GROUPTEST: Winter Jackets

British weather can be a fickle thing, and having the right kit can mean the world of a difference to your riding experience - especially during winter months when low light and changeable conditions are in full swing.

The LCC team tests some winter jackets that promise to keep you dry, visible and most importantly riding all throughout winter: 

HOWIES Clearim/Clearer £59

howies.co.uk
Weight: 105g
Sizes: S-XL (men); XS-XL (women)
Colours: clear or raven (men), clear (women)

Cycling jackets don’t come much more minimalist than the Clearim (or women’s Clearer) — certainly not waterproof ones. Though to call this featherweight top ‘waterproof’ is perhaps a touch misleading — the fabric itself is highly waterproof, but the jacket does not have sealed seams and there’s also large mesh underarm vents where rain could get in. In practice we’ve not had any major ingress issues, despite a few Thames Path soakings. It is also PET/PFC-free which we wish more companies would embrace. Simple hem and wrist cuffs keep the weight down and contribute to a tiny packed size; the jacket can be stuffed away into its own rear pocket (right). We’re big fans of clean, unfussy bike clothing and the Clearim’s a jacket we’d want to carry all year round.

 

METIER Beacon Gilet £180

metiercycling.com
Weight: 280g
Sizes: XS-XL (men),8-14 (women)
Colours: black only

Only officially launched last month, the new Metier range could’ve easily slotted into our Big Lights Test too. We’ve seen integrated LEDs on jackets, bags and suchlike before, but here it’s taken a stage further — on both the gilets and jackets (£250) there’s two strips of white LEDS across the shoulders (offering a claimed 160 lumens) and a row of five red LEDs across the rear (22 lumens). You can choose between constant or flashing modes, with run times from 12 to 72 hours. The small, discretely-hidden battery can be removed for USB charging (about 3hr) and controls are easy to use. We noticed quite a bit of glare from the front lights, due to their positioning; it might have been better to repeat some of the excellent rear reflectivity here instead. Also we found rucksack straps obscured their effectiveness on our commutes. The gilet’s very much a high-performance roadie style; slim fit, four-way stretch, water-repellent fabric, essentials pocket. We like the innovation, but the cost will put it out of reach for most.

MADISON Zena £120

madison.cc
Weight: 345g
Sizes: 8-16
Colours: black, purple or red

Sitting near the top of Madison’s women’s winter jacket line-up, the Zena is arguably the most versatile of the lot, being well suited to all types of riding from touring and mountain biking to the daily commute. The waterproof, seam-sealed outer material not only feels soft to the touch, but it has a lovely stretch which doesn’t feel at all restrictive on the bike. The cut is described as ‘slim’, but in temperatures below 10-degrees we’ve managed to add a jersey and midlayer comfortably; with the extra layers the hem did become a little tighter across our hips though. The adjustable hood is a really nice fit, and equally useful on and off the bike. We also much prefer these chest pockets to hip ones, which can often get in the way. It’s been a great performer overall. One side note: the ‘red’ colour option we tested  is actually more pink. You’ll love that or hate it.

 

PROVIZ Reflect 360 Plus £110

provizsports.com
Weight: 400g
Sizes: XS-XXXXL (men), 6-16 (women)
Colours: silver/grey only

Out of the packet the Reflect looks like a fairly standard bike jacket, except with a little sparkle to the outer fabric. It’s only in fading light or darkness, under the direct beam of vehicle headlamps (or fellow cyclists’ lights) that it comes alive — with millions of tiny glass beads set into the material you are completely unmissable (see inset). The fabric is extremely waterproof too, though not particularly breathable, so it’s great to find pit-zips and a rear vent for cooling. Pockets at front and rear hold the basics, and there’s plenty of adjustability at both cuffs and hem. Sizing is generous so there’s room for a layer or two beneath on colder days; a long tail keeps your back warm, while the collar has a fleece lining to snug down into. For easier-paced rides and city cycling this is a standout product in more ways than one.

REVIEWS: John K, Ellie Mahoney, Sarah Flynn