November is National Cycling Jacket Month (I literally just made that up). It is a month of many shades and temperature ranges for bike commuters. Rides into work are dark and chilly; commutes home are sunny and pleasant. Until DST ends and then the commutes home are dark and pleasant. Hence the need for a convertible cycling jacket.
The Gore ELEMENT WINDSTOPPER® Active Shell Zip-Off ($179.99) is a cycling jacket that interchanges between a jacket and a vest to accommodate a cyclist through fluctuating temperatures and changing conditions.
Allow me to demonstrate!
What I like
- Interchanges from jacket to vest
- Sleek and flattering fit
- Good ventilation
- Thumb loops on the sleeves
- Two internal stash pockets
- No rear zippered pockets to hold the detached sleeves
- Two zippers on each sleeve make it cumbersome to reattach
- Not water-proof and water-resistance is minimal
- Adjustable hem is difficult to loosen.
Weather resistance: It’s a very lightweight, wind-resistant, stretch shell that works very well in heavy wind. It is water-resistant and will keep you dry in light drizzle but not a rainstorm.
Breathability: One thing that Gore knows about is how to design a piece of gear that keeps you dry. The WINDSTOPPER® Active shell contains a very thin mesh weave inner lining throughout the entire jacket allows sweat and moisture to escape. The sizing of the jacket, which Gore describes as “comfort fit” provides enough roominess to accelerate the transfer of moisture from the cyclist core.
Functionality: The jacket and vest is interchangeable via a system of four zippers. Each sleeve is attached by two zippers that, while effective, are challenging to do because of the angle. If you have great shoulder dexterity, super long arms and a pair of arms extending out your back, you will have no problems removing the sleeves. For the rest of us mortals, it’s just easier to remove the jacket to unzip the sleeves.
Once the sleeves come off, you can stash them in either the zippered front pockets or the inner stash pockets. There is no stash pocket on the back of the jacket so this makes the cyclist look like he/she has a distended belly.
Generally, I wore this as a full jacket on the morning rides and as a vest on the way home.
Fit/Comfort/Warmth: A soft fleece lines the collar to both wick moisture on high exertion days and adds warmth to the neck on cooler, low-exertion days and the WNDSTOPPER® Active shell fabric provides just enough stretch for a comfortable fit regardless of the position of the cyclist on the bike.
I found the ELEMENT WINDSTOPPER® Active Shell Zip-Off to be roomy enough to comfortably accommodate a wide range of shirt weights from low-gauge merino wool short sleeved shirts to high-gauge merino wool long sleeved shirt. The arms are long enough to fully cover my wrists while stretched over the handlebars without constriction. There’s even an added bonus of an elastic sleeve cuff with thumb holes help retain warmth on days that the cyclist is not wearing gloves.
As for its warmth factor, I can say that it kept me plenty warm in 35-degree mornings when paired with a high-gauge merino wool long sleeved shirt. I personally have been using the Icebreaker Zone.
Packability: The jacket and the arm sleeves are completely stowable in the zippered side pocket providing you have experience stuffing a -20 degree sleeping back into a little stuffsack. The entire mass is the size of a psychedelic, bloated softball.
Reflectivity: It’s decent. Has some nice reflective swirls and piping but nothing spectacular like the Sugoi Zap. But with some additional creativity on doll’ing up your bike with lights and reflectors you’ll be fine.