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For seeing you from bike to boardroom, or cycle to chic café, in the bleak mid-winter, the Fox Wilson Portman jacket will keep you toasty while looking smart. It's best suited to cold, dry days and travelling at a relaxed pace because the thick quilted material is only so breathable and it's designed to be water repellent, not waterproof. It'll set you back a pretty penny too.
The Portman is made from Schoeller 'WarmWool', a Bluesign-certified fabric (meaning it is produced in both an ethical and environment-friendly fashion). The jacket is described as breathable and water repellent, although I found these attributes to be somewhat lacking. Because it's so warm, it kept me cosy in recent sub-zero temperatures with just a thin merino baselayer beneath, but I'd struggle to wear it above 10°Celcius without seriously overheating. The only ventilation is to unzip it, which isn't much use if it's raining.
As for water repellency, despite the obvious beading on the surface I was disappointed to find water penetrated through the sleeves after just a couple of minutes under a gentle spray, so I would only wear the Portman in drizzle or very light rain, which clearly limits its versatility in a rainy climate like ours.
If you don't intend to ride in the rain anyway then this isn't a problem, and you can enjoy the jacket's thoughtful features, such as two handy zipped internal chest pockets, the deep hand pockets with invisible magnet closures to keep the contents secure, tabs to run your earphone cable through, metrosexual suit-style stripy lining and the subtle reflective sleeve piping and logo.
This is definitely a jacket to try before you buy, as I had a few issues with the fit. I'm slightly taller [and skinnier! - Tass] than our model and found the sleeves woefully short, and the length of the jacket too – the rear hem barely skimmed my hips when on the bike so I had a cold lower back.
The cuffs with inner merino gaitor with thumb holes are a good idea and super snug – but only with my arms by my side. As soon as I reached out to the bar (on a hybrid bike) they shot up my arms – for me they needed to be a good 2-3in longer.
Another niggle was that with my arms forward in the riding position the jacket felt quite tight across my upper back and shoulders.
The Portman's cut will only flatter certain body shapes and if you're relatively short armed and short torsoed (and long necked) then it should fit you fine – especially if you ride an upright bike such as a Pendleton or folding Brompton (think Anna in the BBC mockumentary W1A). Also, while it looks the business zipped up, I found it hung awkwardly when unzipped.
I liked the tall collar for the snugness factor but it has a stiff seam around the top which rubbed my neck sometimes, despite the chinguard at the top of the asymmetric zip. Talking of which, a waterproof zip seems overkill for a jacket without waterproof fabric. Although, a plus point is that it's operable one-handed while riding along, as long as you can find the zip-pull through gloved fingers, and there's a storm flap behind it to keep out any draughts that dare penetrate.
This understated jacket forms part of Fox Wilson's small range of stylish casual cycling clothing for women (they do men's as well) – think 'urban chic meets performance fabrics'. There's a definite hipster vibe going on, if that's your thing. Fox Wilson emphasises the quality of the bespoke technical fabrics, and the fact that its clothing is both designed and handmade in England to exacting, and ecologically-friendly, standards. But at this price, it certainly won't appeal to everyone.
We haven't tested that many 'urban' cycling jackets for women of late, but there are cheaper options out there: Lara tested the Velocity Women's Softshell in 2015, and that is £125 (currently discounted to £93.75), while the Showers Pass Rogue Hoodie I tested last year is £135 (currently £101). The Portman is cheaper than Cafe du Cycliste's Heidi, though, which is now £195.
Tailored winter softshell for the woman about town, ideal for sedate urban sorties and super-cold days
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Fox Wilson Portman Jacket
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?
Fox Wilson says: "A modern take on a classic quilted jacket. We have utilised the best technical 'WarmWool' from Schoeller creating a soft shell urban cycling jacket that is wind and water repellent with added breathability for all year round use. Never stop moving with our stylish cycling clothing for women. With elegant lines, classic tailoring and a thoughtful, ergonomic fit, you'll be equally comfortable out on the town or on a countryside ride."
I would question "all year round use" – it is very warm and I would only wear it on cold winter days, below 10°C for sure.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Schoeller 'WarmWool' fabric: 58% Polyester, 25% Wool, 15% Polyurethane, 2% Elastane
Ergonomic seam construction
Subtle reflective details
Asymetric and waterproof zip
2 internal chest pockets
FW clothing is handmade in England: "At Fox Wilson, we are dedicated to creating the highest performing urban and leisure cycle wear. From the very beginning of our journey, we wanted to ensure our range was made to the highest standard and it was with that goal in mind that we started searching for the finest manufacturers in the UK to create our exquisite range of urban cyclist clothing."
It is certainly windproof, and breathable and water repellent to an extent, but lacks versatility because the only way to regulate your temperature is by unzipping the main zip. Vents would be useful – without ventilation options I found it is limited to very cold days.
The outer fabric is designed to be abrasion-resistant and certainly withstands normal wear admirably. Because the garment is so well constructed it should last a good few years. FW doesn't give any information about reproofing it.
FW claims the Portman to be water repellent, not waterproof. I tested it in the shower as I had no opportunities for rainy riding. Under a fairly gentle spray, water beaded very well and rolled off, but I was surprised to feel some seeping through on the sleeves after just a minute or so. I'd say it would be okay for riding in drizzle or very light rain, but nothing more.
Wearing it in sub-zero to +5°C temperatures with a single baselayer, breathability was fine when riding at a fairly fast pace, but once into double figures I wouldn't want to go much above pootle pace for fear of getting sweaty. Although, it's designed for urban riding where you're unlikely to be belting along.
Off the bike it fits me okay (I'm slightly taller than our model), but I didn't find the cut particularly cycle-friendly for me – the sleeves and back were too short and it's also a bit tight across the upper back/shoulders so could do with some stretch here – but this might not be an issue if it suits your body shape better.
The size chart gave the correct size, M, but as it only goes from XS-L and L is a 30-32in waist, it seems designed for women of smaller stature.
It's fairly substantial, but then it's not aiming to be lightweight.
I had a few niggles that distracted me from the cosiness of the jacket. The collar is quite stiff and when walking around the seam at the top of the zip irritated the front of my neck, despite there being a chinguard over the zip itself. On the bike, the fabric felt quite tight across my shoulders/upper back and the length is too short for me, barely skimming my hips and leaving my lower back exposed. Likewise, the sleeves were long enough when standing upright, but as soon as I stretched my arms to the bar (on my flat-bar hybrid, not drops) they rode up way above my wrist joints making it impossible to use the thumb holes on the merino inner cuff (as they pulled so tightly) and leaving my wrists exposed to the elements.
Shortcomings in performance and fit on top of the high price all affect the value score here.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It washes fine on a delicate wash in the machine, just turn it inside out first and wash separately.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It is very warm and windproof, but less water repellent and breathable than I'd expect for the price, so I would say it's best suited to cold, dry days.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Its smart appearance, warmth and tall collar.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
For me, the sleeves were nearly 3in too short, and the back as well, plus restrictive movement across the upper back.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
We haven't tested that many 'urban' cycling jackets for women of late; the Velocity Women's Softshell is £125, the Showers Pass Rogue Hoodie is £135, while Cafe du Cycliste's Heidi is now £195.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes, on cold frosty days.
Would you consider buying the jacket? No
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes, if the cut suited them and they wanted it for pootling around town.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I've marked it down because of how quickly it let water through and lack of versatility and breathability, then marked it up a little because although I had fit issues, these might not exist for another person who has shorter limbs and torso.
About the tester
I usually ride: Marin Point Reyes 29er My best bike is: Whyte T-130 RS
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