Seasoned long distance rider, Emily sure knows a thing or two about kit. In her latest blog post, she’s reviewed our Women’s Waterproof Utility Jacket. We have a “fetish for fastenings” you say?…
I haven’t always been a fan of waterproofs. Most of the ones I’ve tried so far have been wonderful – until they weren’t. When friends asked me to recommend a cycling jacket for rainy days, I would apologetically inform them I couldn’t help, all I could do was tell them the things that would eventually go wrong: the zips that jammed and frayed; the boil-in-the-bag fabric that ensured I was as damp on the inside as I was on the outside; the seams that let water in and the sleeves that wouldn’t let it out until I got off the bike, let my arms drop to my sides, and watched a waterfall cascade out of each sleeve; the terrible terrible smell.
I’d resigned myself to being someone for whom waterproofs didn’t work, and more or less given up wearing one except in the dead of winter (after all, skin is waterproof too, is it not?).
And then I was handed a Vulpine Utility Jacket, and had my faith restored.
The jacket works the way a waterproof is supposed to work – it keeps the weather out, and it keeps the warmth (or the coolness) in. Obvious, you might think, but it’s surprising how few waterproofs fall at this first hurdle. I’ve been wearing the jacket for six months now – it kept me dry as I rode through the first stormy night of the Transcontinental; it kept me warm when I camped near the summit of Mont Ventoux; it kept me well-ventilated through the Welsh autumn; it’s endured through 12-hour rides in the rain, and it’s survived recent outings that felt more like mud-wrestling than mountain biking.
One of the secret ingredients of this wonder-garment is the three diagonal vents up each side. These look distinctly like gills, and they work in much the same way, allowing air to flow in and out of the jacket, but stopping the water from coming in with it. (They also, if you go for the grey version, make you look like a shark, which pleases me immensely.) For sweaty riders like me, or those who like to overdo it on the climbs (no, I don’t know what you’re talking about), this is what sets the jacket firmly apart from its rivals.
I have proved again and again, over the years, that one of my greatest talents as a cyclist is the ability to wear out kit more frequently, improbably and creatively than any other rider. As yet, the Vulpine Utility Jacket remains intact. It’s not only wonderfully sturdy, with reinforced shoulders and taped seams throughout – it’s also scattered with a host of satisfying and ingenious little details, that ensure it’s not only built to last, but also fun to wear.
Vulpine seems to have a fetish for fastenings. The Utility Jacket has reverse coil zips on the pockets, sewn into the garment in such a way that I’ve never managed to snag them (even when extracting snacks whilst riding at high speed), and augmented with little leather tabs, which are nicely tactile, and seem tolerant of my bad habit of fiddling with them whenever I don’t have my hands on the bars.
There’s a bright green splash guard at the back (with reflective trimmings), which can be zipped off entirely, or – one of my favourite features – held neatly in place with a couple of magnets, meaning that you won’t end up snagging your favourite cycling jersey on velcro, or fussing around with poppers when you want to stow the splash guard mid-ride.
There’s a hood: it comes with a zip so you can take it off if you want to, and it tightens with a neat little elasticated drawstring, which is entirely internal, so won’t swing around when you’re riding, accidentally strangling you, or whacking you in the face with toggles.
The jacket’s a relaxed and roomy fit, but comfortable to ride in, with articulated arms and a dipped waistline at the back. It launders well (mine still performs impeccably, having ended up in the washing machine after several mudbaths), and what’s more, is slightly smarter than your average anorak (and doesn’t scream ‘sportswear’), so can convincingly be worn off the bike.
In the interests of offering a balanced review, I’ve scoured my mind for any faults or drawbacks. My main complaints (and they’re minuscule) would be that the lycra cuffs, though cosy, mean that the jacket’s harder to take off, especially when it’s damp, or you’re wearing gloves, or you have especially large hands (like me). And even when neatly folded, and minus its hood, it’s a little too bulky to squeeze into a jersey pocket. Closer inspection reveals a couple of points around the shoulders and collar where the taped seams are beginning to come loose.
But all in all, the Utility Jacket is quite a find. It’s been a constant companion through half a year of road cycling and mountain biking, plus long rainy hikes and the occasional run, and it’s presentable enough to wear when I’m cycling around London in between meetings and interviews. It keeps me dry, it gives me style, and it makes me look like a shark. Now, if Vulpine will only bring out an attachable fin…