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The Howies Herald is a fantastic waterproof jacket that's ideal for commuters. A little more reflectivity for night riding would make it nigh-on faultless.
Howies makes some really great, practical cycling kit that has the added advantage of not being overtly cycling-styled. I recently tested the rather fun Drizzler blazer and was impressed by its surprisingly impressive performance on the bike.
The Herald is a more obviously jacket for active wear, even if it's not clearly cycling-specific. It's made from a two-layer, matt waterproof and breathable nylon shell, with a mesh polyester lining. Seams are double taped for added water protection while the lightweight fleece collar is there for a spot of comfort.
Perhaps more exciting than the Herald's fabric is its practical design. There are two typical zipped hand pockets, a subtle zipped chest pocket, a zipped internal pocket and – my personal fave – a zipped forearm pocket with fitted bungee cord and clip for secure holding of your front door key. (I'm going back a bit with my references here, but I'm pretty sure Frank Spencer or Mr Bean had something similar.)
The Herald also has a really good hood with plenty of coverage, which can be rolled and stored in the collar with a poppered retaining strap. Velcro'd storm cuffs and full-length front zip storm flap go a step further to keep the elements at bay.
But one of its best features is the drop-down rear flap, with an added section of material at the lower back. This can be poppered up when you want to look casual but easily unpopped when you need some fundamental coverage on the bike.
How does all that translate to performance in action? The answer is: very well. The Herald's material doesn't feel like typical waterproof fabric – it's a little softer and less plasticky – but sure enough, rain beads and collects on the surface with absolutely nothing getting through. From constant drizzle to downpour, it does a fantastic job of keeping you dry.
Possibly even more impressive is windproofing. I was taken aback by how good the very lightweight Drizzler was at keeping out the breeze, but with Velcro cuffs and a generally thicker build, the Herald is even better. Despite all this weatherproofing, breathability is also ace. Combined with a good underlayer and technical T-shirt, I've experienced no moisture build-up at all.
In comparison to those excellent technical abilities, fit is 'only' pretty good. I went for a size XXL as I have a 46in chest and it fits nicely off the bike. With some thicker layers underneath, though, it can become a tad snug, especially across the back and under the armpits, most noticeably with arms outstretched to the handlebar. This slight constriction never really annoyed me too much, but it's there and you'd be best trying on before buying, especially if you're a bit on the broad side.
Also, while you will be happy to be seen in the Herald thanks to its quite stylish design, another slight imperfection means that being seen in it might not always be that easy. If you're going to use this as a smart and subtle commuting jacket, you're probably going to be wearing it in the hours of darkness at some point. To that end, the Herald falls down because the only reflective elements are the small Howies logo on the front, a two-inch stripe low down on the back, and the retaining strap that holds the rolled hood (which won't be seen if the hood is unrolled and sitting back naturally).
That seems a shame because I think Howies has missed its own trick here. That clever pop-down rear flap that so helpfully helps add a little extra coverage over your backside would be the perfect place to load up with reflectivity. And because it folds up, the jacket still wouldn't have to scream 'cyclist' if you didn't want it to.
In terms of effective cycle commuting jackets that also offer great off-the-bike performance and style, the Resolute Bay is probably the nearest rival to the Herald. That comes with far better reflectivity than the Howies, but it also costs £200. The Rapha Hooded Rain Jacket II is another good option, but again it's a fair bit more than the Herald at £230. Rapha also does the more affordable Commuter Jacket at £100, but its abilities and performance are no match for the Herald. In this context, then, Howies has a pretty good value proposition on its hand.
Despite its couple of small imperfections – the lack of reflectivity is a far bigger issue than the slightly tight back and shoulders – this is an absolutely fabulous commuting jacket, at a fair price. It also has more than enough features and considerations to be just as useful and suitable when not cycling. In fact, you'll never need to swap between cycling and non-cycling jackets again. To paraphrase the old shampoo advert: 'Buy two jackets for on and off the bike? Not me, I just wear a Howies Herald and go.'
Superbly practical commuting jacket with fantastic performance and a soupçon of style
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Howies Herald Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: XXL
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?
It's a commuting jacket aimed at daily urban riders.
Howies says: "A waterproof jacket designed for the daily commute. The Herald has fully taped seams and is made using a matte 2-layer shell that's lightweight and breathable. We've designed it so that all the functionality can be hidden away when it's not needed; the hood can be rolled up into the collar and a clever hidden rear drop hem can be unfolded to help keep your trousers dry while cycling. We wanted The Herald to be a go-to rain jacket for all seasons, so it has enough room for a sweatshirt or hoody underneath. Likewise, when it gets a bit warmer the mesh lining helps it stay breathable. Also features a waterproof front zip with a storm flap, adjustable cuffs, reflective accents front and back for night time visibility, a zipped pocket on the forearm for your Oyster card or lift pass, two zipped front pockets, a zipped breast pocket and a zipped internal pocket."
That's about fair.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Outer: 100% Nylon
Inner: 100% Polyester
Water pressure: 3000mm
Made in China
Waterproof zip with storm flap
Drop down rear hem
Fleece lined collar
Zipped chest pocket
Zipped hand pockets
Zipped forearm pocket
Zipped internal pocket
Really well made with good quality fabric and fittings.
Fantastic weatherproofing and breathability.
Has felt strong and sturdy so far with no signs of wear, despite a lot of use.
From the feel of the fabric, I really didn't expect the Herald to be as completely waterproof as it has turned out.
Again, way better than I expected. With the right layers beneath, it allows you to stay sweat-free.
Just a little tight across the shoulders and upper arms.
It fitted as I expected.
It's not particularly light, but it's definitely light enough for commuting duties.
Other than that fitting issue, it's very comfortable. Fleece-lined collar is nice.
I'd say it's very good value compared to other technically proficient jackets with commuting aspirations.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Machine wash at 30 degrees, do not tumble dry. In truth, I haven't had to wash it yet as it hasn't got sweat-smelly and I've simply wiped off any surface dirt.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It worked superbly well, with excellent weatherproofing and excellent breathability.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
I like the off-bike-friendly design and multitude of pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Could do with more reflectivity, especially on the back and sides.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
In terms of commuting jackets that also offer great off-the-bike performance and style, the Resolute Bay Reflective jacket comes with far better reflectivity than the Howies, but it also costs £200. The Rapha Hooded Rain Jacket II is another good option, but again it's a fair bit dearer than the Herald at £230. Rapha also does the more affordable Commuter Jacket at £100, but its abilities and performance are no match for the Herald.
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
The Howies Herald not only does just about everything you could ask for in a commuting jacket but also throws in a few extras, such as loads of pockets and that clever fold-down rear flap. A bit more reflectivity and it'd be perfect.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
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: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure