Le Col Sport Winter Jacket £170
Something I'm often telling friends and people I meet that don't cycle at all is that as long as you're wrapped up warm over winter, cycling can be very enjoyable. It's just really important to have the right kit to make sure you can take in those vistas instead of concentrating only on how cold your extremities are and how happy you'll be to get home and have a warm drink. That's where items like Le Col's Winter Jacket come in, offering a wind proof outer layer that helps keep all that winter has to throw at you at bay.
At £170 Le Col's men's winter jacket, which is also available as a ladies jacket, sits firmly at the premium end of the scale and as such meant my expectations were set high. After all, if you shell out that much for a single item it really needs to justify its price tag. Over the last 8 or so weeks I can confirm that the 100% polyester jacket has performed well and met most of my expectations. Size wise I have been testing a large which weighed in at 404g whilst also testing Rapha's Pro Team jacket (£220 & 361g for a Med) and Crafts Tech Jacket (£165 & 322g for a size large) alongside this one for comparison.
As the name suggests this jacket is designed for winter riding and a quick read of the product information will tell you that it is designed to be worn on days when the temperature sits between 5 and 18 deg C. Although a warmer start to winter is usually a good thing as far as most cyclists are concerned, it did make testing this jacket somewhat difficult initially as October and the beginning of November were warmer than usual. During the first few rides I layered up as I would normally do if wearing either the Rapha Pro Team jacket or Craft Tech jacket, with a base layer and jersey underneath. Despite these rides being relatively slow (zone 2 endurance riding) I was just too warm. Having now worn this jacket on a considerable number of rides I have found that it's best suited to temperatures below 8 degrees C and for me anything above 3 or 4 degrees only requires a long sleeve base layer underneath. From 6 deg C down to freezing this jacket really comes in to it's own. On one particularly memorable winter training ride which ended up covering 73 miles, it rained for the whole morning. I was wearing my North Face Muddy Tracks jacket which kept the rain off admirably for several hours. Underneath the Le Col jacket was still dry and kept me nice and toasty throughout the whole ride. I'm fairly sure I was the only one who could say they'd enjoyed the ride as everyone else was on the verge of getting hypothermia.
There's also the Pro B5 winter jacket in the Le Col line up, which retails for £250, and is a essentially a heavy duty version of the winter jacket designed for temperatures from -5 to 10C. Going by the recommendation for the winter jacket I suspect you'd be able to ride to the North Pole in their B5 jacket but if you are someone that really feels the cold and can't get enough warmth in winter no matter what you do it may be worth exploring this option. This heavy duty jacket would probably have been perfect for the really cold winter we had in 2013 and perhaps ideal for the harsher conditions found in other colder countries.
Equally, on a number of dry but cold (3-5 degrees) long training rides between 60 and 90 miles I've remained toasty throughout. A large part of this warmth is thanks to the dotted wind stopper / water resistant thermal front panels which are what make this jacket so effective as well as the fleece lined inner which helps keep warm air trapped in. The relatively thick wind stopper fabric is used on the chest, shoulders, neck and top of the arms, with the rest being a thinner softshell / lycra style fabric that is much more breathable. The combination of fabrics works well. My only criticism is when the three large rear pockets, which offer more than adequate storage for longer days in the saddle, are fully loaded. When fully loaded the rear of the jacket is pulled down as the lycra fabric on the back stretches. This problem is exaggerated when climbing out of the saddle as the items stored in the pockets start to bounce up and down as the lycra stretches and compressed, creating a kind of bungee effect. Additional stitching on the back might help resolve this issue and is something Le Col could consider to improve this aspect. To remedy this I have started storing spare tubes and tyre levers etc in a saddle bag to reduce the weight in the rear pockets. On the flipside, the pockets are easy to access, even with thin to medium gloves, thanks to the elastic properties of the material used and I have been able to find everything with ease despite bulging pockets. I wouldn't normally mention the height of the rear pockets but this was one of my gripes with Rapha's Pro Team jacket as the pockets on back were simply too high. Thankfully this wasn't a problem on Le Col's jacket. Additional storage for keys and bank card etc comes in the form of a very handy water proof pocket which is located on the right hand side of the jacket, effectively underneath the rear right cargo pocket. There's also another useful pocket on the inside of the left chest which is big enough for even a larger smart phone.
Reflective detail is another element that's really important for me personally, especially as the test jacket was black. I was pleased to see some reflective piping on the shoulders at the front and also a white stripe up the middle pocket and two smaller reflective details on the sides of the other remaining pockets. It would be nice to see a couple of reflective details on the side too as lack of visibility from the side is what causes a large number of vehicle related road cycling accidents.
I've been wearing the large which initially felt a fraction too big for my 6 foot 1 / 75kg frame but after the first wash the jacket shrank a fraction and has offered a snug, tailored fit ever since. The sizing is based on weight or chest size, with the Large being a 40" chest or 75kg weight or ideally both of those. Fortunately I hit 75kg on the nose so that made choosing a size easy. Comparing the fit to the other two jackets on test the Le Col jacket doesn't feel quite as tailored as the Rapha Pro Team jacket for me personally but it's not far off. The fit is nice and snug though and better than the fit offered by Craft's Tech jacket. The arms are a good length which can sometimes be an issue and the back of the jacket is a good length although would benefit from being just a fraction longer.
Instructions for washing recommend 30 degrees so I have washed this item along with a number of merino wool items that also require a lower temperature. This is a warning really to make sure you don't wash this item at 40 degrees as this could shrink the jacket considerably. That might be a reason to buy a larger size if you are on the upper limit of a size. The jacket itself has washed well though and continues to look new for the moment.
Since the weather has turned recently, all other jackets have remained in the wardrobe and the Le Col sport winter jacket has been the single item I have come to rely on. Design wise I didn't instantly like the aesthetics as much as Rapha's Pro Team jacket, but as time has passed I have started to like the design more and more. I tested the black jacket but the jacket does come in blue, fluro yellow and red for those that like a splash of colour. Personally I quite like the look of the fluro jacket for winter for extra visibility.
At a glance
|Verdict||A stylish, super insulating and windproof jacket that’s ideal for winter riding when the temperature is between 0 and 8 degrees.|
Le Col Says:
The Le Col Sport Winter Jacket has been designed carefully to provide a tailored fit and thermal layer against the elements.
Designed with a wind stopper front panel for reliable wind and rain protection.
- Full length large zip.
- Wind Stopper water resistant thermal front panels.
- 3 large rear pockets and 1 internal pocket on inside left breast.
- 4th waterproof security pocket.
- High soft lined collar with zip guard.
- Reflective stripe on middle rear pocket.
- Use in temperatures from 5C - 18C.
- S - 38 or 65kg
- M - 39 or 70kg
- Large - 40 or 75kg
- XL - 43 or 85kg
- XXL- 45 or 90kg
- XXXL - 47 or 95kg
Supplier: Le Col, 0208 735 5161, lecol.net