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The Sugoi RSE NeoShell waterproof jacket might be expensive but it is very, very breathable.
Sugoi say that the RSE NeoShell is “the most breathable waterproof cycling jacket on the planet”. That's a helluva claim. On what basis do they make it?
Okay, so Sugoi have teamed up with Polartec, producers of the NeoShell fabric.
Polartec say: ”Almost all other waterproof fabrics use continuous film membrane technology and therefore rely on diffusion to move water vapour molecules. Moisture and heat have to generate enough pressure inside your jacket so the moisture vapour can finally pass through the fabric.
“With its exclusive membrane technology, Polartec NeoShell engages convection to move moisture vapour away rapidly. Even at extremely low levels of pressure, air flows in and out of the fabric. This pulls the moisture vapour out to help keep you drier during high-exertion activities.”
Polartec have a big pdf online if you want to know more about the tech. If you don't have the time or inclination to wade through it, here are Polartec's claims in short:
In short, Polartec say that NeoShell “protects like a hard shell, breathes like a soft shell”.
The tech is all very interesting but the bottom line is whether it works or not out on the road and here's the thing: it does.
With a lot of waterproofs you quickly get sweaty inside to the point that it's sometimes not worth putting a jacket on in light rain. People often think jackets are leaking when, in fact, the dampness is caused by sweat that can't get out.
With the RSE NeoShell, you can definitely sweat quite a lot and still stay dry. How much drier than normal? Well, it's not quite amazing but it's certainly surprising. I still needed to open the offset front zip when going up a big climb or things would start to get tropical inside, but the difference is that on the flat you don't get the same level of gradual, creeping dampness that you do with most other jackets.
As well as that full-length front zip, you get Velcro tabs at the wrists that allow you to regulate the internal climate further. Oh, and there's a drawcord around the waist that you can adjust too.
I've ridden in this jacket in all sorts of wet conditions over the past few months and it has kept the water out really well. All the seams are taped, of course, and after several trips through the washing machine that taping is still looking good. A couple of little ripples have developed where rain could eventually seep in, but they're not in particularly exposed areas.
Sugoi describe the cut as a Pro Fit, designed for low wind drag. I found it slim enough, and just the tiniest amount of stretch helps with the fit, but I think that the back should be considerably longer to keep your butt dry. The tail is dropped, but I'd have preferred it to be quite a bit longer for more coverage back there when bent over and on the drops. Basically, my butt got wet when I didn't have mudguards fitted.
Speaking of the back, you get two pockets around there with water-resistant zips (like the front zip). There's another zipped pocket on the chest that'll take most mobile phones, including iPhones. Other features include a fleece-lined collar and reflective detailing front and rear. If you want more visibility than this black option provides, the jacket is also available in red.
The RSE Neoshell doesn't pack down super-small but you can roll it up and squeeze it into a jersey pocket, just about, and that's the main thing as far as I'm concerned.
Very expensive but super-breathable waterproof
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Make and model: Sugoi RSE Neoshell Jacket
Size tested: Black, Medium
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?
Sugoi list these features:
* Polartec Neoshell main body construction with fully taped seams keeps you dry when riding in heavy rain
* Offset front zipper for improved fit and comfort at the neck opening
* Rear zippered hand pockets to stow ride essentials
* Reflective accents for low light and night time visibility
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Go to http://polartec.com/uploads/pdfs/Polartec NeoShell.pdf for lots of detail on the technology behind the Polartec NeoShell fabric.
The quality of the construction is really good. The taping, for example, is very well done. My problem is that I thought the tail is too short. That means you could conceivably use this jacket off the bike too, but I'd have preferred more butt coverage for on the bike use.
The fabric works really well.
It's a bit of a squeeze getting it into a jersey pocket, but it's certainly possible.
The fabric's breathability adds loads of comfort, the lack of butt coverage takes some away.
Tricky one! No question, the price is high for a waterproof jacket, so you're paying for the new technology, really.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I keep saying the same thing: great fabric, cut could be better. Don't get me wrong, the cut isn't disastrous by any means, it's just not as bike-specific as it could be. It's what makes this jacket 'very good' rather than 'exceptional', in my opinion.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Breathability, no question.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The tail is too short.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Only if the cut were more bike-specific.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? As above.
Age: 43 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.