The Gore Element Urban Print Windstopper Soft Shell Jacket brings together off-the-bike comfort and style with on-the-bike practicality. It has a useful range of pockets and safety features plus the windproofing and waterproofing are as good as you would expect from Gore. The insulation could perhaps be a little more substantial, but overall it is a great cycling coat.
When I put on the Urban Print softshell, my first thought was that it is a walking (cycling?) contradiction. It is a camouflage design, but then has a significant amount of high visibility areas throughout. So... not one for hiding from the police – and you would think that another colour would be better for urban riding. But the high-vis areas work wonders and so does the camouflage, making it look good off the bike without impacting on its visibility on it.
This concept of being good both on and off the bike was something I appreciated throughout the testing period. I found I was using it as much when I wasn't riding as when I was – which for review kit doesn't normally happen.
Part of this comes from the waterproofing and windproofing that the jacket brings. This is no surprise given the history of Gore. I used it when riding fairly hard in treacherous conditions and stayed warm and dry throughout, then later in the day could use the same coat to walk for 10 minutes in the same inclement weather, without getting cold or wet and not attracting strange looks for wearing bike kit off the bike. It made a good outer layer regardless of what I was doing.
It is very much an outer layer rather than a full-blown coat. The insulation isn't terrible, but if I were to use it as a traditional jacket off the bike I would need to have more insulating material underneath it for colder conditions. The outer layer not having too much insulation helps with breathability though – an area it performs well in, allowing me to stay warm and dry without feeling like I was cycling in a portable sauna.
One reason it works so well off the bike is because of the cut: it's relaxed enough that it doesn't look strange if you wear it when walking into the pub. It isn't baggy, though, which means you don't get any flapping or excessive wind resistance when you are on the bike. It even has a fairly tight-fitting hood, which can be used for protection off the bike without getting in the way when you're on it.
Unlike pure cycling jackets, it doesn't have the traditional back pockets either, instead incorporating them elsewhere in the jacket. There is a single zipped back pocket on the right hand side, which is good for things like keys and wallets that you wouldn't want in the front pockets while riding. There are two more casually placed pockets on the front, which are good for non-bike activities or storing small/flat objects when on the bike. Then there is one more chest pocket with a headphone hole, allowing you to run a cable from the pocket to your ear – more likely for music rather than a race radio...
Much like Optimus Prime (of Transformers fame), the jacket quickly converts from a casual item to an on-bike one, through some nifty changes. It has a high-vis tail which buttons to the inside of the coat when not in use, and inner cuffs (with thumbholes) made of the same material. In addition to this, the close-fitting hood has a large reflective area, there are large reflective bands running up the cuffs, and the entire hem area and the bottom of the back is reflective, making it very hard to miss in the dark. So the camouflage is definitely decorative – not recommended as standard issue in the army.
The jacket's rrp of £199.99, although expensive for a softshell, isn't excessive for a coat that is so practical. Given that I was happy to use this on the bike and off it, it's almost like having two jackets in one.
Overall I was very impressed with this jacket. I like its multi-functional use on and off the bike, and it has some well thought out design ideas that set it apart from many that try to do the same thing. The high visibility elements are not overwhelming for when you're not on the bike, yet create clear visibility while on it. The windproofing and waterproofing is also excellent, with nothing getting through the jacket even in the worst conditions.
A well made, practical jacket that is just as good off the bike as on it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Gore Element Urban Print Windstopper Soft Shell Jacket
Size tested: medium, Camouflage
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?
Gore says: "Unique style in a camo print for urban adventures: Functional, comfortable WINDSTOPPER® Soft Shell for weather protection. Reflective touchs and neon detailing keep you safe. Your best friend for night and day, leisure time or on a ride."
It performs well both on and off the bike and despite the camouflage design, the high-vis areas on the jacket make it shine out like a beacon when caught in a light beam.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
2 front zip pockets
Lightweight, close fitting hood
Neon fold-away drop tail for spray protection and better visibility
Concealed pocket with magnetic closure
Pocket with extra internal integrated mesh pocket
Hem width can be adjusted by cordstopper and elastic drawstring
Reflective print on back
Reflective print on sleeves
Reflective print on back
Reflective inserts on front and back
Elastic sleeve cuff with thumbhole
Zip tags for easy opening
Zip-underflap and zip-port
Pocket with cable outlet
Zip pocket on back
Napoleon pocket with concealed zip
Well made with a good choice of Gore-Tex materials, and well thought out pocket positions and extra hi-vis areas.
Performs very well both on and off the bike: waterproof, windproof and looks good enough to wear off the bike as well as on it.
Well made and likely to last for years.
Very comfortable, soft inner and relatively relaxed yet close-fitting cut means it is great on and off the bike.
Fairly expensive, but when you consider the multi-use of the jacket it doesn't seem massively excessive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performs well, can be used both on and off the bike effectively without looking out of place in either situation, plus it combines good water- and wind-proofing, which is always good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The pocket placement – useful without making it look too cycling-focused when off the bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The insulation could perhaps be better.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The jacket works well on a ride or in the pub, plus it has really good waterproofing and windproofing, perfect for this time of year.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.