I’ve done a few reviews of Gore products on here, and I’ve also looked at other brands to try to find something that performs as well. I keep coming back to Gore because I can’t find anything else that fits, and works, as effectively. I come from a skiing background and love Arc’teryx, The North Face (when they used to have good QC), Patagonia, etc; I’m used to high-quality stuff. But the effectiveness of Gore wears for biking–it’s hard to dispute.
Today, I’m writing about the Gore Xenon 2.0 Windstopper Softshell Jacket. I picked this up a couple months ago and it has been my go-to jacket for this fall, for a myriad of conditions. I picked mine up at the best Gore shop in the midwest: North Central Cyclery. One of the biggest advantages of having a local shop: you can try stuff on and confirm the fit. There are variances between Gore’s different product lines. Trying stuff on is invaluable. The Xenon is advertised as a slim fit…and it is a slim fit.
I picked up mine in the black/black scheme. With the massive reflective patches, it’s very visible at night when headlights are around.
It’s the jacket that I have on in this picture…and even with a cell-phone flash, you can see the reflectivity.
The back features 3 large pockets–each big enough to easily swallow a bottle. The central pocket also has an integrated zip-pocket–great for a cellphone, wallet, keys, etc.
The collar is narrowly tailored and has a nice, soft-fabric on it. When you zip the collar all the way up, it’s nice and snug on the neck, and the soft fabric feels cushy on cold skin.
Good zippers mean that it stays at whatever level of zipped or unzipped that you set it to.
Here’s a super-blurry, near-useless selfie.
The little red zipper to the right of the picture is a vent. When closed, it’s invisible–you don’t see it, and there’s absolutely no wind leakage. But when you warm up, you can unzip the two vents, and get some good airflow. That’s a huge advantage. When riding in a stiff wind, unzipping the main zipper on a jacket can cause your jacket to billow or flap in the wind in a most annoying fashion. Using the chest zips allows you to have good ventilation, without jacket billow. The snug, athletic fit means that this jacket doesn’t flap around in the wind.
Here’s a vent closeup. Small, but surprisingly effective.
The sleeves also have very-effective zippers on them.
Why sleeve zippers? Well, when it’s really cold, I tend to wear a pair of glove liners. I’ll put on the glove liners, then the Xenon, zip down the sleeves closed, and have a nice, tight seal at the cuff. Then, I put my outer-gloves on over the jacket, and I’m completely weathertight.
The Xenon is a thin windstopper. It is not super-insulated, like some of the thicker products are. But it is COMPLETELY windproof. It’s also surprisingly good at dealing with moisture. I tried a different brand winter jacket/jersey setup, and was disappointed to see how much moisture was trapped on my body, behind their brand of windproof fabric. No such issues with the Xenon. Particularly because you can control ventilation so well, it works fantastically to deal with moisture.
In winter, you dress to start your rides cold. For the first few miles, you’re chilly. Once you warm up from riding, you’re then comfortably dressed. That’s the key to winter riding–starting a bit chilly. The Xenon is great for this, because when you zip everything up, it’s warm enough to keep you comfortable at the start…and when you start to warm up while riding, you can adjust vents and keep comfortable all-ride long.
I’ve worn this in the low 50s with just a short-sleeve jersey underneath, all the way down to 25 degrees with a windstopper singlet and long-sleeve jersey underneath. It’s useful in a wide array of temps. I’ve worn it in mist and very light precipitation, but not any heavy rains. It’s windstopper, so it’s waterproofish, but the seams are not taped, so it isn’t really designed for rain protection. It’s a soft-shell, not a hard-shell.
In comparison to a jacket like the Phantom, the Xenon gives a much trimmer fit (which I like), more venting flexibility (although no removable sleeves), and pockets that seem a bit deeper and more useful. As an outer layer, it’s incredibly versatile for a wide array of conditions…and adding or removing layers underneath can make it suitable for many different types of riding. I’m finding more and more that I like the trim fit for all types of biking, not just road riding.
I recently saw someone posting that you don’t need the expensive gear to ride in the winter. That’s true–get out and ride with whatever you have. But if you’re looking at getting a jacket, don’t limit yourself to just the purchase price analysis. I’m an analytical guy. I like to consider things over a longer term. Gore products have a lifetime warranty–and the stuff I started with years ago is still looking like new. I’d rather make an investment in a good jacket that I can use in all conditions and keep using it for a long period of time than buy something cheap and either not be able to trust it, or have to replace it every year.
The Xenon 2.0 is a great piece of kit, and comes with my highest recommendation. It’s rare that I’d say this, but there are no changes that I’d be able to suggest for this one. It doesn’t need a hood, it doesn’t need more vents, it doesn’t need more pockets. I love the cut/fit, and I love its functionality.