"You look like a ninja," says a colleague as I'm about to leave the office to ride home. He's right; I'm wearing a black jacket, black tights and black gloves. Even my helmet is black, and the bike, too. "Hold on," I reply as I reveal the Metier Beacon's party trick, turning on the jacket's integrated LEDs.
The Beacon's LEDs are more than a party trick - this is a top-quality jacket which combines a performance-focused fit and fabric with a safety-conscious design - but the integrated lights have the wow factor. Turn them on and, whether you're showing a cyclist or non-cyclist, you're sure to get a response. The same goes out on the road - the Beacon significantly increases a rider's visibility.
The Beacon comes from clothing start-up Metier, which launched at the end of 2017 with two pieces, this jacket and its namesake, the Beacon gilet (£180). Both are available in men's and women's fits.
The jacket is made from a four-way stretch fabric, similar in feel to a lightweight softshell, with a brushed interior, and a wind resistant and hydrophobic outer. In reality, the Beacon is something of a cross between a jacket and jersey.
Metier Beacon Jacket
- Price: £250.00
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Size tested: M
- Website: Metier
The Beacon's lights are neatly integrated into the jacket's shoulders, with three white LEDs on either side of the full-length zip, while there are five red LEDs on the dropped tail, below the pockets. The front lights are rated to 160 lumens and the latter have an output of 22 lumens. These are 'be seen' lights, rather than 'see by' lights, and while the Beacon's LEDs aren't as powerful as many dedicated setups, they are bright in the low light of dawn and dusk, and further illuminate the rider when darkness falls.
Still, if those lumen counts don't sound like much then Metier cites the science of biomotion - or "the human ability to perceive form and movement from a few small stimuli". In other words, by highlighting parts of your body that make you recognisable as a human, Metier says you are more likely to attract the attention of motorists.
The lights have three settings - constant, slow flash and fast flash - with claimed run times of up to 12 hours for the steady mode and 72 hours for both flashing modes. The LEDs are powered by a USB-rechargeable battery housed in its own pocket on the back of the jacket. The battery has a large button which makes it easy to turn the lights on and switch between modes while wearing gloves, just by pressing through the pocket and onto the button.
Fit and function
The Beacon is a performance-focused piece and that's most evident in the fit, fabric and style. While this isn't the first jacket we've seen with wearable LEDs, it's certainly the most stylish and Metier's attention to detail also helps justify the top-end price tag. There's no getting away from the fact that this is primarily an all-black jacket, but by integrating LEDs into a sleek, stylish piece, Metier appeals to core cyclists who want to ride hard and look good out on the road.
The fabric is key to that, too. The Beacon sits between a traditional softshell jacket and a typical winter jersey - the fabric is lighter than the former, but heavier than the latter. The DWR coating means water quickly beads up if rain begins to fall, and the taped seams help keep that rain out when it becomes heavier. The Beacon doesn't offer the protection of a dedicated waterproof shell but it's up to the task in changeable conditions.
"While this isn't the first jacket we've seen with wearable LEDs, it's certainly the most stylish and Metier's attention to detail also helps justify the top-end price tag"
The fit is extremely close, which helps wick away moisture but limits the potential for layering. I've worn the Beacon in temperatures close to zero with a short-sleeve mesh base layer and long-sleeve winter base layer, but that's about it's limit as far as layering goes. This isn't the type of jacket you can put on top of a jersey mid-layer, nor are you likely to spend £250 on the Beacon (there's no denying this is a pricey jacket) and then cover its LEDs with another layer on top. If you want something a bit more versatile, the Beacon gilet may be a better bet.
Still, the jacket performs well in typical winter conditions - with around three to 13 degrees being its optimum temperature range for me personally - and is well-suited to high-tempo riding, where the combination of body heat and the jacket's lightweight insulation/windproofing work well to keep you warm.
Breathability is good, too. On the whole, the Beacon does an admirable job at transferring moisture away from the skin and to the outer face of the jacket but it can't quite keep up when working particularly hard. That's normally the case with a fabric like this and the Beacon does a better job than most. When moisture does build up, it's normally down the centre of the back where the fabric is reinforced to protect the LED cables. I only found it to be a significant problem on one freezing night ride after a long coffee stop, when it took some time to warm up again.
Attention to detail
Metier may be new but the brand hasn't rushed the Beacon to market. Beyond the performance of the jacket, there's an admirable level of attention to detail in Metier's debut piece. The logo, for instance, is mirrored in the pattern used for the reflective detailing - and there is plenty of it - on the rear of the jacket. Same goes for the cuffs, too, and the silicone hem gripper.
The chunky front zipper is easy to use with gloves, while the pleated pockets have drainage holes and the central pocket has an elasticated loop, useful for holding a mini pump in place. There's also a fourth pocket on the left-hand side with a waterproof zipper - though the fabric itself isn't waterproof. On the opposite side you'll find another zipped pocket to house the Beacon's battery. The battery can be unplugged for charging or when you need to wash the jacket, and Metier provides a wash bag.
"The Beacon is the kind of jacket which appeals to your loved ones, providing some peace of mind while you’re out on the road, while also fitting the bill as a performance jacket in its own right"
Our main gripe with the pockets, however, is that they are not particularly roomy. The fabric has a reasonable amount of stretch to it, but the pockets are still fairly restrictive - particularly the right-hand pocket as some of the space is taken by the battery compartment on top of it. It's not a massive problem, there's still enough space for the essentials - a mobile phone, keys, cash, small tool wrap, pump and lightweight layer - but if you really want to load up for a winter ride then you start to struggle. Some of the stitches on the left-hand pocket have also popped on our test jacket, which is disappointing for a jacket at this price (Update 19/1/2018: Metier says it became aware of the issue in December and has reinforced the bonding and stitching on the pockets).
The Metier Beacon is the kind of jacket which appeals to your loved ones, providing some peace of mind while you're out on the road, while also fitting the bill as a performance jacket in its own right. The LEDs are impressively bright for the lumen count, and while the Beacon wouldn't necessarily replace a dedicated light setup, more illumination - spread across the rider - is no bad thing. The battery life is excellent, too. It's not perfect - the close fit limits layering and the pockets are a little restrictive - but this is an impressive debut from Metier.
- Seamlessly-integrated (and bright) LEDs
- Windproof and water resistant
- Aero cut and stylish design
- Restrictive pockets
- Popped stitches on left pocket
- Close fit limits layering