dhb's Aeron Rain Defence Polartec Jacket is a sophisticated softshell garment, designed to offer defence against rain and chill without the slightly restrictive feel of traditional shell types. Five hundred early season miles in and I'm inclined to say it delivers in pretty much every respect. That said, you'll still want a waterproof micro jacket if heavy, persistent rain is forecast.
- Pros: Copes handsomely with the British climate
- Cons: Pockets require more precise loading
dhb labels it as a jacket, but for me it is one of the jersey-cum-jacket breed. I have run it with an outer shell when the temperature has fallen notably below the cited operating range, but I would struggle to fit a jersey and a baselayer beneath – something I would expect to do with a jacket.
Also, the extended tail is longer than a jersey's but shorter than a traditional two/three-layer laminate jacket.
The jacket's Polartec Power Shell Pro softshell fabric is engineered for temperatures between 8 and 14°C and to provide water resistance, warmth and, crucially, breathability.
In the main I've been mightily impressed. It really nails the design brief, and the British climate.
Climate control is remarkably good. Many polyester-based garments (the majority fabric here, though the underarms are 84% polyamide and 16% elastane) manage to deliver below the cited operating temperature, but I've felt completely temperate between 6 and 15°C, which is typical of temperature fluctuations during spring.
Even at the upper end, paired with a polyester baselayer, I've remained temperate and wicking has proved refreshingly good: a very faint glow struck around the armpits, chest and lower back, but nowhere near clammy.
Its windproofing capability suggests dhb has got the density bang on, too. Cold, blustery winds have been a constant during our test period. I could feel these tickling the outer layers but never penetrating, inducing a smug 'I'm all right Jack' inner smile.
As regards waterproofing, we are talking highly water-resistant: persistent showery rain just beads up, sitting on the surface, and it's much the same story with more moderate precipitation. Bargain on 90 minutes before you start noticing any faint dampness.
A break in the weather, coupled with a moderate breeze, will wick it dry in around 15 minutes.
With its slim design, the 'jacket' can be worn under an outer layer with relative ease: in more persistent, heavy rain I've reached for my B'Twin 900 Ultralight Showerproof jacket mainstay, and when the temperature has dipped to 3°C I've tucked it under a dhb Flashlight Force Waterproof Jacket as a mid-layer, to good effect.
Features and detailing
Features-wise, it's what I'd expect from this genre of garment. The tail is long enough to minimise the impact of spray and chill, while the silicone hem prevents it creeping up when hunkered low for long periods.
The pockets are generally well configured. There are four in total, although the middle 'pump' sleeve proved a little tricky to locate. The fourth is a zippered side-entry design for change/valuables. These pockets aren't waterproof in the sense of a shell jacket, but extended storm flaps help keep persistent, squally showers from working inside.
In the main, I like the pocket structure. Their depth and clingy elastics hold bottles, phones and other essentials securely, even when I've been exploring dirt roads, while keeping contents accessible.
The collar features a garage for the zipper tag, which is pretty standard these days, particularly at this end of the market, though a looped tag would have made adjusting the zip mid-ride that bit easier.
Fluoro green sleeves are a bold contrast to the navy-blue body, but they suit the early season brief perfectly. Stealth retro-reflective piping is strategically located, so you're easily picked up by vehicle headlights without being overly conspicuous.
The Aeron Rain Defence Polartec Jacket comes in gender-specific cuts, which is just as it should be (women's version here). It's a snug, figure-hugging but unrestrictive cut. These days, I'm medium by most brands' sizing charts and this felt tailor-made.
Being proportionally shorter in the torso, for me the jacket offered some additional protection to the lower back and vital organs. Sleeves and cuffs were spot on, finishing at the wrist and facilitating a generous, weather-cheating overlap with full-finger gloves.
I do a fair bit of mixed terrain riding and the fabric has held its own against brambles and other overgrown foliage common to bridleways. There's no need to 'baby' it when washing, either. Just ensure you've closed the zippers, then pop in with the normal load at 30-40 degrees with minimal detergent.
The Aeron Rain Defence isn't the most expensive jacket we've tested, though it's not cheap; I'd say upper end of the mid-range.
I've been seriously impressed by the performance offered by the Aeron Rain Defence. It's not cheap, and you'll still want a shell-type micro jacket when it's raining cats and dogs. Nonetheless, the it's been my go-to through a windy, wild and occasionally very damp March.
Slightly pricey but extremely competent 'bridge' top for changeable conditions
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Aeron Rain Defence 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 new Aeron Rain Defence Jacket is for changeable rides in tough conditions. Powered by advanced Polartec® Power Shield® Pro fabric, this is a close-fitting and versatile layer that balances protection from the elements with breathability.
"NEW Aeron Rain Defence
"Completely redeveloped over two years, the new Aeron Rain Defence Collection takes protection from the rain, road spray and other foul weather to the next level, but also works well when the rain stops. Using technologies from the world's leading fabric mills, this new collection is a massive leap forward for dhb.
"Working with customer feedback from previous versions, dhb have significantly improved the fit, versatility and breathability of this jacket, meaning it can be worn across a greater range of temperatures. It won't overheat when you're pushing the pace, but still keeps for comfortable when you're caught in the rain."
My feelings are that it's an extremely competent jersey-cum-jacket that copes extremely well with changeable early season/spring conditions, as I'd expect it to for this price.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Polartec® Power Shield® Pro fabric for balanced breathability and water protection.
Recommended Temperature Range: 8-14 Celsius
Dropped tail for weather protection
4 rear pockets including central pump pocket and secure zip pocket
Storm cover for pockets to keep contents dry
Full Length YKK Zip
Construction is to a standard I'd expect for the price.
Delivers on its design brief handsomely. Operating temperature range is also very accurate. However, though it copes extremely well in showery to moderate rain, pack a micro jacket too if persistent, heavy rain is forecast.
Wearing and washing well, thus far.
Few are totally impervious (and comfortable), but I think dhb has got this balance bang on. It's water resistant rather than waterproof; you'll need a shell for persistent, heavy rain.
Much better than I was expecting, especially at the milder end of the temperature scale, and paired with synthetic baselayers.
Snug but unrestrictive.
Medium was perfect for me, across the board.
Thus far, regulates temperature and resists the elements very capably.
Cheaper than some, more than others. It has been my default for the past few weeks, so I reckon it's worth the money.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easily popped in with the regular wash at 30-40 degrees with minimal detergent. Hang out and allow to dry naturally. Usual organic and road spray wash out very easily.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The fabric responds to changing conditions and I've been comfortable when wind chill has brought temperatures to 4-5°C. At the other extreme, I've not felt clammy or otherwise uncomfortable when it's been 15°C or so. Showery to moderate rain simply beads up on the fabric's surface. It also repels wind extremely well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Meets the design brief and British climate handsomely.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The pockets, though generally well engineered, require a more precise approach to loading.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's £30 less than Fat Lad At The Back's Next Generation, while B'Twin's 900 Winter road cycling jacket is £79.99.
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
It's a very good garment that delivers on its design brief and really feels made for the home market. It's not cheap, and I'm not completely sold on the pocket configuration, but overall it's a great option for spring riding and a clear 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)