Review: Bontrager cold weather jacket, baselayer and socks

Our three favorite pieces from apparel makers vast product line

Apparel
Bontrager Cold Weather Gear

What Bontrager doesn’t make, Trek does — except for drivetrains.

The Lowdown: Bontrager Cold Weather Apparel

Save for bikes and drivetrains, Bontrager makes just about everything. That includes a vast line-up of clothing, everything from jackets and jerseys to socks and baselayers. Seven different baselayers to be exact. After several months trying out all these baselayers, plus a host of other Bontrager offerings, we’ve been roundly impressed. From the superlight XXX Road Shoe, to the Velocis Helmet, to various jackets, jerseys, and gloves, the Wisconsin crew is pumping out impressive product — most of it reasonably priced. Three of our favorite pieces are the RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket, B2 Windshell Long Sleeve Baselayer, and the Race 7” Wool Socks. The windshell baselayer is great for exceptionally cold days — or when you don’t want to wear too much bulk. The 180 jacket is a highly versatile piece with zip-off sleeves that converts into a vest. And the socks are soft, durable, and keep feet — and ankles — warm and dry. Check out our ratings and full reviews below, and flip through the expansive photo gallery for information and impressions on numerous other Bontrager offerings.

Bontrager RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket

Wind proof material up front keeps you warm. High viz yellow helps keep you safe.

Stat Box: RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket
Features: Windproof, breathable, water resistant Fit: Streamlined body fit
Storage: Three rear pockets, zip chest pocket Sizes: XS-XXL
Versatility: Zip-off sleeves convert jacket to vest MSRP: $180
Material: Profila dry fabric (polyester/merino wool) Rating: 4 Stars 4 out of 5 stars
Colors: Black, Bonty Red, Visibility Yellow (tested)

Pluses
Minuses
  • Convertible from jacket to vest
  • Test model color loud
  • Ample pockets and storage
  • Sleeve removal is clunky
  • High visibility color enhances safety
  • Only water resistant
  • Chest pocket for valuables
  • Thumb loops (if you’d prefer a traditional design)
  • Temperature versatility
  • Four-way stretch
  • Thermal cuffs
  • Three color options
  • Thumb loops (if you like that style)
  • Breathable and windproof

Bontrager B2 Windshell L/S Baselayer

On the right day, this is an incredible piece of cold weather gear.

Stat Box: B2 Windshell Long Sleeve Baselayer
Material: Profila dry fabric (60% polyester/40% merino wool) Sizes: XS-XXL
Weather: For mild temperatures (35-60 degrees) Color: Black
Features: Moisture wicking, wind resistant MSRP: $95
Fit: Streamlined body fit with drop tail Rating: 5 Stars 5 out of 5 stars

Pluses
Minuses
  • Substantial wind protection
  • Can get clammy
  • Temperature variability
  • Price
  • Moisture wicking
  • Quick drying
  • Race fit
  • Four-way stretch
  • Thermal cuffs
  • Three color options
  • Thumb loops (if you like that style)
  • Breathable and windproof

Bontrager Race 7" Wool Socks

We love tall socks, especially ones made of merino wool.

Stat Box: Race 7” Wool Socks
Features: Arch compression, flat toe seam Color: Black
Material: Merino wool MSRP: $16
Sizes: S-XL Rating: 4.5 Stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Pluses
Minuses
  • Warmth
  • Only one color option
  • Quick drying
  • Height (if you don’t like tall socks)
  • Ankle coverage
  • Price
  • Durability
  • Moisture wicking
  • Odor resistance
  • Temperature versatility

Bontrager Cold Weather Gear

It was colder than it looks that day.

Full Review: Bontrager Cold Weather Apparel

Bontrager makes a lot of stuff. Wheels, tires, stems, bars, pumps, shoes, helmets, jerseys, jackets, you name it. Indeed, besides bikes and drivetrains, Trek’s gear and apparel arm has its fingers plunged into just about all of cycling’s proverbial pies. That includes baselayers, lots and lots of baselayers. Seven different models to be exact.

Back in mid-fall RoadBikeReview took delivery of all seven of the company’s next-to-skin garments, which cover just about every occasion and weather condition. On warm days, go simple sleeveless. If it’s a little chillier, there’s a polyester/wool blend short sleeve. And when the thermostat takes a dive, Bontrager offers regular long sleeve, windshell long sleeve, hooded long sleeve, and a full merino wool version. All the bases are literally covered.

We’ve spent the last several months trying out these various baselayers, plus a number of other Bontrager offerings. Generally speaking we’ve been roundly impressed. From the superlight XXX Road Shoe, to the easy-on-the-eyes Velocis Helmet, to various jackets, jerseys, and gloves, the Wisconsin crew is pumping out solid product. And most of it is reasonably priced.

