Ed Burke reviews a jacket for all seasons, top-notch baggies

Just as a properly sized bike, a well-tuned suspension system and an adjusted derailleur can add to your comfort and performance while riding, clothing an often overlooked accessory can also make the difference between a great ride and a miserable experience.

In the past few weeks I've been logging some miles in two pieces of cycling clothing that introduce new designs that improve performance while maintaining aesthetic sensibility.

A versatile jacket for all seasons

A few years ago Ralph Lauren entered the outdoor market with a technical line of clothing under the brand name RLX Polo Sport. They also have sponsored a number of mountain bikers and triathletes under this brand.

This past winter I have been putting their Distance cycling jacket through some tough, wet and cold miles both on my mountain and road bike. It is made of three-layer waterproof, windproof, breathable and washable nylon. All seams are taped. It features an ergonomic collar that protects the nape of neck against the elements, and an ergonomically engineered ventilation system with two-way horizontal chest zippers to enhance airflow to its back vent especially important when climbing slowly on a mountain bike trail.

The cape ventilation system on the back secures open with an adjustable plastic stay, maximizing flow-through ventilation and increasing riding comfort. The upper back is lined with mesh and the jacket has zippered mesh-lined side pockets for stowing gear. It has articulated elbows an Velcro elasticized cuffs for secure and easy movement and adjustability.

The jacket has 3M Scotchlite reflective accents on the shoulders, lower back and neck to enhance visibility if riding at night. I found the elongated back provides extra coverage from the spray coming over the rear wheel of my bike.

This jacket has served me well while wearing a medium-weight long-sleeve jersey at temperatures down to 20 degrees to as high as 50 degrees because of its well-thought-out ventilation system, which can be easily adjusted while riding. The jacket also would work well while hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

It's available for men and women (specifically sized and designed for a woman's body) in various colors. For more information, check out www.polo.com

A new era in baggy shorts

For many cyclists, baggy style shorts are becoming more and more popular for their style, durability and cargo-carrying capacity. Trico Sports is known as an innovator in designing high-performance comfort bicycle saddles. I have used their Split-Rail saddle for several years for both road and off-road riding, and find it to be a true "anatomical" saddle.

Their saddles feature such technologies as tunable width and Matriflex padding, which is an industry first of combining gel with foam in a matrix form, providing both comfort and support.

While saddles are key to comfort on the bike, a good pair of cycling shorts are not just a matter of fashion, but also comfort and performance.

Trico recently has entered the baggy-cycling-short market with an innovative design for a great liner and chamois that you appreciate as the ride gets longer and longer. The Trico Baggy Short is the first short where chamois is co-molded onto the ventilated gel piece to create a comfort zone.

The breathable gel pad wicks moisture away from the skin and is anti-microbial. The outer shell is 100 percent nylon with two large side cargo and dual side seam pockets and an elastic waistband with a drawstring.

The Trico shorts are the best baggies I've ever tried. The liner is fabulous with its new-school gel vented chamois and plenty of pockets for carrying everything from your wallet to a sports bar on those longer rides. Available in both men's and women's sizes. For more information, check out www.tricosports.com

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