we've been through all the whys and wherefores regarding cycling apparel nomenclature on more than one previous occasion, so it would seem a tad surplus to requirements to go into it all again, just because the situation has reared its head once more. however, on this particular occasion there's probably less confusion than has often been the case. sometimes jersey's are jackets and sometimes jackets are jerseys, creating much confusion at the point of initial choice. in terms of layering, at this time of year, a baselayer and jersey topped with a jacket would surely be not too ostentatious, not to mention fairly pragmatic, and it's very much the way i like to clothe myself for those less than clement days in the saddle.
according to common lore, this is not a system exclusive to the cycling fraternity, having been inherited from other forms of outdoor excercise. if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us.
however, such is the pace of technological development, that fabrics appear capable of excluding at least one of the originally mentioned layers purely because they've been crammed into the one garment. such as shutt velo rapide's performance jacket for instance. several years ago, with the complicitness of the guys at shutt, i concocted a story concerning the mythical willy shutt who retired to northern england after a mediocre cycling career to fabricate cycle clothing. in so doing, mostly due to the season, his first products were thermally proficient, leading to stockists having signs on the door proclaiming 'shutt for the winter'.
alarmingly, despite many geographical and historical holes in my biography of willy, more than one or two fell for it hook, line and sinker, a predicament that led to one or two embarrassing e-mail replies. however, at the risk of repeating myself, their latest performance jacket fulfils the shutt for the winter epithet in manifest form. and despite my commendation of the layering system, the three-layer bonded fabric that constitutes this particular garment very much gives cause for at least brief reconsideration.
however, old habits die hard, and in the process of popping out for a quick three hours on the cielo, i wore a baselayer and long-sleeve jersey beneath the jacket. of course i didn't really need to, but i am a creature of habit. the shutt performance jacket is of commendable heft, yet remarkably lightweight and cosily lined with soft fluffy fleece, including that very high collar. the full length front zip disappears into a large zip garage at the top, and a fold over flap features a couple of velcro patches to keep it shut (sorry) when pummeling into a galeforce headwind. there are three substantial rear pockets, the outer two scalloped and elasticated at the top while the middle one is zipped and water-resistant.
strangely, the shutt website claims the jacket to feature four rear pockets plus the zipped one, but mrs washingmachinepost and i could find only a total of three.
despite being all over black, below all three and above the centre pocket there are substantial reflective strips, along with reflective piping at the shoulders front and rear. below the lower reflective strip at the back is a dropped hem to keep your bum dry if you haven't had the sense to fit mudguards. it's a stylish piece of kit claimed to be both waterproof and breathable, though as pointed out by shutt "Seams are lock stitched but not sealed, so prolonged downpours may result in some water ingress" for the purposes of reviewing, i completely ignored their advice and wore the jacket for over two hours in persistent heavy rain, blown about a bit by northerly atlantic winds. it seemed the decent thing to do.
it turns out i should have taken shutt's advice and dispensed perhaps with the cycle jersey in favour of simply that baselayer. despite temperatures in single digits, it's a very cosy jacket, and windproof to a fault. that very high collar that i thought likely to give a bit of grief (i truly thought it was too tall) in fact kept any neck draughts at bay, virtually meeting my winter hat at the rear. its waterproofing kept that rain at bay for over half an hour, before succumbing to the inevitable and letting water in through the sleeves (why is it always the sleeves that go first?). eventually the jersey front also became mildly damp, but less so than i'd expected given the weather conditions (i rode through several hundred metres of submerged road surface throughout the principality).
in heavy and persistent rain, a waterproof outer shell would be advisable.
the fit is good; i could perhaps have done with an extra centimetre or so in the arm length, but there's certainly sufficient space to conceal a baselayer and a winterweight jersey without cutting off blood flow to the outer extremities. despite the stated three-layer technical fabric and a fleece lining, the performance jacket is sufficiently flexible to allow unrestricted movement on and off the bike. the one facet conspicuous by its absence, and a simple one at that, is a collar loop allowing it to be hung on a hook while scoffing toasties and supping froth. it's amazing (to me at least) how often this detail is left out of otherwise exceptional jackets.
considering the weather and temperatures likely to be experienced this winter (some newspapers are already forecasting the coldest winter on record) the necessity to wrap up warm is incumbent on our cycling wardrobes. shutt for the winter may well become a commonly repeated phrase.
the shutt performance jacket is available only in black, in sizes from small to xxl (medium size reviewed) at a retail cost of £149 from the shutt website
wednesday 6 november 2013