WHAT: Craft Thermal Jacket; WHERE: 877-662-7238; craft-usa.com:HOW MUCH: $170
Mountain biking is rife with technology that makes the sport more enjoyable today than it was 20 years ago. While SPD pedals, suspension and disc brakes seem to hog all the glory, there are a boatload of less distinguished advances that, when you think about it, are pretty damn cool.
Take this jacket from Swedish manufacturer Craft. It's a no-frills solution to riding in very cold weather. Gore Windstopper keeps out wind and cold, while remaining breathable. The collar and side panels are lined with a thin layer of fleece--just enough to make it cozy without feeling heavy like most fleece-lined jackets. It has three rear pockets, divided in traditional cycling-jersey style, plus a fourth center pocket that zippers shut. The cut is long and lean with an extended tail and--my favorite part--extra long sleeves that don't slide up your forearms when you sit in the saddle and reach for the bars.
Because it's a soft shell, this might not be the best choice for extremely wet conditions, but if it's raining it's probably too warm for this jacket. After using it on bitter-cold Colorado night rides, commuting through blizzards and racing in northern Michigan, I've found the jacket best suited for sub-freezing conditions. It's waterproof enough against snow, but I didn't test it in heavy rain.
Suspension's great and all, but so is the fact that I can enjoy beautiful snowy mornings without fussing with a bunch of heavy layers. A base layer, wool jersey and this technical wonder from Sweden are all I need. --Kip Mikler