Endura clothing has been around for almost 20 years, and is especially well-known in the mountain-bike world. The Equipe range is for road cycling, and unashamedly aimed at the higher end of the market. As part of this image, the Endura Equipe website makes much of the development of cycling garments for and by the Endura professional road racing team.
Top of the range in the jacket department is the Exo Softshell, and first impressions were excellent. As soon as I put it on, this jacket felt great. The cut is perfect, with a long back and short front ideal for most cycling positions. The fitting is close, and the fabric has a bit of stretch, so it's comfortable with no bagginess. Any piece of serious kit that flaps in the breeze, in my opinion isn't really serious.
The look is stylish and serious too: our test model is a mix of black and lime-green, with some white reflective strips. The jacket is also available in red and black.
In many situations a 'close-fitting' garment means a small garment, and that means short sleeves, but not here. On the Exo jacket, the sleeves are plenty long enough with arms stretched out on the bike. The fitting round the neck is great too: snug, so no draught blowing in, but not too tight.
The fabric is windproof and waterproof. In fact, it feels bomb-proof. It definitely keeps the bad weather out, and the warmth in. As the name implies, the fabric is soft to the touch rather than 'shiny' as most waterproof jackets, and it's slightly fleecy on the inside. I wore it with just a base layer and light cycling jersey underneath on a couple of very cold days, and was totally fine.
Going hard uphill I found the fabric didn't breathe enough to prevent a bit of clamminess building up, but to be fair that happens with any fully windproof and waterproof cycling kit. To overcome this issue, the Exo jacket has side vents, which you can undo on a long climb if you're getting too warm, then zip up for the descent.
As well as the side panel zips, there's a main zip running diagonally across the front of the jacket - vaguely reminiscent of some Star Trek uniforms. I assume this is so the zipper itself doesn't dig in your larynx when the jacket is fully closed.
The quality of construction is top-notch. A friend of mine who has worked in the industrial fabric and outdoor clothing industries gave this jacket a long perusal and says it's some of the best construction he's ever seen: tidy stitching, perfectly joined panels, faultlessly sealed seams - inside and out.
The zips are also sealed, which means they're waterproof, but this also means they're hard to do up and down with one hand (often required if you're adjusting cycling clothing on the go). Less of a problem if you can ride no-handed, but if you're in a tight group or a side wind this isn't always advisable.
Other unexpected features include the double cuffs at the ends of the sleeves: a tight-fitting elasticated inner cuff, and a loose-fitting outer cuff with no velcro strap to adjust or tighten it. It looks stylish, in a commuter jacket kind of way, but I'm not convinced it's practical. Maybe the idea is for a glove to go between the two cuffs, so rainwater doesn't run down the sleeve into the glove, but in reality it's a bit of a faff to get a glove set up like this.
On the lower back of the jacket is a large pocket, reached by a horizontal zip, mountain-bike style (perhaps not surprising, given Endura's off-road heritage). Inside the pocket there's a hanging pouch, divided into compartments for tools or food. This is undeniably neat, and keeps your stuff clean, dry and safe - but it's virtually impossible to root around and find what you need when you're riding with gloves on.
There's also a smaller pocket on the back, also with a horizontal zip (sealed, like the vent zips). It's big enough for a couple of energy bars, and easier reach into with gloves on while riding.
On the front, there's a small chest pocket, where you might want to carry a wallet or iPod (and there's a small interior hole so you can run the wires to the earphones up the inside of the jacket). I put my mobile phone in here but, because it's sealed inside the wind-and-waterproof shell with my perspiring body, it steamed up. This is not a criticism - as this will happen to any phone inside any well-sealed waterproof jacket - but it is a point to consider.
Overall, there are many positives about this jacket: the cut, the design, the style, the fabric and the construction are all excellent. The unusual cuffs and mountain-biker pockets may be negatives for some road riders.
The Exo Softshell retails at a penny under 200 quid, and for that money you need to be sure that all aspects of this jacket suit your needs perfectly.
Stylish, top-quality and bomb-proof against the weather, ideal for serious winter riding, but with some features that won't suit everyone.
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Make and model: Endura Equipe Exo Softshell Jacket
Size tested: Lime Green
Tell us what the product 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?
The Endura website bills the Exo as the 'Ultimate performance softshell featuring ultrasonic welded construction for smooth, comfortable interior and externally sealed seams'. This is true, the seams are perfect, and the performance of the fabric is exemplary. Just be sure the cuffs and pockets suit your needs.
On the jacket's main purpose - to keep the bad weather out, and keep the rider warm - performance is faultless. On usability, some riders may find the zips, cuffs and pockets a down-side.
We haven't used this jacket for long enough to comment accurately, but on first inspection this appears to be a very well-made garment and likely to be very durable.
Weighing in under 500g, this is very good for such a weatherproof garment.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes - the protection is fantastic in bad weather
Would you consider buying the product? Personally, no. The pockets let it down for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Only after explaining the pocket situation. For many people it won't be an issue at all.
Age: 50 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,