With the Pulse, Polaris have put a strong case forward for spending a little extra, and getting something that you can wear without feeling like you're boiling in a bag.
As a cyclist, choosing a rain jacket can be a difficult process given that there is a bewildering array of different types out there. Prices range from as little as £20 for a 'waterproof' rain cape up to...do Assos make a rain jacket? Ultimately, it boils down to whether or not you want your rain jacket to be both waterproof and breathable, and whether you are willing to pay for this.
The Hydrovent fabric used to make the Pulse is a laminate in much the same way that Gore-Tex is. An inner membrane deals with wicking moisture away as efficiently as possible while the outer is designed to stop the water from penetrating. It's no good using fancy material if water will just seeps through the seams and Polaris have addressed this by taping all seams from the inside. The main zip is a YKK waterproof model as is the zip on the rear pocket.
In heavy downpours, I found the Pulse performed flawlessly keeping me dry and consequently warm. Any water that hits it immediately beads up and is quickly extracted by the wind. I've had experience with most of the various Gore-Tex fabrics over the years and would say that Polaris' proprietary Hydrovent material doesn't come up short against any of them.
Whilst undoubtedly extremely waterproof, the 2.5 layer construction also does a good job of wicking away moisture. Granted, you'll always get some drops forming on the inside of the jacket, but it takes a lot more effort to reach this stage. Because of this, I found that I was more likely to leave the house with the Pulse on, instead of chancing it with a waterproof in a rear pocket. This saved my skin on more than a few occasions when sudden downpours which would've caught me off guard, were easily ridden through without a second thought.
Despite its multi layer construction and serious weatherproofing, the Pulse packs down small enough to fit into a rear jersey pocket. It won't pack down quite as small as one of those cheap plastic rain capes but it easily trumps them in terms of breathability making this a compromise I found easy to make.
When Polaris say that the Pulse features a 'performance fit', they're not joking. The rear hem drops down about 20 cm below the front which works great on the bike but can make you look like a bit of a tit when standing up – so it's not really one you'll be wanting to wear down to the pub.
Thumb loops are a nice touch for stopping any water from getting in between jacket and glove. The length of the arms ensures that you can use the loops even when fully stretched out on the bike and still have some material to spare. The inherent stretch in the Hydrovent material ensures the back doesn't feel too tight either. The neck is fleecy and is comfortable enough that zipping all the way up isn't a problem. Polaris have managed to get the fit here just right as it doesn't feel tight around the throat, but equally, it isn't so wide that it just lets in the rain.
For those with thinner necks, it is possible to tighten the collar as it is elasticated. An adjustable elastic band also runs around the hem so you can achieve a secure fit down there too to prevent any road spray from sneaking its way in.
The transparent window on the rear pocket is a neat idea and handy for that second rear light. Plenty of reflective detailing on all sides of the Pulse further emphasizes its night riding credentials. This detail is well printed into the material and shows no sign of peeling off.
If there's a downside to the Pulse, it's that is performs so well that I really wanted to wear it off the bike, when running for instance, or just in general showery conditions. The lack of hood and performance cycling fit make this impossible though which is a shame. In my opinion, a removable hood and less aggressive fit would go a long way to help more people justify buying this admittedly expensive jacket as it wouldn't be restricted to on the bike use but then maybe if you want something more like that you should be looking at the Polaris Granite jacket http://www.polaris-apparel.co.uk/product/granite.
The Hydrovent material is both capable in the rain and extremely breathable which, combined with the great cycling specific fit, makes the Pulse a fantastic winter riding jacket.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Polaris Pulse Jacket
Size tested: Black - 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?
As part of Polaris' "road" range, the Pulse is aimed squarely at the more performance minded cyclist who values a cycling specific fit and the ability to ride in all weather.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Performance 2.5 layer cycle specific waterproof jacket
- Performance fit - designed and built specfically for cyclists
- Constructed using a 4 way stretch Hydrovent performance fabric; this fabric is extremely breathable and comfortable due to the stretch nature of the material
- Fully taped with YKK water resistant zips included a welded back pocket zip
- Exclusive laser cut rear light pocket with a transparent window: keep your L.E.D light in your back pocket and stay safe
- Reflective print detail for safety on the bike
- Fully adjustable cuffs, hem and collar
- Rear storage pocket
The Pulse is extremely well put together. All seams are taped from the inside and the rear led window is laser cut from the material.
You couldn't really want any more from a rain jacket. It shrugs off rain while maintaining breathability. The fit is also excellent which further helps keep the weather at bay.
Its survived plenty of off-road rides and even a couple of visits to the tarmac without a scratch. A quick trawl of the net doesn't indicate that many people are having problems with the waterproof coating wearing off either.
More important than weight is packability, and here the Pulse looses out to single layer rain capes, on the other hand it still fits in a jersey pocket, just not in as small a lump - that's a trade-off worth making for its vastly superior performance.
The inner lining doesn't stick to the skin whilst the hems are all made from the waterproof outer which is soft to the skin and almost fleecy. At the end of the day, staying dry is going to determine your comfort levels and here the Pulse performs great.
The Pulse is expensive when compared to cheaper single layer jackets but it does so much more. Compared to offerings from some high end brands, the Pulse is a relative bargain!
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I couldn't ask much more from a rain jacket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit and forget performance whilst on the bike
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A victim of its own success, I found I wanted to use the Pulse for other activities as well as for casual use, but cycling specific fit makes this impractical.
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
I usually ride: Giant TCR Advanced 2 My best bike is: Canyon Ultimate CF7
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, sportives, mtb,