LOOK Cycles Ultra Winter Collection

LOOK Cycles is famous for two things: bringing to market the first successful clipless pedal system and carbon bicycle frames. The French company continues that fame with the updated Keo pedal system and bold frame designs like the 595 road frame. LOOK used to make shoes too, but those designs faded from the market years ago. It seemed to me that LOOK choose to concentrate on hardware rather than soft goods, so I was mildly surprised when I saw the company offered technical riding apparel. Or rather, I assumed that they would have just contracted a clothing manufacturer to sublimate some big LOOK logos on a standard jersey pattern and call it a day. And in the past I have frequently been disappointed with clothing branded for other bike manufacturers.

LOOK apparel.jpgBut this LOOK stuff is good, I mean, really nice riding apparel. I’ve had the chance to ride a few pieces from LOOK’s Ultra Winter collection, and they’re easily the best winter riding wear that I’ve ever owned. No hyperbole.

Just holding the Ultra Long Sleeve Jersey ($149.99) in your hands, you can see the quality of the piece. Very precise stitching and clean finishing. The jersey, Ultra Windproof Jacket ($269.99), and Ultra Bib Knickers ($159.99) feature complex multi-panel patterns and flatseam stitching. The fit is exceptionally good. So often I think that clothing manufacturers skimp on pattern-making for the small or very big sizes, either to save money or simplify the production process. Like size small means six-feet tall and legs as thin as spaghetti and a neck like a pencil. But the LOOK pieces accommodate a fit but not the anorexic rider. Yet unlike some “club fit” jerseys out there, the jersey, while offering adequate room to layer, doesn’t billow out in the wind.

The jersey has a wind-resistant front chest panel while the rest of the garment uses a more supple fabric with a soft, brushed interior surface. The jacket has a bit more room for layering underneath and uses the heavier wind-resistant material throughout as well as a higher, fleecy collar to seal out the cold. Both pieces feature three rear pockets plus a small zippered pocket hidden on top of the middle pocket. The middle pocket has an odd shape in that it widens as it gets deeper. Since I usually put my tool kit and micropump in the middle pocket, this meant that the side pockets had easier access (being wider at the top) so I could fish around for my food while my tool kit stayed low on my back no matter how much I moved around. The zippered pocket is most suited for keys or similar; since it is not sealed from water or sweat, it doesn’t make a good mobile phone or iPod storage. Both Ultra Winter jacket and jersey have silicon-type grippers on the interior bottom edge to prevent the pieces from scooting high when hunkered down low on the bike.

The bib knickers use a stretchy fabric with a brushed interior similar to the jersey with leg grippers at the bottom. The knickers have a “Dolomiti” stretchable gel synthetic chamois, which hits that magic of having just enough thickness to be comfortable without being bulky. I’ve encountered this pad in LOOK’s summer bib shorts; it’s superb.

In practice, I used the jersey in the low 60s F (especially if cloudy or windy) down to maybe mid 50s. I used the jacket below that range to maybe mid-to-low 40s if the wind chill wasn’t too extreme. In both situations, I generally used a single, relatively thin base layer, either sleeveless or long-sleeved as the situation demanded, and I wore the bib knickers with both pieces throughout that temperature range. The Ultra Winter Collection is targeted for serious riding, so I used other jackets for my commuting and around-town cycling activities. But for training, this stuff is my first choice without a doubt. The items have held up well this winter in the Pacific NW (a winter that just won’t go away), and I anticipate using these items in the winter seasons to come.

LOOK’s Ultra Winter Collection is available in white/black or, my favorite, low-key grey/black. What’s nice is that the logos are quite discreet, and you don’t look odd mixing pieces in with other garments. Of course, if I’d just buy another couple LOOK bib knickers, I wouldn’t have to mix the LOOK tops with other brand knickers. And I might just do that when I have money again. Like any good technical wear, this stuff isn’t chump change, but for technical features and especially fit, I have no problem ranking these LOOK Ultra Winter pieces up against the considerably more expensive Swiss Assos.

LOOK also offers a bib tight with the same chamois pad as the knicker. You can find these apparel items on the LOOK website by navigating the product page at http://www.lookcycle.com/products/

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