I spend half of my life being much too warm and sweaty – and the other half being much too cold. My body’s temperature regulation seems, frankly, poor. In the absence of a thermostat engineer for the human body, I make as much use of natural, wicking fibres in my clothing as possible – particularly merino wool which dries quickly, doesn’t retain odours and insulates well.
The Women’s Merino Membrane Softshell Jacket from Isadore Apparel is a very smart piece of women’s cyclewear. Harnessing the breathability and warmth of merino is common for baselayers but unusual when it comes to outer layers. It’s a good move by the Isadore Apparel design team: it’s all very well wearing wicking base layers, but if your outer garments trap moisture, no amount of merino technology in your undergarments will keep you fresh and dry. As a particularly sweaty human being, breathability in all layers is important to me. It’s not that I mind sweating: it releases toxins and keeps my skin healthy. But on cool days, my temperature drops quickly once I stop pedalling and within five minutes I’m shivering in damp, sweaty garments.
The designers at Isadore Apparel have worked hard to develop a jacket that regulates temperature.
Style, Comfort & Performance
The waterproof and windproof Merino Membrane Softshell Jacket is beautiful. The fabrics are lovely: the merino mix lining is soft and smooth and glides over a long sleeved jersey without friction. The soft grey suedette detailing on the shoulders and zip placket adds interest to a simple style and the brushed lining inside the collar is soft and cosy for rides on cool days.
With style credentials to boot, this is one garment for which it’s worth raiding those rainy day savings.
The design features are really well thought out: reflective logos and a neon zip add visibility for night riding and a waterproof, chunky zip which is easy to manipulate with cold fingers or in wet conditions. I particularly like the nifty lower back extension which tucks away neatly when it’s not needed, but in wet conditions adds another layer of protection to keep your bum dry. And alongside the merino fibres which aid breathability, there are zippered ventilation pockets to increase airflow as required.
On its first outing, the weather was unseasonably mild but damp and blustery. I regretted wearing both a baselayer and a jersey beneath the jacket, but with the vents unzipped and the jacket partially open, I was only marginally too warm. Its second outing was at zero degrees Celsius, and I was a very comfortable temperature with a baselayer, jersey and jacket vents zipped shut.
The pockets are generous and secure with a zipped compartment for valuables and reflective details for visibility in headlights.
Fit & Sizing
The jacket is generously cut: the sleeves and body are plenty long enough and the elasticity of the fabric provides ease of movement.
Isadore sizing is surprisingly generous compared to other high end cycling brands. I’m wearing a size medium jacket and it is perfect for my 5’8”, UK 12 frame – even on the chest, where tops are usually a little too snug for me. The elasticity of the jacket means that you needn’t order a size up to be able to fit an extra layer underneath on cold days.
Value for money
The Merino Membrane Softshell Jacket doesn’t come cheap. At €255 (around £180) it is an investment piece on a par with the Castelli Gabba and Rapha Souplesse jackets, for cyclists who are determined to ride throughout the winter.
The Vamper team think Isadore’s cycle wear warrants the high price tags: the quality is second to none and the styling stands out for riders who want something a little bit different. This is a very well cut, robust jacket which will keep you warm and dry in winter conditions.
In terms of both practicality and style, this jacket deserves top marks. I hope the Isadore Apparel team launch another colour option: the softshell gilet in Marsala from the men’s range is a gloriously Autumnal shade that I’d love to see in the women’s collection.