Tom Barras suffered more than enough training through the cold wet winters of northern England as a professional rider, and the others he regularly rode with - including World and Olympic champions - were sick of suffering too. So when his pro career finished he started doing something about it. First by buying an old wetsuit and making some prototypes and then by working with neoprene specialists (including one of those Olympic champs) to create the first Spatz overboots.
Knee-length neoprene is certainly a bold look and pricing was double or even triple what the market's best cycling overshoes were going for. But for all the riders who bought them - including ever-increasing numbers of past and present cycling legends - having warm feet whatever the weather was enough to make sure Spatz has been an instant hit with hardened winter cycling warriors.
As the Spatz range evolved and expanded, similarly innovative base layers and then gloves joined the range and each one has been - literally - very warmly received by our testers. So here’s a round-up of what you need to know to speak the Spatz lingo before joining riders like Johan Museeuw, Mario Cipollini, Tom Pidcock, the Brownlee brothers and many more in worrying less about the weather.
Spatz Pro 2 overshoes
Overbuilt overshoes that embrace overkill
Price : £99.99
Super warm whatever the weather
Cosy legs too
Armoured where it matters
No zips to explode
Work on and off road
Sweat will wet your feet
The latest evolution of the original Spatz overshoes, the Pro 2 uses a multi-panel cut of ‘Aero Armour’ waterproof neoprene. They also have a wavy fur inner face to trap warming air and help wick away sweat. The inner ankle and toecap are reinforced with Kevlar to protect the Neoprene against cuts and daily abuse. The bottom is open apart from a securing strap so cleat access is no issue and they work with full tread gravel/MTB shoes. That also makes pulling them back down over your shoes (pull them up your legs before putting your shoes on) a lot easier.
Sizing is still on the tight side and we found an XL fitted best with our size 44 shoes and medium-sized calves. Your feet will sweat and get damp even if they keep rain off the outside, so if you’re commuting into and then out of work in them take some fresh socks for the day/homeward leg.
The just-below-the-knee length means your lower legs - and the blood running through them - stay really warm too. That means guaranteed foot warmth whatever the weather or road conditions which is a true game-changer for those who don’t (or can’t) only ride when the weather is friendly. That makes the premium price a worthwhile investment you’ll be glad you made every filthy ride for years to come.
If the Pro 2 doesn't take your fancy, Spatz also makes a lighter-gauge, reflective covered ‘Roadman 2’, at £84.99, as well as shorter UCI-legal ‘Legalz 2’ versions for those who race at such a level.
There are also aero, waterproof but non-thermal ‘Windsock’ overshoes at £39.99, and extended Kevlar and neoprene ‘Neotoez’ for £29.99, and finally, a Lycra-rich, silicon-treaded ‘Sokz’ (£14.99) to wear underneath too.
Spatz Glovz gloves
Midweight gloves for shoulder-season racing
Very quick drying
Optional wind proofing
The original Spatz gloves are designed as race gloves, not full winter gloves. That means the soft jersey material is designed more for comfort and control in intermediate spring/autumn conditions or riding hard in winter. Epoxy gel fingertip and full palm detailing give excellent grip however wet your bar tape gets and the soft fabric means a luxurious silky feel and fantastic feedback for surviving slippery roads. While it’s not remotely waterproof, it stays pretty warm when wet and dries very fast too.
The cunning bit is that if conditions get bad the stretch pocket on the back hides a ‘lobster-claw’ cover that buddies up your first-and-second, and third-and-fourth fingers under a windproof shell fabric. That makes them great for changeable conditions or early starts where you know it’ll warm up later. If you need more warmth then you can now get the Thrmoz instead/as well and if it’s sopping wet check out the Neoz.
The very long gauntlet cuff takes warmth well up your arm, and the fabric junctions are reinforced for extended life. While we weren’t sure about it at first, the peephole for the index fingertip is actually brilliant for accurate phone use, fishing around in back pockets or pulling zips etc.
Spatz Thrmoz gloves
Warmer than Glovz
Warmer than Glovz
Snug zip cuff
Very quick drying
Pull out protection
The new Thrmoz gloves fill the colder hands/colder conditions gap left by the original Glovz. They’re almost identical in appearance and design but with a slightly heavier weight fleece-lined fabric. This feels significantly warmer but doesn’t dull your connection to the road so much that it affects confidence in grim conditions. You get the same epoxy gel gripper print, reinforcing panels and finger peepholes and a slightly more weatherproof version of the pull-out, pull over lobster claw. The long cuff gets a YKK zipper down the side for a very snug cuff fit inside or outside your sleeves.
The result is fractionally bulkier and less tactile but a noticeably warmer and more comfortable glove for mere mortals riding deeper into winter for fun, not just training smash fests.
