Ashmei portrays itself as being up among the best in the sports garment sector, and this premium cycling-specific Waterproof Jacket certainly hits the mark with excellent performance – but a very high price.
- Pros: Waterproof, breathable, good looks
- Cons: Not as light as some competitors; very expensive
It's that time of year again, where the chance of the odd shower is reversed to the chance of the odd dry spell, and a waterproof outer layer is an essential piece of kit to take with you on pretty much every ride. I've had a good few over the years, some decent and some terrible. This striking red offering from British brand Ashmei fits into the upper echelons of the scale.
First off, I think it looks great. The bright red is suitably vibrant and easy to spot, and though the fabric is simply labelled as '100% polyester' it has a quality, 'premium' soft feel.
The specifications feature lots of large numbers: a 20,000mm waterproof rating and 45,000 for breathability. In layman's terms it's very thin and lightweight, yet remarkably water resistant and breathable.
Detailing is a big plus point here too. The laser cut edges are very neatly finished, with fully taped seams and YKK water resistant zips on all closures – the main jacket zip, two under-arm vents and a valuables pocket. There are also laser cut holes in the stuff pockets at the rear to allow any water to drain away, with one of the three pockets having a magnetic flap over it, and the middle pocket having an elastic loop to keep a pump in place.
The printed reflective dotted stripe on the rear of the jacket is a useful and stylish feature, and seems to be robust too.
The cut is nearer to race than loose fitting, not tight but with a little room to breathe. The material is also quite stretchy allowing for a bit of bulge here and there, if you have a large chest or arms for example. The cuffs are finished with an elastane band with a good amount of stretch to get your hands through, while then remaining close on the wrist, far preferable to a Velcro fixing in my opinion.
The neck is a standard length collar lined with the same material finish as the outer layer, which is soft to the touch and comfortable. As with most cycling waterproof jackets it also features a tail that drops three inches or so below the hem, with a silicone gripper of sorts in the shape of the company's 'outperforming the best' statement and more of the dots.
As I mentioned, all four zips are YKK water resistant, which look to be sealed on the outer edges after being stitched in place. As a result, they are a little stiffer to open and close than a standard zip, but for good reason.
The jacket felt comfortable on, with the soft feel translating to the inner, and light enough to be almost unnoticeable. Worn over a jersey and arm warmers the jacket could move about as I changed position and even against bare skin it didn't feel plastic-like. With a couple of thicker layers on it did tend to ride up the arms and torso a little, the silicone 'gripper' not helping an awful lot as it's too small really, but it never got to the point where I felt I needed to stop and readjust.
Those three rear pockets are as generous as any jersey's (if not as elastic and stuffable) and more than capable of holding a good number of items. The pocket with the magnetic flap is extremely useful for keeping paperwork and maps dry without making getting at them difficult, while the zipped side entry pocket kept my phone and money – albeit plastic anyway now – bone dry.
I don't tend to carry a pump in my pockets, but did try out the internal loop for the test; the small barrel one I use the most was easy enough to get in and out, but a larger barrelled pump was a bit awkward – it was far easier to put it in the pocket and loop before putting the jacket on. Mind you, bearing in mind the cost of the jacket you may want to refrain from putting messy food or oily/dirty items in there anyway.
Out on the road, I did wonder if the high cost and those big technical numbers would make a difference over my cheaper and less high-tech go-to Endura jacket. A seemingly perfect opportunity arose with a planned ride starting in pouring rain.
Confidently starting out, the way the rain bounced off the jacket then beaded up before swiftly running off was impressive. However, the rain lasted 10 minutes and stopped. For the rest of the ride. No mind, I kept the jacket on for another hour in fairly mild temperatures to check the breathability. True to its claims, despite working hard with the temperature around 14 degrees I didn't get too hot; warm, yes, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Against bare arms it did start to feel a bit clammy but not wet.
When it did get too warm, because of its light weight and lack of bulk it folded up nicely into a jersey pocket.
I rode a few more times with the jacket, only encountering showers but nothing prolonged, which for the UK was unusual and, in this case, annoying. Again, it mocked the rain and didn't overheat, but it needed a proper test. Almost resorting to the shower, a Sunday club run had a suitable forecast: cold, windy and plenty of rain. Excellent.
