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The Aldi men's soft shell cycling jacket is a convertible design that transforms from middle-weight jersey-cum-jacket to gilet courtesy of removable, zippered sleeves. It's also highly water-resistant and offers pretty good defence against windchill too.
At £17 there are some compromises and minor niggles, but overall performance sets a new standard for bargain kit, wheel-sucking several established brands' £50 fare. In fact, I mistook it for a popular brand's jacket when I first opened the packaging.
Available in two colours – ubiquitous fluoro, or this infinitely more alluring blue – it's made from a rugged, easy to care for polyester/elastane mix with impressive detailing. Round the back, we have a huge cargo pocket perfect for dumping pump, banana(s), spare tubes, keys and quite a lot more besides. Some segregation would be welcome – it does feel like you've two playful Labrador puppies fighting in there – and being picky, I'd like an LED tab too.
Classy looking and well-conceived Scotchlite detailing brings it to life, and an elasticated, silicone hem anchors it nicely. Round the font, we've a full length zipper to regulate temperature and generous collar to keep draughts out, coupled with an equally generous Nelson pocket – perfect for big zoom compact cameras, medium sized smartphones, wallets or similar valuables. This is also sealed from the elements and given a Scotchlite border for nocturnal presence.
Fit is surprisingly good – snug with sufficient room for base and mid layers – although the cuffs were a little baggier and the sleeves a little shorter than I've come to expect. Not a problem with long-cuff winter weight gloves, and they've never fluttered like a builder's tarp, even on some seriously blustery descents, but enough to allow a little breeze inside. Otherwise, climate control has exceeded my expectations.
An uncharacteristically chill May saw temperatures stagger between 12 and 17 degrees in my locale, and the fibres have certainly kept pace. Like most polyesters, it takes about 20 minutes before the wicking magic starts. After that, paired with more sophisticated synthetic/merino baselayers and at a steady 17-20mph, things remain temperate, with only trace dampness around the lower back after two-hour outings.
Waterproofing is very good in the everyday sense and I've remained perfectly dry during some very intense downpours, although sustained close range blasts from the garden hose eventually crept inside. On the subject of water, so long as you stick to 30-degree cycles and gently agitate grimy patinas with cleaners first, it washes very well too.
Using it as a gilet has been my preferred mode on chill mornings and dry, breezy evenings, keeping chest, neck and back protected, even when hunkered low on the drops for long periods. The sleeves detach and fold very small, and are easily parked in that cavernous rear pocket. The whole garment packs small enough to join with tube, tools, lock, snacks and other essentials in a 14 litre commuter pannier.
Bottom line, comparisons with more sophisticated garments are unfair. However, paired with better quality baselayers, performance wasn't far behind some established brands' entry-level models.
Remarkably capable convertible jacket-cum-jersey for general riding, slightly let down by baggy cuffs and short sleeves
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Aldi Mens Softshell Cycling Jacket
Size tested: Medium, Blue/Black
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?
Aldi says: "This Men's Softshell Cycling Jacket is breathable, waterpoof and wind resistant - ideal for cycling in all sorts of weather conditions. It features zip-off arms to convert to a gilet, along with reflective details for greater visibility."
* Ultra compact
* Wind resistant
* Elastic inserts
* Reflective details
* Zipped chest and back pockets, with YKK zips
* Removable sleeves
Cheap but remarkably cheerful jacket cum gillet for general riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
* Material: Polyester, Elastane
* Pockets: Chest & Back Pockets
* Product Type: Jackets
* Size: S, M, L, XL
* Tumble Dry: Do Not Tumble Dry
* Washing Temperature: 30 Degrees
* Waterproof: Fabric
* Wind Resistant: Fabric
Remarkably well made for the money.
Does most things very convincingly, though sleeve length and elasticated cuffs would benefit from revision.
Seems very durable and washing beautifully to date.
There's some typical lag before the polyester fibres kick in and start wicking, but I've remained surprisingly temperate, even in milder conditions.
Good but sleeves shorter than ideal for me.
About right, could have been longer in the arms though.
Excellent, when you take into account that it converts to a very competent gilet.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Has washed very, very well so far.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, there are some minor niggles here – the sleeve length being the most obvious for me. However, detailing is far superior to that found on some established brands' entry-level jackets costing considerably more. Wicking and water-repellence have been pleasant surprises too. Sure, there's that familiar clamminess before the fibres start trafficking rider-generated coolant but I've felt refreshingly temperate even when the mercury's nudging 17 degrees.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Nicely designed with good pockets. Brilliant as a gilet.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Sleeves and cuffs need revising.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes, much more than I expected.
Would you consider buying the jacket? Possibly
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes, if they were on a tight budget.
Use this box to explain your score
Remarkably good value with some excellent touches that I'd expect on models commanding £50. The sleeves are a little on the short side and cuffs left my wrists exposed, which could be a deal breaker during the colder months.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)