LAB is the high-performance range from dhb and this new Aeron LAB All Winter Polartec Jacket is designed for you to continue racing and riding hard throughout the winter months. A trio of fabrics keeps the elements at bay really well; it's not the perfect winter softshell, but it's pretty close.
- Pros: Excellent race style fit, great balance of waterproofing and breathability
- Cons: It's not cheap
dhb has chosen fabrics from Polartec to deliver the kind of properties needed for exercising hard through the winter weather. The front, shoulders and the outer arms (basically all of the blue bits) are made from NeoShell, which is a waterproof and windproof softshell material. It's placed in the positions on your body that are most likely to take a battering from the rain when you are crouched over in a race position.
It works really well, keeping the coldest of winds from penetrating, and water simply beads off the fabric as you ride. It'll get overwhelmed eventually, but only after hours of riding in the rain. I was genuinely impressed with its performance.
The rest of the external fabric is Power Shield Pro, which is a lighter weight softshell fabric than the NeoShell, to help aid breathability. It's used across the back, underarms and side panels, where it's not quite so much in the line of fire from the rain, so you can expel warm body heat easily. It's water resistant, so you still get some protection against the rain, and breathability is great: no matter how hard I rode I never felt overly hot or sweaty. As long as you get your layering right it works really well.
With a close cut fit, the LAB is intended to be worn with just a baselayer underneath, and with a recommended temperature range of 0°C to 12°C it's worth getting this right.
From freezing to about 5°C, I found that it worked best with a slightly thicker than usual long-sleeve baselayer, but I never found the need to go for a thermal one. Above that temperature I could easily get away with a thin long-sleeve layer or even just a mesh summer one if it was at the top of the recommended range, especially if I was going out for a very hard ride.
To make sure your core doesn't get cold, dhb has used Polartec's Alpha Direct as an insulator, the fleecy type material that you can see on the inside of the jacket. Just having it in those small sections with plenty of breathable fabric sections in between means it offers a great balance.
The LAB jacket is cut perfectly for those who are slimmer – with a cyclist's physique, as dhb calls it – and is designed to work on the bike rather than off it; it never felt tight or restrictive, and you can always go up a size if needs be.
The sleeves are the perfect length for stretching out into the drops, and a close, elasticated cuff stops any draughts. The underside of the cuff is also cut at an angle which means it sits shorter than the upper. That means no material to get trapped under the heel of your palm while on the hoods, while the upper still offers plenty of coverage.
The hem is kept in place by a silicone gripper, and there is plenty of length too.
The rear is home to four pockets with three deep ones laid out in a traditional style and a fourth zipped one at the side for valuables.
The pockets are taut and are stitched in such a way that, when loaded, the bottoms sit proud of the main jacket to give a better shape, and they aren't pulling against the jacket. There are also drainage holes.
Round the front you get a full YKK zip which disappears into a zip garage at the neck to avoid any irritation, although the neck isn't actually massively high in the first place, like with some winter jackets.
The neck itself doesn't have as close a fit as the rest of the jacket, and it can leave a gap between the fabric and your neck allowing cold air to flow in. I never found it a huge issue but another of our testers found that with his jacket he needed to wear a Buff when the temperature dropped.
When it comes to value it's a little pricey against some of the opposition, but in its defence it is very well made and the performance is excellent. Yes, it isn't completely waterproof like a hardshell jacket but it does a very good job, and the breathability is great too.
It is £30 more than the excellent Lusso Aqua Extreme Repel V2, though, which offers brilliant breathability, waterproofing and fit for its £150 price tag.
Despite that, I really rate the dhb LAB jacket. The fabrics work really well; the waterproofing is perfectly acceptable for the type of riding it's designed for, and once the rain does eventually get through you continue to stay warm anyway.
And if you don't like the navy colour, it's available in a dark green and bright red.
Brilliant race-cut jacket that stands up well to the winter elements
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Aeron LAB All Winter Polartec 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?
dhb says, "The Aeron LAB All Winter Polartec Jacket combines three advanced Polartec® fabrics to form the perfect winter softshell for pushing the pace in harsh conditions. Balancing protection, breathability and thermal regulation with a performance fit."
I think it is a great all-round winter softshell.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Winter Softshell Jacket designed for tempo riding through cold weather
Recommended Temperature Range: 0-12 Celsius
Three advanced Polartec® fabric technologies combined
Close performance fit
YKK® Zip with reflective trim
Reflective details on arms and back
4 rear pockets including secure zip pocket
Wide silicone hem gripper
Weight: 344g (Medium)
Back: 100% Polyester
Lining: 100% Polyester
Main: 55% Polyamide(Nylon), 45% Polyester
dhb says, "If you have an athletic cyclist's physique and want this performance feeling, we recommend you go for your dhb normal size. For larger-framed riders or those wanting the fit of dhb Aeron kit , we suggest you go up a size."
If you follow the size chart and that advice above, you will be fine.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
A 30 degree wash keeps things clean and fresh with no issues.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A pleasure to wear in pretty much any winter weather conditions.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Don't take the waterproofing claims literally...
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a lot of money, but is actually pretty good value against some jackets at the same price that don't offer any waterproofing. It is £30 more than Lusso's impressive Aqua Extreme Repel V2, though.
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 overall score
Excellent quality and performance, with the perfect cut for those who like to ride hard through the winter months, although there are some cheaper options out there.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.