But time and space are perpetually limited, so this review focuses on three of our favorite pieces, the RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket, B2 Windshell Long Sleeve Baselayer, and the Race 7” Wool Socks. To read our thoughts on some of the other gear and apparel, flip through the expansive photo gallery below.

Bontrager Baselayers

Pick the right baselayer based on current temperature and this handy chart.

B2 Windshell Long Sleeve Baselayer

The key to staying warm and comfortable during wintertime cycling excursions hinges on keeping your core warm. If your mid-section stays up to temp, blood will continue to flow to your extremities, meaning warm hands and feet. But as soon as core temp drops, the body goes into panic mode, redirecting its warming efforts to your core to assure vital organs don’t go into a deep freeze. That invariably leads to cold fingers and toes, and usually a quick end to your ride.

Enter Bontrager’s B2 Windshell Long Sleeve Baselayer, a 60/40 blend of polyester and merino wool that has wind resistant material on the chest, shoulders and side to protect from the chilling gusts of Old Man Winter. This isn’t an every-ride piece; if you know you’ll be getting out of the wind, or doing extended climbing, choose a baselayer that breathes a little better up front. (Bontrager makes several.)

You can also add wind-stopping layers further away from your skin, which nets more on-the-fly adjustability. But for those rides when you won’t want to stop and shed a layer, don’t want to wear too much bulk (think cold weather cyclocross racing), or if you simply know that it’s going to be biting cold the whole time you’re pedaling, this is a fantastic baselayer.

Fit is close-to-the-body snug, and the back panel has a 3-inch drop tail so it wont come untucked. And the entire piece has plush soft-on-skin feel. On the right days, this was an absolute A+ first defense layer against the elements.

Bontrager RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket

With four quick zips, this jacket becomes a great cold weather vest.

RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket

While Bontrager’s windshell baselayer lacks versatility, the RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket is nothing but dynamic. In standard form it’s a cozy longsleeve outer layer that’s windproof and water resistant. Three generous rear pockets, plus a zippered chest pocket (smartphone size) provide amble storage for food, cash, and more. Strategically placed reflective accents help keep you safe during lowlight rides. (It also comes in three colors, including the hard-to-miss Visibility Yellow, which is hard to miss.)

But it’s the convertible-nature of this piece that we really liked. In the time it takes you to say zip, zip, zip, zip, the jacket’s sleeves zip off, converting into a cold-weather vest. Admittedly, because of the awkward angles the process is better done with the jacket off. But once conversion is complete, we loved the extra protection offered by this vest. It’s a great wintertime alternative to standard cycling vests, which are typically pretty thin.

A full-length zipper assures that you can open up if things heat up, and the logo badge attached to the zipper makes it easy to grab and manipulate while on the move with gloves on. A 3-inch drop tail gives you rear end a little extra protection when bent over in the cycling position. Rear grippers help keep things in place.

Bontrager RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket

Zipping off the sleeves is a little tricky when the jacket is on.

The fabric itself is something Bontrager calls Profila, a polyester/merino wool. The material on the back and under the arms is thinner to promote moisture transfer, while the chest panel, shoulders, and the top of the sleeves offer increased wind protection.

The waterproof level is 10,000mm and with breathability of 10,000g/m2/24hr. For the uninitiated, those are middle-of-the-road values. Top-of-the-line (read: uber expensive) garments are made from fabrics that are 20,000mm and 20,000g/m2/24hr. If you know it’s going to rain, this isn’t the right jacket to head out the door with.

Four-way stretch material throughout enhances on-bike comfort. There are also thumb loops on the thermal wrist cuffs if you like tucking your sleeves in your gloves. Fit is snug, but we had no trouble layering it overtop a cool-weather longsleeve jersey. And the bright yellow has remained bright yellow, even after getting splattered with mud on several occasions, then washed.

Add it all up and the RXL Convertible 180 Softshell Jacket is a well thought out top that’s earned a regular place in our wintertime apparel rotation when temps are in the 30-40-degree range.

Bontrager Race 7" Wool Socks

Also known as shin warmers.

Race 7” Wool Socks

Lastly, we must mention Bontrager’s Race 7” Wool Socks. And yes, you read that right — these socks are 7 inches tall. You might as well call them shin warmers. And that’s exactly why we love them. They’re made from soft-on-the-skin merino wool, and they extend far up the ankle, providing an extra layer of protection during cold weather rides.

And why wouldn’t you want that extra protection? Name the body part that endures the most abuse when cold road spray is flying off your front wheel. Feet and ankles, that’s right.

These socks also have subtle arch compression and a flat toe seam so there’s no unwanted skin-rub. They also wick moisture, dry quick, and resist odor. No need to wash them after every ride so long as they don’t get wet.

For more information and impressions on other Bontrager offerings, flip through the expansive photo gallery below. Also check out www.bontrager.com

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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