Setting out of the door it was raining lightly and did so for the first 10 miles, a good 40 minutes of continuous rain, but I remained nice and dry. Later into the ride, with the jacket still on as once more it kept me comfortably warm and never too hot, the heavens opened and the group got the best (or worst) the clouds could throw at us: heavy continuous rain and even a few hail showers. A couple of the group turned back it was so bad, but we pressed on, me feeling smug, and by the time we got to the café, I was still nice and dry while virtually all the others were wet to some extent.
I did get the odd drip down the back of the neck – I don't wear a Buff/neckwear around the neck, which would have soaked this up, so personally I would prefer a taller collar, but I accept that just as many people probably don't like the collar high up on the throat. The elastane cuffs did soak in water, but if worn on the outside of your (waterproof) gloves it isn't a problem. If the cuffs were tucked into your winter gloves then water would run down into the glove as with any jacket/glove combo worn this way.
The jacket garnered some discussion over tea and cake after that, with my club mates impressed with its performance and looks – the consensus being that the high cost justifies a quality bit of kit that does its job so well.
I put it through the wash a couple of times during the test, not so much through being dirty – that clever material seems to shun dirt as, once dry, any dirt drops off – and following the instructions of 30-degree wash, no tumble drying or ironing, it came out as good as new, with none of the printed details showing signs of peeling or wear, and performance was consistent when used following the wash.
The material seems durable, and provided you look after it should last a good few years and keep you nice and dry without being too sweaty, for many rides ahead.
So, on to the cost. It is without doubt an expensive piece of kit, but in my opinion one worth considering. I tend to follow the 'buy once, buy right' principle, after experiencing a lot of poor products. After using this jacket I would recommend it if you can stretch your budget far enough.
Its biggest problem is that it's up against some tough competition. Rapha's Winter Classic Jacket is one of its nearest competitors on price at a single pound more. The list of features are very similar, with the Ashmei having a few extras such as the flap-covered pocket and pump loop, but Rapha's offering is partly aimed at keeping you warm and mostly dry, while the Ashmei will keep you warm in the cold to an extent but isn't marketed as such. The Ashmei can also be stuffed in a jersey pocket.
And then there are the superlightweight offerings from the likes of Castelli (the Idro, 124g, £260), 7Mesh (the Oro, 93g, £249) and Gore's 103g One Active, at £220. These are 'sparely featured', though, as Dave wrote in his review of the Gore, compared with the Ashmei and Rapha.
There are also some very good cheaper options. Bontrager's Velocis Stormshell is a similar weight, performed really well when Jez tested it a couple of years ago, and is £100 cheaper. And my trusty Endura FS260 Pro SL, which retails for £165 (and is lighter at 209g) is also very good, although in my opinion the Ashmei beats it in performance and features. These suggest you don't have to spend £260 to get a very good combination of performance, weight and features, but if you can afford/justify the Ashmei, you won't be disappointed.
First class waterproofing abilities in a stylish premium jacket, but wallet-denting cost will be too high for many
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ashmei Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the jacket is for
This offering from British brand Ashmei is a premium high-tech jacket aimed at those who want the best – its strapline is 'Outperforming the best', so much to prove.
Ashmei says: "There's probably no better place to put the truly magnificent waterproof properties of our jacket through its paces than the jaw-dropping beauty of Snowdonia. In fact, the jacket is a must should you ever find yourself grappling with Mother Nature while navigating the gruelling ascent of Pen-y-Pass in preparation for the drop into Llanberis. The lush, verdant valleys that feature in the epic ride through Snowdonia are among the wettest in the UK, you see.
"And it is only when you push it to its limits that our jacket will ultimately reveal its awe-inspiring H20 protection capabilities. In fact, if you listen very carefully you might even catch it gently mocking the Welsh rain – safeguarded as it is by fully-taped, super thin 7 micron laminate.
"A word from founder Stuart: 'I wanted a jacket that protected you from getting wet from the rain but also from sweat. The market is flooded (excuse the pun) with waterproofs that block the rain but then don't breathe enough so you end up too hot and soaking wet from your own sweat. I therefore knew we needed a fabric that had the maximum breathability available without compromising handle, weight and stretch.
