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As its name suggests, the Santini Vega Absolute Winter Jacket is aimed at dealing with the worst the weather can throw at you. It's not as waterproof as some, but it still works very well, with a great fit that keeps you always feeling snug.
The Vega Absolute makes use of Polartec's Power Shield Pro fabric and though it's not as waterproof as some fabrics, it offers plenty of warmth while still being impressively breathable.
The test period has seen a large range of weather conditions, from the mild temperatures between Christmas and New Year, to the recent cold snap with the thermometer reading -2°C on some of my morning rides. The Vega has coped throughout.
I'd say around 12°C is the upper limit for me, with just a baselayer underneath, before I found things getting a bit damp when keeping a high pace going, and with a merino winter baselayer I was fine to just below freezing.
Alongside the breathability the Vega also delivers on windproofing. On cold, icy mornings where I've noticed the cutting northerly wind on my legs or face, this jacket does an excellent job of blocking it out, keeping you toasty warm.
You also get extra windproof panels on the chest, neck and pockets – the bright yellow bits – which also have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating.
The Polartec fabric also comes with its own water resistance too. It's not amazing, rated at just 5,000mm (for wet weather riding I wouldn't consider anything less than 10,000mm, personally), but it held up to light and moderately heavy rain or showers surprisingly well. There wasn't any noticeable seepage through the seams either.
I'd say the all-round performance of the Vega Absolute is well suited to the UK climate and conditions.
Style-wise, the slim, race-style fit is quite close to the body but does still allow enough room for layering up should you want to wear a jersey beneath it. I never found much need, though, especially if the weather conditions were going to remain the same throughout the ride, as the Vega comes with traditionally laid out pockets on the rear (and a zipped one on the chest).
In fact, the Absolute, being a softshell design, feels almost more like a winter jersey than a jacket, albeit a slightly thicker one. This means that it moves nicely with you on the bike, it makes no noise in the wind, and with plenty of length in the neck and sleeves there will be no exposed skin to catch a draught.
I would like to see a zip garage on such a tall collar, though, as it can irritate slightly. I found it would rub my neck if I was spending long sections riding low on the drops or hoods, and could be more noticeable if you ride in an aero style position.
The extended cuffs are cut at an angle, allowing the upper part to cover the top of your wrist when riding while the shorter lower part doesn't get in between your palm and the handlebar. It offers no water resistance at all, though, so it's best to make sure the cuffs are well tucked inside your gloves.
The rear of the Vega also has a nicely dropped tail for full coverage, and silicone gripper to hold it in place. It's not as pronounced as some but does the job. The bottom of the jacket is also elasticated.
Other details include a zipped chest pocket and some discreet reflective detailing here and there.
I like the colour. The dark blue looks classy, and the yellow sections make you visible without trying too hard to look like a high-vis jacket.
The Vega Absolute is designed and manufactured in Italy, and sizing-wise it's typical Italian – meaning it comes up a little smaller than UK brands.
I'm a medium in most, and while I could comfortably wear this medium, if I was buying it I'd probably nudge that up to the large. Santini does have a good size guide, and if you follow that you should be fine.
The Absolute was initially priced at £239 on Santini's UK website, but that has since dropped to £189. Okay, it's still not cheap, but that does bring its bang for buck rating to a much more favourable position, and similar to others on the market.
As you'd hope for that kind of money, the overall quality is absolutely excellent. To me, the stitching and layout of the panels is flawless, and after being snagged on brambles and branches on some gravel routes, the material has shrugged everything off.
For comparison, Monton's Pro Joes's 3-1 thermal jacket offers a decent performance, but not quite as good as the Vega Absolute. It does come with a thermal gilet that sits underneath, upping the warmth on really cold days. It has a full price of £200 but has been discounted to £120 for quite a while now.
Rapha's Pro Team Winter Jacket is £180 and offers, according to Robin, plenty of warmth and breathability, with water resistance provided by a DWR coating.
The build quality is excellent throughout, and the Polartec fabric works really well in all kinds of weather conditions. It's not the cheapest solution on the market, but is worth the outlay, I'd say.
Impressive performance and build quality, especially if you want a race style fit from your jacket
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Vega Absolute Men's Winter Jacket
Size tested: Medium
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?
Santini says, "A winter jacket designed for the coldest temperatures during winter. Incorporating high visibility colours on the chest, collar and rear pocket. Studied specifically to protect against wind and showers at altitude and while descending."
It's a very capable jacket for pretty much any weather a UK winter can throw at it.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Made with Polartec Powershield® Pro, advanced four-way stretch, microporous softshell membrane enabling the optimal release of heat generated by the body while riding while providing class-leading protection against the elements.
Chest, collar and rear pocket faced with an additional outer layer of wind-resistant material with water repellent treatment.
Hidden, zipped pocket incorporated into the chest panel.
Specifically designed high collar for enhanced protection against the elements, with a raw-cut rear insert to the rear for added comfort
Ergonomically shaped form, designed to fit the body as comfortably as possible when riding.
Reflective details are incorporated into the design of the garment for added visibility on the road.
High visibility colours on the chest, collar and rear pocket.
Better than expected.
The sizing is a little small compared to UK brands, but that is reflected in Santini's size guide.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
I was originally worried that the yellow sections weren't going to clean up after a wet ride on salt-covered roads coating the jacket in a black spray but it all washed up fine with no issues.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It is great on the warmth front, and also performed better than expected in the rain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Copes well with British weather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
No zip garage for the high neck.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's around the same price as offerings from the likes of the Rapha, Monton, Gore and Assos.
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
Overall, the Vega Absolute is very good. It's not as waterproof as some jackets at this price, but it still performed better than expected. The overall quality is top notch too, as you'd expect at this price point.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!