We tested the original version of Vulpine's Softshell back in 2012 and to say Jo Burt was impressed would be an understatement. That doesn't mean the London based outfitters have rested on their laurels though; there have been plenty of little tweaks along the way.
At first glance the only thing that gives away its cycling credentials is the arm length, slightly longer than you would find on a normal jacket and obviously designed to fit nicely when on the bike. The length has seen a slight increase since 2012 and it's certainly made a difference when in the saddle as they are bang on without being out of place in Civvy Street. A neat little touch is the fact that the arm length is slightly longer on the top of the arm than it is on the bottom, perfect for riding as your arms are at an angle meaning excess material at the bars will bunch or be trapped between palm and tape – little details make massive differences.
So it passes the off the bike test but I'm guessing if you've just blown £175 on a cycling jacket, on the bike is where its going to see most action. A dropped tail is a must and the Vulpine Softshell has a very subtle one which is low enough to keep any drafts at bay when in the drops. Should more coverage be required there is still the drop down bum-cover concealed inside the jacket by a couple of magnets. It's bright red with plenty of reflective detailing which makes for a decent attention grabber and in this latest version it's removable by a zip should you want to forgo it.
While we're on the subject of reflectives you do get a couple of strips on the shoulders and roll the sleeves back to reveal more making those indications easier to spot in the dark.
There is plenty of storage too. The two rear pockets have plenty of room for carrying your kit with the larger of them being covered by a storm flap held down by another of those magnets. The next is the same depth but a touch narrower and also contains a zipped valuables pocket on the outside. Apparently the larger pocket is big enough to hold a U lock and as I had a small one lying around it was put to the test. The tailored cut and strong material saw little sag from the weighty lock even over rough surfaces so I reckon we can put a tick next to that box.
Another secure pocket is found on the right sleeve, ideal for bank cards, keys, whatever you need to be able to grab quickly really. Its pretty deep so it'll hold a phone or wallet with ease.
The two front pockets are probably the only thing that I wasn't a fan of, from a cycling point of view at least. Walking around town its nice to have somewhere to put your hands but handwarmer pockets are always a compromise when on the bike. When you're bent over to reach the bars they do bunch up and can make the jacket feel a bit on the tight side. The more upright you ride the less of an issue it'll be but I wasn't exactly in a full racing crouch on my fixed.
The material is polyester with 13% Lycra to give it a small amount of give. It certainly feels robust and the water resistant properties work well in light rain and drizzle. Water beads and runs off of the material as you ride which as long as it doesn't get overwhelmed will keep you dry. Its a property of the material construction rather than a coating so you won't need to keep re-proofing the jacket. Keeping you dry on the inside are some laser cut pit vents which do a pretty good job on the breathability front. For the style of riding the Softshell is designed for the vents are up to the job.
On the whole the Vulpine Softshell has a lot of neat little touches that result in a very good jacket. The tailored fit works well on the bike as well as off of it and it really does look smart enough to wear into the office. You can adjust the high neck and hip sections as well to really dial the fit and get everything spot on.
The price has gone up (like most things) a touch since 2012 yet at £175 I think it still represents good value for money. Firstly I wear it more than any of my other cycling jackets purely because it doesn't look like a cycling jacket and judging by the quality I wouldn't need to buy another one for a good few years. There has been a couple of thread ends appear on the sleeves after some wear but really nothing that would concern me.
The Softshell will deal with all styles of riding as well and didn't look out of place with a pair of lycra tights and race shoes making it perfect for those early spring rides in the rain. In fact I've got a suggestion, Mr Vulpine: remove those front pockets to create a 'sport' version to run alongside. The dropped tail and high neck would make it perfect for winter training in a racing position.
Brilliantly designed and detailed cycling softshell that works in the pub as well as on the road
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Softshell Jacket
Size tested: Claret, M
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?
Vulpine say "A stylish utility cycling jacket to keep the elements out. Ample storage and feature laden for cool weather cycling of all types." That's pretty much what I'm looking at here, a very versatile jacket with very few compromises
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Shower resistant outer, lightweight fleece inner
* Breathable, warm & windproof
* Pleated shoulders and long arms for perfect on-bike fit
* Large rear pockets that can even fit a U lock
* Zipped valuables rear and wrist pocket
* Further handwarming and inner stowaway pockets
* Laser-cut underarm ventilation
* Magnetic closures and reflective zip-off splash guard
* Fold-back reflective wrist cuffs
* Traffic-facing reflective shoulder strips
* Adjustable high-cut collar
* Hip adjusters
* Colours - Claret, Grey, Vulpine Green
* Sizing - S,M,L,XL
* Female version available to
Really well put together and very well finished.
Does exactly what its designed to do.
A couple of small thread ends but they do nothing to offset the well made jacket and the materials have a real feeling of quality about them.
The soft inner feels comfortable against the skin and as the outer is seeing more wear the softer that is becoming too.
You get what you pay for and I'd happily hand over my hard earned for such a versatile jacket.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed as it works well for all styles of riding as well as being worn as a general jacket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit and quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only those pockets bunching really.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Whatever needs testing or Genesis Flyer, fixed of course! My best bike is: Kinesis T2 with full Centaur Red
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With a background in engineering dabbling as a CNC programmer/machinist, draughtsman and product development engineer how a bike is made is just as important to Stu as how it rides.
He knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and has been chucking bikes around the west country ever since and the only reason he climbs is so that he can descend like a nutter down the other side. After years as a competitive time triallist Stu is on the lookout for a new form of competition after realising that the choice of a few glasses of wine in the evening versus riding up and down dual carriageways at 5am was becoming very one sided.