The Bontrager Circuit Cycling Wind Jacket is a lightweight, packable shell with impressive windblocking prowess. It's showerproof rather than waterproof, but will hold out against heavy rain for half an hour or so. It's a good option for the sort of chilly, showery conditions commonly experienced on early season rides.
Given the polyester fabric is so very thin, I was genuinely impressed by its ability to block icy blasts. Obviously, a decent long-sleeve base and midlayer are crucial to this equation, but I've been comfortably hustling along for two or three hours with no problems.
The collar can be turned up, but even laid flat and without a Buff/neck tube I've had no issues with sleet, snow or cold air whistling inside. The zipper tag is a decent size too, so not overly tricky to command when wearing full finger gloves.
When things turned milder, the thin fabric, together with vents under the arms, on the shoulders and across the back, have ensured things remained comfortably dry.
Water resistance is also very reasonable. The fabric has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, designed to offer lasting protection from showery rain. It fended off light snow and sleet showers for an hour, and held back heavier rain for 30 minutes or so before it started seeping through. It does dry quickly, given a break in the cloud, and I'd always choose something that took in a little water over the old 'condom jackets' that might keep rain out but leave you feeling clammy, at best.
The elasticated sleeves offer decent, weather-cheating overlap with gloves, and I've never had anything nasty get funnelled inside.
The full-length YKK zipper allows easy climate tweaking on the fly – it undoes from the bottom too, for easy access to jersey pockets – and the draught flap helps keep the elements out.
The jacket on test is a medium – my default for most cycling brands. I'm 181cm tall, and the drop tail is well positioned on me, with the front sculpted to avoid it catching on the saddle nose. There are two pull cords so you can either relax the hem or draw it tighter.
The jacket's semi-fitted cut allows for layers without bunching, gathering, or restriction. If anything, I found the cut a little on the roomy side around the shoulders and sleeves – in fact there was a little flutter around the arms, but it's worth noting I have a whippet-like profile; if you have a bigger build you would doubtless fill it better.
I've actually been choosing middleweight jersey-cum-jackets of late, when temperatures have dipped to freezing or below, as these permit a thick gilet and winter-weight jersey to be worn underneath without bunching or restriction.
The Circuit jacket is available in three colours, the black on test with retro-reflective detailing, 'Radioactive yellow' or 'Radioactive Red'. Visibility is helped by the retro-reflective collar and smaller detailing around the tail.
There's just the one pocket, at the side, and with a zip closure; it's quite generous but not designed for anything too heavy.
For such a thin fabric, it seems durable and I've had no qualms wearing it while exploring bridleways and green lanes. True, meeting that thorn/black ice with your name on could spell its end, but overhanging brambles and branches haven't made any lasting impression.
In terms of care, this is straightforward – leave to air naturally following a damp ride (rather than leaving it scrunched up), pop in the wash at 30 degrees with minimal detergent, and don't tumble dry. After 20 minutes it's touch dry at room temperature, fully dry when hung on the line with a moderate breeze.
A penny shy of £70 for a lightweight packable shell is steeper than some, cheaper than others. Van Rysel's RCR Ultralight Packable Showerproof Jacket comes in at £25 less, while the Shutt VR Flanders Shower Jacket is a good bit more but arguably has a higher specification, with three rear pockets and a security pocket for keys.
The Liv Cefira Superlight Wind Jacket Anna tested comes in at £64.99, and features three rear pockets and packs incredibly small, but Anna had issues with the fabric's flexibility and cut.
Ultimately, the Bontrager Circuit is a very competent packable windproof jacket with some nice touches, but there are similarly competent models costing less.
Very competent packable jacket, though others offer similar bang for less buck
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Circuit Cycling Wind Jacket
Size tested: M
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?
Bontrager says: "The Circuit Wind Cycling Jacket keeps your core nice and warm so you can ride stronger and longer - even when the winds work against you. A lightweight and breathable design with tons of cycling-specific features make this jacket a staple for riders who don't let a little wind keep them out of the saddle."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Windshell fabric is lightweight and keeps the core covered on windy rides
Packable design fits into the included storage bag and folds down smaller than most smartphones
Left side pocket conveniently stores ride essentials
Front and rear shoulder vents provide excellent breathability
Convenient two-way zip allows easy jersey pocket access
Drop-tail design prevents overexposure when in the cycling position
The semi-fitted cut follows the curves of your body with room for movement
Lightweight, thin but seemingly sturdy.
Very good, rivals that of similar garments.
Has washed well and no evidence of deterioration despite the usual everyday carelessness and several washes.
Decent shower-resistance; on a par with comparable garments.
Thin fabric and ventilation flaps shift unwanted heat/damp convincingly.
Semi-fitted cut allows layering without feeling baggy or fluttering in the wind.
About right, taking everything into account.
Felt lighter than 136g. Perfect for stowing away in a jersey pocket or luggage.
Has blocked some bitterly cold blasts very convincingly, ditto light showery rain and persistent drizzle.
There are similarly capable jackets for more, and some costing a good bit less.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Has responded well to machine washing on 30 degree cycles and line drying.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Bontrager Circuit Cycling Wind Jacket has done exactly what it promises, blocking wind and chill very proficiently. It'll also fend off light to moderate showery rain comparably well. The semi-fitted cut enables layering without resulting in bunching or restricting movement.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Lightweight and well designed, does exactly what it says in the blurb.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Nothing, given the design brief.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
A penny shy of £70 for a lightweight packable shell is steeper than some, cheaper than others. Van Rysel's RCR Ultralight Packable showerproof Jacket comes in at £25 less, while Shutt VR's Flanders Shower Jacket is £89 but arguably has a higher specification. The Liv Cefira Superlight Wind Jacket is £64.99, features three rear pockets and packs incredibly small, but when Anna reviewed it she had issues with the fabric's flexibility and cut.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Maybe - it's a solid choice but there are cheaper options offering similar performance.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good – light, protective, packable, nicely cut – the only thing going against it really is that there are cheaper options delivering similar levels of performance.
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, 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)