'Ground crew to the rescue' was my initial reaction clapping eyes on LEDwear's Aurora jacket. Billed, as 'multi activity' cut and sizing are on the Aurora are more relaxed than I've come to expect from more cycling specific jackets and while it includes some genuinely nice touches (the ability to go in the washing machine once the shell starts looking and smelling bad certainly gets my vote) pit zips where you'd expect hip pockets is a missed opportunity and compromises climate control to boot.
What we have here is honest to goodness two-layer polyester construction comprising of an outer shell impregnated with white and red (front and rear) LEDs and copious Scotchlite. Then we've the standard issue breast and poacher pockets that seem highly water-resistant, although the garden hose test revealed traces of dampness when aimed directly at the zippers.
Inside, a mesh lining protects the fabric from premature wear, while theoretically improving ventilation. A quick scout around uncovers the removable battery compartment cum switch fuelled by four AAs that resides in it's own pocket with Velcro closure. Debate rages as to the superiority electro-luminescent technology over LEDs but while I'll accept there's less likelihood of component failure with the former, the latter remain extremely effective and moreover, silent.
Real world rider protection seems pretty good on the Aurora, there's a long drop tail to stop the elements blowing inside, even descending with my nose against the stem, and the fleece lined collar does an excellent job of locking rain and chill out. Sadly, the cuffs showed a tendency to billow in blustery conditions unless the Velcro tabs were nipped uncomfortably tight-although by my reckoning medium would've been a better fit on me - which might have solved that problem. At this end of the market, climate control lags behind more sophisticated fabrics so while some additional warmth was welcomed in freezing conditions, things turned very clammy after 20 moderately paced minutes in milder weather.
Safety scores highly. In either steady or flashing modes, I was visible to around 350 metres, dropping to 300 round town due to competing illuminations but the well conceived reflectives eliminate SMIDSY moments when joining roundabouts or similar traffic flow. Unusually, LEDwear don't quote appoximate run times but I've passed the 80 hour mark in flashing mode with no obvious signs of dimming.
Nice concept but needs development to reach its full cycling friendly potential.
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Make and model: LEDWear Aurora Jacket
Size tested: Illuminous - Large
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?
"Our first ground breaking product is the LEDjacket, a multi-activity jacket with built in LED lighting for optimal visibility. It is made from high visibility material to the front and back with ventilated mash panels". A design with some very attractive features but tries too hard to be all things to all people in my opinion.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Two layer polyester shell impregnated with machine washable LED lighting, mesh lining, tapered cuffs, sleeves, fleece lined collar. Pretty much what I've come to expect at this price point.
Generally robust, although one of the white LEDs expired during testing.
675g by my scales
Relocating the pit zips,introducing hip pockets and a more cycling specific cut would make a world of difference.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Aurora is a budget conscious commuter jacket with some neat touches. However, cut and climate control are too generic for everyday, moderately paced commuting.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Blend of LED lighting/Scotchlite is silent, seemingly tolerant of machine washing and very, very effective.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Cut and limited ventilation.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not in its present form
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, with some revision.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Possibly for less spirited commuting/recreational riding.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
By no means a bad jacket considering the asking price but some small yet significant tweaks are required to see it compete in performance terms with established designs.
Age: 38 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
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, mtb,
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)