Christmas doesn’t necessarily mean cookies, itchy sweaters or riding inside. Get the gear to make it a merry one. 

Thanks to the very good people at GORE Bike Wear, Yours Truly tested out an entire get-up of the very best GORE cycling duds on the market. For the past three weeks, the suit of sweetness has been ridden in the rain, snow, slush, wind and even in mild temperatures to be tested, weighed and measured.

The first item on the docket was a GORE Thermal Base Layer. As a high school football all-star, I though all base layers were essentially Under Armor. It’s not. The GORE variety is soft, supple and amazing light. It breathes well and wicks sweat away much better than I thought it would for being so thin. As an impressively copious sweater, I can soak through two jerseys and a coat with ease, but this did a great job keeping me warm without turning into a sauna. I wore this at the 37 degree start of the Iceman Cometh Pro Race with just a wind vest and arm warmers over it and I was absolutely perfect from start to finish on a day where being comfortable was a huge advantage.

The only downside of the base layer was the zipper. It goes up onto the collar, so if you want it all the way up to the neck, you’ve got a big piece of metal on your throat. Maybe I just have a thick neck, but that got annoying, and zipping it down just a little caused it to unzip all the way, giving me an unwanted David Hasselhoff look with an awful lot of exposed collarbone. Not a big deal, but something I though worth noting.

The second piece of the collection was a Phantom 2.0 Windstopper Jacket. First off, I looked at the zippered sleeves and said, “I will never, ever, ever need to take those off.” In three weeks, I am pretty sure I’ve taken them off at least off of my rides. The sleeves come off quick and easy, and the inner part of the jacket is lined with Windstopper material over the shoulders, so once the sleeve is removed, your shoulders still have a little extra protection. It’s a brilliant set up and I was eating my words on the very first ride.

The jacket is a a good cross between heavy duty winter and a light fall coat. It’s thin and lacks any annoying bulk, but I stayed very warm in temperatures down to the high 20’s. People that are a little more cold blooded might need to jump into a thicker coat once the mercury hits rock bottom, but if you’re planning to ride hard, this is a great fit. Speaking of fit, it’s tight. This isn’t going to fit your beer-guzzling Uncle Pat. I’m a pretty solid medium in nearly everything, and this large fit perfectly. GORE definitely designs for the fast, thin people out there, but if you don’t mind going up a size, it can fit anyone and you’ll look hip, too.

Lastly, and perhaps the most interesting, is the pair of Alp 2.0 Active pants. Popping them out of the bag, I was a touch bummed. Nobody fast rides baggy pants, at least not in Michigan. Determined to give it a shot, and perhaps start something awesome, I started rockin’ the baggy pants from day one. I warmed up in them before Iceman and before nearly every ‘cross race, and quite a few people commented how cool they looked. Somewhat less importantly, I found that baggy pants are actually really, really comfortable! Mind blowing, I know. Busting out of work for a glow ride or two from the shop, it was sort of a relief to throw on the pants, pull on my shoes and hit the trail, rather than layering on tights, bibs, shirt, etc.

I mentioned that I wore the pants warming up for ‘cross, and that did lead to one of a few snags, if you will. Baggy pants get caught on your seat. And if you’re trying to hop on and off your bikes at high speed, you don’t want any interference. After one bad slip and and fall onto the top tube manhood-first, I decided to pull those off for all CX events. I had a little trouble catching on the seat on some mountain bike rides, but that’s just going to happen with baggy pants. It’s a part of the fun, I suppose.

The construction of the Alp 2.0 is very impressive. I got through bibs like Charlie Sheen goes through strippers, and these are still flawless at all the seams. I can blow out the crotch seams on bibs in a few weeks, and these have reinforced seams, leg cuffs and inner thighs to withstand all the friction and stress that comes with riding hard. They ended up being my go-to cold weather option after Cross the Bay #3 and I have big plans for them the rest of the winter.

Like a lot of things, you get exactly what you pay for with bike clothes, and winter or cold weather gear is a great example of quality for a price. At over $150 per piece, with only the thermal costing under $100, this isn’t cheap, but it will last you forever. And if anything goes wrong, GORE has some great customer service and warranty programs that make sure you’ll be wearing their stuff for a long time.

You can find GORE locally at Einstein Cycles, and a huge thanks to GORE for letting kolotc.com try out a bunch of very nice stuff.