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Le Col Pro jacket review

18 Dec 2018
Verdict:

Classy, versatile jacket for hard rides on grotty days

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
• Close fitting • Light • Water-repellent • Super-bright
Against 
• On the pricy side

Dressing correctly for winter rides can be a tricky business. Go too light and before you know it your body is shivering and your fingers are numb. Go too heavy and half an hour into a ride you’re soaked with sweat and wondering how to carry all the excess clothing you now don’t need.

That’s before you have to consider whether it’s likely to start pouring down when you’re 50km from home.

It was exactly this quandary that motivated former professional rider and Le Col founder Yanto Barker to develop the Pro jacket.

‘When I was a pro I was not fortunate enough to spend the winter in Mallorca or somewhere sunny and warm,’ he says, ‘and I was doing long six-hour rides regularly from October to February. You definitely need good kit if you’re going to do that without getting ill.’

Buy the Le Col Pro jacket from Le Col

Barker’s tick list of requirements for the jacket was that it had to be light, aero, breathable, warm and waterproof. It’s an almost impossible task to incorporate every element on that list into one garment, so he had to think carefully about where the compromises would come.

‘It’s a delicate balance. The fabric is fully waterproof and breathable, but we don’t have taped seams so in those areas there will be seepage of water if it’s raining really hard. But then it becomes more of a thermal jacket. It’s not really designed to keep you completely dry; the focus is more on keeping you warm.’

The resulting garment is produced mainly from a material called WindTex, which in this form is relatively thin and stretchy. It makes for a body-hugging fit that certainly ticks the ‘light’ and ‘aero’ boxes, feeling more like a substantial jersey than a chunky winter jacket.

Its lack of heft means that the Pro isn’t immediately warming when you first step outside on a cold winter’s morning, but Barker explains that that isn’t the point.

‘All the garments in the Pro range are about helping you achieve your best in a performance sense. It’s not about just going riding. We have other ranges to cater for that, such as the HC and Sport range.’

True enough, the Pro isn’t substantial enough for commuting, where you might be riding quite gently and find yourself shivering at traffic lights, but it comes into its own on longer, harder rides.

Once you generate a bit of heat from pushing hard on the pedals, the Pro jacket does an excellent job of helping to regulate body temperature. The tight fit (and neat cuffs and silicone grippers) means no warm air is allowed to escape, but you can always unzip slightly if you feel the need to cool off.

Barker says, ‘I’m always cautious about quoting temperatures, but I’ve worn the Pro jacket in -15°C in the Alps at 2,000m in January. Equally, I’ve been out in 12°-13°C and if you go hard you do start to sweat a bit, but then you would no matter what you were wearing. It’s more about adapting to variable temperatures.’

Sure enough, on long rides, the Pro copes well with a broad range of conditions. It never feels bulky or constricting and it remains comfortable even when the sweat starts to pour. What’s more, it deals with rain admirably despite not being fully waterproof.

In light showers, water simply beads and runs off. When it’s a deluge or an extended period of rain, moisture will find its way inside, but not in a way that is chilling or clammy. Rather, the jacket almost acts like a wetsuit, keeping you warm and protected despite the damp.

For those who aren’t on training rides or who feel they would like something warmer, Barker suggests that the Pro jacket could still be the right option as long as it is paired with the appropriate base layer.

‘We do a sleeveless undervest, a short-sleeve undervest that is very light, a mesh long-sleeve undervest, and then we have a thermal long-sleeve undervest, and they can all be used with our different outer garments to make sure you get your temperature right.

‘It’s actually quite a cheap solution. Rather than have a second jacket that costs maybe £200, you’ve could have three undervests to choose from, so basically, you get a temperature range from around 0°C to maybe 14°C with one jacket.’

Anyone familiar with the Castelli Gabba jersey will notice the similarity with the Le Col Pro jersey, and Barker admits that the Gabba was partly his inspiration, but claims that he has improved on the Castelli version.

‘I’m someone who wore the Gabba as a pro back in the day, and was very grateful for it,’ Barker says, ‘but things have moved on. 

‘I thought I could improve it, because the original Gabba had two-way stretch and very thick material. We looked at a four-way stretch, a thinner material and better breathability, and I think about two or three years later Castelli came to the same fabric that we started with. This latest version of the Pro is an evolution of that first jacket.’

From a safety point of view, the Pro also has a few tricks up its sleeves – or rather at the top of the sleeves. Reflective panels on the shoulders serve to make the rider glow like the eyes of a magnificent beast in car headlights. There’s another reflective strip on the rear, and the orange colour is bright enough to be seen from space.

Buy the Le Col Pro jacket from Le Col

Overall, this jacket is more suited to hard winter training rides than cosy outings, but it is versatile enough to be used in almost all conditions – cold or warm, wet or dry, night or day.

At £220, the price is on the high side, but there is no doubting the quality and – paired with the right base layer and accessories – it could be the only cycling jacket you need.

Price: 
£220

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