Spatz Neoz gloves
Deluge-friendly neoprene gloves
Warm in a storm
Wet weather only
The latest gloves in the Spatz arsenal the Neoz are a premium neoprene glove to back up the brand’s “It’s raining. You’re training.” slogan. With its unavoidable sweatiness, neoprene is definitely a deluge-only choice, but for warmth in weather that’ll defeat any other type of glove, these are brilliant. Thicker material across the back and tops of fingers gives maximum insulation while a slightly thinner palm keeps them very tactile when you need to feel grip levels the most. Full epoxy gel print on all fingers, thumb and palm glue them to your bars. Paying a premium price gets you seams that are fully taped and welded for extra durability and zero leaks. The long diagonal cut cuff is easy to pull on and off and extends warmth up over your wrists without any crimping of vital blood flow. The subtly pre-curved and expertly judged fit means there’s no control-sapping flappy ends to fingers and while they feel snug at first, they work brilliantly on the bike. The reflective logo adds signalling safety too.
Spatz Basez 2 base layer
The final word in deep-winter base layers
Targeted extra warmth
Extra long arms
Extra long neck
Extra long length
Stripey arms afterwards
Choker neck won’t suit everyone
When you’re spending hundreds of pounds on the best winter cycling jackets or similar, why are you not letting it perform the best it can by putting a basic base layer underneath? That’s the question that led Spatz to creating the Basez (and now Basez2) base layers. The idea of different 3D weaves isn’t unique (we’ve tested similar tops from Nalini, UYN and others but Spatz have literally gone to extra lengths to maximise performance. The arms have thumb loops to bring them right down over your hands, ribbed mobility sections around the elbows and thicker 3D knit over the biceps, shoulders, chest spine and lower back for maximum warmth where it matters. The super long cut and extra tall neck stop draughts from almost helmet dial to saddle. Stretch channels and segments are knitted into the one-piece body to ensure close contact for insulation and shifting perspiration.
The result is a genuinely increased warmth and reduced wetness under any shell jacket, without any loss of mobility or uncomfortable bunching. All this tech obviously means a premium price though and the choker neck can take a bit of getting used to if you normally have your gizzard in the breeze. It leaves hard-to-explain stripes and patterns over your arms for a while too. That hasn’t stopped it becoming our go-to base layer (out of a big crate of options) on days when we know the weather is really going to be against us. It even works fine as a jersey if things turn out better than expected and the shell comes off.
Spatz BurnR Gilet
Burn is the word
Excellent temperature regulation
Ultra versatile under, mid or over layer
Spatz latest piece of gear is their most extreme yet and the one we took the longest to ‘get’. After all, a simple windproof front, mesh back gilet is a very effective pocket packing comfort booster so why would you want to pay £100 more for something with less obvious weatherproofing? The answer for riders who are working hard in aero/slim fitting kit without much wiggle room is the warmth-to-bulk ratio and the under-, in-between-, or over-layer versatility.
Using a similar seamless construction to the Basez base layer gives extra 3D airspace and warmth over the upper chest and down the sides of your spine. A light waffle pattern traps more air around the lower front and long tail, and the stretchy wave, diamond centre section and side pieces give an ultra-stretch snug fit. In fact, it’s so tight you might think you’ve got the wrong size and it can actually squeeze some warming air out at first so it definitely feels like a massive waste of money. That is until you start riding.
Even with just a limited amount of windproofing over the shoulders, it’ll hold that just-about-warm-enough temperature on those first few cold minutes, then once you start generating your own body heat, it’s like a thermal battery has switched on. It’ll recharge gently on climbs, rarely overheating, then it holds onto that heat as you go over the top onto a descent or get served a plateau of grim weather. Sweat is extremely well managed and there’s no impact on movement or circulation either.
The result is a properly toasty torso when you need it but no danger of excess sweating or zip/unzip action for as long as you ride. If you do need to take it off, it packs so small it’ll stuff just about anywhere even if your pockets are busy. The fact it works against the skin under a short sleeve jersey, over a base layer as an outer layer or as a mid-layer over a base and under a shell on really cold days, makes it super versatile too. That’s taken it from ‘why?’ to ‘where is it in the laundry heap as I totally need it for this ride’ in just a few short weeks as the weather has gone downhill.
There’s a brighter coloured, increased visibility version in the pipeline too. We do wish it had pockets to act as the cargo layer of a base and shell system, but then again that would add bulk and potentially reduce breathability, so maybe not.
If you’re doing fine through winter in your conventional kit, then Spatz is probably overkill for you. If you’re out in all weathers but not prepared to sacrifice speed, performance and fit and are suffering from inconsistent temperature/sweat regulation or just totally frozen feet, then that’s exactly where Spatz products come in.
Don’t expect a forgiving fit or instant fluffy cosiness (there’s plenty of that gear already) but if you’ve tried everything else and not found an answer to beating the weather for hour after hard hour, then this collection of highly-priced but highly innovative kit might well have the answer.