Santa may have come and gone, but the gifts of winter keep coming. Early December blanketed our region with ample snow cover creating the best conditions in years. Trails were groomed, bikes were dialed, and the winter fat-bike season was underway. About that same time, I received a generous care package from the kind people at 45NRTH containing the three key pieces of their winter apparel arsenal known as the Naughtvind System. If you’ve been pedaling around the fat bike universe in the past 10 years, you know the name and positive impact the 45NRTH brand has made on the sport. The Naughtvind System made its debut in 2016 but was revamped for 2019-20. Most products go through an evolution throughout their life cycle, and the Naughtvind is no exception.
The first thing I noticed is the reduced price point for these items. When the Naughtvind line was introduced it came with a hefty price tag. The jacket was $350, the pants $275, and the bibs came in at $295. Having dabbled in the clothing manufacturing world a bit, I know these items with a lot of features can cost a lot to manufacture, driving a higher price point. It looks like the clothing team at 45NRTH recognized this and made changes to the line to help bring the price point down. Any savvy shopper can find things cheaper, but here’s what Backcountry is currently listing the Naughtvind items for:
Let’s take each piece individually and see what other features we can find starting with the bib tights.
I chose to start here because these are the sleeper hit from this collection. These bibs are truly my favorite of the bunch. The bibs are described as a 4/5th length to allow more freedom and comfort in your boot. If you’ve tried other full-length bibs for winter riding, particularly those with a zipper on the ankle cuff, you will appreciate this feature. Having that zipper dig into your ankle bone for a couple of hours is nearly as uncomfortable as having your mother in-law show up unannounced and stay for a week. Don’t get me wrong here. I love my mother-in-law. But…
The merino/poly blend is amazing. It brings together the best of what performance fabrics has to offer to maximize comfort and fit. The size medium fits like it should per the 45NRTH size chart. I can’t say the same about the pants, but more on that later. The front of the bibs has a zipper to help getting in and out of them. I like this feature. Once you’ve tucked in your base layer and zipped them up, you can feel the compression feature of the fabric. This is helpful for hiding those extra holiday pounds known to accumulate this time of year.
Unlike the Bontrager Velocis winter bibs I reviewed last month, these do not have a chamois. This is preferred in my universe as it allows me to wear what works best for my riding. I’ve been riding in the bibs for about a month now (10-12 rides). I’ve worn them alone in temperature ranges from 18F to 30F. They were plenty warm without the shell pants due largely to the additional overlay panels in the front to block wind, shed any precipitation, and to provide abrasion resistance in case you find yourself off trail. I did a couple of rides with the Naughtvind Pants in this same temperature range to see how they worked together. I was overheating after about 20 minutes. Unless you really suffer in the cold, I don’t recommend partnering these two items unless you are riding 10F or colder. However, you should be able to comfortably wear these bibs without any additional layers in the high teens to low thirties. I’ll be taking these items to Cayuna next week where temperatures are forecasted for single digits. I anticipate the Naughtvind System likes these temperatures. I’ll be sure to give you an update later this season.
Other features of the Naughtvind Bib include three pockets on the back of the bibs similar to what you see on a cycling jersey. This is a great feature to allow your snacks, a water bottle and/or phone to ride closer to the body for warmth. How many of you have suffered from a frozen bottle or your phone’s battery zapped by the cold? I discovered this feature by accident, though it is highlighted on their web site’s video of the product.
My initial reaction to the Naughtvind Jacket was underwhelming. The jacket felt like a windbreaker. How is this jacket going to fend of the evils of January? Yet, once layered with a long-sleeved base layer and a merino long sleeved jersey, I was rocking and rolling without a care in 25F temperatures. I went from underwhelmed to overly impressed with the thermal retention, heat transfer and ventilation. Other features in the “kudos” category include a piece of soft fleece on the top of the collar where the jacket zips up below the chin, and the collar is a bit oversized so you can duck your chin under it for more protection from the biting winter winds. To keep things from overheating, the jacket features two side zip vents to allow for a little airflow when needed. To further assist in the heat and moisture exchange, the jacket features lighter panels under the arms to further ventilation. The arm length is appropriate for a cycling jacket so your cuffs don’t scooch up on you when you’re in blast mode on the bars, and the jacket features some thoughtful reflective highlights on the rear pocket and left arm so it is visible to drivers. The reflective bits are really dark apparently employing some new space-aged technology. The outcome is a subdued look on the jacket, while optimizing visibility. To which I say, “chapeaux, sir”.
