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There are two things you notice immediately about the Santini Guard Neo – Jacket With Hood: the colour and the price. Yep, £340 marks this out as a premium investment – and that orange colour is a real retina scorcher when you see it in the flesh. It's also available in a subdued black-on-black colour scheme as well but, speaking personally, I love that orange. Apparently because orange is such a seldom-occurring-in-nature colour, it's evolutionarily the most arresting and noticeable colour in our visual spectrum. Against the backdrop of a grey city, it stands-out yet further.
Our best waterproof cycling jackets buyer's guide is your friend if you're looking to buy a weather-resistant top.
The one thing that looking at a product's sticker and price tag does is calibrate your expectations. But I didn't know how expensive this was when I first picked this jacket up, and I wouldn't have thought it was waterproof either – it doesn't feel heavy, and it doesn't have that tell-tale crinkle that lots of triple-ply membranes do. It just feels like a 'regular' cycling top, perhaps with a little added wind resistance, but the fabric is so thin I wouldn't have expected much in the way either of insulation or water resistance.
But then you notice that the jacket is dripping in Polartec labels and credentials. According to one label, for example: 'Polartec Neoshell [both registered trademarks, of course] is the world's most breathable waterproof fabric technology.'
So, let's just see what happens when it gets wet, shall we?
I usually take a size large in cycling clothing, and though I could get into Santini's large, I wouldn't have said it was a good fit. Santini calls the cut of this jacket a 'slim fit', and particularly because it's wet-weather gear, and you'll probably have a layer or two underneath, I decided to go up a size to give myself a little more freedom of movement. It had been quite tight across my shoulders and upper arms.
Sizing up was a definite improvement, and as it's quite short at the front, there was no unwanted over-hang even from the larger size. The bigger size proved perfect for me, so I'd certainly suggest trying a size up before parting with your cash. This is especially true if you plan to use this as 'emergency' wet-weather cover.
I'm a bit of a tech and fabric nerd, so I'm always reassured by a Polartec stamp. I know that these space-age fabrics are expensive, which is reflected in this jacket's price, but in my experience they've always been worth it. But in all honesty I'd rather a bigger proportion of a garment's budget went to performance fabrics rather than anything else.
This jacket has an absolutely no-expense-spared feel to it. I'll come back later to how light it is (and it is) but the the finishing touches are just lovely. On opening the jacket you see straightaway that every seam is taped, except at the bottom where it's elasticated, and that seam is flat-locked with thick, robust stitching that gives way to five layers of grippy silicone.
All the zippers are flat, waterproof and shielded, which is as you'd expect, and at the end of the arms you'll find very deep cuffs, which I measured at 10 cm. The cuffs themselves are made from a different material, which feels more like a soft-backed neoprene, and they were excellent.
If the jacket's waterproof and the seams are taped, then the main points of water ingress are going to be the zip, the neck and the cuffs. Well, the zip is a sturdy one from SBS, one of the top two brands, and is well integrated into the jacket. The cuffs, then, are a crucial area, and I thought the deep material was excellent at keeping water out and keeping the warmth in. They were also sufficiently tight to be both waterproof and insulating while still being comfortable. My current Nalini jacket has much shorter cuffs, and always lets in water there.
Which brings us of course to the neck. This is the main source of water ingress in virtually every cycling jacket, as you can't really treat the same way as you treat the wrists – after all, four inches of a neoprene-like material is really not going to work for your neck, for all sorts of reasons...
Consequently, when the rain's torrential, I always find the trickle in at the neck is the weak link in the chain. The neck in the Santini is comfortable, and there's a soft black-backed fabric that feels gentle against your skin, but the waterproofing is mostly about 'mechanical' fit, which for me was pretty good. Certainly as good a fit as anything else I've worn.
The fabric of the jacket itself is rated to 10,000mm (water-column), which is about 14psi. What this means is that the pores are so small, that water can't get through them until it's put under that amount of pressure – and 10,000mm/14psi is more than torrential rain. The pressure washer I've just tested would push through at point-blank range, but anything short of that and you'll be fine.
The jacket kept out drizzle, it kept our heavier downpours but in addition to this I still tested it under the bathroom shower – and I found no water creeping up my sleeves or getting through the fabric. A little bit would come through the zips, but in my experience no zips with the exception of massive TIZIPS are waterproof, but this SBS was the equal of the best YKK Aquaguard I've tried. Yes, water came in at my neck as expected, but really not much, and putting the hood up improved the situation dramatically.
The result from my real-world and shower testing represents a distinguished showing for the Santini and its Polartec fabric, and I'd consider this waterproof enough to keep out anything mother nature could throw at it while I'm out on the bike.
When it comes to waterproofing, there is a always a trade-off between that and breathability – the more watertight any fabric is, the less it breathes. Santini suggests the Neo Guard is suitable for riding in temperatures from 0-10°C, though I found with a lightweight base layer underneath it I could wear it comfortably on shorter rides when it was warmer than this. Yes, it's hard to objectively measure breathability, but I was warm, comfortable and didn't get clammy. So I think you could easily wear this jacket through to early spring.
This feels like a real bonus, because when you've got it tucked away, it's completely unnoticeable – but there's a proper cycle helmet-engulfing hood in the neck of the jacket.
It's made from a lovely thin fabric that's elasticated all around and grips the edges of your helmet. The result is that the hood swallowed my Smith Trace lid without issue.
This is a great idea, as it not only keeps your head dry, but it also provides a seamless path for water to run off your head, without entering your jacket at the back of the neck.
The attention to detail is superb and there are nice – but discreet – design touches throughout. The cuffs and a rear tail flap are excellent and comfortable, and every seam was taped or flat-locked.
