The Vulpine Softshell Jacket has been designed with a superb level of attention to detail, which in turn makes this a piece which is both stylish and, crucially, almost perfectly formed for the task in hand.
First up, this is a casual cycling jacket, one you’ll pull from the wardrobe for a ride about town, to work or to the pub and that’s reflected in the fabric, fit and design features.
The casual cycle market has grown quickly in recent years with a number of new brands – in fact, Vulpine only launched last spring – each promising clothing which looks as good on the bike as off it. The Vulpine Softshell Jacket is, however, one of the few items I feel comfortable throwing over my shoulders whether on the bike or at the pub.
That’s thanks to both the styling and the cut. Style is personal, of course, but the British military-inspired tailoring makes this is a super looking piece. Attention to detail extends to the finish and the jacket is tailored to an impeccably high standard and the fact the inside of the jacket is as neat as the outside is testament to that. Neat touches are abound, with a high quality YKK zip with a leather pull tab, magnetic closures on the two conventional pockets and collar, and fully embroidered logos. Vulpine’s signature green, most notably on the inside of the pocket flaps, and a handful of reflective features (more on that later) offset the otherwise all-black finish.
So, it’s a stylish piece, but how does it perform? It’s a softshell jacket which, crucially, is made from a mid-weight fabric which is far lighter than, say, the type of softshell you’d pull out of the wardrobe ahead of a freezing cold winter’s training ride. The outside of the jacket is made from a windproof fabric which works just as you’d expect, while it’s also showerproof. Water rain quickly beads off the surface of the jacket in light rain or short showers. It’s a dual-layer fabric, so the outside is bonded to a light fleeced lining which sat softly next to the skin on the odd ride when I’ve worn the jacket with just a t-shirt beneath.
That combination works well: I’ve paired it with a couple of warm layers on my short commute through the freezing cold weather we’ve experienced since the turn of the year, and with a little less since the weather’s become more palatable of late. Vulpine say the jacket is designed for cool to mild conditions and that’s a fair description. The fact that it’s a mid-weight piece means it’s versatile and, on these shores at least, can be worn for much of the year. We’re yet to experience anything close to ‘mild’ but the jacket does have a generous amount of laser-cut ventilation under both arms, which is very effective when riding at more than a pootle.
Otherwise, there’s a splashguard for when the weather’s less clement. Most of the time it stays folded away but it has provided valuable additional protection for my rear end when caught out in the odd shower through the course of this review, although I would rarely ride for long in the rain while in civvies and without mudguards.
The cut is relaxed as you’d expect of a jacket like this. It’s designed to work well on the bike, with the rear cut slightly longer than the front but, crucially, it’s not too extreme, so the jacket doesn’t scream ‘cyclist’ when worn away from the bike. One niggle, however: the sleeves are a little short when stretched out on the bike, and that means I can’t fold the cuffs back to make use of the reflective lining without revealing a significant portion of my wrist. That’s not the only reflective detail, though, and there’s a reflective stripe on either shoulder along with a reflective rear light loop (suitable for a light like the Knog Boomer Wearable). Both are subtle touches, providing a good amount of low light visibility without undermining the stylish design.
As well as the two conventional pockets (with those green, magnetic flaps), which you’d expect to find on any jacket, there are three cycling-specific pockets out back. It’s difficult to get too excited about pockets but Vulpine have got it spot on. The three-pocket section is split into two halves. On the left half, a large pocket is covered by a flap (again lined in signature Vulpine green) secured by a magnet. As is the case with the two front pockets, it’s a strong magnet which provides a firm closure, but it’s still easy to dip into the pocket while on the move. Easier to access still is the deep, open pocket on the right side, perfect for a lock or, for me at least, the keys to RCUK Towers, saving the otherwise inevitable fumble through a zipped pocket or bag once at the office door. On top of this pocket is a zipped pocket for valuables. There’s also a discreet card-sized pocket on the right arm with a key carabiner inside, as well as two open pockets on the inside of the jacket.
They may only be pockets but the level of attention to detail across the jacket is second-to-none – details which are well considered and designed with cycling in mind, from the pockets, chunky zippers which are easy to use with gloves and subtle reflective detailing, to the excellent fabric, cut and quality of the finish. Vulpine founder Nick Hussey is a cyclist of many years, having started riding in the mid-eighties, and his background goes some way to explaining that. We’d like to see an extra centimetre or so added to the length of the arms but that’s a minor gripe – this is a superb jacket for casual cycling, and one you’ll find yourself wearing as much off the bike as on it.
Such is the jacket’s popularity, Vulpine have sold out of all sizes except extra large until October, when they are also promising new colours. Keep your eyes peeled.
Sizes: S to XXL (only XL currently available)