If you're looking for an attractive and versatile lightweight jacket to keep cool winds and summer showers at bay, both on and off the bike, then the Madison Flux Super Light Softshell is just the ticket, albeit a very expensive one. However, if you want a waterproof to see you through the winter, as Madison's description of it suggests, it's not for you.
The Flux doesn't actually look, or feel, like a waterproof – nor obviously resemble a cycle jacket either (it's from Madison's Mountain rather than Road or Commute range). It's constructed from a super-stretchy polyester/PU fabric with a lovely soft handle – and no rustle – which makes it very comfortable to wear. But, the downside is it doesn't really perform like a waterproof either.
The thin P4DRY fabric – made with used coffee grounds – might have won a German 'Outdoor Industry Award' in 2013, but sadly it didn't fare too well at keeping the rain out. Water beads on the surface initially but then soaks through, especially on the shoulders and lower arms. It's fine in a light shower but I wouldn't rely on it in proper rain or when it's cold.
As for breathability, I admit I'm prone to getting sweaty when I exercise, but I found the inside of the jacket got clammy within minutes of pedalling at a decent pace, and even when walking briskly. The three small ventilation holes under each armpit are pretty ineffectual. It's hard to believe the material has a 20,000mm waterproof rating and 30,000gms breathability. By comparison, Madison's Flo winter jacket, made from a thicker three-layer material, is far more waterproof and breathable yet is only rated 12,000mm waterproof and 15,000gms breathability.
On a positive note, the finishing and attention to detail are very good. The Flux is constructed from multiple panels of various shapes and sizes, yet there were no loose threads and all the seams are neatly taped to prevent water ingress. The jacket isn't lined but the almost silky-feeling fabric is quite pleasant against bare arms – until perspiration builds up inside, that is. There's a hanging loop on the outside of the neck and the care label is printed on the material, so there's nothing to irritate your skin.
It packs down small enough to stuff in a jersey pocket, while the 'ninja' hood (with drawcord featuring reflective thread) fits under a helmet and adds off-the-bike versatility. There is squiggle-pattern silicone print over the shoulders to prevent backpack shoulder straps sliding around, and two usefully large zipped hand pockets plus a discreet hip pocket – all the zips are waterproof too.
The Flux has a relaxed cut through the body but a plus point is the sleeves – they're nice and narrow so there's no excess material to flap around, and they are particularly close fitting on the forearm. Thin elasticated cuffs keep them in place. However, while sleeve length is adequate, long-armed riders like me could benefit from an extra inch or two.
The fit of the torso is quite generous – too generous to be flattering perhaps – but the same can't be said of the jacket's length. It has a minimal drop tail that barely reaches to your hips when you're leant forward on the bike, so either get a mudguard or a wet bum! There's an internal drawcord to adjust the hem, which means no unsightly bungee cord on show.
Another nice touch is the storm flap and zip garage on the main zip, which does up nice and high under the chin to keep out draughts. The zip pull is big enough to operate with full-finger gloves, too. A niggle is that because the zip is waterproof and therefore fairly stiff, when done up it bulges out if you're not completely upright.
As a nod to road safety, final details include subtle reflective MADISON logos on the cuffs and back of the shoulder, along with a big reflective FLUX logo on the left hip plus a reflective flower motif on the right hip for a feminine touch. The jacket comes in the aqua blue pictured or a deep orange called 'chilli red'.
All in, the Flux makes a lovely summer windproof and showerproof for easygoing daylight jaunts and commuting, and it looks good enough to double up as a casual non-riding jacket. Whether you want to pay a penny shy of £120 (or about £100 online) for this is questionable, though, when there are plenty of similar – or better – performing jackets for a great deal less. The B'Twin 500 jacket, a snip at £25 and waterproof to boot.
Good looking, casual-style jacket that's versatile but not totally waterproof so ideal for summer
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Madison Flux Super Light Softshell Jacket
Size tested: Size 12, Aqua Blue
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?
Madison says: "Lightweight and unrestrictive, the Flux super light softshell is a superb year round barrier from the elements."
I agree it is lightweight and unrestrictive, but I wouldn't say it is suitable for year-round use – it feels much more of a summer jacket.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Four-way stretch and fully seam-sealed polyester/PU fabric
Award winning P4DRY fabric boasts 20,000mm waterproof and 30,000gms breathability
Adjustable and fitted hood
Laser cut underarm vent holes
Waterproof zip with storm flap and chinguard
Fully waterproof hip pocket and 2 hand pockets
Micro hem and hood drawcords
Low bulk cuff bindings
Silicone print over the shoulders
Limited lifetime warranty
Neatly finished throughout.
Only average score because, like most jackets that claim to be waterproof, it wasn't completely and neither was it as breathable as their figures indicate.
Madison says the "fabric boasts a huge 20,000mm waterproof" rating but although rain initially beads on the surface it wasn't long - i.e. on its first outing – before it started soaking through on the lower arms and shoulders, even in not particularly heavy rain.
Madison says the "fabric boasts 30,000gms breathability" but again I found it only took about 5 minutes of moderate exercise before it started feeling clammy inside, and this was when walking as well as cycling.
Could be longer in the body.
I needed a size 12 but take a size 10 for Madison shorts.
If you're buying this as a waterproof and breathable year-round jacket then it's poor value because it won't do the job of keeping you dry. It's reduced to £103.50 at some online stores but that still represents bad value. I'd say buy the B'Twin 500 Women's Waterproof Jacket for £25 instead.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It machine washed well at 30 degrees – I used Nikwax Tech Wash and Wash-in waterproofer. Bog stains came out after over a week (don't ask!)
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As "a superb year round barrier from the elements" I'm disappointed to report it just didn't measure up because it wasn't totally waterproof nor particularly breathable. It makes a good windproof though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The appearance and soft feel of the fabric.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The fact it wasn't very waterproof or breathable!
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes - but not in the rain.
Would you consider buying the jacket? No – I would recommend the Madison Flo though as I've found it to be waterproof and far more breathable (but it's a thicker, winter MTB-focused jacket)
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
Quite a few so-called waterproof jackets fail to live up to their name so in that respect the Flux is fairly average. It scores well on comfort, weight, appearance and features but fails on performance, which makes its price tag far too high.
About the tester
I usually ride: Marin Point Reyes 29er My best bike is: Giant Anthem X1
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Audax