"The result is a fabric that has an amazing capacity to breathe (45,000gm.m2/24hrs) made from a laminate that is an incredible 7 microns thin and super stretchy. This allows us to produce a jacket that keeps you completely dry, has a tailored 'cyclist' fit and weighs so little you hardly notice you are wearing it.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Ashmei lists these features:
Waterproof to 20,000mm
Super thin 7 Micron laminate
Highly breathable to 45,000gm/m2/24hr
Lightweight, high performance – 251g
Durable Water Repellent outer finish, PWC-free
Water-resistant YKK® AquaGuard zip
It is a beautifully put together piece of clothing. The attention to detail is excellent, the taped seams neat and free of any excess material or stitching and the laser-cut edges are perfect. The zips are top quality YKK water resistant too.
Incredible – water runs off the material like a freshly waxed car for hours, and although not perfect (I'm not sure any waterproof jacket ever will be), breathability is great: it gets warm and a tiny bit clammy.
Unbelievably for the UK it hasn't rained an awful lot in the testing period, but it's seen a number of wet rides and a trip through the machine twice. So far so good, and the quality of construction and seemingly tough material bode well.
Fantastic. My upper body has never been as dry as when wearing this jacket. There is the odd bit of creep with water finding its way into the sleeves and neck, but let's face it that can't be avoided unless those three main areas are almost cutting off the bloodflow with super-tight cuffs. None of the seamed areas were damp underneath for the duration of the test. Very impressive.
The jacket is built to be as breathable as possible and for the best part it works – it's certainly the best in this area of any jacket I've owned. It still gets a bit warm and damp when the temperature increases or you're working hard, but it never got uncomfortably wet inside. This is helped by two zipped vents under the arms that greatly increase airflow when it does start to get hot.
Fit was very good – not super-skinny tight, nor loose and baggy – just about right. The jacket is quite stretchy too, so conformed well on the arm areas and would accommodate a little 'extra padding' in places – handy for me coming in to the lazier off-season. Arm length was good, too, and not as short as some I've worn; I would have liked a little longer but I have ape-like limbs that are longer than most so this wouldn't affect most people. The rear tail was effective too, sitting low enough to be of use but not enough to make you look like a penguin.
The size L fitted my 6ft 2in frame nicely, as I would expect. Seems to conform to the average UK sizing rather than tiny Italian.
For such an effective jacket it's light – 263g may as well not be there when wearing it. It has serious competition on this front from some super-lightweights: Gore's 103g Active One, 7Mesh's 93g Oro or Castelli's 124g Idris, but compares well with Rapha's 393g Classic. It will still stash in a jersey pocket without adding any significant weight that you would notice riding along.
Related to the weight here too, the lack of it (relatively speaking) means it doesn't end up being that noticeable. The jacket material, despite being 100% polyester, feels good: soft and smooth inside and out, with no raised stitching or seams to irritate.
Yes, it is expensive, but if you look after it you should have years of extremely dry wet weather riding out of it. It looks good and performs superbly, but you can certainly buy cheaper.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
As with most technical clothing, it must be washed to exacting instructions – in no way complicated though, just a 30° wash with no tumble drying or ironing. I always use Halo sports wash for my cycling kit which works a treat, and the jacket came out as good as new.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
You may have guessed by now but the performance out on the road was excellent. Ideal for our inclement weather and easy to stuff in a pocket when not needed or just in case when setting out. Wish I'd had a jacket like this years ago.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
First and foremost, the excellent waterproofing and breathability – it's what it's for and excels at it. After that, the looks: it's a stylish jacket that looks premium, and I like the details such as the magnetised pocket flap, waterproof zips and holes in the easy access pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The obvious one is the cost, but that doesn't diminish the quality of the product. Other than that, the only slight annoyance was that the zips were a little difficult to open and close, the construction required for them to be waterproof makes them a little stiff, with thick gloves making the process even more awkward. This was a bit of an issue when the arm vents were open during a dry spell, and needed to be closed when the rain started again, fiddly on the move, but at least completely waterproof when eventually done up.
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 overall score
The Ashmei Waterproof Jacket is a premium product with premium features. It isn't as light as some competitors (though it's not exactly heavy, and has more features), and it's expensive (as are those lightweight competitors), but it's still very impressive.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives