The Howies brand has been around for quite a while now - if you've not owned one of its iconic t-shirts at one stage or another I'd be willing to bet you know someone who has. This year Howies launched its first foray into what it terms "serious" cycling kit, by which it means clothes designed specifically for riding, rather than casual gear that just happens to look pretty good on a bike - and this Howies Slipstream long sleeve jersey is one of the results.
They've started with just three items - a long-sleeve jersey, reviewed here, a short-sleeve jersey and bibs. They're all black, with only the subtlest of details to liven things up - reflective zip-lining on the rear of the jerseys and small Howies logos on the lower hems. Pair one of the jerseys with the bibs and you have a full ninja outfit, lacking only the face-mask.
The long-sleeve jersey is made of a curious fabric, with Howies quite proud of their "seamless circular knit technology". The fabric is 96% Polyamide and 4% Elastane (no merino here) but feels quite different to most jerseys. It is very stretchy indeed, with a matt finish and some clever seamless variations in weave. On a technical level this is probably the most interesting thing about it - rather than stitching different panels together to get wind-resistance at the front, breathability at the back, Howies are able to simply change the weave to give the required properties. So while on a superficial level you have a pretty plain jersey which seems to keep the details to a bare minimum, there is some clever stuff going on when you look closer.
In terms of details, then, there's a good quality full-length zip down the front. On the back are three pockets, of which the middle one has a zip closure, with reflective detailing on the zip. That is the only reflective part of the jersey, however, so visibility on dark evenings (remember them?) is not great. If I was riding in the dark, I'd want to pair this with something to get me noticed.
On the subject of those pockets, I found them quite irritating to use. This is down to the stretchiness of the material - the pockets really cling onto hands, gloves, phones and whatever else you offer them. I found I would regularly fumble trying to get something in or out of them, particular with gloves on. I wonder whether a stiffening reinforcement at the top of the side pockets might help here.
The same stretchiness allows for a really close fitting jersey, however. Howies claim it's "race cut" and despite first impressions - "they've sent me a child's size!" - I got on pretty well with my size L in terms of cut. Whereas many tight jerseys use a lot of panels to get a good anatomical fit, Howies keep seams to a minimum and rely on the combination of a very stretchy material and variations in weave to achieve it. You'd probably not want to be wearing this down the pub, but for fast riding, the tight fit and absence of any flapping around works a treat.
There is no silicone gripper strip at the bottom of the jersey - it is held in place with a more compressive strip of the same fabric as the rest of the jersey. No issues here - it works well.
I don't tend to wear a long-sleeve jersey when it's much over 12 degrees, so I used the jersey for some early morning rides and when it got windier. Breathability seems good and I never found myself getting too sweaty.
Howies tell us that they prototyped a women's fit version of this jersey but decided that the differences were very minimal, so this is intended as a unisex garment. It is stretchy enough that it adapts well to different body shapes.
So that just leaves the visuals. If you like the stealth look and prefer your cycling gear closely fitted, you'll probably like this a lot. Some may think that it looks more like a base-layer and worry about visibility but's great to see Howies taking an innovative route for their first cycling gear; this jersey is made in Portugal with clear technical input from Cardigan Bay, rather than just a branding exercise.
In fairness, that's always been their way, prizing good design and responsible sourcing. If you're after a tight-fitting jersey with a ninja look, this is a good bet.
Tight-fitting well-performing jersey with a ninja look.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Howies Slipstream long sleeve jersey
Size tested: Large
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?
Seamless knit long sleeved cycle jersey, with contoured panelling and a second skin fit. Integrated breathable panels minimize the need for seams and helps avoid chaffing. Two rear cargo pockets, large enough for a lightweight jacket or a couple of bananas, maybe even a pump, an innertube and some jelly babies. Rear reflective zip pocket for securely carrying keys, money and a phone. Flexible full length coil zip. Ribbed cuffs and hem.
Race cut; designed to fit tight, with no flapping or excess fabric.
Clever weaving technique allows varying material properties in a single panel. Would be nice if the pockets could be made easier to access.
Survived several trips through the washing machine without complaint.
Very comfortable in use as long as you're happy with closely-fitted cycling gear.
Given that it's made in the EU and uses some clever technology, the price isn't unreasonable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
This is probably the closest fitting long-sleeve jersey I have - I appreciated the lack of flapping around. It was comfortable and breathable in use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The two open rear pockets are a pain to use. This might seem like a minor complaint but if it annoys you every time you use something, I'd say it's more than that.
I would also prefer a little bit more detailing for visibility.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 6"3 Weight: 81kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Fixed-conversion Eddy Merckx MX-Leader
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.