Gill Freedom Jacket on test
- Gill Freedom Jacket
Gill has been building a reputation for reasonably priced performance bikewear for a few years now, and the Freedom jacket looks set to continue the trend. In the jacket spectrum, the Freedom sits towards the fully-featured end. It's not an ultra-minimalist, superlight garment, preferring to aim for comfort and convenience over packability. It's fully lined, which is one of the things that minimalist jackets often forgo. Unless the material is very breathable, there'll generally be some build-up of condensation inside, so having a mesh liner there adds considerably to comfort.
The fabric itself isn't a "named" breathable fabric, but it has all the necessary qualities - it's certainly waterproof, and breathes adequately. It's not as effective as the latest generation of breathable fabrics like eVent, but it's not too bad and that lining keeps things tolerably dry inside. Long pit zips let you open things up if it starts getting a bit steamy. The lower back is of a slightly weightier material for extra durability where bumbags and packs tend to sit.
Where the Freedom scores is in features - a lot of thought has gone into this jacket. The lining across the shoulders and inside the sleeves is taffeta rather than mesh to avoid it getting hitched up on your midlayer. The Velcro closure for the storm flap uses a series of tabs rather than being continuous so that it bends more easily and won't bunch up, and it covers a two-way zip. You get two regular side pockets, one chest pocket and a side-entry rear pocket. The rear pocket is big enough for an OS map but they're a snug fit through the zip. It'd be good to have the pocket accessible from both ends, too. We'd like to have been able to stow a map in the handy chest pocket, but alas it's not big enough.
The cut is pretty much spot on, being suitably bikey (short front, long rear, long sleeves) without going so bike-specific that you get a draft up your navel and can't hold a drink when you're stood up straight. The collar's particularly nice, with a fleece lining and cunning captive drawcords that don't flap about the place. There's also a waist drawcord. You don't get a hood, although we're not going to quibble about that - effective hoods on bike jackets are something of a rarity. A bunch of reflective trim and logos complete the package, and you get a choice of colours. The Freedom's also available in a women-specific version but only up to a size 12.
Watch out when you wash the Freedom - the care instructions state hand wash only, and don't use detergent. Detergent is generally bad news for waterproof jackets, tending as it does to break down the water-repellent treatment on the outside of the fabric, but there are a number of jackets out there that are happy to go in the machine.