Riding through the winter months in the UK is never comfortable. It’s a cold, wet, filthy affair that sees many retreating to the joys of the home trainer. However, here at ADVNTR it’s time to tog up, embrace the elements and slide ‘n’ glide onwards to the next hot drink. Katherine had great times with Velocio’s Trail collection last summer, so Tangwyn Andrews was eager to pull some cold mileage in the all new Alpha system winter range.
At its core, the Velocio Alpha system is designed around torso layering with complementary pieces to give you the full body coverage for the changing winter conditions. To achieve this Velocio have put some serious thought into tailoring the garments by working with fabric tech from leading yarn masters Polartec, Primaloft and eVent. Pair this with production in Italy for the most experienced manufacturing in cycling attire, we are talking high end and a high cost. So, is it worth it?
Selecting the fit
Velocio design form fitting on the bike apparel to cater for all shapes and sizes, not an easy thing. Luckily for the customer they have, without doubt, the best sizing guide I have come across; with detailed advice and charts that clearly point you in the right direction.
This is so important as buying online as its often a lottery and size charts can be vague. As a 6ft, 165 lbs, 40” chest, middle-aged guy I was flattered to be firmly in the medium sizing bracket, something not seen since long distant race weight. Any doubts on sizing disappeared when the kit arrived.
All Velocio kit is available in both men’s and women’s sizing: same high tier gear, same colours, same price.
Velocio sent the Alpha long sleeve, Signature soft shell (there is an alternative rain shell not on test) and merino mesh long sleeve to cover the temperature range. Then the kit was completed with the Zero bib tights, winter wool socks, a merino 210 winter collar and either the Alpha gloves or Signature softshell gloves.
Here in the Cotswold Five Valleys there are a lot of high intensity sharp climbs, rarely-flat peanut butter trails and swift descents. Ideal for working up a sweat; sweat that gets cold quickly. The testing range was between -3 to about 7 degrees centigrade, often raining with howling wind, so fairly typical UK winter conditions!
Velocio Alpha long sleeve jersey
£159 $199 €179
For the harsher days, Velocio have created a two-piece core system, your outer layer (in my case the Signature soft shell) and the Alpha mid layer jersey. Straight out of the bag I knew this was good: immediately I was reminded of Patagonia’s R2 fleece which I have used for years on the road and hill but as a compromised mid layer for winter rides, and wished someone would make something similar in a bike specific cut.
Polartec Alpha soft hi loft insulation is strategically placed in leading panels to maximise warmth without weight, creating airspace to trap the warm air while allowing for breathability. The back, sides and lower sleeves are made from 210 merino-backed fleece that’s amazingly soft but moves well under the top layer. Add in a high collar with baffled half zip, three rear pockets and silicone gripper on the waist and dropped rear, and it’s loaded with all you need.
Pairing perfectly with the Signature soft shell fit wise out on the gravel bike the comfort was immediately noticeable; every inch of contact and seam have been really considered. Fit in all areas is perfect for on the bike position.
Cresting the top of the many climbs with the sweat building, initially I was concerned that the damp was going to cling to my torso, but within minutes the fibres had done their work and sent any moisture on its way, leaving me comfortable and ready for more. During all my miles in sub-zero temperatures warmth was never a problem.
It’s an expensive garment but probably one of the best pieces of outdoor gear I’ve ever worn. I see this coming on trips beyond the winter, with bike packing or spring trail riding coming to mind. A kit bag staple and true gear of the year candidate.
Velocio merino mesh long sleeve base
£77 $89 €85
On days when the temperatures crept above 7 or 8 degrees, I switched out the Alpha layer for the Merino mesh base layer, knowing that the Softshell would provide cover and some additional insulation. This ultra fine merino and polyester mix fabric with flat-lock stitching and a mesh structure makes for a great close fitting, lightweight and wicking base layer. Coming into that in between season, or for autumn too, it’s ideal to regulate core comfort.
Velocio Signature soft shell jacket
£247 $299 €278
For some time now, a solid soft shell has been a must for the winter set up. Many brands and materials compete for our money in this investment, and at the top end there is now a lot of choice. Choose well and a winter soft shell is a piece that will give you protection to last for many seasons.
Velocio have given their offering an overhaul this year, partnering with eVent to create a proprietary three-layer soft shell. This incorporates eVent’s stretch membrane with a DWR (durable water repellent) face, and paired with a Primaloft performance yarn backer, this has produced a very special material. The result is a reasonable 10k rated waterproof, highly breathable, material that comes in at 210g. There’s a good level of stretch which has accommodated my holiday season swell as well as layers, definitely less give than say Polartec Neoshell; but warmer, nicer to the touch and tougher.
The Signature soft shell fit is very much from the road camp: form fitting, high waist and dropped tail with a curved back cut and articulated shoulders. The cut never feels baggy or flappy but still maintains the ability to layer, and that’s some good design to pull that off. Therefore, it feels perfectly at home on the hard gravel miles.
The test sample came in a fetching Amanda Gorman coat yellow with deep blue contrasts, visible but not acid Hi Vis (also available in night blue if you don’t dig yellow). There’s a handy two way YKK zipper down the front and a phone sized chest pocket plus three rear pockets with subtle reflective branding gives the understated, but featured look, which I really like. You’ll find a neat gripper just on the hem where it’s needed, plus a lovely soft collar.
