Sugoi's RSE Alpha Jacket is a breathable and lightweight design that operates best in the 0-10°C temperature range. 'Luckily' we're still experiencing such days well into the new year, and it's put in some sterling performances under taxing conditions.
A thin layer of Polartec fibre insulates you from the outside world, and it's this that has been engineered to provide breathability. It really is breathable too; maybe not in the same league as Gore-Tex, but then Gore-Tex doesn't retain warmth anything like this.
One of my commutes takes me up the surrounding hills of Bath, and unsurprisingly no matter how easily I take it, I'm usually left pretty wet with sweat in my reflective commuter jacket (also a Sugoi product, actually). This jacket is a different beast altogether, hugging tightly to my skin to help wick away the moisture I generate.
It's not perfect – when really pushed like this, no jacket truly is – but it's very good. I'm left with around half the amount of sweat I usually am when taking my usual route up, and can feel the cool effect of the air against my skin through the outer membrane and internal fibre. This means going for a training ride in cold conditions with this jacket is also a viable option.
The headline fabric is also supplemented by black elasticated fabric which has a fleece lining on the inside. There's no filling here, so you do feel heat escaping out of these panels. It's another factor that helps regulate your body temperature, especially in the areas that don't usually face the wind.
Another great positive is how lightweight the fibre it. Described as 'packable' – I think Sugoi's definition of 'packable' is different from mine – the jacket can fold away into a surprisingly small space. But, to fit into a jersey pocket, the pocket really does have to be quite big. For me, this isn't a realistic option, but thanks to how lightweight the jacket is in general, the need to take it off will only be a rare occurrence.
Also featuring is an off-centre zip – something I'm a big fan of because it helps avoid rubbing under the chin – and large capacity pockets at the rear for added practicality. You'll also find a small card-holder pocket at the front. Each one is easy to access and open on the move, and despite the thin nature of the zips to keep weight and bulk down, I never found them snagging or tangling up.
The cut generally comes up tight, as you'd expect from a garment that has a main USP of performance breathability. I tested a medium, which although comfortable could probably have been a little looser around the arms. If you usually mix between medium and large tops depending on the cut and fit, then I'd err towards the larger option. However, if you're particularly rakish in build, a medium does provide ample back length, even for me.
Seams are well tailored – a delicate wash (it needs to be delicate to protect the fibres inside) had no negative effect on them or the rest of the jacket – while the jacket in general is well made to avoid unwanted draughts, including an elasticated band with silicone grippers at the rear to help stop it riding up.
One negative thing for me is the lack of waterproofness. The outside membrane will keep splashes and a light rain shower at bay – a side effect of the wind resistance I suspect – but in reality you can't tax it for too long otherwise it does begin to absorb water. Luckily, the nature of the filling fibres does mean that it dries quickly, but it's no rain beater. You're better off carrying a packable mac or a heavier waterproof if that's what you need.
There are reflective elements at the rear, which are always useful, and a loop for earphones too. I'm not the biggest fan of this last feature, and I wouldn't test it on the road, let alone use it on a regular basis, but for the record (or should that be mp3 file), if that's what you want, it'll do the job as well as any wiring guide I've seen.
The Alpha's RRP of £149.99 is about what you'd expect to pay for this level of performance and quality, but if you scout about online you can scoop one of these for a lot less. Find it discounted (I've seen it for around £75), and you won't find a much better breathable jacket for the money to keep you warm in dry weather.
A high-performing cold weather jacket – though not for rainy days
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sugoi RSE Alpha Bike Jacket
Size tested: Medium, Chilli Red
Tell us what the jacket 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 ultimate insulated thermal bike jacket, built to deliver warmth when you need it most. With groundbreaking breathability and lightweight mobility."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
- Lightweight woven shell for breathable, wind and water resistance
- Offset main zipper to improve comfort
- One chest pocket and two rear pockets for carrying ride essentials
Fabric: Micro Pro, Polartec Alpha, Midzero, Finomesh. 100% Nylon.
The jacket is built solidly, featuring a tear-resistant outer fabric.
The breathability aspect really is very good - and works at keeping you warm well into single digits.
The outer fabric might have tear-resistant cross-knitting, but I can't shake the feeling that if I fell off the bike, the jacket would henceforth be useless due to the filling escaping through the resultant holes. I might be wrong, but I'm not going to test that...
It's supposed to be water resistant, and it is - slightly. Better to leave it at home if you think it will rain, in my opinion.
Sugoi claims that it's got "ground-breaking breathability". I'm not sure about that, but it does breathe surprisingly well.
Nice racy fit; there's no flapping of fabric around you, or excess at the rear.
Comes up very slightly on the small side - I could just do with the sleeves being a touch longer (but I do have quite long arms).
For a jacket with this many features and its insulation level, 432g is great.
The mesh internal fabric can feel a little odd, but it's not uncomfortable and you get used to it after a while.
At £149.99 it's probably about right for the performance you get (if you accept that rainy weather isn't its strong suit).
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You have to wash it with care, but it's ok, no complaints.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, this jacket performs very well in dry weather.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Breathability coupled with the insulation levels. Also available in black!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
It feels delicate, so you always feel you have to treat it as such.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? If I could find it on offer, possibly.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If warmth on a dry day is your goal, this does a very good job.
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