It's surprisingly quiet for a waterproof, so it doesn't sound like a crisp packet as you move around in it. Movement is free and easy too. In fact, I can't think of a single area of the jacket I'd improve. Which I suppose is what you'd like – and expect – from a jacket at this sort of price.
Theoretically this competes with the Nalini Ergo shield jacket I reviewed last year, though the Santini is thinner, lighter, more comfortable and more waterproof. Certainly, when the Nalini eventually became waterlogged, it was a much heavier fabric, so soaked up more water.
The Santini isn't quite as insulated or as warm, but given the extra comfort I'd wear this and an extra layer rather than the Nalini, and I can't see a situation where I'd choose the Nalini over the Santini.
The one thing that the Nalini has going for it is that is has three good sized pockets, where the Santini has only one, which is zipped but too small for a bottle.
There's also the small matter of the Santini coming in at £100 more expensive, thanks to its use of Polartec's excellent material.
Waterproof jackets are infrequent purchases, and most of us are only likely to have one, so it's worth getting it right first time. But waterproof jackets have a slightly thankless task, which is to work perfectly when failure would make you very uncomfortable.
For this reason, a good waterproof that fits you well is much better than one that works nearly as well, because that margin is the difference between keeping you dry and you ending up wet. There are lots of jackets that will keep you completely – or just as – dry for much less, but what you're paying for here is the jacket's breathability.
In my opinion the Santini Guard Neo jacket deserves a place in our buyer's guide as one of the best rain jackets you can buy. It looks like its nearest competitor is the Rapha Men's Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket. Steve absolutely raved about it though was put off by the price. I'm a big fan of both brands, but It looks like the Rapha is a little more insulated, while the Santini has more comfortable sleeves and a longer tail.
Assos's Targa is a very similar-looking orange-and-black rain jacket that comes in at a similar price.
If this is your price point, I'd suggest trying all three to see which fits you best.
That said, if you're not planning on spending as much, our favourite budget choice is the Galibier Tourmalet 4 Jacket. This jacket boasts both impressive water resistance and breathability and Stu was wowed by it. Not only that but you'll get change from 90 quid too.
Santini has created a product that screams premium when you pick it up. It's light, waterproof, breathable and beautifully made in Italy. It feels tough and shows a great attention to detail, and personally I love the bright orange. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, that oh-so-impressive performance is accompanied by a price that's as high as anything we've ever tested.
As a one-off purchase, there's the old axiom about buying cheap and buying twice. I loved the Santini, so I'd be tempted to go for the super-high-quality jacket, but only the once...
Top-tier premium performance and a cost to match – if this is within your budget, it's a must try
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Guard Neo - Jacket With Hood
Size tested: Large
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?
Innovative rain jacket made with POLARTEC®'s unique Neoshell fabric (10,000mm water column) fully thermosealed. Providing total protection in the wettest weather, while offering class leading breathability. Featuring aero, high-performance fit and elasticated water-proof hood for extra rain protection. The hood is made to be worn on top of your helmet to make sure your head stays as dry as your body and it is perfectly stored inside the back collar.
I found it to be and waterproof as advertised, and as waterproof as I'll ever need. I found the fit to be aero/snug, even when sized up, and the hood was surprisingly effective
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
SBS zippers, very waterproof.
Fully taped seams.
Firm elasticated bottom, and silicone grippers.
Very well made. Great attention to detail, and all the fabrics are tight with no bunching, and everything looks immaculate inside and out.
I couldn't have asked for more from the fabrics of this jacket. It's as waterproof as I'll ever need, as well as being both warm enough and breathable enough, Of course, when it comes to breathability vs waterproofing, perfect doesn't exist – but this is the best I've ever tried.
Polartec claims this is an incredibly durable fabric. And while I haven't managed to have a huge amount of time using it, none of my use has suggested any signs of fragility, and I'm far from gentle on my garments. I'm sure it's suffered some decent pulls and so far seems unfazed.
10,000mm waterproofing. 14psi – if water is coming down at more than 14 psi, I'm not going out riding in it…!
Again the push-pull effect. If you try to blow through it, you can feel the force required to get air passing through the fabric. It allows gentle passage of air, enough to stop you getting clammy, but the air inside is its chief insulator.
I had to go up a size, though once I'd done so I found the fit was good. It's quite short at the front, a decent length at the rear, and the sleeves weren't too long even though I'd sized up.
This is Santini's slim fit, so shop (and try) accordingly. Going one size up worked perfectly for me.
Really light and packable. Very impressive, some of which is down to the thin, high-quality Polartec material.
Sized up I found it perfectly roomy, and didn't impinge on my movement, but it was snug enough not to flap in the wind.
Very much at the top end of the spectrum, and there's no denying this is a premium purchase.
But as I can't think of any way I'd improve the jacket, the price doesn't appear to be unreasonable.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy. Simple instructions, wash inside out at 30°C.
Using a mechanical rather than chemical water-resistance, there's no coating to deteriorate over time, no theoretical diminishment to its water-proofing.
I found it easy to wash and it dried rapidly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
I like the look of it.
Safety first, that orange is very standout.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is more expensive than just about everything else. The Rapha Insulated team jacket and Assos Equipe Rain are comparable, and both are similarly premium products with prices to match.
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 overall score
A reassuringly waterproof premium product from one of Italy's most respected brands. Expensive, yes, but the pretty much unimprovable quality goes a long way to justifying the expense.
About the tester
I usually ride: Custom titanium gravel My best bike is:
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: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Tom is features and tech writer who's been writing and riding for over 20 years, and has had misadventures on almost every conceivable bike. From single-speeds, to aero race-bikes, gravel bikes, ebikes and mountain bikes, he's a big fan of almost everything that rolls on two wheels.