The Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell Jacket keeps the cold off your front, lets the heat out at the back and provides an impressive level of winter protection. It might have saved me from a dose of exposure on one occasion.
It happened like this: New Year's Day dawned bright and cold, ideal (I thought) for a longer, steady ride out into the North Pennines, and all the way out I congratulated myself smugly on being the only person wise enough to take advantage of such a sparkling day. It was only when I reached the furthest point and turned north to head up the long climb out of Teesdale that I discovered the stiff, northerly breeze that had probably been helping me on my way until then. Not only that, but a sheet of heavy, grey cloud covered the whole sky within about 10 minutes, and as I approached the summit at 425m above sea level, dumped its load of needle-like ice crystals which the wind then whipped into my face.
Needless to say, I was keen to get into the shelter of the valley as soon as possible, so it was a rapid descent off that hill, the ice-cold wind sucking the heat from my face, feet, hands and legs; but my trunk, wrapped in the Velocis, felt curiously detached from it all and really perfectly okay. I limped home in the dark, with 50 miles behind me, feet and hands numb but still alive.
So I developed quite a bond with this jacket, despite its, erm, in-yer-face colour, and all through January, on rides cold and mild, it's proven a reliable companion.
Bontrager has chosen to use windproofing only on the chest and side panels. The back, using Cocona's Patented 37.5 technology, is aimed at getting heat and moisture away from the body. Cocona says 'patented active particles permanently embedded at the fiber level capture and release moisture vapor.' The idea is to keep the humidity inside your clothing to around 37.5%, where, it claims, your body is most comfortable.
I could certainly feel that breathability at work. I ride with my phone and cashcard in a waterproof cycling wallet made from recycled inner tubes (from beerbabe.co.uk), which I stuck into the middle of the Bontrager's three generous back pockets (there's also a fourth, zipped pocket which is also plenty large enough for a phone). When I pulled it out, the wallet was wet with condensation where it had been facing my back.
All this would suggest that the jacket is much more suited to people inclined to overheat on winter rides rather than those of us who feel the cold, but I never felt the need to pull on another layer, so long as I didn't hang around too much. The inside of the jacket is lightly fleecy throughout, making it very nice and cosy. In showers, the softshell panels beaded the water nicely but the breathable panels drew it in, making this jersey more suited to cold than wet days.
Bontrager describes the cut as 'fitted' but the generous sizing meant it was looser than that on me (it's not me in the photos). Actually, this turned out not to be a bad thing as it meant plenty of sleeve length to prevent exposed wrists, and the neck, while not draughty, was less restrictive than some closer-fitting tops I've tried. (Bontrager mentions a popper at the neck but this may have been a specification change as my example just uses a tidily parked zipper). It also allowed me to keep my backside well covered and the silicone-dotted waist gripper proved reliable. It's definitely a jacket that would suit riders with bigger frames (yours, not the bike's) and there's plenty of stretch.
There's a zippable windproof pocket on the chest, which has an internal escape-hole for your headphone lead, and there's a wee elasticated loop inside the collar to thread it through too. Aside from that, the jacket is low on features and clutter, in keeping with the Bontrager principle of no-nonsense design. The chunky zips have big pull tabs that are easy to use even with thick gloves on, and a fleecy baffle behind the main zip contributed to the draught resistance, though it was a bit inclined to fold back on itself inside the jacket.
I felt conspicuous in the high-vis yellow – not a bad thing out on the road – it's not a jacket to pull on when you have a hangover. It comes in black and red as well, if you prefer. Unfortunately, the light-coloured fabric really shows the dirt and, what's more, it was difficult to get it to wash clean. Apart from that, I loved it.
A high-quality jacket with performance to match, particularly for hardworking riders – better in snow than rain
road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell Jacket
Size tested: Large
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?
Bontrager says: "Bundle up without the bulk in the Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell Jacket. Part of our Winter Ride System, this jacket excels in above freezing conditions for all-day winter training. It keeps out the cold while you're warming up, but breathes as you generate heat on hard-fought winter training miles." It fulfilled these claims very well in my view.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Profila Softshell fabric powered by 37.5 active particle technology
20,000mm waterproof, 18,000g/m2/24hr breathability
Fitted - A streamlined fit for all-around cycling performance
Thermal cuffs seal in warmth
The popper collar flap keeps your neck warm and helps ventilation
Three open back pockets and two zip-up security pockets
Reflective elements enhance visibility for maximum safety
Absolutely no complaints here, cunningly cut and assembled to a very high standard.
Performance to match the quality. Warm and very protective but very breathable too. I was comfortable in both very cold, dull weather and on bright, brisk winter days,
Hand in hand with the quality of manufacture, I can't find any weak points. The YKK zips run freely and with no sign of strain from either wear or wash. The only problem is the difficulty in getting the dirty marks out of the light coloured material.
The windproof fabric repelled water very well but this only covers the chest and arms. Elsewhere I found it let water through fairly freely. Great for keeping the snow off though!
The best performance I've had from this type of jacket.
Given that this was a size too big for me I actually found the fit acceptable. All the dimensions seemed sensible – plenty of length, and sleeve length in relation to the chest width, for example.
Definitely "American" in sizing. The fit is meant to be fairly close but this was quite roomy.
Slightly heavier than the comparable Pearl Izumi jersey I tested but there's not much in it and it wasn't restricting at all.
Just great really. Incidentally, Bontrager's description mentions a popper at the neck, but there isn't – just a well-parked zip.
I thought that at not much over £100 this offered a lot of quality and great rider satisfaction.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Ah – the jacket's weakpoint. The high-vis yellow shows every splat and grease mark and they don't come out easily.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Even better than Bontrager claims. I thought this did really well even in below-freezing conditions, and when working hard up the hills I found it easy to avoid overheating. It kept the weather off – but don't expect it to replace a hard shell in heavy rain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Great quality of cut and manufacture, very versatile for different weather conditions, and comfortable to ride in.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
It soon started to look a bit grubby.
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's one of those breed of jackets that keeps the windproofing to the front and arm panels so isn't as resistant to wet weather as an all-over softshell, but, that aside, the performance is excellent, especially if you work hard on your winter rides. The high-vis yellow may be a sensible colour in poor visibility but it does show the dirt. Quality of construction is excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking