A couple of weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, I had the opportunity to ride with some of the best cyclists in the world, including Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso. The training camp was hosted by Polartec, as the textile company is a huge sponsor of the Fundación Alberto Contador and its development teams. You can read all about my time in Tucson over on CyclingTips, but it’s worth looking here in more detail at Polartec’s recent rise in the cycling industry.
Prior to taking over Polartec five years ago, CEO Gary Smith ran bespoke bike producer Independent Fabrication — he remains majority owner to this day. As no stranger to the industry and an avid cyclist himself, Smith set out for “world domination in cycling,” upon joining the company. You can now find Polartec fabrics in use everywhere from Rapha and Velocio to Kitsbow and Castelli.
For our four days of riding in Arizona, we were decked out head to toe in Polartec fabrics, including Power Stretch, Power Wool, Delta, Windbloc, Power Shield Pro, and Alpha.
As a base layer, Power Wool works well in cold or even variable conditions. Power Wool’s unique plated construction places only wool next to your skin with a synthetic outer layer. The wool pulls moisture vapor away from your skin, transferring it to the outer synthetic layer where it expands and evaporates more quickly. You get the antimicrobial and warmth benefits of wool but since moisture is moved away from your body, the base layer dries quickly, something that is difficult with either pure wool or even hybrid base layers. Kitsbow uses Power Wool for their base layer and Louis Garneau offers a full long sleeve Power Wool jersey. Velocio also offers a nice Power Wool tank base layer.
Used for jerseys, bibs, gloves, hats, arm and leg warmers, Power Stretch wicks away moisture, while not hindering movement, resisting abrasion, and best of all, retaining its shape over time. You can find Power Stretch in Italian brand RH+ jerseys as well as the Kitsbow Origin Jersey.
Polartec’s Delta fabric is designed to take advantage of your body’s natural cooling process — the evaporation of sweat. Delta uses elevated yarns with hydrophilic (moisture absorbing) and hydrophobic (moisture repelling) properties to increase airflow and wick moisture away from the skin, while retaining that moisture in the fabric’s outer layer to aid cooling.
We wore full Delta jerseys on the hot Tucson days and I was impressed with how cool they kept me even when riding hard. One of my favorite Delta cycling pieces is the Radiator SL Base Layer from Velocio. Kitsbow also uses Delta in their new Geysers Jersey 2.0.
Alpha, probably my favorite insulation for active pursuits, is made from fast-drying, lofted knit synthetic fibers connected to a solid mesh core. It helps to regulate body temperature (not too cold or too hot) while allowing moisture vapor to move freely out through the fabric. You can find Alpa in a large number of cycling pieces now, including Rapha’s Insulated Gilet and Insulated Jacket. Louis Garneau also offers an Alpha Vest and the Kitsbow Alpha Snap Jacket looks super sleek.
Power Shield Pro
Power Shield Pro is Polartec’s premier soft shell fabric that is highly water- and wind-resistant while remaining incredibly breathable. I am a huge NeoShell fan for gnarly, wet weather conditions where you might need a hard shell, but Power Shield Pro is the perfect outerwear fabric for everything else. You can find Power Shield Pro in the Louis Garneau Spire Convertible Cycling Jacket.