Tested: Fly Windproof Jersey
An ideal three-season companion
-Windproof chest and arm panels
-Breathable back and pits
-Actually windproof and warm
-A looser fit makes for great breathability compared to a hardshell
-Durable and long-lasting
-Fit and styling aren’t going to win any fashion shows
-Can get hot at low speeds
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When it comes to shoulder and winter season riding, there are a few rules to observe. First, you’re going to be cold. Well, maybe there’s just one rule, but it’s one with far-reaching implications. Physically, cold-weather riding is just uncomfortable, but psychologically it can be challenging. Motivation suffers, ride frequency decreases, fitness spirals downward in a six-to-twelve-week-long feedback loop.
The solution to this conundrum is usually in riding kit and careful layering. It’s a knife-edged balance to achieve though; do you stay warm at the start of a ride and have to strip layers, or begin cold and suffer until you warm up? How do you manage sweat and moisture, and on that note, what about windchill? I’ve found it’s often the breeze that gives me the goosebumps, but I loath wearing plastic bags, erm, hard shells to block it.
This brings us to Fly’s Windproof Jersey. The Windproof has wind-blocking chest and arm panels, with breathable back and pit vents. The jersey has a pretty loose and long fit, which may look a bit old school but functions quite well by allowing moist air to circulate from behind the front panels (which don’t breath well) and vent out the back. It’s a low-tech solution, perhaps unintended, but if it works, it works, right? As they say, KISS.
The thing I like the most about the Windproof is its simplicity. There’s no fancy care required, no zippers to get clogged with grit, no expensive fabrics to coat with DWR and, if you crash in it, you can sew it back together while watching Netflix. Really, it’s just like every other jersey, and even after 100+ rides my test Windproof looks no worse for the wear. I’ve washed it hot and tumble dried it hotter, caked it in mud and dragged it over rocks in tumbles. It’s been shoulder-checked on trees at high speeds and snagged on brambles. Yet, it looks and performs no different than on Day One.
When it comes to performance, the windproof fabric is quite excellent at blocking the cold, something I’ve really appreciated this past fall and winter at the start of chilly, frosty rides. Even just pedaling slowly at the beginning of the ride, having that windchill blocked helps things warm up quicker, like cardboard over a radiator, as well just making a cold start more comfortable.
As things heat up, the Windproof is ideal for high-exertion rides. I tend to avoid waterproof fabrics, one of the main reasons being the dreaded plastic-bag syndrome. Even with the best fabrics on the market, the breathability of hard shells can’t keep up with body heat when push comes to shove in humid climates. If I’m going for a ride where I know I’ll be toeing the red line on long climbs, I much prefer wearing something like the Windproof to dump heat and sweat. There’s enough air circulation in the jersey to keep areas, like the forearms and chest, from building up moisture. This limits cold air intrusion while also keeping things from overheating too badly. There are certainly still times when things get a bit toasty inside, but nothing is perfect. I usually couple the Windproof with a form-fitting base layer to help wick moisture away, as well as provide a bit of wetsuit-like insulation if it’s a wet ride.
When it comes to water, the Windproof is not, well, waterproof. But, even soaking wet, the material still blocks wind, and it dries pretty quickly despite being made of a robust fabric. It’s thick enough to shrug off a light rain shower, and I’ve come to prefer riding in the Windproof in everything short of a downpour. Take that with a grain of salt though—if a ride is going to be very long and relatively low effort (think all-day epic or bikepacking), a good waterproof hard shell is going to win out if you’re not pumping up the wattage. It’s the high-effort rides, where I’ll be feeling like a cooking pig inside a hard shell, that I choose the Windproof first.
The downside to the Windproof? You’ll look like a mid-2000 snow-park rat in it. It’s baggy as all get-out, and even on my 6’ 4” frame, it extends well below where a normal jersey stops. Great for performance, but it won’t win any fashion shows.
That being said, the Windproof is probably my most-used piece of kit. Conditions where the Windproof excels the most are probably the ones I ride in the most. Think morning or evening laps where the ride might start or end near freezing, or a power hour lap on a rainy day where a hardshell will turn into a sauna. On freezing mid-winter days where its bone dry the Windproof is perfect, with a thick base layer underneath, to keep my front protected from biting wind, while allowing excess heat to vent out the back. Especially in the shoulder seasons where temps will hover just above freezing and rain is more likely a shower than a downpour, the Windproof excels with its versatility.
Simple as it sounds, having the Windproof in my riding kit has greatly improved my cycling quality-of-life these past seasons. I’m less prone to overdressing at the start of rides, Knowing I won’t be shivering for the first twenty minutes of a ride. Having an outer layer that works for the whole ride really helps limit stops to shed layers, and boosts lasting comfort over the length of the outing. I’ve been more motivated to ride more often with the help of the Windproof, and in my book, any piece of gear that can accomplish that earns high marks.
Find out more, including two other (more attractive) colorways, at flyracing.com.
Photos: Samuel McMain