Today’s featured product review is the Gore Phantom Neon Jacket.
To start, allow me to say that this is the first year that I’ve attempted to put together a cycling-specific set of outerwear. Last year, I was adapting skiing clothes to biking, which worked well for some purposes, but not for others. This year, I made a commitment to riding more in the winter, and to ensure that I don’t have any excuses not to ride, I’ve put together a great winter riding kit. When I started looking for winter riding clothes, a great deal of research kept leading me back to Gore, again and again. I ended up corresponding with Gore’s corporate headquarters, and found them to be incredibly, incredibly pleasant and helpful. The person I spoke with was a cyclist himself, and he offered some unique insight based on his use of Gore products in the Northeast–with chilly, windy, wet weather. His suggestions ended up being right on the money. One of the suggestions was the Gore Phantom Neon Jacket. Manufacturer’s picture and description:
“Windproof Soft Shell jacket for ambitious cyclists. Versatile – jacket, functional jersey and vest all in one. Better visibility thanks to neon-colour.”
A few pictures of my jacket (stylishly modeled in my garage):
The reflective stripes are very, very visible at night.
The back of the jacket features three large, elastic jersey pockets.
The jacket is convertible; there are two zippers that attach each sleeve, and they are easily removed for rides where the weather–or the cyclist–warms up.
And… a few pics of the jacket in use:
The jacket is very, very visible at night, both from the bright color and the reflective piping. Please note that my jacket is the yellow color, not the neon yellow color (that’s the only difference). The jacket is made from Gore Windstopper fabric. The zippers are very, very high quality, and have a good, tactile feel to them. The pockets on the rear are nice and large, and the elastic in them holds items relatively securely. My jacket is a medium; I’m around 6’1″, and about 155#–it fits me perfectly. I usually have a problem with clothes either being too baggy, or having too short of sleeves. This jacket is nice and trim through the torso, and has nice, long sleeves with elastic closures that hold them in place (either down at your wrists, or up your arm if you choose to push them up).
The Windstopper fabric performs admirably in…well…stopping the wind. It also does a reasonably good job of being water-resistant. This isn’t a jacket to wear in a downpour, but in light rain, fog, light snow, or other moderate conditions, it will keep you dry. It also does a very, very good job of being breathable, and not holding in moisture. Other than the three pockets on the back, there are no other pockets within the jacket.
I had originally thought that the zip-off sleeves were a relatively useless feature of the jacket. However, after using it for several months, I’ve come to appreciate them. With layering, the jacket is very versatile. With just a jersey underneath, the jacket is great for early fall days where the weather starts around 50 and warms up to the 70s. As the weather warms, the jacket can be unzipped, and the sleeves can be removed. The only downside: the sleeves are somewhat bulky, and if you stuff them into the pockets on the jacket, they take up 2 complete pockets (of the 3 available). With a long sleeve undershirt and a jersey underneath, the jacket is comfortable down to 40-ish. As it gets colder (or wetter), adding an additional layer makes sense. With a long sleeve undershirt, short sleeve jersey, this jacket, and a Gore Fusion GT AS jacket on, I’m comfortable in any conditions from 40 down to around 20 (as cold as it’s gotten thus far, this year) whether riding on the road, off-road, at high or low intensity. Zipper adjustments can make a huge difference in the warmth and comfort level. The back panel of the jacket is a slightly different fabric that allows for greater breathability and comfort.
I should also report that I’ve had the jacket on a number of mountain bike and fat bike excursions, and have suffered a number of falls while wearing it. It has shrugged falls off, and has also endured a number of machine washings, and shows no wear or ill effects. The jacket really cannot be distinguished from new, even looking at it carefully. I’ve had the jacket for some time now, and it has really held up well.
The manufacturer’s description talks about this jacket being multi-functional…and it really is. With the jersey pockets, it works well in a number of conditions and for a multitude of uses. And I cannot give enough positive comments about the fit–the slim fit through the torso works well for me, and allows the jacket to be used comfortably by itself (without excess material flapping in the breeze) or under another layer or two, when the weather gets cold. The slim fit does preclude wearing heavy layers under the jacket, though. An athletic fit undershirt (e.g. a Nike Pro-fit) and a short or long sleeve jersey fit comfortably, but that’s approaching the practical limit. I have, on occasion, slipped a slender Polartec vest underneath with good effect. Also, as the jacket is slim fit, you will have a hard time loading up your jersey pockets and wearing the jacket–much less accessing your jersey pockets. But the jacket has 3 jersey pockets on the back of it that prevent this from being an issue.
The downsides are relatively few and far between. The Windstopper fabric does retain odors relatively easily–that necessitates more washing than I’d like to have to do on a jacket. As noted above, it isn’t waterproof–but then again, it isn’t intended to be. While the fabric is very breathable, I’ve yet to find a way of fully regulating temperature that allows me to be comfortable when hammering at high intensity, that doesn’t result in freezing when taking a brief respite from pedaling. That’s not so much a criticism of the jacket as it is an issue with personal temperature regulation. While the jersey pockets are very convenient, at times I do find that I’d like to have a secure, zippered pocket to throw stuff into–perhaps a small Napoleon pocket as on the Gore Fusion GT AS jacket. And while the fabric is brightly colored and there are reflective stripes, if you’re contemplating wearing this at night, you will need to supplement it with other reflective gear and lights to be fully seen. All in all, pretty insignificant criticisms.
Where to buy? At your local bike shop, of course. Any Gore dealer should be able to order this for you. If you can’t find a Gore dealer, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with mine.
RATG gives the Gore Phantom an A-.