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Verdict: 
An excellent winter jacket, with highly impressive Polartec Alpha insulation and superb breathability
Weight: 
415g
Sportful R&D Light Jacket
9 10

Sportful's R&D range aims to be at the cutting-edge of cycle clothing design, and this brand new Light Jacket, with its stunningly warm but highly breathable Polartec Alpha insulation, is the perfect choice for cool and dry winter rides.

I tested (and was blown away by) the original R&D Long Sleeve Wind jersey when it was released two years ago. It has now spawned two new jackets with this new Light Jacket replacing the original. It's intended for moderate temperatures, with a recommend working range between 5 and 15°C. That's largely typical of a British winter day for most parts of the island. (The pricier R&D Zero Jacket uses a beefed-up construction to help it deal with temperatures closer to zero degrees.)

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At the heart of the R&D Light Jacket is a Polartec Alpha synthetic down used in the front, shoulder and front of sleeves panels, targeting warmth where you need it most. This limited use of the Alpha down, while it doesn't provide as much outright insulation for really cold rides compared with its more expensive version, does mean it can cope with higher temperatures and breathability is really impressive.

Sportful R and D Light Jacket - shoulder.jpg

Sportful R and D Light Jacket - shoulder.jpg

The outer layer of the jacket is made in the most part from WindWick LT fabric, with DualFit fabric used on the arm panels to enhance breathability. The combination provides effective protection against the wind, is water resistant and highly breathable. This is not a jacket designed for the rain, though it'll deal with a light and brief shower before you might want to start thinking about taking shelter, heading home, or pulling on a dedicated rain jacket. Sportful's Fiandre clothing (see my review of the Sportful Fiandre NoRain Cycling Jacket here) is better suited to dealing with changeable conditions and rain, but for keeping you warm on dry rides, this jacket is superb.

5 highlights from Sportful's autumn/winter clothing range

The use of the Polartec Alpha just in key places ensures the jacket treads that fine line between adequate insulation on colder rides but with sufficient breathability if it warms up during a longer ride. It's ideal for fast-paced winter training rides as it's very unlikely you'll overheat, provided you stay south of about 12-14°C – these actual figures will depend on how hot or cold you run and how slow or fast you cycle. You can, of course, use the full-length zipper, which is very effective at dumping any excess heat quickly, but I always found the breathability was such that I never had to touch the zipper during a ride.

Sportful R and D Light Jacket - hem.jpg

Sportful R and D Light Jacket - hem.jpg

Sportful clearly sweat the details, because this is one very nicely fitting and featured jacket. The shape is an improvement on the original: the various panels sit nicely flush with the torso, while the shaping around the shoulders and upper arms avoid any restriction of movement. Despite the Polartec insulation, it's a slim fitting jacket and the bulk and weight are both kept to a minimum. I like the large and snug wrist enclosures that ensure a good seal to prevent cold air finding its way up the sleeves and the tall collar for wrapping your neck. The waistband is a large flat elasticated band with silicone tape that keeps the jacket nicely in place.

> Buyer's guide: the best winter cycling jackets

You get three generous pockets, and quite ingeniously for a winter jacket – when you might want to take a lot of food or spare clothing – the middle pocket has a central channel of highly stretchy material that allows the pocket to expand to accommodate extra loads. There's an off-centre front zipped pocket that's an ideal place for your house keys or cake money. A smattering of reflective details, on the shoulders and rear pockets, helps you stand out in the dark.

Sportful R and D Light Jacket - back.jpg

Sportful R and D Light Jacket - back.jpg

The R&D Light Jacket is available in sizes XS to 3XL and two colours, the pictured red over black and an all-black option.

Verdict

An excellent winter jacket, with highly impressive Polartec Alpha insulation and superb breathability

road.cc test report

Make and model: Sportful R&D Light Jacket

Size tested: small, red

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?

Sportful says: "Designed for cool weather or higher-intensity rides, this jacket shares many of the features of the R&D Zero but is designed for more moderate temperatures.

"Mild winter weather, fast training rides... Still a serious winter jacket but designed for those who ride in more forgiving climates or at a fast pace. Strategically placed wind protection and insulation combined with extremely breathable inserts will keep you warm but eliminate sweat and excess heat when needed."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?

