Spring is sprong-ing all around heralding milder, drier weather, with longer road bike rides around the corner. As I know from other high energy activities, a breathable windproof layer is essential in these conditions to keep the breeze off but allow you to remain dry, especially on those cool mornings.
My existing windproof is a Buffalo Curbar Windtop smock. This has served me well over the last few years of winter fell running and occasionally on the bike but I think Buffalo tend to cut their products to suit people who are a bit shorter than me for a given chest size. They also tend to be a bit more generous around the middle. Net result is that it is baggy around the sleeves (because of the smock style cut) and around the middle. This is fine when walking or running but hilly descents on the bike have it flapping and carrying on annoyingly.
I shall continue to use it for winter shenannigans and probably on the mountain bike where speed isn't so much of a concern. The large chest pocket is pretty fabulous for maps/gloves/snacks/etc. However for road cycling, I wanted something better cut and more visible - the black of the Buffalo isn't the best thing for being seen on the roads!
Also, this top could be doubly useful for long walking/running events like the Fellsman or adventure racing where light weight and versatility is an advantage.
- Cycling specific cut for use on the road bike. Being bent forward, arms out in front mandates longer arms and a longer back
- Light or bright colour. I could have had my pick of black jackets! Blue, red, white or green for preference, yellow/orange if I must
- Lightweight and packable. Should weigh less than the 260g that my Buffalo weighs and pack down better too.
I looked on Ultralight Outdoor Gear, Needlesports and Wiggle and a few other places. Also road.cc had a comparative review of cycling windproof jackets. The best looking jacket was the Montane Featherlite Velo and it came in white (looks cool) but UOG didn't have stock in the white colour. Thankfully Winstanleys had stock of the white jacket in medium and shipped it promptly with minimal fuss.
I like Montane gear and I've got plenty of it (a Minimus jacket and pants, a Prism vest and a Prism jacket) and it performs well and generally fits well.
Some of the more interesting points on the product page include
Some of the more interesting points on the product page include
- Rear vents behind the shoulders
- Different fabric (or fabric treatment?) on rear of arms and back for increased breathability at the expense of windproofness
- Weight 135g
- DWR treatment on fabric for increased shower-proof-ness
- "Bike specific active cut with articulated, extra length arms and extended drop tail"
- Jacket style so a full zip for easier venting and taking on and off (smock style is a pain sometimes)
- Elasticated cuffs. The Buffalo has velcro tab cuffs which don't stay pulled up your arms
- Elasticated hem, we'll have to see how we get on with this one
- Reflective detail on front zip and rear shoulders
- Little stuff sac for storage, always handy!
I've used a similar scheme to the reviews on the excellent road.cc website for evaluating the jacket. It will be slightly skewed because I don't have much to reference it against so no scores!
The blurb from Montane says
"The Featherlite™ Vélo Jacket is indispensable on long cool trail rides, big Alpine tours and city commutes. Featuring rear 'Afterburner' vents that help keep your core body temperature stable, the Featherlite™ Vélo is an essential wind and showerproof biking jacket."So perfect for spring riding then!
Upon showing the new purchase to Louise she commented that it was the same as her, now slightly faded, yellow jacket and she'd been happy using that for the last few years so this bodes well. I've also spotted that my ickle bruv has a black one as well after a recommendation from a mutual friend. A popular top.
All the seams are nicely sewn and finished with no raw fabric edges. The detailing around the rear vents is good and the reflective strip running the length of the front zip is a nice touch along with the reflective flashes on elbows and shoulders. Using 3M Scotchlite material means they really are reflective! The elastic waist and cuffs are snug without being too tight. I can roll up the sleeves past my elbows fairly easily and they certainly won't slip back down again yet I don't feel like the blood is being cut off from my arms. Success.
The collar appears to be made of double thickness material which gives it some structure, especially when it the jacket isn't fastened up all the way to the top. When it is zipped up it gives plenty of protection to the neck with plenty of added warmth.
The zipper tab is quite small and can be awkward to find with one gloved hand. I can understand the reasoning behind keeping it small as a large zip would change the aesthetic of the jacket. I may add a small loop of cord as an experiment.
The white fabric really stands out against most backgrounds, both urban and rural and is quite striking, even slightly fashionable. Caveat: my sartorial judgement is generally questionable! I'll probably keep this one off the mountain bike for now as I'm not expecting the white colour to last long with me inside it but I'd rather prolong it as long as possible!
The stuff sac is a good size and highlights just how small this jacket can be packed away. However I'm not so sure about the large strap on it and how useful this is. I can't think of anywhere on the bike that I'd strap it to apart from maybe the saddle rails. Perhaps a smaller diameter Velcro strap could be useful for attaching the stuff sac to more points?
Rear pocket. One one hand it might be nice to have a couple of rear pockets for general stuffing of things like phone, food, etc. However this would compromise the lightness of the jacket and probably it's intended purpose of being worn over a cycling jersey (with pockets). This isn't a criticism, just pointing out the compromise.
First ride was a morning sprint to work on the road bike with a smelly old synthetic base layer underneath. The temperature was about 3ºC and minimal wind, very cool but not quite chilly. Down the short hill to the main road from my house is usually a cold start to a ride but apart from cool arms the rest of me was fine. Ratcheting up the speed meant I was getting warmer but despite putting in a good effort this morning I was a perfect temperature on arrival and despite the fact I'd been sweating I was quite dry. A longer ride in the evening tackling some larger hills led me to becoming quite warm but not uncomfortably so with the zip down. I didn't notice much billowing of the back during longer descents, perhaps the rear vents were doing their thing and equalising the pressures.
Colder rides is where the jacket shines. Once up to temperature on the inside (pedalling required) it helps regulate temperature brilliantly. The collar keeps the neck warm, an area where I tend to suffer as I seem to have lots of neck.
My commute isn't a long ride so by the time I've warmed up properly I'm often only a mile from work. When it is cold, I tend to overdress more than I would for a long ride. With this jacket that consists of the usual long sleeved baselayer with a Montane Prism Vest underneath to keep my core warm. This is a good combination when the temperature is between -1ºC and 3ºC.
One very windy commute (14m/s = 30mph headwind) showed the windproofness off brilliantly, with nothing getting through the jacket.
The jacket is good in light drizzle with the water beading up lightly on the outside. I haven't taken it out in heavier drizzle yet but I'm not expecting it to be as good a a waterproof as that's not the point.
So far so good. Dirt thrown up by the back wheel onto the back wipes off well, probably aided by the DWR treatment.
The shoulders are showing no signs of "pilling" like my Buffalo top after several rides. Washing in Tech Wash gets the dirt out OK, my only concern is how long it will stay white for.
The kitchen scales report 135g for the jacket which is spot on with the spec. The stuff sac adds another 15g to take the total to 150g. The Featherlite name is very appropriate.
I hardly notice that I am wearing it which is a good sign. Cut is good, it doesn't flap around in the breeze. The cuffs stay where they are. There is a tiny bit of hem lift under a rucksack hip belt but nothing major.
I payed £50 for the jacket from Winstanleys with free shipping which I think represents very good value for such a comfortable, well cut and lightweight jacket.
I would say I'm very happy with the comfort and performance of this jacket. It fits me well, and ticks all the main requirements I had. I would definitely recommend it to a friend.