though i can only attest to the current technological developments in the world of velocipedinal apparel, i know from a process of osmosis that it stands not alone. only a matter of days ago, a news item concerned whether it was an appropriate use of a government funded antarctic research vessel to guide a cruise ship through the northern passages, a debate that may not yet be resolved. but if there are sufficient numbers of tourists wishing to brave the sub-zero temperatures of the arctic or antarctic, it seems more than likely that they will all be in need of appropriate attire.
that need will doubtless have kickstarted an entire series of new ranges from the outdoor folks, keen to outfit all those well-heeled tourists in sore need of colourful, stylish outdoor-wear with an entire array of technical features that can be discussed over a cooked, on-board breakfast. so aside from the possibility of improved sales to a hitherto non-existent market, there will be a pressing need from the various marketing departments to populate the hang-tags with all manner of technical jargon.
yet, almost like the resurgence of merino wool, now positioned as one of the ultimate technical fabrics, there is a material originally developed as far back as the 1930s, designed to replace a perceived national shortage of flax for fire hoses and water buckets. the research into just such a replacement centred around the use of cotton threads, but woven in such a way as to keep water in. this research was subsequently diverted towards the complementary feature of waterproofing demanded by wartime pilots required to ditch their hurricane aircraft in the sea (there was no means of landing them on the decks of the merchant ships from which they had been catapulted.)
trials commenced at manchester's shirley institute eventually resulted in a woven cotton fabric which they termed ventile. military clothing manufactured from this new material was begun in 1943 and extended those pilots' life expectancy in the water from a few minutes to almost twenty. the association of ventile with the military continues to this day.
ventile is made from 100% cotton fibres, neither coated nor laminated. it's the combination of the material's woven density and a propensity to swell when wet that provides its excellent waterproofing abilities. naturally enough, the weave also provides the ideal level of windproofing and comfort as well as a concomitant degree of breathability.
so why don't we use it for cycling jackets then?
that is a rather excellent question, but unfortunately one that i'm unable to answer. what i do hope to answer is how well a greenspot double-ventile jacket from hilltrek of aboyne, aberdeenshire fares as a cycling jacket, given that its original purpose might not have been cycling specific. it's quite probably also worth pointing out that this is not the sort of jacket that chris froome would pop back to the team car for, in the event of a sudden bout of inclement weather. hilltrek's greenspot seems more the jacket to be worn for commuting or touring purposes.
the epithet double-ventile most likely refers to the jacket's construction, featuring a ventile outer along with a ventile inner lining, though it's not without credibility that the latter might impact, however subtly, upon the jacket's ultimate breathability.
the reason that this review will occupy two distinct parts, has a great deal to do with the weather that the hebrides has experienced these past few weeks. the curse of the waterproof review is well-known; receive a waterproof jacket or jersey through the post and there's every chance that the weather will be bone-dry for longer than i can reasonably get away with, yet not send an e-mail of apology to the supplier. so far, i have sent two e-mails of apology to hilltrek.
that's not to say that i haven't managed to get it wet on more than a solitary occasion, nor that it hasn't been worn while meaningfully pedalling somewhere, but i'm sure you'd agree that a jacket of this provenance deserves a thorough soaking, preferably in the teeth of a howling gale, climatic conditions that have been conspicuous by their absence of late. that particular set of circumstances will have to wait until part two.
though available with a detachable hood (at extra cost), that would seem an unnecessary appendage from a cyclist's point of view, given that a substantial number of us would be inclined to wear a helmet in any case. if you intend adding one of these superlative jackets to your walking gear wardrobe, you may wish to take this under advisement. despite the double-ventile construction, the jacket is impressively light weight, meaning that wearing it even in humid conditions is far less onerous than its genre would suggest.
from a cycling perspective, the greenspot has a number of features in its favour, the most obvious of which is the existence of two rear (zipped) pockets. though sticking a mini-pump in one of those necessitates leaving it unzipped, in practice that's hardly much of a problem. ventile offers no stretch whatsoever, but that's hardly something unseen on a number of cycle jackets. and though the jacket displays no excessive degree of flappage even into a headwind, there are two adjustable straps to pull the torso a smidgeon tighter should you experience any while pedalling.
my blaze orange review sample is medium-sized, offering an excellent compromise between closeness of fit and the ability to add layers later in the year (when it's not quite so sunny and warm) it's perfectly comfortable in both the sit-up-and-beg position and on the drops. the latter position, however, showed up the one noticeable flaw; the sleeves are just a tad too short; another centimetre wouldn't have gone amiss. in mitigation, hilltrek offer the option of custom-length sleeves (at extra cost). definitely worth considering in my opinion.
in addition to the two rear pockets, the greenspot offers another four on the front: two vertically zipped editions up top, and two zipped hand pockets lower down. the collar is impressively versatile, allowing it to be positioned up or down depending on the prevailing weather conditions. the sleevs can be effectively closed to the elements by way of velcro straps. this is a handy and convenient method of controlling ventilation other than by way of the full-length two-way front zip. this hides a similar length ventile baffle behind to maintain the weatherproofing. it would have been nice to see a drawcord at the hem, but until the weather deteriorates, i can't say whether such a feature might be necessary.
i have managed to get the jacket wet, but not quite in the proportions that it is capable of sustaining. even in a brief, yet heavy shower, the rain simply beads on the surface and rolls off. pretty much any waterproof jacket worth its salt will display similar properties, but usually only as far as the first couple of washes. despite being of cotton construction, the washing instructions supplied by hilltrek do not allow for throwing the jacket in the nearest washing machine. dry-clean only at least promises that the waterproofing properties are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. it does, however, provide a minor problem for those of us who live nowhere near a dry-cleaner.
but i can't expect to have everything. right?
with a bit of luck, the heavens will open sometime soon, accompanied by at least an afternoon's gale-force wind and i can gain some quality time with a quality jacket that i really, really like. part two will be here when that happens.
hilltrek's double-ventile greenspot jacket is available in sizes xs to xl and a range of colours including bronze, red, black, olive, navy, stone and cinnamon as well as the blaze orange reviewed. price is £235. a detachable hood costs another £45. | hilltrek double ventile greenspot jacket
thursday 23 june 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................