WindWick LT outer fabric is elastic, highly wind resistant, water repellent and very breathable

Polartec® Alpha® 60g insulation inserts on front, shoulders and front of sleeves for breathable warmth

DualFit fabric inserts on sleeves and back for added breathability

Bonded elastic cuff

Reflective details

1 hidden side zipped pocket

3 external rear pockets

Lie-flat elastic hem with light silicone grip

Rate the jacket for quality of construction:
 
9/10

First rate construction, as usual from Sportful.

Rate the jacket for performance:
 
9/10

An excellent cold weather jacket with great insulation for most typical British winter rides, provided it's dry.

Rate the jacket for durability:
 
8/10

I've been wearing the original for the last two years and it's been fine, and this new version is faring well too.

Rate the jacket for waterproofing, based on the manufacturer's rating:
 
5/10

It's not a waterproof jacket, the outer material is water resistant so it'll look after you in a light shower, but it's really designed for dry and cold weather.

Rate the jacket for breathability, based on the manufacturer's rating:
 
9/10

For a jacket to offer this much warmth yet prevent overheating is very impressive.

Rate the jacket for fit:
 
9/10

Sportful has managed to improve the fit of the original and the result is a very flattering and comfortable jacket.

Rate the jacket for sizing:
 
9/10

It's Italian sizing but there's a massive range of sizes to suit all shapes.

Rate the jacket for weight:
 
8/10

Considering the level of insulation it's impressively light.

Rate the jacket for comfort:
 
9/10

Superb, soft next to the skin.

Rate the jacket for value:
 
7/10

Yes it's expensive, but it's a serious investment for winter cycling and will keep you warmer than most winter jackets.

How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Very easy, it washes on a 30-degree cycle just fine.

Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Perfectly.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket

The insulation, it keeps me warm without being bulking or at the risk of overheating.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket

There's nothing to criticise – it's even got a small zipped pocket for the house keys which I love.

Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes

Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes

Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

£170 is certainly a lot of money but there aren't many jackets that are as warm as this one, thanks to the excellent Polartec Alpha down insulation, with impressive breathability sufficient to prevent overheating even during the highest tempo rides.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

5 comments

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Luv2ride [87 posts] 10 months ago
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Nice, and a slight improvement on the original R&D wind jersey, which i own and rate highly. Looks like they've sorted the odd cuffs with thumb holes on the original (which are too small not to cut off circulation when used as intended), but have sadly dispensed with the two elasticated side pockets (in addition to the standard 3 rear configuration) for bars and gels.  Weather finally seems to be turning to temperatures where I'd typically use mine again.  Can't Wait!   Prefer the new colourway though....

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MoutonDeMontagne [59 posts] 10 months ago
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@DaveArthur: How do you find the sizing across the shoulders and under the arms? I bought a medium last year, but was so tight around and under the arms I sent it back, then the large fitted like a bin bag all over and was still tight under the arms. I'm definitely closer to the Froome T-rex arms than the Track sprinter. Just seemed odd, especially as the sister Castelli medium fits perfectly. Shame as it was so soft and comfortable in comparison to a Gabba-esq soft-shell fabrics.

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David Arthur @d... [787 posts] 10 months ago
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@MoutonDeMontagne: I reviewed a size small jacket and found the sizing absolutely spot on, not tight nor baggy in the torso, shoulders or arms. Odd to hear about your sizing woes though, what size does the sizing chart have you in?

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steviewevie [45 posts] 10 months ago
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@davearthur - Have you tried the R&D Zero jacket? I've got the original R&D light wind jersey, but I want something warmer for when it's close to zero, and I tend to run cold so need some insulation. Would be interested to know if you're going to review the Zero.

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Anthony.C [233 posts] 9 months ago
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I bought last year's version in the medium and it fit me fine but this year's was rather too tight in the medium, I couldn't even zip up the neck and it was tight under the arms with a thin base layer. Maybe because it has  more insulation it's a tighter fit. Anyway, I exchanged for the lg and it's a tiny bit big but I got it for the decent price of £122 so i'm keeping it. I am 5' 8, 11 st 3lb ish, about a 38" chest, if it helps anyone.