by David Gould
December 27, 2016
A jacket that doubles as a gilet? How does that work? Sanny dons his inner Action Man with this stealthy camo number from Gore Bike Wear.
Gore has occupied an elevated position within the bike world for what seems like forever. While the company’s initial brand awareness is no doubt attributable to its almost ubiquitous Gore Tex fabric, Gore has long produced a clothing line that many riders are drawn to. When you are next out on the trails, have a look around. It won’t be long before you spot someone wearing one of the products. The brand is popular and for good reason. I have several pieces of Gore kit that still see regular use despite having been purchased many years previously. Either that is reflective of good design or it just says that my tight Scottish roots are at play. Perhaps I am just a bit Yorkshire but afraid to admit it? With the Phantom Softshell, Gore appears to have taken an old classic and given it a more contemporary look. So is this a case of sticking with kit that works or wringing a few more sheckels out of a tired old design?
Breaking the wind
In terms of features, Gore has retained those from the previous version of the jacket. As such, up front there is solid Windstopper fabric to, errrr, stop the wind (who knew, eh?) while at the back, there is a centre panel of a lighter, stretchier material that adds give to the jacket when stretched out over the bars while doing an excellent job of wicking away sweat and managing temperature, even when worn in combination with a ride pack. There are three open pockets built in at the back with the two side pockets having slanted openings which makes putting your hand in and out easier while riding. I rarely used these other than for the odd energy bar as I really don’t like the thought of hard and sharp tools in close proximity to my back in the event of an off. Energy bars (who am I kidding, Mars bars!) are squishy, mini pumps aren’t!
Reflective logos at the tail and at the side of the two outer pockets do an excellent job of providing passive visibility. In the previous version, these were more easily obscured by a ride bag so kudos to Gore for making that change.
You need hands!
What arguably makes the jacket unique is that the arms are detachable. I guess the theory is that should you start to warm up and want to regulate your temperature, you can do so while keeping your core warm. Unzip the arms and you can store them in the back pockets leaving you wearing what to all intents and purposes looks like a thick short sleeve jersey. It is a great idea in principle but in practice, I remain to be convinced. To take the arms off or put them back on, you need to have lax ligaments, be a member of Cirque du Soleil or have freakishly long arms. No matter how hard I tried to do it, I couldn’t manage it. I must have looked a right prize plum as I wrestled with to what all intents and purposes an invisible straight jacket!
Of course, you could just take your jacket off but where is the fun in that? Thankfully, we don’t live in Siberia so it isn’t a deal breaker by any means but I can’t help but wonder if there is a better way of doing things? It definitely lends flexibility to the jacket but given the choice, I would always opt for a gilet in the first instance.
Fit wise, the Phantom retains the bit too baggy round the stomach area of previous iterations for my less than fat build. Of course, if you are a middle aged chap with a liking for beer, you will no doubt be perfectly catered for here. Not everyone who rides is a racing whippet and it is good that Gore recognise that.
So how does it work?
In terms of day to day performance, it is difficult to fault the Phantom. The jacket maintains the tradition of previous versions and manages that hard to achieve balance of keeping you warm on cold days without being unduly sweaty and clammy when body and eternal temperature starts to climb a little. Disregarding the removable arms feature, as a jacket that stops the wind and does a fair job of shrugging off light showers, it really is excellent. I know from personal experience that the fabric is hard wearing and I expect it to retain its appearance over time. Perhaps most importantly, it gives that hard to pin down feeling of protection against the elements whenever it is put on.
However, there is something of an elephant in the room that I just cannot ignore: the camo fabric. It is just awful. There. I said it. I cannot deny it. What were they thinking? It makes me look like some kind of gun toting, Homeland Security threatening, Militia man. Think Action Man in Desert Storm fatigues meets dry sick. I know in my head that the opinion of others matters not a jot but every time I put it on, I genuinely hoped that no one I knew would see me on the trail. I know this is wholly irrational but at the end of the test, I was glad to go back to my own blue and black jacket.
Overall, the Phantom 2.0 is a very good jacket indeed. The camo colourway is, well, you already know my opinion on that but fortunately the jacket comes in a whole host of other colourways that should satisfy most tastes. Me likey very much.