Out on the ride paired with either of the under layers I was warm and dry. The wicking properties are not given, but they must be high as there was no moisture build up. There is no venting but that didn’t seem to be a problem at low temperatures, and the wind proofing on sub-zero descents was excellent, not a whisper of a draft.
Waterproofing is on par with other top line soft shells I’ve used, surviving many deluges and spray, returning home warm. The material is robust too, as gravel rides here often stray into MTB territory where shoulders scrape foliage and the material is still snag free. Stretch inserts on the cuffs help to hold the line, draft free, between glove and hem excellently for either the under or over glove wearer. A quick low temperature wash and it’s good to go again.
A fantastic soft shell with the detail and tech you would expect from a range topping garment.
Velocio Zero bib tight
£222 $279 €245
A great top half needs a bottom layer to match, and Velocio sent the Zero bib tight: their top line winter bib offering.
All the features you’d expect are found in the Zero bib tights: water and wind resistant front panels, a fleecy Roubaix thermal back and reflective panels on the lower calves. Notable are the straps, nice and stretchy and wide, which gave no chance of cutting the shoulders. Similarly, the foot loop design is the most comfortable I’ve used; wide and soft with a pleasing cross material fit over the foot.
The Zero chamois pad is developed with Cytech who are experts in the chamois manufacturing process, and it was very comfortable even after a few hours in the saddle in poor weather.
I tend to worry about any seams on the lower half, as long winter rides with a sweaty damp chafe is really awful. Thankfully, all the seams on the Zero bib tights worked just fine, so I had no rubbing over many miles in bad weather. Just as importantly, I never had cold legs either, and the softshell face kept the legs dry despite hours of muddy spray.
The only addition I could think of would be a double outer layer on the behind for extra muck protection and a little extra material height on the hip and back. I ride with a mudguard mainly, but some extra protection for the days without would make these perfect and a worthy competitor at the price point.
Warmers and accessories
£97 $119 €109
New for this season is the Alpha glove: a water resistant, windproof insulated Alpha glove. I plumped for the medium, and being at the top end of the size recommendation the fit was snug. The insulation is the luxuriously soft and warm wicking Polartec Alpha fused with a lightweight eVent stretch shell. I was worried about heating hands trapping sweat, ending rides like stroking a wet cat, but Velocio have sussed this out. My hands were always warm and dry, with the materials doing their job., with spray and showers never penetrating the outer shell.
Another pet hate is lining that slips about from the external fabric, but no problems here. Only on one really cold freezing fog ride did my hands suffer on a long road decent, but only at the fingertips. I also like non-Velcro and the extended cuff plays perfectly with the Signature softshell jacket.
There were a few minor negatives that detracted from the comfort. I would have liked a nose wipe section for those cold days and possibly some more grip to the palm as it is pretty sparse. This isn’t much of an issue on the road, but certainly lacking when things get tasty on the gravel. There was a bit of compaction on long stints on the hoods, so a pad inclusion would help this out for ventures off the smooth stuff. However, if you like a lightweight warm minimalist design, this is certainly one of the best.
Signature soft shell glove
£66 $79 €73
For the days winter is on the wane or having an off day the Signature glove is really rather good. This very lightweight and non-bulky soft shell with a Roubaix style lining was a real surprise. For rides of the damp 7 to 10 degree variant this glove performed so well, and I was amazed how such a svelte glove could handle this range. I’m looking forward to finding its top end comfort but I suspect it’s going to serve right the way into the early spring. Recommended!
Merino 210 winter collar
£29 $35 €32
A winter neck gaiter is certainly an essential for winter rides, and this one is simply a beaut. A gorgeous scarab beetle dark green sheer exterior with trademark subtle branding and piled merino next to skin stays perfectly in place when it’s deployed.
This merino winter collar is so nice that I’m looking for excuses to wear it all the time!
The Velocio Alpha System verdict
Testing a range in almost its entirety is a great way to see how the garments work together in terms of fit and performance to maintain your ability to ride through the winter months. You can certainly feel that some top R&D has been lavished on making the Alpha range. It would probably be rare to invest in the whole system all at once, especially at this high price, but I found that any of the key pieces would be a good investment in returns of quality, miles in comfort and turbo avoidance.
There’s no denying that the prices are high, and when we drift to this level something needs to set it apart. Velocio are not only a crafter of high end kit, but champions of a responsible business model. They were established catering for the women’s market and putting profits into women’s race teams to support the necessary agenda. They still support some great teams (check out @velocio_exploro) and their ambassador roll call is really impressive in its diversity.
A lot is said about ‘greenwashing’ products as a marketing exercise, but the environmental stance is high and vocal here; from being a member of 1% For The Planet (plus other great projects) to recycled materials, plastic free packaging way before it was de rigueur and working continuously with manufacturing for better practice. We are all aware that the production of clothing is a real environmental challenge, that comes with a cost to production (and hence the consumer) to even start to address it.
It’s great to see companies like Velocio being a market leader investing, not just for profit, but just to be better and keep pushing the process. Should this be a deciding factor for your hard earned cash in the 21st Century? I think so.
Overall, I’d score the Alpha System an impressive 9/10, with the Alpha Jersey an easy 10 and on my gear of the year list.
Velocio Alpha System£$€ various
Last modified: 4th February 2021