Gore Bike Wear's Element Lady Gore-Tex Active Jacket is a versatile, waterproof and breathable top designed for high-intensity use, which also looks attractive and fits well. Quality doesn't come cheap, but I think the price is fair for what you get. The two main things I look for in a waterproof jacket are: does it work, and does it look good? The Element satisfies both points, keeping me dry and warm without making me look like a cycling geek, in fact I didn't feel out of place wearing it casually off the bike.
It's constructed from Gore-Tex Active fabric, which Gore describes as 'lightweight, extremely breathable, durably waterproof and windproof' and my experience riding in the jacket supports this, whether racing to the train station on my commute or racing my friends up a hill climb. The level of breathability was a pleasant surprise, as I rarely find any garment lives up to its claims on this front (I have to say it is better than Gore's Power Trail Lady Windstopper Soft Shell Hoody I reviewed recently). As for keeping the rain off, I stayed admirably dry inside – rain mostly beads and rolls off, leaving the outer dry. In heavier rain, water does soak in at key places like the shoulders but it doesn't penetrate the Gore-Tex membrane.
The jacket feels like one layer – especially with its minimal weight – but in fact it consists of a polyester outer layer bonded to the super-thin Gore-Tex membrane, which itself has an integrated lining. Waterproofness is enhanced by the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment on the outer, which makes rain bead. The fabric has a matt appearance and feels nice and soft to the touch. The Element's very good breathability is down to 'over 9 billion pores per square inch' in the Gore-Tex membrane, allowing moisture to escape when you're working hard.
Gore's claims are backed by its Gore-Tex guarantee, which is pretty impressive: 'If you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness, or breathability of a GORE-TEX® product then we will repair it, replace it, or refund your purchase price.'
Fit is key to the performance and comfort of any piece of cycling wear and the Element comes up trumps for me. I often find sleeve and body length too short in cycling tops, but they are ample here, and the collar is sufficiently tall too to prevent draughts and rain getting in. It has a dropped hem at the rear which covers most of your derriere in the riding position.
Although the jacket is labelled 'comfort fit', the loosest of Gore's three fits (slim and tight are the others), it still follows your contours though it's by no means figure hugging – I find there's excess roominess around my lower back. On cold days you can easily fit a mid-layer as well as baselayer under it, which makes it ideal for wearing from autumn right through to spring. I'd say it would be too hot for summer generally, unless you're at altitude (or in Wales!). It packs down fairly small, but would create a sizeable bulge if you managed to stuff it in a jersey rear pocket.
The quality of construction and finishing is excellent, as I've come to expect from Gore. All the seams are very tidily taped on the inside and the stitching is impeccable with no loose threads to be seen. The Element's neat appearance is due to it just having the necessary features and no extraneous ones (for example, no pit zips as it's breathable enough without). I also like the contrast orange cuff Velcro and hem lining (even hanging loop), a nice detail.
It has two usefully large front zipped pockets (not waterproof, incidentally). The right-hand one has an internal cable port to run your earphones through and up inside your jacket if you want to listen to tunes while you ride. The comfy cuffs are elasticated and adjustable with a Velcro tab, and fit easily over thick winter gloves.
The collar has a microfibre lining for comfort against the skin, is good and tall and fits fairly snugly, being flush against the neck at the front when you're sitting on the bike. I would have liked some adjustment to draw it in at the back of the neck though. It also has a concealed Velcro strip on the rear for attaching Gore's optional hood (which wasn't available to test). The hood features a peak and drawcord adjustment and fits over your helmet – Gore's website says, 'The hood adjustability guarantees it follows all movements and provides a clear field of vision.' It costs a whopping £34.99 though and is only available in black.
The jacket hem is adjustable with a concealed drawcord whose ends are hidden inside the pockets. You can easily tighten it while riding along as it takes just one hand to pull the cord through the self-closing toggles; you need both hands to loosen it though.
The main zip has a generously wide storm flap behind it to stop any rain or wind sneaking through, and a zip port at the top to prevent the zipper touching your skin. It also has a zip tag to make it easy to grab with gloved fingers. It is quite a fine zip – although it's worked fine I'd feel happier from a durability standpoint if it were slightly more chunky.
There is also some reflective detailing but it's rather subtle – just some piping at the shoulders and lower back and logos on the left side of the chest and the rear hem. This is my only other niggle – I'd like more and bolder reflectives to enhance its low-light visibility.
The Element comes in four colours: neon yellow, jazzy pink, my blizzard blue pictured and a new teal colourway called ink blue. Regarding sizing, I vary between a 38 and 40 (M and with Gore. I needed a 40 in the Element to get the length and enough width across the shoulders (the size 38 Power Trail Soft Shell Hoody was ample), so I would recommend sizing up unless you're a petite build.
Stylish, unfussy waterproof jacket that's guaranteed to keep you dry
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Gore Element Lady Gore-Tex Active Jacket
Size tested: L
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?
Gore says: "Versatile and lightweight GORE-TEX® Active Shell cycling jacket for the female recreational cyclist that provides comfortable fit and reliable rain and wind protection. The comfort fit provides a figure friendly cut."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Gore-Tex membrane, 100% polyester shell
Two zipped hand pockets
Adjustable Velcro cuffs
Reflective details and piping
Zip underflap and zip garage
Cable port in right pocket
Velcro fastening for separate hood
I would size up rather than down if you want the length in arms and body.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Machine wash 40 degrees and tumble dry to reactivate DWR treatment.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well - it's an effective barrier against wind and rain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The unfussy style, light weight and decent breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
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
It is a very good jacket all round, exceptional in some aspects.
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, mountain biking, audax