The Guardian Online – Bike Blog 20th November 2011

From ingenious design and chilly nipples to an elegant cut and a clammy ride, we put two jackets to the test

Last year I lamented on this very blog how hard it was to find a winter cycling jacket I liked: a pernickety moan, I thought, until I read all your brilliant comments. I wasn’t alone, it seemed. There are other blokes who don’t want to look like Chris Hoy simply because they happen to cycle into work.

Even so, I didn’t actually succeed in finding anything, so I stuck with my trusty Endura for a fourth winter – and proud it did me, too, until the lining finally gave up the ghost. A few months ago I began to look again, with a heavy heart. But lo! Nice jackets had started to appear!
I quickly homed in on two likely looking candidates: the men’s cycle coat by new British company Water Off a Duck’s Back, and the Oratory Jacket by Brompton, who also of course make folding bikes, one of which is cycled by me. Having got hold of both to review, I’ve been riding them around for about a month now, though only during the last week has it been chilly enough here in London to test jackets designed for winter weather. Here’s what I reckon – I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has given them (or any other jackets) a go.
Men’s cycle jacket, Water off a Duck’s Back, £140
Appearance: City slicker. Man of affairs. Mildly stylish tax accountant.
Tell me more: Elegant and simple, this looks from a distance like any classy high-street men’s raincoat: double-breasted and mid-thigh length, a touch A-line (says my colleague Kate), with a single vent at the back and two pockets, lined throughout. Peer closer, though, and you spot the cycle-friendly bits – a reflective turn-up collar, reflective strips on the cuffs and (neat touch, this) a buttoned strip on the back of the coat, covered in normal fabric one side and reflective stuff on the other. There’s a detachable hood, and it’s machine-washable.
Visible? The reflective strips are nice and wide, and looked pretty bright when I flashed a light on them. Slightly puzzling is why the men’s version is only available in black and navy (nearly black) when the women’s also comes in “stone” (grey-beige). I’d have gone for something lighter.
Waterproof? It stood up well to a flash shower, and copes decently with autumn drizzle. That it’s a bit longer than other cycle jackets I’ve tried helps: dry thighs, too.
On the bike? Comfortable enough, but the version that I had – the smallest they make – felt somewhat voluminous (I’m 5’9″ and have a 36-inch chest), so it was difficult to tell. My main problem was that it was too hot for anything but relaxed cycling: the material is marketed as “breathable”, but I found it fairly clammy, even with just a T-shirt underneath. I couldn’t imagine wearing a suit jacket too – but I do run permanently late, thus give off a fair amount of stress-related heat.
Off the bike? Like any raincoat: waterproof, but not especially warm.
Improvements? Pit zips. Possibly an ice pack. More colours.
Sizing: S (too large for me), M, L.
Colours: Navy, black.
Worth the dosh? The quality is excellent, it’s waterproof, and when you consider it’s a British-designed, British-made coat that seems like it’ll last, £140 feels like decent value. My uber-stylish colleague Helen Pidd really rated the girls’ version.