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Reflective beads have become all the rage in the past couple of winters – integrated into winter and dark-weather jackets, they reflect light shined upon them, effectively turning you into a source of light yourself as vehicles approach. Sugoi's Zap is one good quality example, and it's ideal for steady commuters this winter.
Some manufacturers go with panels and features that integrate this technology, others go for the full coverage. Sugoi has opted to integrate small spots across the entire jacket – the effect being to bring the garment closer to the black colour of the host fabric underneath, while retaining much of the reflectivity you get where the beads are used more liberally (for example, the Reflect 360 from Proviz).
The benefit for fluoro-haters, of course, is that the jacket appears normal under daylight conditions in the black, red, white and blue colourways available. However, if you like standing out wherever you go, there is a bright green option too.
So, does it work? In a word: yes. The picture below of the women's version demonstrates the beads in action, and while on the road – and this is totally subjective given the varying road conditions on each evening I rode with it – I found I was given ample space to get on with my commute.
Here, the black fabric of the test jacket that dominates during the daytime means the Zap isn't garish to behold, and is close to a rain mac in terms of feel. I had the great fortune while testing it of being able to sample a true mix of English autumn/winter weather – and can safely report an impressive level of water resistance. On a 20-minute commute through a constant downpour, I arrived at my destination dry and warm, no doubt helped by the taped seams.
Warm, because although the jacket is relatively thin, it is impressively windproof. I found very little air leakage through the zip, and this while only wearing a single layer underneath (a lot of my commuting involves cycling up one of Bath's many surrounding hills).
However, because of the hilly parcours, I'm also able to report that breathability is not one of the Zap's strong suits. It's fine for a gentle or steady commute where your heart rate stays relatively low, but if you do have to work hard to arrive at your destination, then you're going to work up a sweat inside this garment. My arms were usually damp with sweat on arrival, even in cold conditions, and unless the temperature was in single digits I also found my torso beginning to sweat through too. Bottom line: for this reason this is not a jacket I'd wear out on a club or increased tempo ride.
In terms of fit, the medium I tested matched up to generic sizing; you can generally trust your usual when ordering a Zap jacket. That said, the jacket is really cut for the road cyclist, with a high front hem and a long back to catch road spray, while fitting slimly but not tightly. If you have a wider chest measurement you might find the arms ride up when you're on the bike, despite ample back length and partly elasticated cuffs – there's no stretch in the fabric, so if you have long arms you may want to go a size up avoid this.
As well as good protection for your rear, that long back also offers a sizeable pocket, fastenable with a tab of Velcro and handy for carrying a bike pump or spare lights for example.
At its rrp of £99.99, the Zap doesn't necessarily represent the best value – although if what you're after is a cycling jacket that isn't garish in the daytime, yet ticks the high-visibility box at night, with good water resistance and windproofing thrown in, it's certainly worth considering.
Recommended for anyone who wants to be dry in the wet and seen in the dark, without racing home
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sugoi Zap Bike jacket
Size tested: Medium, Black
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 says: "The Zap Jacket offers lightweight protection with targeted mesh areas for breathability. Constructed from Pixel fabric, the cycling jacket is waterproof and incredibly reflective to provides high visibility in low light and dark riding conditions. Additional features include a drop tail for protection from tyre spray and a single rear zip pocket for storing cycling essentials."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Pixel is a fully reflective waterproof fabric designed for high visibility in low light conditions
- Drop tail for lower back and seat coverage from tyre spray
- Waterproof front zip and waterproof taped seams for additional protection from the elements
- Rear zipped pocket for stowing ride essentials
- Fabric: Pixel woven (60% Polyester, 25% Micro-Glass Beads, 15% Polyurethane.)
Taped seams and and a strong fabric add to the Zap's feeling of quality.
Good water resistance and windproofing, not to mention the top level of reflectivity afforded by the glass beads. A shame it lacks breathability.
It's not packable by any stretch, but folds away into a backpack very easily when you need to.
No real complaints; the fit means on a bike you have no bunching in front.
Nearly £100 for a jacket for commuting will always seem a lot, but what price your safety on the road?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, ignoring the lack of breathability.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Understated looks, a good cycling cut, and decent water resistance and windproofness.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of breathability. It means if you like to ride at tempo to work or in the dark, you're going to collect a lot of sweat!
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No, but only because I like to use my commute as a mini training session.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding