Review: Ground Effect Baked Alaska Merino Wool Jersey, Snake Bite Bib Knickers & Other Excellent Cool Weather Cycling Gear
New Zealand’s Ground Effect clothing company has recently started a push for U.S. customers, and that’s a good thing. Saris reviewed a few of the women’s mountain bike pieces and liked them. I’ve been testing their men’s road stuff for the past few months and have come away mostly impressed.
The items include their Baked Alaska long sleeve partial wind block jersey, the Snake Bite bib knickers, Lucifer wind block socks and Baked Beanie. All have performed very well, providing plenty of warmth and comfort with well conceived features like New Zealand Merino wool, snug leg cuffs, their “exo-skeletal” chamois pad and cycling specific cuts.
Zip past the break and see why these have become a regular part of my cool weather wardrobe…
The Baked Alaska jersey uses a Windfoil soft-shell panel over the neck, chest and abdomen with an overall Merino interior face and polyester exterior. The Snake Bites use a four-way stretch, lighter weight Merino fabric with textured Lycra cuffs at the leg openings that keep them solidly in place.
The jersey is form fitting without being overly tight, particularly around the neck. That’s good because it kept my neck warm without making me feel like it was going to choke me or inhibit head movement…so I was more likely to keep it zipped up and warm. Sizing is really the only issue we have with their stuff, which I’ll explain a bit further down.
Sleeves have thumb holes and are long enough to actually use them without pulling the jersey too taut across the backs of the shoulders. The fleecy interior is soft and warm, with or without a base layer. I found both pieces to work very well on their own down to the high 50º’s (F). From mid-50º’s and down, a thin short- or long-sleeve base layer was all that was necessary to make them work down to the mid-40º’s. For the bottoms, I simply slid a de-chamoised pair of cycling shorts over top below 50º.
There are only two pockets, both oversized, rather than the standard three. Not 100% in love with that, but don’t hate it either. Long zipper tabs on the pockets, jersey front and bibs are easy to grab even with thick winter gloves.
The jerseys come with a standard tube/tire patch sewn inside it. The top of the zipper seam has reflective piping.
One downside to the slightly looser fit and huge pocket openings is that once you get a gloved hand all the way in, it can be a bit of a wrestling match to get it out.
About the fit. The tail is extended quite a bit, and the stretchy nature of wool means heavier items in the pocket can exaggerate the length a bit. At 6’2″, I originally ordered an XL, but it was simply gargantuan and the tail hung well below my butt. Shown in all pics above is a Large, which fit well.
I passed the XL along to Trucker, who’s 6’4″ and it was still a bit long on him (shown in pic above). So. we’d recommend ordering down a size if you’re on the edge.
It’s worth noting that there’s a Frosty Boy that uses the windproof material all the way across the sleeves for just $20 more. Both items are available in multiple colors. Women’s versions are also on tap.
The fit on the Snake Bite bibs was spot on with a size Large. Perhaps the most visually different feature on them is the non-hidden chamois panel. We’ve only seen this on one other brand, and the idea is to reduce the number of fabric layers between you and the saddle. That means less slipping and sliding and a more direct feel with the bike. There’s still padding, and very good padding at that, so they remain comfortable.
The front section covers a good portion of the abs for improved warmth, and a long zipper with garage panel at the top make nature breaks easier. Straps are wide but comfortable. The material throughout is thinner than the jersey, so when first heading out it was a bit chilly. After a few miles, though, they were perfect at the above mentioned temps.
The other visual standout is the textured Lycra cuffs. They look good, have reflective tabs on the back and are very comfortable. They come down over the calf – which means, as with the jersey, shorter folks should pay careful attention to the sizing.
The Baked Beanie is pretty straightforward: Merino fabric with wind block band to protect the forehead and ears. It doesn’t come down far enough to fully cover the ear lobes, but does the trick on non-freezing days.
The Lucifer socks are simply bad ass. I wore them during the Biltmore NCCX race with at-freezing temps with regular, well vented Shimano mountain bike shoes and it was just the right combo. Toes remained mobile and with feeling, and I saved the rotational weight of full winter boots.
They’re slim enough to fit into virtually any cycling shoe, and the seams sit on top of the toes rather than the front. It, and all the other pieces shown here, have flat seams. Insides are fleecy and warm. Honestly, these things are amazing. Couple them with shoe covers on the super cold days and you’re golden.
USD Retail prices are:
- Baked Alaska Jersey – $129
- Snake Bites bib knickers – $189
- Baked Beanie – $25
- Lucifers socks – $29
Whether wool’s your thing or not (they have plenty of items without it, too), Ground Effect clothing’s worth a look. They’ve got a huge range of mens and womens cycling clothes for all seasons, plus a few casual items, and so far, everything we’ve tested has been very nice.