The snappily named FWE Women's Kennington FX Reflective Waterproof Jacket comes close to being the ultimate winter commuter jacket. It's super visible, keeps you dry, boasts lots of useful features, is very well constructed and (the ultimate accolade) attracted positive comments on its appearance from a non-cyclist friend, plus it's yours for an extremely competitive price. However, there are a few niggles that prevent it being perfect.
FWE is the in-house brand of Evans, so with the might of this nationwide retailer behind it you'd expect good value (it's £15 cheaper than a similar hooded jacket by Proviz). Recently the new-this-season Kennington FX was reduced by 20% to £59.99 on Evans' website, making it a real bargain – so keep an eye out for another reduction perhaps as we head into spring.
The jacket is made from a 100% polyester 2.5 layer-waterproof and breathable fabric, developed in-house. It has a lovely smooth feel but is quite 'rustly' sounding, not that this is noticeable when riding. Evans calls the material 'stretch fabric' but while it does have a bit of give, I wouldn't describe it as stretchy. Because it's quite thick too the jacket's not really suitable for warm weather riding.
The exterior has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating which helps water bead and also means it's easy to wipe clean. That's just as well because this jacket's not machine washable, but you can hand wash it, according to one of the Evans Cycles team. It is constructed from no fewer than 17 separate panels, all seams are internally taped and the quality of the finishing is exemplary.
The material has proved super-waterproof so far – it beads brilliantly and rain just runs off it like the proverbial duck's back. On the bike – especially with the hood up – it didn't let a drop in. Although, I have to dispute the claim of waterproof zips. They do have a coating that stops some water getting in, but when I did a shower test with spray aimed at my front both the main zip and pocket zips were compromised. However, you don't normally ride your bike in the shower, and when in the riding position and walking I had no issue with rain coming through the main zip. Having said that, I wouldn't trust the pockets to be completely waterproof so don't leave an important receipt in them.
Breathability isn't quite as good, unfortunately. The bonded lining (with its attractive cycle chain pattern) feels a bit 'plasticky' to the touch and is prone to clamminess. The fabric feels like it's just one layer, except on the front chest and pocket panels, where you can separate the lining and outer. There are no vents or pit zips to aid ventilation, just perforations on the face of the fabric (the white dots). I found I got sweaty quickly, even in sub-zero temperatures, and I would finish my 20-minute commute with my sleeves noticeably damp from condensation. I do have a fairly fast ride along the towpath, though (and am prone to excess perspiration!) so if you're riding through traffic at a more leisurely pace, then breathability might not be an issue. The jacket did dry out quickly too.
The Kennington's raison d'etre is to make you stand out and keep you safe on the roads, and it does this superbly in low-light conditions: to say it's bright is an understatement. There's no denying the reflective finish isn't as visible in daylight as hi-viz yellow/orange/pink, but it comes into its own as the light fades and headlights get switched on, making it ideal for winter commuting when you're riding in darkness at both ends of the day (oh, joy). You'll glow like a beacon, and the broad black stripes break up the solid reflective to make any movement more obvious to other road users.
The first thing I noticed when trying the jacket on was that the sleeves are properly long – hurrah, no need to be tugging them down constantly over my gloves! Only my Endura Luminite has such generous sleeve length as this. They're not baggy either, plus the cuffs are wide enough to fit over thick gloves, and when you need to you can cinch them in with Velcro tabs. The collar is also nice and tall, not overly snug but a decent fit, despite no drawcord adjustment. It is lined with soft microfleece.
The body length isn't quite as generous though. On me (I'm not the model here) it reached just below my hips at the front when standing up, and the drop tail just about covered my behind. This is fine for performance cycle wear but not really commuter-friendly – my underneath layers often extended a couple of inches below the jacket. When in the riding position the drop tail barely covered my hips, leaving my backside exposed to the elements and rear wheel spray. It's also not long enough to extend below my Osprey Tempest backpack, admittedly quite a long pack though.
There is a drawcord in the hem, with toggles at each side, but the hem is a snug fit so I had no need to tighten it. I wouldn't say I have particularly child-bearing hips, so the jacket is cut for very slim-bottomed belles. Conversely, there is plenty of – or rather, too much – room around the torso to fit warm layers underneath. I'd prefer if the Kennington was tailored at the waist to give a more flattering silhouette, as well as remove excess bulk. On the bike, I found the front bulges out like you've got a third bosom in the middle of your chest. To be fair, this isn't uncommon, especially on jackets with stiffer, waterproof zips like this.
