Road Rags 531cc Ventile Jacket Review
Road Rags 531cc Ventile Jacket Review
In the first in a series of looks at ‘normal’ cycle clothing, we have the Road Rags 531cc Ventile Jacket.
The Road Rags 531cc Ventile Jacket is made from cotton and is waterproof, it’s designed to be comfortable when worn on the bike, and to look great off it. The Road Rags product range has merino products at its core; I’ve been wearing their merino Shoreditch Jersey and Suffolk Track Top and you can see what I thought of them in the rest of my reviews.
This waterproof Ventile Jacket follows the Road Rags ideal of having their clothing made in England from high quality materials, but is made out of 100% cotton instead of merino. Like merino, Ventile also has lots of properties that make it perfect for wearing on your bike. Ventile is a specialist material that is woven from 100% cotton. The finest long staple fibres are densely packed using 30% more yarn than conventional fabrics and on contact with water the threads swell slightly, this forms an impermeable barrier and the fabric becomes waterproof without needing coating or laminating. The fabric also remains breathable, but windproof due to its tight weave.
Ventile was invented in the 1940’s by scientists. It was used to make immersion suits for World War 2 fighter pilots. Its combination of lightweight and durability, its soft feel and breathable nature as well as its lack of noise compared to other waterproof materials that tend to rustle made it perfect for wearing inside a confined cockpit. It’s resistance to burning and tearing as well as being windproof and waterproof made it ideal if a pilot were to encounter trouble and end up in the sea.
Even today the material is still used in military uniforms and especially those worn by pilots flying over water. Ventile is also used in fireman’s uniforms, surgical gowns, and tent fabric specified by the British Antarctic Survey Team, it is also widely used in outdoor and extreme weather clothing.
Road Rag’s Ventile Jacket is quite light; it feels like something you might put on in summer on a chilly day. In use it’s surprisingly warm and I’ve found myself risking leaving that extra layer at home because the Ventile does such a good job. In combination with Road Rag’s merino jerseys it’s a revelation after years of having to get my layering just right with lycra. The fabric is windproof so it keeps the breeze out and just the right amount of warmth in.
The 100% cotton Ventile fabric is soft to the touch in stark contrast to my usual rain jacket, which is made from nylon and is functional and noisy. I’d never thought of my rain jacket as being noisy until I wore the Ventile jacket. Apparently clothing made from Ventile fabric is used in camera work, bird watching and hunting for its lack of ‘rustle’.
The extended tail piece and sleeves make light work of keeping out drafts whilst on the bike, but are discrete enough not to stand out off the bike. The collar can be unfolded and has a button across tab to keep it up and give you a bit more weather protection. Likewise there is a protective flap that buttons over the zip to keep any drafts out there too. These are all great features that are well integrated in the overall design, and are really useful when the weather does turn nasty. The sleeves have a button and zip that can be undone and they roll up if you feel the need for a little extra draft in warmer weather too.
The pockets on the Ventile seem to me a little unconventional. There are two breast pockets, fastened with a lovely chunky button, both big enough to take a wallet or something similar in size. There are two side pockets, which have a vertical zip right on your hip. These felt a little far back to put your hands on them naturally, but the ring pull on the zips makes getting to them easy enough.
These pockets are slightly bigger than wallet sized and their placement does hide the pockets and give the jacket nice lines, the zipper is to be found up near your armpit. There’s another zipped pocket with a flap to keep the weather out on the right hand side at the back. This pocket is meant for a mobile phone or wallet, but my Iphone 4s only just fits in, so if you have a more up to date phone which is likely to be larger you’ll have to use one of the other pockets for it.
The waterproof properties of this jacket are quite impressive. I had it in the office one day instead of putting it in my locker and a few of my colleagues complimented me on my lovely jacket. I was explaining that although it was cotton and soft to the touch, it was also waterproof and the material was used by fighter pilots in World War 2. Another colleague stood next to me and touched the jacket, which I was wearing, and uttered a disbelieving sigh. We then got a bucket and a bottle of water and I let him pour the water on my sleeve to demonstrate. I was surprised myself at the result, and there were gasps around the office as the water beaded and ran off leaving the material completely dry to the touch.
This jacket is perfect for what it was designed for, which is urban cycling. Short journeys and commutes won’t trouble the Ventile Jacket no matter what the weather. The huge bonus is that it looks great and you can keep it on when you get to your destination whether it be work, the shops, or an evening out. Even though my wife baulked at the price of it it’s easy to justify this cost. A colleague at work guessed close enough to the actual price on looks alone. A quick browse at similar jackets made from Ventile has them at a similar price and these don’t have some of the features of the Road Rags item.
The comfort and style, added to the water resistance, windproofing and light weight make this jacket a must have for the urban cyclist who likes to look good. The fabric is durable enough to easily last over a decade, and the finished garment has a quality feel to it.
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