Vulpine go for maximum style points in this collab with London designer Oliver Spencer. It's priced at a point that most of us probably wouldn't consider remotely sensible, but what was the last piece of cycling gear you bought that was made in England?
So you've got to ride into town to meet up with the partners for some drinks at that new bar. It's around 18 degrees out, but Siri suggests there might be a shower later. You toy with the idea of leaving your De Rosa hanging on the wall and taking the 911 instead, but you're a bit behind with this month's Strava 1000km challenge, so it was never really an option not to ride. What to wear?
In recent years there has been an explosion in the market for cycling gear that doesn't look too cyclisty: stuff that is cut to be comfortable on the bike while allowing you to affect the desired look when out and about off the bike. Brands like Howies, Rapha and Vulpine have succeeded in combining these seemingly conflicting needs and produced some really stylish cycling outerwear for the (fairly well-off) urban rider.
Much of this gear could still be described as technical cycle gear first, with added style. Increasingly, however, we're seeing items which are closer to "traditional" tailoring, with added cycling features. Rapha and Vulpine now offer blazers in their range, and this is Vulpine's offering, which was designed in conjunction with Oliver Spencer. I'm not in Shoreditch and wasn't familiar with Spencer or his oeuvre, so I had to rely on Wikipedia, which informed me that he was an officer in the American Revolutionary War.
His collaboration with British cycling brand Vulpine has resulted in a dark blue single-breasted blazer, conceived, they say, over a coffee. The jacket has obvious influences from both its parents - the lining shares the contrasting seam trim previously seen on Vulpine's other jackets, this time in striking white. There are also welcome details like the concealed reflectives (when you fold up the cuffs and the collar, and a bit more in a split at the bottom of the back), again a signature Vulpine touch.
Oliver Spencer (yes, my research extended beyond Wikipedia) chipped in with the modern styling of the blazer itself, with design details such as the external pockets being subtly different to what you'd find elsewhere. The fabric is a mix of 63% cotton and 37% nylon, designed to be showerproof - not something that many blazers can claim. I found that water does indeed bead up and roll off as you'd expect from a decent soft-shell. Vulpine have a fair bit of experience with water-resistant cotton, using their Epic Cotton fabric in a range of rain jackets.
The fabric is not particularly warm, meaning that this is definitely better suited to warm spring afternoons or summer evenings. The front panels are lined with a cotton/polyester blend, giving a bit of wind resistance, and the back and sleeves are unlined. I've been wearing this in March and April, and the days where it was warm enough to wear just this and a t-shirt were fairly few and far between. Come the summer months I'd anticipate getting a bit more use out of it without shivering.
In terms of what it's like on the bike, I found it to be quite comfortable for making leisurely, gentlemanly progress around town. Vulpine say that if you're planning to ride much on the drops then you should consider a size up, but let's be honest you're not going to be riding far or very fast dressed like this. I didn't use it at all at night time as it was simply not warm enough, but the inclusion of good quality reflective tape will make this a definite option come summer evenings. Each armpit has a couple of metal vent holes to let some moisture out, although this feels like a token gesture as there's plenty of air coming in the front anyway.
Sizing is by chest size, like a suit jacket, running from 36in to 46in. The 42in fit me well enough with a pleasing slim cut, although on the bike (even riding on the tops) the sleeves were arguably a little on the short side for me. With the cuffs folded up for night-riding, they were palpably too short. It's a compromise, obviously, between the fit off-bike and when riding.
Storage-wise I'm pleased to see there aren't pockets at the rear. Rapha's similarly priced cycling blazer has one, and I don't think it looks right. You do have three open pockets on the outside and a couple of rather small ones (one with a button closure) inside. Neither of the internal pockets are big enough to fit an average-sized smartphone, and I'd be a little hesitant to trust it to one of the outside pockets, but that's what your manbag is for. Disappointingly, the stitching holding one of the external pockets in place started to unravel after only a handful of times wearing it.
As I mentioned, the collar folds up when you want to unleash the reflective, and is held up by closing a couple of buttons at the neck. Don't be fooled into thinking that this will keep your neck and chest warm in the way that a dedicated cycling jacket would when zipped up - it is a blazer after all.
So would I buy it? No, I probably wouldn't, and definitely not at that price. I bought a Vulpine soft shell a while back, which is a staple in my wardrobe, and if I had this sort of money then I'd more likely consider one of Vulpine's more cyclisty jackets like the Harrington - a full £100 cheaper. But if this is your style, and your bonus just came in, you might well like it. If you are in the market, you'll likely have looked at Rapha's lapelled jacket too, which claims to be quick drying but not to offer any water-resistance. On the flip-side, Rapha do claim that their cotton/nylon blend has some stretch built in, which is not the case here.
Expensive smart cyclewear that's made in the UK; water resistance is a bonus, better stitching may be needed
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Cycling Blazer
Size tested: 42
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
British menswear designer Oliver Spencer teams up with Vulpine to launch a limited edition tailored cycling blazer. Designed with the urban cyclist in mind, the jacket perfectly combines the style and aesthetic of Oliver Spencer with the technicality and cycling expertise of Vulpine.
Fitted with the on-bike position in mind, the showerproof fabric is cut to allow plenty of reach. Hidden reflective cuffs and rear vent increase road visibility at night and the lapels join with a signature Vulpine icon button to keep inclement weather at bay. Underarm vent holes keep things cool when the weather gets warmer.
Once the bike is locked up, the blazer transforms into a sartorially considered jacket, standing out at the office meeting, while not looking out of place standing at the photocopier. Inside, contrasting finished seams and two inner pockets are a nod to the details outside.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Performance, showerproof fabric
Made in England
Gunmetal under-arm ventilation
Vulpine v-stitched button collar
Reflective fold back cuffs
Reflective flip collar
Subtle reflective tail split
White seam trim
Cut for city cycling
Marked down as one of the pockets has started to come apart from the jacket, which is hard to forgive at this price. Otherwise no issues.
Pleasant to use on the bike when it's getting warmer, and you arrive looking more dashing than you normally do. Water resistance is a bonus for those occasions where you didn't expect the rain - if you knew it was going to piss it down then let's face it you'd probably opt for something more technical.
Blazers aren't generally that comfortable on a bike, so this is better than most. Test period was on the cold side for this sort of thing, but it'll be nice when it warms up a bit.
From my perspective, this is a very expensive blazer. I like that it's made in Britain, but from my personal perspective, I can't see how it's worth £100 more than some of Vulpine's other lovely stuff.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Was a nice surprise to discover that the water resistance was all present and correct. I like the hidden reflectives - Vulpine are pretty good at that sort of thing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Pocket needing stitching up so early in its life.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Doubtful.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.