A softshell jacket with neat features and plenty of warmth
If you’ve not heard of Vulpine before they are a British company who create cycling apparel for men and women which is influenced by classic British tailoring. The Vulpine range of clothing is steadily increasing and now includes polo shirts, jerseys, trousers, shorts and a number of jackets as well as caps and a gilet. You may have also seen or been to the Vulpine Cycling Fete.
We’ve been interested in Vulpine for a while and Co-founder Nick (who used to do road racing and time trialling and has a nice Ricky Feather bike) asked if we wanted to review the Softshell in 2012. We’ve had the jacket for a while now and have worn it in all sorts of conditions so this is definitely a long term review.
The first thing you discover when putting on the Vulpine Softshell jacket is the magnets. They are used in a number of places, the main pockets, large rear pocket, the splash guard and the collar and without doubt you will be opening the pocket flaps repeatedly so you can hear the satisfying snap as they close.
The fit is good with room for warm layers underneath or a t-shirt and jumper. The styling is like a military jacket that’s been tailored to cycling and i’ve worn the softshell plenty of times without having even been on a bike. This is a jacket you can commute in and wear out at lunch with regular clothing.
The Vulpine branding is subtle, something i really like and the contrasting green inside pocket flaps is a nice highlight and another subtle brand cue. Those Vulpine logos are not reflective, though at first sight it looks like they might be.
Construction is very good, no issues with the stitching and no problems with wear and tear. There are more green bits hidden away inside. Zips are the thicker type, open easily and have tabs with little V logos on and there’s a baffle behind the front zip to keep the wind and rain out.
For my first ride wearing the softshell the wind was blowing a gale so i expected i’d get pretty chilly despite the jacket being windproof but that wasn’t the case. I found i warmed up quickly and with the lack of wind cooling me down I thought I was going to overheat.
The jacket however seemed to keep me at the edge of being overly hot, more like a cosy water bottle type of warmth. Snug you might say, despite the cold wind. The material probably has something to do with that, it’s breathable but i find that hard to measure without a scientific test. The arm pit vents certainly helped, tiny holes cut out of the material let hot air shift outside and help regulate the temperature. It works and i wish more jackets had them. I’m sure it also helps you to not be stinky when you get to your destination!
I’ve now worn the jacket in all sorts of conditions and find it’s good in winter and up to the end of a cold spring. Last year we had plenty of cold rainy days and i found i was using this jacket more and more for commuting. It’s reliability was the key thing. I got used to knowing how warm i’d be in it and that i’d be dry when i got home. It’s only shower proof but i’ve been drenched in it a few times and know that i won’t get soaked getting home from work during a 30 minute commute. Over a longer time spent in the rain you may start to feel damp as the material becomes over saturated but i’ve not been out in the rain long enough for that to happen.
The splash guard is held up inside the jacket with a magnet and you can pull it down to help reduce spray covering your trousers if you don’t have mudguards. The logo and surrounding stripe are reflective too.
There are two pockets on the front which are huge. You can fit a medium sized camera, fruit or a big packet of jelly babies in there easily. The flaps are held closed by a magnet. On the back there’s a good setup with the left pocket being really wide with a flapped magnet cover. The right pocket is open and has a zipped pocket on the front. There’s also a reflective key hanger above the right pocket. You can fit all the regular items you’ll need when cycling in these and probably find you have space left over.
A neat feature of the softshell is the cuffs. They can be rolled back to reveal a reflective inner which can be used when signalling. This is a great idea and one i liked to use but it does highlight my only criticism, the length of the sleeves. I find them to be shorter than other jackets by a good inch so when rolled back your wrist ends up out in the cold. With a long sleeved base layer and longer winter gloves it still happened which was a shame. The fleece interior cuff stopped the draft going up your arm though. I know i’m more Wiggo esque in arm length (not ability though) than the majority so it’s probably not going to be a problem but if you are taller or long armed then it could be.
All i can say is that if you think it might be a problem for you is to call Vulpine and ask. They are very friendly people and will help with any questions. Calling the co-founder up to ask about a product is not something you can do with bigger brands.
There are two more reflective bits on the shoulders which can be seen from the front when cycling and won’t get covered up by a pack back or courier back strap. The neck, which is also magnetic can be tightened with a pull cord at the back. This is good when it’s really cold, it keeps the draft out. There’s also a waist cord that can be tightened too.
Another little detail is a hidden arm pocket with a carabiner inside for attaching your keys or wallet.
In the months i've been using this jacket i've come to rely on it whether that's for a longer ride wearing bibs in the winter, commuting to work or just going to the shops. I find it hard to fault. Only the sleeve length is a negative thing and that won't affect a lot of people. Black is not my preferred colour for being seen in winter but i love how smart it looks and the small reflective touches help you get noticed a bit more. It's even better that it can be worn out and about while not on the bike. There are a lot of features for the money and it's so well made i could see it lasting a long time, just remember that arm length could be an issue for you.
Review date: 11 March 2013