Overall, I like the jacket. Its primary role is to keep you warm and protect you from the elements. To be honest, I’m coming out of a “racers” mindset to the clothing game, so I’m a bit more prejudice to items that feel fitted and don’t have excess material. With that said, the Naughtvind is looser fitting than my other winter gear. I like the overall design and performance, but I do have some critical feedback to share.
The Things that Need Improvement
Remember those rear pockets I mentioned? Well, those are not well designed in my opinion. First, one rear pocket should offer a zipper to ensure your valuables are safe. I’m also not wild about where they’re placed on the jacket. They sit so low on the back of the jacket they are hard to find when you reach back to stuff something away, but a bigger issue for me is how low items sit on your body once you’ve stored items in the pockets. Once you’ve pocketed items, it feels all stretched out like an old pair of boxers where the elastic is letting go. I tried to carry a water bottle in the center pocket and a pair of gloves on the side this weekend. I did not have confidence that they will still be there when I needed them. I was a little confused as to why they were located so low on the jacket. After further inspection, it appears they had to place the pockets lower on the body to accommodate the vent zippers. For future editions of the Naughtvind Jacket, I’d like to see the vent zippers up under the armpits, move the pockets up about an inch or two, and add a zippered pocket on the back.
Like the Kitsbow jackets I reviewed, the Naughtvind jacket has an asymmetrical zipper that terminates just to the left of your chin. That’s fine, but they’ve added that extra collar material so if you zip down a bit for some fresh air, you have this big flap of material slapping you in the face.
My List of Grievences
To round out the Naughtvind System we have the Naughtvind Pant. Like it’s litter mates, the pant went through a design redux from Naughtvind Pant 1.0. Out of the gate, I have a few questions for the design team. The first relates to the vent flaps on the thighs. (photos down below)
What is the advantage of this ventilation design? I imagine it increases production costs by adding additional trims (zipper, Velcro, mesh, and stitching), and leaves much to be desired when employed. When the flap is wide open it flaps in the wind like a loose jib flapping in irons. (That is some straight-up nautical terminology if you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about). A simple vertical zip vent like that found on Naughtvind 1.0 would suffice. Next observation: It takes a sizeable amount of work to get the hem of the pant over the top of the new BOA Wolvehammer. There is a Velcro tab that allows you to open the hem a little, but it is not a generous amount. Even with the Velcro tab open it is not a seamless effort.
To be fair, once you get the hem over the top of the boot it is a snug fit allowing the hem to hold-fast. This is important to keep snow from making its way into the boot. But a simple zipper on the ankle to expand the leg opening would make it easier.
Sizing is a big challenge for clothiers. The sizing chart on the 45NRTH web site has me wearing a medium. However, they were too small in the waist so I had to size up. I have a goofy waist size, so now I need to wear a belt. Even with the side Velcro straps cinched all the way the waist is a bit loose for my 33” waist. Perhaps take a page out of the Stio and/or Bontrager OMW playbook and include an integrated belt in Naughtvind Pant 3.0.
I know I’ve been a little tough on the Naughtvind Pant, but my parents were tough on me growing up because they love me and wanted me to succeed. Same here. I really like the 45NRTH team and their products. There are many fine features of the Naughtvind Pant worth noting. First, they are super comfortable and plenty warm. They integrate well with the jacket and bibs to make a bomb-proof winter riding setup. I also like the added protective fabric on the ankle to prevent chainring/chain damage to your nice pants.
If you’re looking into buying a few pieces from this collection I highly recommend the bib tights. They fit great, are super warm, and integrate well with any shell pant for those super cold days. You can comfortably wear them without a shell on warmer days or on race day race. I think the jacket is a worthy pickup as well. I’m not sold on this current iteration of the Naughtvind Pant. Maybe 3.0 will take the best of all design features they’ve put together to make a bomb-proof package. Thanks for reading. See you on the trails.