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Vermarc Extreme SPL Rain Jacket – review

The Vermarc Extreme SPL Rain Jacket performs very well as a windproof and waterproof outer layer which you can also stow in a jersey pocket, though breathability suffers when it's pushed hard and the fit could be improved.

Vermarc is a Belgian brand and you will be see Mark Cavendish’s Etixx-QuickStep team sporting the firm’s jersey this year. The team may have dropped the ‘Pharma’ from its name, but Vermarc remains as the kit supplier.

The Extreme SPL Rain Jacket comes with the claim of being the ‘ultimate performance rain jacket’, and it offers excellent protection from the elements, it needs better breathability and a closer racing cut before it is to live up to that claim. It manages to keep you dry and stops the wind very effectively, but could be more breathable when riding hard.

Primarily the jacket is designed to be waterproof and in this regard it’s certainly impressive.  Throughout the test I found myself in winter rain showers, some of them heavy, and the jacket performed well, keeping me completely dry from the outside. One of the problems that I often find on rain jackets, is that when the rain is truly driving, water sometimes comes through the zip, but the taped seams on this keep everything out.

As well as using this as a rain jacket, I used it on a series of bitterly cold winter rides as an outer layer, with thermal layers on underneath. Even on the days when it was minus four degrees and with a 20mph wind, the WindTex fabric did a fine job at keeping the chill at bay.

However, the risk with waterproofing and windproofing this good – and there’s often a trade-off between protection from the elements and breathability – is that it suffers in the breathability stakes when pushing yourself hard. On climbs or under intense efforts, the Extreme SPL could have performed better and was prone to condensation build-up but it’s also far from the worst jacket I have used when it comes to breathability. On the whole, I found breathability suffered most on the coldest days, but when used in slightly warmer condition (four degrees plus), it was more effective.

The sizing of the jacket is very generous and different to any other brand I have used before. I comfortably take a large in all major cycling brands, but this medium test jacket was almost too big for me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but worth bearing in mind if you are ordering online rather than going to your local bike shop shop, and smaller riders may particularly struggle with the sizing.

The cut also doesn’t lend itself to a close fit, despite what Vermarc say, even when I went a size down. The paneling is designed for a racing position, with a low back and high front, but even with a size smaller than I would normally wear, there was slight bagginess around the arms and over the main body of the jacket. It wasn’t enough to flap around, but certainly noticeable, and I don’t even think that going down to a small would make it tight, simply because the cut means that there will always be some excess fabric.

That aside, the WindTex fabric has a degree of elasticity so it moves comfortably when riding. I sometimes find with rain jackets, particularly when wet, that they can become frustrating when shifting in the saddle or riding on the drop drops, but that wasn’t the case here.

The jacket has several nice touches, including a secondary collar which stops the rain running down your back and velcro elasticated wrists, which allow you to fully seal yourself against the elements when conditions get particularly bad.  There’s also high-visibility piping on the shoulders, which adds a little low light visibility in the winter, but I would have liked to see more on the black jacket tested. The Extreme SPL also suffers from one of my pet peeves in cycling jackets as there is no hanging hook. It’s not a major issue, but I like to be able to hang my jacket properly, especially if I have just come in from a long, wet ride.

The fabric itself feels durable and has proved so during our test, but it’s thin and lightweight enough to ensure the jacket  folds down into a small package so it sits well in a jersey pocket, which adds to its versatility.

In terms of pricing, the jacket comes in at £82.99, which is less than most higher-end offerings from similar brands, and so it represents good value for money, despite the pitfalls noted.

Conclusion

The Vermarc Extreme SPL Rain Jacket is a good jacket that will certainly keep you dry and stop the wind from getting through. Breathability is a slight issue when pushing particularly hard, but can be managed by using the full-length zip to your advantage if the conditions allow. It also packs nicely into a jersey pocket, so is the kind of jacket you can use as the conditions dictate, whether that’s to see off torrential rain or to keep the wind off on a long alpine descent. It’s sensibly priced at £83, too.

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