The Weatherneck System
Preview of the Weatherneck System, the breakaway balaclava
If you had to describe Brian Davis, perhaps best known for his Fix-it sticks multi-tool but also the Back Bottle, you’d probably use inventive, innovative, entrepreneurial. He makes useful cycling products, then brings them to market by mobilising the powerful cycling crowd funding community. A perfect example of this is the Weatherneck.
In 2015 he launched “The Weatherneck”, a cycling specific update of the much loved bandana. The mild weather here in the UK last winter did not warrant the use of such a hardcore bit of kit but this winter is a different story, so it has seen some real action.
Never one to stand still, in 2016 Brian has further developed the Weatherneck concept, turning it into a full cold weather headwear system – what he terms “a breakaway balaclava”. This prompted us to make use of the current cold snap to dig out the original Weatherneck alongside the new Weatherneck System.
The Weatherneck is a wind proof bandana, though with an inventor involved it’s never that simple. It still fits around your lower face, cowboy style, to protect jaw and the front of your neck from the worst of the weather as you’re spinning along, but there’s no fiddly tying knots to hold it in place; this bandana can be fitted and removed quickly thanks to magnetic fastenings. The magnetic fastenings make it easy to remove on the go and it folds up small enough to stow away in your back pocket when things start to heat up. The Weatherneck uses Neodymium magnets, apparently ‘only the finest chi enhancing magnets on earth’.
The weather has to be pretty cold to use a bandana over your face when cycling, as covering up your breathing apparatus during exercise can be a bit of an alien feeling, but setting out in minus degrees Celsius, the extra coverage from having the Weatherbeck on is most welcome. It seems so obvious now, but I have hardly ever used any sort of facial protection, even in the snowy, windy, north-eastern winters of my youth. As intended, this facial cover makes a huge difference to your ability to tolerate really cold riding conditions.
However, it’s not long before you are on a climb round here, wanting more freedom to breath and the Weatherneck gives you have three options here:
1) Pull it down off your face to around your neck. This is a good option, as the bandana stays ready to go back over the face on the cold descent!
2) Alternatively you can unclip the magnetic fastenings and completely remove the Weatherneck on the fly, stashing it in a pocket.
3) Or finally you could just leave it in place; here the Weatherneck has you covered (pun intended), as a central mesh section helps make maintenance of effort possible while wearing it. The material either side is designed to block the wind but will also to manage the moisture generated underneath it, wicking it away to keep you both dry and warm.
I was reminded of this recently when I forgot the Weatherneck and the weather took a turn for the worse – blame the Met Office, as they said it would be fine. The ride was hard enough but the unforeseen cold and wet weather made it an overly tough day; I so wished I had the Weatherneck with me.
It wasn’t really during the hard efforts that I missed it – as at those times you’re pretty warm no matter what the weather throws at you – but at the very toughest of times like that moment when you stop to fix a puncture and after two minutes can’t stop shivering. Or even worse, when you have to leave the nice warm cafe, step back into freezing temperatures in damp, sweaty kit, and start pedalling into a howling gale again. I hate that!
So while last winter in the UK was definitely too mild, this winter has been ideal Weatherneck weather. It may be designed for and made in parts of the USA where the weather is a tad more wintry than here, but The Weatherneck is perfect for both the hard training racing cyclist out in all weathers and the early morning bike commuter braving the worst of the crappy British winter day in day out. The Weatherneck is a good addition to any rider’s winter kit bag and it should fit everyone as well, despite it being available in only one size – I’d describe it as ‘stretchy’.
My only issue with the original Weatherneck was with those magnets when fitting the bandana around my face. There are four small magnets in the original; two attached to either end of the bandana. Each snaps onto the opposing magnet to form two secure fastenings. It does work but often when trying to refit the bandana, I would often get the magnets all connecting together into one super magnet. It was not a big issue but can be fiddly when you are really cold, and it is not a task I can readily do with gloves on, though practice makes perfect and you get better at preparing to keep them separated before fitting.
So this is a good time to introduce the new Weatherneck System, as Brian has obviously listened to such feedback as there are now only two magnets, one either side, making it much easier to fit on the fly.
Brian, not one to sit still, has added a ‘Mullet Hat’ to create ‘The Weatherneck System’ or what he describes as a ‘Breakaway Balaclava’. He was inspired by people sporting mullet haircuts as they rarely get cold in the winter! No joke. So that’s why all those ’80s footie players had them!
Though you can use the Weatherneck bandana as a hat (reversing the bandana so the magnetic fastenings sit high on the forehead works well even under a helmet), it is a cold weather accessory which implies that you will already be wearing a hat when you don the bandana, so it makes sense to include one. The addition of the mullet hat is perfect and gives you a really useful bit of kit. I wear a hat similar to this under my helmet on most winter rides, so the hat should see much more regular action than the bandana.
Though the new mullet hat is compatible with the original Weatherneck, there are also improvements to the new bandana: only two magnets as mentioned, plus it is 2 inches longer, which should prove useful in more extreme conditions, and there is also a new higher airflow mesh material in the front of the banadana to improve breathability during hard efforts.
There are steel tabs in the hat to afford three system sizes from 46cm to 61cm – though so far I have struggled to properly employ these due to helmet retention systems – and there is even a handy hidden pocket in back of it.
While the original Weatherneck was available in numerous colour combos – ours is cool blue camo effect – the new system is only available in black as dyed fabric performs better at wicking moisture than sublimated fabrics.
So if you are out on the bike a lot at the moment, you should probably just get a Weatherneck. We haven’t even had much snow yet here in south-east England, but I reckon that this winter it will come. If you are not sure, check back later for a full review of the new Weatherneck System.
Check out Brian’s Kickstarter video (a bit out of date but it does a nice job of explaining the Weatherneck).
£39.99 in the UK from Gone Mountain Biking
$39.99 in the USA from TheWeatherneck.com
C$52.00 in Canada from The Bicycle Tailor
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