Sportful’s R&D range debuted with an impressive bib shorts and summer jersey combination last year and has expanded with the addition of this winter jersey, a winter jacket and bib tights.
Performance-focused cycling clothing has come on a long way in recent years, thanks to the rapid advancement of fabric technology, and the R&D Long Sleeve Wind Jersey uses Polartec’s Alpha fabric. In short, it’s an insulating fabric which sandwiches a synthetic down between a wind resistant woven face and a soft, waffle-like material on the inside. That combination offers plenty of warmth without adding undue bulk and all the while maintaining breathability to give the jersey a relatively wide temperature range.
The Polartec Alpha fabric is used on the jersey’s forward-facing sections – the front of the arms, the shoulders and the chest – and is matched with a ‘Windshield’ windproof fabric on the outside, which extends down to the forearms, where it’s then replaced by a lighter, woven, Lycra fabric. Elsewhere on the jersey – so that’s the rear of the arms and the back, Sportful have used a ‘Dual Fit’ fabric designed to offer plenty of breathability (again) and stretch in those areas not directly confronting the wind.
What does all that mean out on the road? I’ve been using the R&D Long Sleeve Wind Jersey through much of the winter and it’s provided ample warmth in all but the coldest conditions, without resorting to dressing like the Michelin Man. It’s not as obviously windproof as some other winter jerseys or jackets, which will likely use a heavier windproof fabric or softshell fabric, and so, if it’s particularly nippy out (and we’re talking, in my experience at least, around freezing, it can take ten minutes (or starting with a lightweight gilet as an additional barrier) to warm up, but where the jersey really succeeds is in keeping hold of that warmth and locking it in, without attracting any undue heat build-up when the intensity rises, be it on a climb or as the pace increases on a group ride.
Where the jersey also scores highly over a heavier piece or a softshell, besides the superb breathability, is in offering that warmth while keeping the bulk of the jersey low and the fit close. The jersey’s warmth and breathability means it has a wide operating range, down to low single-figure temperatures (or to freezing and below if paired with an additional layer) and up to double figures. All you need to do is vary the base layer beneath (whether that’s short sleeve, long sleeve or a heavy-duty winter base layer) and the jersey will look after the rest. If you want additional warmth then there’s also a jacket in the R&D range, but we haven’t tried it.
The ‘Windshield’ fabric has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment which offers some water repellency. Light rain and drizzle will bead up on the surface but, in reality, this isn’t a jersey for riding in the rain for any prolonged period of time (you’ll need a jacket on top for that), and the fabric used on the lower forearms/wrists is susceptible to taking in moisture. Speaking of which, because this fabric isn’t windproof, it can make your wrists feel a little chilly at first and an extension of the ‘Windshield’ fabric could solve that, though it’d give up some stretch. The wrists are finished with thumb loops, designed to ensure the jersey sits under the cuff of a glove and ensure there’s nowhere for a draft to directly sneak in. In reality, I found the thumb loops to be a little uncomfortable as the material tugs on the purlicue (basically the skin between the thumb and index finger). It’s not a problem exclusive to this jersey and, after a couple of initial test rides, I didn’t use them again and either tucked the cuff into the glove or, because the fabric has plenty of stretch, over the outside.
That aside, the R&D Long Sleeve Wind Jersey has a number of smart features, particularly the layout of the pockets. There’s the typical setup of three open pockets and while there’s no zipped pocket, there are two additional ergonomically-shaped pockets, one on either side of the jersey. These are very handy for storing food, as they’re easy to access and it leaves the other pockets free for everything else you may need on a long training ride. No more fumbling around in full pockets to find a gel or bar. Sportful have also used a deep, silicone-lined elastic band on the waist which does a really great job at locking the jersey in place and keeping it flush with your tights or shorts. Both the pockets and waistband are testament to the thought Sportful have put into the jersey. At the other end, the articulated collar is high and well-sized, ensuring the full-length zip, which has a cover to stop the wind sneaking in, can be comfortably done up without strangling you.
Finally – and crucially – the fit of the jersey is very good. Sportful clothing typically has a close fit and that’s no different here, but the cut is top-notch – close in all the right places without feeling restrictive. It is (providing you get the sizing right, of course) the type of jersey which you don’t really notice when riding, which, given the ample warmth, is testament to the low bulk and cut. Sportful offer a wide range of sizes, from XS to XXXL, so you should find something which suit you.
The Sportful R&D Long Sleeve Wind Jersey combines jacket-like performance in a jersey which is warm and light to wear, without giving up anything in the breathability. While we’re not keen on the thumb loops, there’s also a lot of top-notch attention to detail. A genuinely superb piece of kit for cool or cold, dry days.