If you're determined to get out and ride in the coldest weather this winter, Santini's Vega Xtreme jacket has you covered (see what you did there - ed). Plus, it's not bad in a heavy shower or two, too.
Pros: Very warm, perfect performance fit, good water resistance
Cons: One instance of build quality
While here in the West Country we've mostly had quite a mild autumn there have been frosty cold days to put this cold weather jacket through its paces. In that time, the Vega Xtreme proven to be a technically-adept cold weather jacket, with a marginally stronger leaning towards the frigid conditions than on wetter weather.
Lined by fleece technology from Polartec on the inside, and the brand's Windbloc membrane construction on the outside, it's claimed to work optimally in the -8-+5 degree range, and it absolutely does.
This is one warm winter jacket, which works first and foremost by completely blocking cutting winds on the outside, and adding toastiness and comfort on the inside courtesy of a thermal layer next to the skin. Naturally, when mild day temperatures begin to hit – approaching high single figures, according to my Garmin – things can get a little too warm, but you can't have everything.
The fact is that it breathes very well in the temperatures that it's designed to work in, and I found myself perfectly happy riding in it with just a merino base layer on underneath. The base layer itself was damp after a 40km tempo spin in 2-3 degrees, but then again its job is to pass moisture away from the skin, in the process taking it on itself, so I'd expect this anyway.
The jacket sizes about normally with a slim fit in a medium, while if you ride in an aggressive position there's enough length in the arms and back to do so without it riding up. I like a form fitting winter jacket that isn't restrictive at the same time, and the Vega Xtreme fits the bill perfectly.
The underarms are less thick than the rest of the body with a mesh-like outer to help a bit with ventilation, while the jacket's cut is designed to create that protective shell that you want when things are bitterly cold. Especially, I liked the high collar with Polartec's Alpha fabric (a fluffy kind of textile) which works like a comfort blanket – effectively removing the need to wear a gaiter in the process – and the neoprene cuffs that create a comfortable leak-less seal.
The same absolutely waterproof thin neoprene outer is used on the substantially dropped tail too, as well as over the central zipped cargo pocket for piece of mind when road spray and showers are the order of the day. You also get the same material behind the zip to keep out both draughts and water, and Santini has thought that you'll more than likely be wearing gloves with the jacket, so has included a large metal puller for the zipper itself for ease of use.
The main fabric is water resistant enough for repeatedly showery weather – just about on a par with Castelli's Alpha RoS jacket which uses Gore's Windstopper 150 material – but the neoprene parts do offer that extra bit of coverage in strategic areas that the Alpha RoS can't match. Swings and roundabouts, really. (As a side note Castelli also produce a women's version of the Alpha Ros there is no female version of the Vega Xtreme).
This is a one-piece construction too, which simply for the avoidance of faff when dressing/undressing/washing is a positive in my view, and you'd hope that'll have long term benefits in terms of how long the jacket lasts. More seams means more to go wrong in my view, no matter how good they are, so a simpler construction in what's supposed to be a tough outer layer seems like a good idea to me.
Nevertheless, it's not flawless in this regard. It might have a great fabric construction throughout, but one of the silver rings that line the drainage holes in each of the flanking pockets popped out before I'd even worn the jacket. I hope that this is an isolated incident and it hasn't affected the effectiveness of the garment, but it's a shame that it's happened, and I'll update this review if it does show more failings in the coming deep winter season.
There are also a few high-visibility features in the left shoulder tab that also has some reflective dots, and in the Santini branding over the dropped tail and around the base of the elasticated waist. However, some might see the general plainness as a bit of a downside. I don't personally – I ride with lights on my bike in the winter when the sun's not out – but some may prefer a brighter option.
Naturally it requires a little care to maintain the effectiveness of the moisture wicking and water-resistant properties of the fabric, but Santini recommends a 'normal' 30 degree wash. You can do that if you wish, but with technical garments like this I always like to err on the safe side by using a technical wash if I can – when you're spending £210, you want to know that it's going to work for a few winter seasons at least.
Still, that's £65 less than Castelli's Alpha RoS, which ostensibly does the same job and does it equally well... but not markedly better. Now, there's a tribe of Castelli-lovers out there who will still be swayed by the Alpha RoS and that scorpion logo, but if you're not sure which to plump for and simply want the best jacket for the money, then the Vega Xtreme is the winner.
As a performer, it's a real rival for Castelli's excellent Alpha RoS jacket. Then you spot the £65 saving...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Vega Xtreme 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?
Santini says: "Vega XTREME jacket is part of our new VEGA line of high performance, cold climate cycling apparel designed so you can ride in the harshest weather conditions. Powered by POLARTEC's Windbloc fabric, a 3 layer shield with an advanced microporous membrane for maximum breathability, Vega XTREME offers total protection from wind and rain."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
"Vega XTREME jacket is part of our new VEGA line of high performance, cold climate cycling apparel designed so you can ride in the harshest weather conditions. Powered by POLARTEC's Windbloc fabric, a 3 layer shield with an advanced microporous membrane for maximum breathability, Vega XTREME offers total protection from wind and rain. Featuring a fully waterproof PU covered back tail and raw cut ergonomically shaped cuffs, a rear waterproof zippered pocket and highly reflective details on back and collar, Vega XTREME is the perfect jacket for any extreme weather conditions. It will keep you dry and warm also thanks to the high collar lined with POLARTEC's high advanced, ultra-lightweight insulating Alpha fabric. No more excuses. Hard winter? Yes, Vega!"
- Polartec Windbloc - A versatile 3-layer shield 280g with an advanced microporous membrane to ensure maximum breathability. Windproof and rain resistant.
- Collare lined Using Polartec's highly advanced, ultralight-weight, insulating Alpha fabric. Fast drying, advanced breathability, regulates warmth.
- Zipped rear pocket - Additional rear water-proof, zippered back pocket, lined with a breathable membrane fabric. High-visibility pull cord for ease of opening while wearing gloves
- Ergonomic sleeves - Made from a fleece lined, super-roubaix fabric with a fully waterproof PU outer layer
The seams and fabric seems very well constructed, although the silver drainage hole ring popped off before I even used the jacket. It seems an isolated incident, though. Loses a mark here for that though
In cold weather where showers are around and a constant danger, it's fantastic.
The Polartec fabric is certainly hardy, as are the neoprene sections in the right places.
Very good, and absolutely what you need from a tough winter outer layer.
Breathability is good if you wear it in the very low temperatures that it's designed for. If you don't, you do end up sweating a fair amount.
It's certainly designed as an outer layer so there's space, but in a medium it's slim without feeling too tight anywhere.
Sizes about right to me for an outer layer.
At nearly 400g, it's certainly on the chunky side, but in cold and harsh winter weather a little weight can be welcome I think - it's a 100g less than the Alpha RoS too.
I personally found it very comfortable, especially with the thermal lining and 'Alpha' collar.
It does pretty much it all, and at £210 that can't be a bad thing.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy given that Santini says you can just wash it with normal detergent, but I choose to use a tech wash just to keep things tip top.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Extremely well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Very warm, perfect performance fit, good water resistance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
One instance of build quality.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compare it to the similarly tasked and very, very good Castelli Alpha RoS jacket https://road.cc/content/review/251187-castelli-alpha-ros-jacket, and it looks great value at £65 less.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes.
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes, it's a real rival for the Alpha RoS.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes, I'd have to with this performance and at this price.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I gave the Castelli Alpha RoS jacket 9/10, and this comes perilously close to claiming a coveted 10. However, that small issue with build quality knocks off a mark, and its bulk might put one or two off.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,