleeve t-shirt with a mock collar to help provide some insulation at the base of the neck. There’s a front panel, back panel, and set-in sleeves. All the seams are flat stitched to avoid rubbing/chafing — except for the mock collar which is serge stitched. The sleeve ends are open without any elastic material, but the merino/synthetic blend fabric is stretchy enough that they fit comfortably snug at the wrists. If you’ve never worn merino wool, one thing it isn’t is scratchy/itchy. The fabric is very soft and smooth against the skin.
A fairly feathery 109 grams
Fit-wise, the Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer is like a second skin with light compression (I’m 5’8″ and weigh 130 pounds, which calls for a size small per La Passione’s sizing chart and that’s what I wear). Combined with it being light and thin, that means very little bulk underneath a jersey — which usually translates into more comfort and easier freedom of movement.
La Passione Merino Socks – $18
The La Passione Merino Socks I chose are matchy-matchy Virtus Red to go with the jersey. As you would expect for cold weather socks, they are slightly thicker but not to the point where they’re too bulky. I had no issues fitting them inside by cycling shoes. The heel, toe, and sole are thicker than the leg and sole sections. The cuff looks to be doubled over and stitched in place with a smooth seam — making it a little more substantial and provide a little extra grip. As with the Merino Long Sleeve Base Layer, the merino wool blend is soft and comfortable.
A little more padding/insulation in the sole, heel, and toe
Sock height is in the eye of the beholder
La Passione’s sizing chart says M/L socks for my US size 9/Euro 42 feet and they fit perfectly. Which is to say, comfortably snug with just enough compression. Unlike some of my socks that I have to sometimes wrestle on, the La Passione Merino Socks slipped on without too much fuss or any extra effort required.
La Passione Winter Overshoes – $66
My feet (toes in particular) are the hardest part of me to keep from getting cold when the temps drop — mostly due to windchill. So while warmer socks help, at some point they’re not enough — usually somewhere around 50F for me.
The La Passione Winter Overshoes are a neoprene-like material very similar to the winter gloves and waterproof (and all the seams are taped to keep water out). La Passione calls it “3 layer Softshell” with an inner fleece fabric and it’s relatively stretchy. Like most overshoes (aka booties), it has two openings on the bottom: a larger one for the cleat and a smaller one at the back for the heel counter. The bottom under the toe and the back of the heel are an abrasion resistant material — the former to provide a little extra protection for when you put your foot down at a stop light or walking around at the requisite coffee stop and the latter to help you pull them on over your shoes.
Plenty of room for your cleat
There’s a full length waterproof coated zipper at the back to get the overshoe on and take it off. As with virtually all overshoes, there’s some pulling and tugging required to get them on. Just make sure the bottom section is correctly positioned around the cleat to allow you to clip in and release (and around the heel counter). But once you’re zipped up — with the cam lock zipper tucked inside its zipper garage and the cuff snug around your lower calf — you’ll be about as protected as protected gets against the elements. La Passione rates the Winter Overshoes from 28° to 43°F / -2° to +6°C.
Silicone dots to help keep the cuff in place — although the cuff wraps pretty snugly anyway
Zipper garage to keep the cam lock zipper in place
Like the Merino Socks, I wore a size M/L in the Winter Overshoes. The overall fit isn’t pure TT aero, but it’s pretty damn close.
Taped seams and waterproof zipper will keep your shoes/feet as snug as a bug in a rug
The right tool for the job
My first ride in the La Passione winter kit was on a cloudy 36F afternoon with some wind. Admittedly, this was probably pushing the envelope for what this kit was designed for. Yet I somehow survived (even more surprising given my tropical ethnic heritage and relative intolerance for cold). I was probably at the edge of “warm enough” (which is really more about being “not cold”), but my experience told me that La Passione’s temperature ratings (more like 40F) are close to right.
All kitted up, but where’s my bike?
I loved the soft feel of the Merino Base Layer against my skin, as well as the fleece on the inside of the 3/4 Thermal Bib Shorts. And I think La Passione may be on to something with the leg gripper only wrapping halfway around — it kept the bottom of the legs in place and was a little more comfortable with it not gripping so tightly all the way around. One thing I really appreciated about the Rain Jersey was that the high neck didn’t fit so tightly that wearing it fully zipped up (something you probably want to do in the winter) wasn’t constricting. The laser cut cuffs provided just the right amount of compression without too much squeeze. I carry my spare tube, tire levers, etc. in a small, re-purposed portable hard drive case rather than a saddle bag and that fit easily in the Rain Jersey’s center pocket (the tight fit/compression of the jersey also means that it doesn’t sag). Finally, compared to a regular jersey, the storm flap’s extra coverage does make a difference keeping your butt just a little bit warmer (I haven’t yet tested drier by riding in the rain but have no reason to believe it won’t do that too).
One thing I love about La Passione is that they do blue, which for me is their “signature” color (they also do murdered out black if that’s what you must have). The blue bib shorts, gloves, overshoes, and gilet stand out from the crowd and the sea of black you’re more likely to see on group rides. And it’s not just a question of fashion taste. I think car drivers are more likely to notice the blue over black, so I think a plus in the safety department. #marginalgains
For the past three winters, I’ve ridden this fun and silly game called Freezing Saddles. In a nutshell, the object is to ride outdoors as much as you can throughout the winter (from January 1 until the last day of winter). You’re part of a team and the more you ride, the more points you accumulate for your team. Last winter I rode 78 days in a row and racked up over 1,300 road miles. To be foolish enough to do this, you have to have the right winter kit. I’m still debating whether I’ll ride Freezing Saddles again this winter, but if I do I know that La Passione’s winter kit will be the right tool for the job. I guess that means I don’t have any excuses, eh?
All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray … pondering winter riding
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