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Montane's bike-specific Featherlite Velo H2O Jacket gets that balance between waterproofness and breathability pretty much spot on. It's an unavoidable truth that any fully waterproof garment won't be totally breathable. And any fully breathable garment won't be totally waterproof. There always has to be a balance - especially when it comes to performance road cycling.
The first thing you notice about this jacket is the fabric. Branded 'Freeflow H2O', it's very light and thin. Put it on, and if it wasn't for a bit of rustling you wouldn't know you're wearing it. The fit is good too: close around the body, with a short front and long back, and very long arms meaning your wrists are covered even when stretched out on the drops.
This lightweight fabric and tight cut, plus the absence of hood and pockets, also means this jacket packs down small, making it easy to stash in your jersey back pocket. Ideal if you're going out on your bike in the dry, but there's a chance of rain later.
And when that rain falls, how does the jacket perform? Overall, I'd say very well indeed.
I've worn this jacket on a few wet rides, and without a doubt, it's fully shower-proof. Even when the showers got heavier, my inner clothing was dry. And, given the amount of water it keeps out, this is one of the most breathable jackets I've ever tested.
It's not totally condensation free, but there's always going to be a build-up of damp on the inside of a jacket when you're going hard, especially on the hills. With the Featherlite Velo H20 it's kept to a minimum - firstly thanks to the nature of the fabric itself, and secondly thanks to a large vent across the back.
When it really rains properly, then water does penetrate the jacket. But to make it any more waterproof would inevitably impair breathability and you'd turn into a sweat-ball on the inside anway. It's that balance thing.
So for riders prepared to accept this compromise, accepting a bit of water ingress for the sake of more breathability and therefore comfort, the level of protection provided by this jacket is perfect.
If you're a tourist or commuter that rides at a steadier pace, not working up such a sweat and needing more weather protection, then this jacket isn't for you. There are several other, more sturdy, options available from Montane and other manufacturers.
Although the Featherlite Velo H20 is ideal for training rides or sportives where you're cracking on at a fair old pace, there are a few minor quibbles: The zipper is very small and hard to grip with your fingers, especially when wet and cold, or with gloves on. Also, the baffle behind the zip may be necessary to keep rain and wind penetrating through the zip, but it's a bugger to stop it jamming when you're trying to get the jacket done up one-handed while on the move. Of course, if you stop to put on this jacket, and use both hands, you'll have no problems.
As well as the zip baffle, other features include some reflective piping for night-riding, and an elasticated draw-cord hem with gripper-tags to keep the fabric tight under your rear-end when riding.
The jacket I'm testing is fluorescent yellow - in my opinion the safest option for riding in bad weather. It's also available in black and silver.
The Montane Featherlite Velo H20 retails at £70. Compared to other jackets with similar properties of waterproofing, breathability and pack-down size, this is a good price, making it a piece of kit defititely worth adding to your wardrobe.
Excellent garment for the performance road cyclist, with breathability and waterproofing near-perfectly balanced.
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Make and model: Montane Featherlite Velo H2O Jacket
Size tested: Fluoro/yellow
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?
The Montane website describes the Featherlite Velo H20 retails as 'bike weather protection that packs down to the size of an apple. Wear on long spring, summer and autumn rides where the weather can change from warm sunshine to hostile carwash. Features rear afterburner vents to maximise breathability when working hard on those long mountain climbs and full body 'Dusk till Dawn' reflectivity...'. Phrases like 'rear afterburner vents' and 'full body Dusk till Dawn reflectivity' smack of unnecessary puff, but overall this is a great piece of kit as long as you accept that its benefits also means it has some limitations.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Montane website explains: "As with all Montane clothing Freeflow H2O Fabric contains a Durable Water Repellancy (DWR) as the first barrier to keeping you dry."
When riding in the rain, I could see this barrier in action, with rain-drops sitting on the surface of the fabric rather than soaking through.
The Montane webiste goes on to recommend that you regularly clean the jacket to maintain this water-repellent barrier: "Machine wash in warm water at 40C/104F with a mild soap. Montane recommend that you use Nikwax Tech Wash. DO NOT use fabric softeners or bleach.
It may be required every 6 months or so to reproof the garment to restore its water repellancy. Montane recommend Nikwax TX Direct. Please see www.nikwax.com for more information."
I've used Nikwax stuff on other outdoor gear (I'm a walker, as well as a cyclist) and it's good stuff.
Construction seems very good. All seams are taped. there were a few loose threads near the zip which got caught, but these were easily trimmed off.
The fabric is light and potentially fragile, so you'll need to look after this jacket. But if you do, it will last a long time.
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes, with the caveat that this is not fully waterproof, but that's the pay-off for good breathability
Age: 50 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, mtb,