In its defence, it is cut well around the shoulders to allow freedom of movement when you're stretched out on the bike and it feels nice and comfy to wear. It's not the lightest of jackets, weighing about the same as the Madison Prima but as a commuter jacket its features are the priority, and you don't notice the weight when it's on.
One of the Kennington's main features is its well-thought out hood, which is something of a rarity (and usually a disappointment) on cycle jackets. Evans have nailed the design with this one, though; the detachable hood works well both on and off the bike, with no gaps between it and the collar. It fits easily over a helmet and is cut so that it doesn't restrict either your vision or movement; you can easily turn and look back over your shoulder while riding along.
When you want to wear it as a regular hood just tighten the drawcord at the back via the hidden toggle, and pull down the drawcord at either side of the face and lock in place by pulling it into the plastic sheaths. This drawcord is even recessed into the hem at the top of the hood to leave a peak that keeps rain out of your eyes, an example of the excellent attention to detail that has gone into this jacket's design. The only very minor niggle is that the drawcords are a little too fiddly to operate with thick gloves on.
The hood neatly attaches to the collar via a covered 6in zip at the back and Velcro tabs at the ends, which attach inside little 'pockets' on the collar at each side of the zip. The rear zip tidily folds away under a tab when you're not using hood, secured with Velcro. In all, the hood is quite a feat of engineering!
Other praiseworthy features include the extra-long tag on the main zip pull that allows you to grab it easily no matter how bulky your gloves (a pity the other zips don't have them) and the pocket provision. Two deep hand pockets will swallow gloves, keys and lights with ease while the chest pocket is very useful too. Their zips are a bit fiddly to reach though, because the hand pockets have a storm flap over the zip and the chest pocket zips up into a bespoke recess to prevent water ingress, so necessitate the removal of thick gloves.
As mentioned above, none of the zips lived up to Evans' waterproof claim when subjected to the shower test (whereas the Madison Prima's did). Perhaps the addition of a storm flap over or behind the main zip would have helped here, but in real world conditions I had no problem with rain penetrating.
The Kennington has two notable omissions, which surprised me for such a well-specced garment. First, no zip garage. This didn't cause any discomfort when it was zipped right up, but when I had the collar partially open, with it being so tall the tops of the zip did scratch my chin. The other annoyance was the lack of a hanging loop, meaning the jacket kept falling to the floor when putting it on a hook (unless I had the hood attached and used that).
However, these don't stop it being a practical, and quite stylish, winter commuter jacket, and to boot it's British designed – the care label proudly proclaims 'Developed and ridden in West Sussex'.
Light up the night in this keenly priced, feature packed winter commuter jacket
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road.cc test report
Make and model: FWE Women's Kennington FX Reflective Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: Small
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?
Evans says: "Called FX due to its impressive visual effects when illuminated; the perfect piece for any safety conscious road commuter. Features an innovative fully waterproof and breathable stretch reflective fabric. A wardrobe staple [to keep you] dry and safe all year round."
I largely agree but I would only wear it through winter as it's far too hot for summer use.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Waterproof, breathable, 2.5 layer fabric rated to 10,000mm/10,000g
100% polyester with external DWR finish
Internally taped seams and waterproof zips
Advanced reflective outer shell
Adjustable and removable hood
Two hand and one chest pocket
Elasticated adjustable hem
Adjustable Velcro cuffs
Fleece lined collar
Zips weren't waterproof, as claimed.
Evans says it's "fully breathable" – I found it only moderately breathable.
Okay, and has excellent sleeves, but I'd prefer it to be longer and more tailored through the body.
Evans' size guide was correct, but the hem is pretty snug around the hips.
It's not light but then it's a commuter jacket so the focus isn't on weight.
It would score higher if it were more breathable.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Label has dry cleaning symbol, not machine wash. Evans says you can hand wash it though.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it kept me super visible in the dark and dry in the rain, although poor breathability let it down a little.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The reflective fabric and useful pockets and hood.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Not much, although better breathability and a more flattering cut would improve it.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A very good straight 8 – has excellent features but more breathable fabric and a longer, more tailored body plus a zip garage would elevate it to almost perfect.
About the tester
I usually ride: Marin Point Reyes 29er My best bike is: Giant Anthem X1
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Audax