Review: Bio-Racer Winter Apparel
While its relatively new in the US, Bio-Racer has established itself as a staple in the European racing scene, and just recently announced availability in the U.S. market again. I hooked up with Roel VanMuysen of BelgiumBike, an importer of Bio-Racer custom gear from Belgium, to test out their cold weather offering as the temperature here in the U.S. starts to drop, and was very pleased with what I found. The Europeans have definitely figured out how to ride in cold weather, and it starts with the right clothing choice.
With so much Belgian heritage behind the Bio-Racer brand, it came as no surprise that many euro cyclocross pros use the apparel. I stuck with just the basics, the winter riding jacket and full length insulated bib tights for this review. I threw everything I had at this stuff; long winter road rides, snowy mountain bike rides, and we even put it through some ideal cyclocross weather – snowy, wet, muddy, and cold.
The jacket fit wonderfuly, with extended arm and rear panels as you would expect to accommodate for your position on the bike. The jacket is perfect for warm ups, but would also be fine during a cold race. No tightness across the shoulders, great length, and a tight cut to the body keep extra material out of your way, and out of the wind, while on the bike. Even with some thermal layers and a jersey underneath, the jacket still wasn’t too tight, but also fit fine with just a thin base layer and jersey. I could have used a bit of extra length in the arms, but I’m pretty lanky, so it’s tough for mass-market clothing to get the fit just right.
When it comes to this jacket, all I can say is wow. Fleece lining along the chest, arms, and neck keep your body heat in, but breathable panels along the back, chest, and underarms ensure that your own sweat won’t chill you to the bone. The outer layer did a great job of keeping chilly wind gusts off my body, and seam sealed zippers ensured that nothing got through. I found the silicon gripping band around the waist particularly helpful, to keep the bottom of the jacket from riding up, a problem I’ve had with some other jackets with elastic bands around the bottom.
The pocket placement on this particular jacket, however, could use a little work. While the horizontal zip rear pocket proved useful in protecting accessories during heavy precipitation, it was awkward to open and close while riding, and the single pocket design had me missing multiple pockets for organizing gel packs, tools, and other accessories you need on the fly. With no pockets on the side or chest, everything was piled into one massive pocket. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but was definitely noticeable on longer rides.
The versatility of the jacket was also impressive. While its combination of protection and breathability made it great for cold rides, the zip-off arms were very a lifesaver, quickly turning this cold-weather shell into a breathable, comfortable, well-fitting vest when the sun started to come out. (This was the one time that the massive rear pocket came in handy, making it easy to stash the sleeves when I took them off.)
Whether you agree or not, looks are important to some people on the bike, and this gear doesn’t disappoint. Mostly black, the jacket just has a few simple, understated white (reflective!) panels on the arms and across the chest and back. Goes with most anything, no harsh colors, and the way the panels are put together make this jacket perfect for customization to your team or club.
What could be more important on a bike ride than keeping your legs comfortable right? Bio-Racer’s winter tights are designed for the worst of weather, with a full fleece lining that kept omy legs nice and toasty long after our hands, feet, and face had succumbed to the brutal temperatures.
Check. When it’s time for full body coverage and serious protection from cold temperatures, these winter tights were perfect. The fleece extends all the way up through the bibs, offering a bit of extra warmth in your stomach and lower back. A short, vertical zipper at the ankle made them easy to get on and off, and the reflective panels around the zipper made a nice touch, in addition to the reflective dotted accents around the thigh.
While these tights had everything I wanted in a winter tight, they were somewhat limited in their application. Anything over 35 degrees fahrenheit or so left me wishing for a little bit of airflow, although the tights ability to completely block wind was great when it was really chilly. The tights retain heat very well, so when the sun came out and started to hit the black fabric, it very quickly became extra toasty inside.
Unfortunately, they also retain moisture quite well. The outer layer repels water, but if you get really soaked, say, falling off your ‘cross bike into a massive mud puddle, you are going to wish that fleece lining wasn’t there. It pretty much sucked up all the moisture that got into the tights, and held it the for the remainder of the ride. You can’t expect tights to perform like a dry suit, but if you are really concerned with staying dry, another layer to protect from moisture might be in order.
When I first put these on, I was a bit concerned with a couple things. First off, I found a lot of room in the knees, with extra fabric awkwardly sticking out as I stood from putting them on. This extra bit of fabric turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because once I got on the bike, it allowed room for my knee to move without pulling the tights up from my ankle. The elastic silicon band at the bottom stayed put, and my knees had free motion all the way through the pedal stroke. There was also a bit of slack in the stomach area, but at 6’3″ and 170 pounds, I have a hard time filling out most bibs.
The chamois was very comfortable, and reminded us of those used in Assos gear. Comfortable and flexible. When you don’t have much to say about the chamois, it’s probably a good sign.
These are pretty basic in the aesthetics department. Again, with very few accents, these are a great versatile piece. Although if you are out riding in the conditions that require these tights, we highly doubt you see many other folks on the road.
The Bottom Line
Ready to tackle even the worst conditions, but somewhat limited in its application. Overall, I was very impressed with this gear, and look forward to warmer weather when we can try out some short sleeve jerseys and shorts. Until then, I’ll be battling the winter weather, well equipped for even the worst Belgian conditions.
While the gear isn’t yet available for widespread retail availability, Bio-Racer clothing can be customized for any team or club, imported straight from Belgium. Our contact at BelgiumBike can take care of any team orders. Watch for more reviews of authentic Belgian gear they are importing soon.