The dhb Aeron Full Protection Softshell is a seriously warm jacket for very cold rides. Pick your weather carefully.
Regular readers of this website might have picked up that I suffer from the cold. Being 6ft tall but only 70kg there's not much insulation on my frame, a combination not helped by also having the peripheral circulation of a drugged sloth, even at a redline heart rate. So when I get into cold-weather testing it's with a sense of dread and usually a back pocket or three stuffed with backup layers of insulation.
The Aeron Full Protection Softshell claims to 'keep you warm and protected in harsh weather conditions' – and I can attest that it does this in spades. The combination of an insulating material that's also totally, absolutely windproof makes this a jersey-jacket that will keep you eerily remote from your environment. Wind? What wind?
Feature-wise the Aeron is standard winter jersey-jacket fare: tight-fitting cuffs keep breezes out, a long tail keeps your bum free from spray (but on me it could have been a bit longer), and there's a full-length locking zip with garage, to adjust open or closed depending on how hard you're working.
The cuffs are generous and not fleece-lined, the material folded over to provide the tightest-possible seal. The collar definitely is fleeced, standing high to keep your neck toasty warm.
dhb departs from the norm by using a laser-cut mesh-protected open vent across the back of the shoulders, with a decent overlap to keep rain out. It works – I was able to do repeated Zone 5 maximal heart rate drills in 5-10°C without building up noticeable quantities of sweat. That's not to say I couldn't feel moisture – even with a high-quality mesh merino baselayer I could tell the fabric wasn't letting air in to aid evaporation.
This is the tradeoff in cold-weather performance kit – how to manage moisture while maintaining warmth. Now if you are working hard the argument goes you need to shed excess heat, hence the act of sweating, but it's a fine line between enough insulation and too much cooling. The Aeron manages to tread this line well, and the combination of front zip and back vent makes for a top that doesn't billow out while allowing just enough airflow to keep things on an even keel.
The fabric is 'water resistant', and shrugs off light showers with ease, but a heavy downpour will see it wet out and ultimately you'll feel the water. With the aforementioned insulation being so good, putting a waterproof shell over the top would remove the effect of the back vent and likely see you boiling if you're going all-out. Remaining comfortable while working hard in seriously wet weather calls for a special combination, either super-breathable thin layers or a single wetsuit Gabba-like strategy. If that's what you need, this jacket probably isn't the top you're looking for, but for everything else below 10 degrees it's a good option.
Other features include three generous pockets with reflective trim across the top and a dozen tiny laser-cut drainholes underneath each one, and a zipped valuables pocket on the right that's just large enough for an iPhone 5. The rear flap is backed with a wide grip-strip to keep spray at bay. I felt that the rear didn't come down as far as it should on a jacket purporting to protect your rear from winter spray; the size guide has me at a small for chest/waist but large for hips, a bit strange but that could be me.
The medium tested could have done with an inch more in the cuff, but that's a known issue with my appendages. Using a winter glove with a decent cuff (the fab Castelli Gara) there was no issue with exposed skin despite lots of in-and-out-of-the-saddle work. The sleeves are certainly snug-bordering-tight, so set yourself up on the bike to make sure everything fits right when stretched out and use Wiggle's returns policy if needed.
Overall, for 100 quid the Aeron Full Protection Softshell will keep you riding, fast, through cold, windy and occasionally wet weather. And it looks sharp too, a recurring theme in a clothing line I reckon is going from strength to strength.
A great option for riding in cold and damp but not too wet weather
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Aeron Full Protection Softshell
Size tested: Medium
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?
It's for going slow or fast in cold, occasionally rainy weather.
dhb says: "The ultimate winter softshell from dhb. Their most advanced and protective style yet, this windproof and water resistant jacket features an ultra warm brushed back softshell fabric to keep you warm in cold, winter riding conditions.
"Don't compromise on comfort this winter. The dhb Aeron Full Protection Softshell is a must-have winter riding jacket that really does do what it says on the label. Offering wind and shower protection with high-level thermal performance, it will keep you warm and protected in harsh weather conditions. The addition of a hidden laser-cut back vent helps to optimise air flow and keep you ventilated on hard efforts. You'll also find a rear drop tail that provides welcome additional protection against road spray on those wetter riding days. Finally the rear tail has been finished with a wide silicone gripper designed to widen the area of pressure for a more comfortable, secure fit as well as ergonomic cuffs to further seal out the elements."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
dhb Performance level kit
Windproof and water resistant
Ultra warm brushed back softshell fabric
Laser-cut back vent construction for breathability
Full length, lock down YKK zip with chin guard
Ergonomic shaped cuffs
Wide silicone waist gripper to stop riding up
Hi-visibility reflective binding on rear pockets
It's not 'waterproof', but shrugs off showers.
It's not really 'breathable', more 'easily-vented'.
Bit strange as noted, but that could be just me.
I could possibly have gone to a Large.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Looked good, didn't show any signs of having been washed.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very good. Did the job.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The vent – if that wasn't there it would probably kill you through a slow broil.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The sleeves could be longer, as could the rear flap.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
£100 isn't the cheapest, especially for something that's not actually waterproof. But the combination of fabric and features, for the use case, adds up to a winter-wardrobe staple.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling