What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ-Tech: De Marchi Contour Winter Kit

Like a lot of Italian designed kit, the fit is snug, the look stylish. And befitting of top of a top brand like De Marchi, the gear is high-end all around. Here’s a look at their Contour Plus Jacket, tights, gloves, and bean warmers.

The name pretty much says it all – Contour Plus. The line is top quality and designed with a contoured fit for cycling. ‘My’ winter in Vancouver lasts from November through February, and is a mix of rain, snow, dark days and wet roads. But that’s no reason to stay indoors, so in addition to the fenders we all have up here, good winter kit is essential to riding through to the ‘other side’ – and let’s face it somedays good kit is that extra kick you need to get out the door.

With so many technically advanced fabrics and designs now offered for cycling kit, we’ve got plenty of choices for all types of weather. My ideal winter kit keeps me warm in temps down to 2C degrees (36F) – after that I’ll just stay indoors – But it’s also gotta keep me dry in the persistent rains that define winters in these parts.

CONTOUR PLUS JACKET – $250.00 retail
De Marchi steps up with another in their line of well made wear, and true to the line’s promise – the jacket fits snugly and ‘contours’ to the body – even scrawny guys like me and other cyclists.

The combination of fabrics and panel cuts ensures it stays put – the sleeves stay down and the waist doesn’t crawl up. The three different color panels easily show the different fabrics: covering most of the front is white Thermashield SoftPlus – a custom fabric for De Marchi – dual layer laminated (polyester + windproof membrane) – all-way stretch – water proof & windproof. It’s excellent against the wind, and the soft fleece on the inside adds warmth.

The gray panels that cover the shoulder blades and back of the arms are SuperRoubaix HT – coated with Teflon to enhance durability and fight abrasion. It also adds to water repellency – water drops will actually bead up on the fabrics… for a short while, but I found in the rain that water absorbed fairly quickly. It is an excellent fabric to vent some heat as it breathes nicely, so overheating is kept somewhat in check.

The black panels are called Thermashield Techno Plus – a textured surface covering membraned fleece – so they add some panache and keep the wind out. This fabric is also used in other pieces in the line, which ties the look together quite nicely I say.

The sleeve cuffs fit snugly around the wrists, so there’s no chance of wind sneaking in, and they hold the sleeves in place, so reaching for the hoods or drops should not cause exposed skin on most riders. They’re not the easiest for checking your watch though… but then who’s got time to watch the time on a good ride?

Zippers are good too. The front zip comes with the obligatory windblocking back panel, while the zippered rear pockets are actually accessible while wearing the jacket! Seriously, this is the first jacket I’ve seen where I could easily open and close the zipped side pockets in back – while wearing gloves no less! There’s a third zipped pocket in back-center that is accessible for Houdinis only, but it’s also a good place to store the stuff you only need at ride’s end.

Visibility is helped by very reflective piping on the shoulder blades and covering the rear zips – you can see it in the photo above – they look way brighter with light reflecting off ‘em.

This jacket has performed well for me over the past 3 months. The only problem has been the fabric tab on the front zipper broke off almost immediately, and at one point the front zip ‘separated’ while the jacket was in the wash – leaving the actual zipper stuck at the collar. This was easily solved with a bit of patience and nimble fingers working it back to the bottom where it belongs.

Overall a nice item – even if the white is prone to higher frequency washes. At US$250 retail, it ain’t cheap, but is certainly an item to keep in the wardrobe for a few years.

A lot of riders I know swear by De Marchi shorts – they’ve established a reputation for excellent fit and craftsmanship, and use some of the best chamois in the world. They’ve also pushed the envelope on design too, sometimes going a bit far, but at least they’re not just sitting on their butts and turning out nothing new.

As contoured as the cut is… I just don’t have the knees to fill out these tights.

The Contour Plus bib tight is the winter version of their Contour Plus bib short (PEZ reviewed here) and is actually more than just longer legs.

Like the winter jacket, the winter bibs use a mix of fabrics to keep the cold out while maintaining a not too hot interior. The front is windproof ThermaSheild, but with a much lighter fleece than the jacket, and these panels run pretty much from chest to ankle. It actually feels pretty thin when you pull it on, but does a very good job of stopping the wind chill.

The back panels of the tights are again the Super Roubaix HT, which has no membrane and reasonable venting to keep you warm… but not too warm.

The wide shoulder straps feature a high-t back, which is the best design I’ve seen to keep ‘em from slipping off my shoulders. Perhaps my favorite feature of these tights is the front zipper – which makes pit stops a whole lot easier, and kinda has me wondering how this idea would translate to regular bib shorts… maybe De Marchi will show us this summer?

Zippered front – ! Man, this is a good idea… finally some relief when you need mid-ride relief.

There’s lots of padding in the elastic interface anatomic chamois – they call it the “Contour Elastic Anatomic Insert” – and Upland Sports tells me it’s one of only two truly anatomically cut chamois in the world – meaning it’s formed to shape with your body, not just cut as a flat piece and sewn into the tights. That curvature makes it a pain to photograph since it just won’t lay flat…

The Contour Elastic Anatomic Insert – lot’s of padding and curved to fit you.

The padding is thick which might take some getting used to, especially along the front where ‘the boys’ reside. Depending on the day, and what saddle I was riding, they either felt great, or caused some irritation from unevenly distributed padding at the front.

Keeping my head temp regulated is key to enjoying my ride, so I use both the Contour Plus Skullcap and Headband depending on conditions – or even set out with one on my head and the other stashed on a jacket pocket. The skull cap is the warmest I’ve tried… no kidding. Both have reflective strips on the back, which may be helpful if you choose to ride without a helmet… They’ve also got a nice wide band of that textured Thermashield Techno Plus to really stop the wind in front, and both have stood up to repeated use & washings with not a sign of wear.

For $40 for the skullcap and $30 for the headband, you know you’re buying premium items that you’ll use for a few more seasons.

The Contour Plus Winter Gloves are pretty darn nice. As technically advanced as gloves can be these days, for me they’re still about fit, warmth, and durability. These fit my hands perfectly – no bunching, no pinching between the thumb and forefinger, and no extra material anywhere. The Contour Plus concept includes a snug fitting elasticized wrist band that runs a couple inches up past my wrist, and snugs up nicely under the sleeves of the Contour Plus winter jacket. The wrist band was a bit of a stretch to get in and out of – it took a bit of finger wiggle if you know what I mean – but they do stay in place.

The material is the textured Thermashield Techno Plus on the back, which does a great job of blocking the wind. The palms are reinforced with grippy gel dots, so holding onto frozen bar tape was no problem. Inside, the Super Roubaix fleece keeps things toasty warm. They worked best for me between 1-5C degrees, and the snug fit made accessing zipped pockets very doable. A nice item I like on colder days.

• Price: US$80.00

Overall the winter kit has served me well this season. I’ve had the good fortune to use a variety of De Marchi kit over the years, and with the exception of their over-designed Contour racing jersey and shorts, it’s all been primo quality in fit and function. I’ve also had the good fortune to find enough dry days to ride that I didn’t have to worry about the limited water-repellency of the De Marchi gear – it’s really better designed for dry days. I think the winter bib tights could do without the stirrups, but they never impeded my riding – so that’s really personal preference. If you’re ready to treat yourself to some of the ‘good’ stuff, then be sure to check these out.

• Find a dealer near you: UplandSG.com

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