On those cooler days when the weather just can't make up its mind to rain or shine, you need a lightweight, packable waterproof jacket, and the Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield is one of the best on offer. It comes at a price, though.
The Acqua Pro is part of Northwave's Rainshield Hi Plus range, which uses a membrane bonded to the fabric to keep the wind and rain out, well, to a degree anyway. Waterproofing is rated by how much water the fabric can deal with before it gets overwhelmed, and the Northwave can withstand up to 5,000mm in a hydrostatic head test. In the real world that means drizzle and light to average rainfall, the sort of conditions that the Acqua copes admirably in, helped by the fully taped seams. That membrane also keeps a chilly wind out.
Making something waterproof often has a negative effect on breathability, and this type of 100% polyester race cape often suffers quite badly. The Northwave can still get clammy, but it is definitely one of the better ones.
Around the 10°C mark, with a mesh baselayer and short-sleeved jersey on, I noticed the jacket starting to stick to my bare arms due to perspiration. That was at a reasonably brisk training pace, and while my jersey was also starting to get the same clammy feeling, it wasn't something I noticed while riding, only when I stopped.
Bearing in mind Northwave pitches this jacket for winter riding, I'd say it's acceptable because at, say, 3-5°C everything is fine, plus you can always undo the zip to let air flow in the front and out of the rear shoulder mesh vent. You soon learn how to regulate your body temperature.
The jacket's easy to get on and off while in the saddle, and folds down small enough to fit in a rear pocket so you don't have to keep it on for the entire ride.
It has a very race-orientated fit with a slender body that prevents any flapping in the wind and a very long dropped tail that's great for keeping road spray off your rear. A reasonably high neck stops draughts, and the arms are long enough when in a racing tuck to stop gaps between the elasticated cuffs and your gloves. (They have thumb loops too, if you want to hold them in place.)
You get a large pocket around the back and it's zipped for security. I wasn't really a fan of carrying too much in it, though, because the extra weight can make the jacket sag a bit and cause stuff to bounce around.
Colour-wise you have a couple of options: clear for that pro look, allowing your kit to show through, or the one we have here, part of Northwave's Be Visible range of fluoro gear. The material used means it isn't the brightest jacket out there, though.
Overall, the Northwave Acqua Pro is a great ambassador for the race cape genre, but you have to pay for that. At £99.99 it's one of the most expensive I've tested, and it's a little difficult to justify at full price, especially with the breathability being a slight issue.
One of the best of the bunch for showery days, but shop around for a discount
road.cc test report
Make and model: Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket
Size tested: Medium, Yellow Fluo
Tell us what the jacket 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?
Northwave says: "Defend against the downpours over the colder seasons. The Acqua Pro features Rainshield Hi Plus fabric in a fully seam taped assembly for complete wind and waterproof protection. A lightweight and ergonomic protection layer for committed winter cyclists."
It's an ideal jacket for those showery days when the weather can't make up its mind.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Main Fabric: 100% polyester tricot with internal breathable membrane
Protection Rating: 5000 mm waterproof & windproof
Zip: Reversed custom zip with camlock puller
Vent Inserts: Rear panel
Pockets: Rear pocket
Reflectivity: Front and rear reflective piping and print, extra safety left arm printing
Fully seam taped inner
Extended rear panel
Water control elastic cuff
Neat and tidy.
Keeps light rain out but not the most breathable.
A solid feeling zip and tough material.
5,000mm should resist 'light to average rain' and that is exactly what the Northwave does.
Around the 10°C mark things start to get a bit clammy but as Northwave aims this jacket at the winter months I'd say it's acceptable.
A slim race fit to stop any flapping, with a long dropped tail for protection from road spray.
The sizing in reality matches that of the sizing chart.
Weighs next to nothing and barely noticeable on your back or in a jersey pocket.
The material can feel odd against bare skin but that is the only issue.
At £99.99 it's at the higher end for this type of jacket. It goes a long way to justify it though, with its cut and quality.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Northwave recommends a simple 30°C wash and natural dry. The odd mud stain was left over after washing if it had been a seriously wet ride.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a windproof and waterproof the Northwave does its job as you'd expect, and although breathability isn't brilliant it's one of the better options for this style of jacket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The high price.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes, if I could get a decent discount.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Northwave Acqua is a very good jacket compared with its rivals. I've worn this style of jacket from various brands over the past few years and this one is a little bit better than the rest all over. That high price stops it scoring a 9 for exceptional though.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
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
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.