For the past 10 years, Squamish-based 7Mesh has been redefining what quality means in cycling apparel. And for the past few months, we have been testing out their Northwoods Windshell on mountain and gravel rides across British Columbia. Zip up.
I have been riding on the West Coast of Canada for the past few years now. It's my first time living this close to an ocean, and I'm still adjusting to the weather. The weather patterns are very different here than anywhere else I have ever lived, and the fall season in particular confuses me. Our house is about 100 meters from the strait that separates Vancouver Island and northern Washington state. Post September, the breeze coming off the water is usually wet and cool; however, when I get out on the bike and head up into the mountains, the forest is still dry and hot. During this time of year, you basically need to be ready for all weathers.
Translating that range in weather systems into the right gear for riding is not easy. I still struggle with what to wear for protection and warmth. This year, I vowed to dig in and do some research on what to wear for the hot/cold fall and the wet, wet winter. My big plan was to simply look at the riders in the area. Maybe ridiculous; or—maybe brilliant for its simplicity? What I did notice is that many people are out with a wind layer. Crazy right? I have never considered a wind layer as a cyclist in the places I have lived; I always associated wind layers with endurance road cyclists—not really the type of biking that I like to do.
Enter 7Mesh. This company has been creating high-quality gear for cyclists since 2013, in Squamish, British Columbia. 7Mesh was started by a team of outdoor clothing experts who felt that the cycling world was getting left behind in regards to technical backcountry apparel. Utilizing 'premium materials, innovative design, and advanced construction methods', they consider their products to be 'alpine grade gear'. Sounds good to me. I was very lucky to get hooked up with the team who sent me a Northwoods Windshell and a Copilot Jacket (more on the Copilot in the future).
I've been testing the Northwoods windshell since early spring. I have taken it out on a few multi-day trips and have kept it stowed away on every ride throughout the summer. As things have started to cool off, I have been getting a lot more use out of the Northwoods over the past few weeks. I haven't really written about apparel much, as clothing in general tends to be pretty subjective. However, the Northwoods stands out as something worth talking about so, here goes nothing.
The Northwoods was originally introduced in 2015 and has had a few iterations over the years, with slight improvements and new color options. The first undeniable feature of the Northwoods is its quality. Even before removing the jacket from its packaging, you can feel that 7Mesh has taken care to present its product—a detail the designer in me never misses and always appreciates. The jacket is made of 100% nylon with a soft brush tricot on the brim of the hood, waist and chin piece. On the surface, the jacket is simple.
One of my biggest peeves with cycling jackets is that they all seem to be designed for tall and lanky road cyclists—something I am not. I am your stock average Canadian of 5' 9” and 170 lbs, and I have never really been a fan of tight kits. The Northwoods seems to be the opposite and has a relaxed fit intended for layering throughout all seasons. The team sent me a size medium jacket and I was confused at first, thinking I had asked for a size too large. On closer inspection the shoulders seem to fit correctly, as did the length in the arm—so all good. Over a few wears I got more comfortable in the relaxed fit and realized that this is what I have been looking for all along. A simple, relaxed fit that looks great on and off the bike. As the days cool off, I find myself wearing the jacket casually as well.
I have limited experience with nylon layers and was surprised at how warm a simple sheet of material can keep you. Being a synthetic material nylon by nature, isn't breathable and is meant to keep heat in and moisture out which the Northwoods does quite well. As you warm up the jacket builds a layer of warm air around you, perfect for early mornings and late afternoon chills. On top of its natural ability to trap heat the nylon boasts a DWR coating to protect you from light rains which will come in handy in the early months of winter here.
The hood fits large and is designed to fit over your helmet which is a nice little touch. However, the one quip I have about the hood is that it cant be stored or folded away while riding. The hood and the loose fitting jacket does get a bit flappy in wind or on quick descents. I guess this is the trade off for that fresh, relaxed look.
The biggest feature of a jacket lies in its portability. At 4oz (113g) the Northwoods is literally the lightest jacket I have ever worn in my life. Not once have I regretted bringing it along wevn when I didn't use it on a trip. At that weight there is literally no weight penalty for having it with you.
To store, the jacket folds up into a side zip pocket making its footprint about the size of two energy bars. It's small enough to fit into any handlebar bag and still have room for other gear and snacks. If you don't ride with a handlebar bag, the Northwoods has straps to attach the bag to your frame, seatpost or handlebars. At first, I thought I would get alot of use from these straps but realized the jacket stores so easily that I simply don't. If I had a say, I'd ask 7Mesh to add a one way valve to press air out of the roll to make it even smaller and more packable for bags.
I didn't expect to get as much joy as I do from a simple layer of nylon. But here we are. A layer that keeps in the warmth, is layerable, and keeps out the rain. It might be a perfect jacket for the local weather patterns we have on our island. Not only that, it looks fresh and I'm happy to wear it out and about in town doing groceries and whatnot.
7Mesh is all about quality and with that quality comes a price tag. $175 USD for a thin piece of nylon isn't cheap but 7Mesh does seem like an honest company honoring a good replacement program. If the Northwoods is a beacon of what to expect from 7Mesh, I can't wait to try the Copilot out.
Get it here.
|Nylon is perfect for keeping warmth in and moisture out|
|Ultra lightweight and portable|
|Quality that can only be felt|
|Looks dang great|
|$175USD for such a thin layer is steep|
|Hood can't fold away while riding|