The Flexair Neoshell Water jacket is a new addition to Fox’s range for this winter. Designed to keep you dry and comfortable in the worst possible conditions, Fox has constructed the jacket from Polartec Neoshell, which on top being rated as 10,000g/m2/24hr for waterproofness, is also claimed to be the world’s most breathable waterproof fabric, making it a versatile bit of kit. On top of this it also features a DWR coating to help shrug off water and keep things dry. But all this technology comes at a price… £360.
The Polartec Neoshell material has been developed to address an imbalance in the outerwear materials industry that Polartec says “has prioritized excessively high waterproof ratings that sacrifice the breathable performance needed during physical activity”
Where other materials have gone all out on the waterproofing, the Neoshell values breathability and the ability to move moisture and perspiration from the inside, as much as keeping the elements out. This is done through what Polartec calls a ‘sub-micron membrane structure’ which is at the core of the fabric and releases heat and perspiration build up ‘by engineering the optimal pore size and placement’, enhancing natural thermoregulation.
The Flexair Neoshell features a large helmet compatible hood with two way adjust for taking up the slack when not being used, and getting a snug fit over the top of your helmet. There are two waterproof hand pockets along with a third waterproof chest pocket for additional storage.
The cuffs feature adjustable velcro tabs for cinching things up and keeping the weather out and the hem also features a draw cord for adjusting the fit. Under the arms are two huge zips for added ventilation and to further increase breathability there’s a big covered vent running across the top of the back for when you’re working hard.
The material itself has a soft brushed feel to it rather than the plasticky, rustle you get from some waterproof materials, but is certainly more on the robust side than super light weight. I’m generally a size large in most bike clothing (183cm, 42” chest) and I’m pretty much in the middle of Fox’s recommended sizing for size large.
The jacket sizes up reasonably true to size (it was on the slightly large side but Fox’s size L goes up to 44” chests) and there’s enough room for layering without feeling restrictive. The sleeve length is good and doesn’t leave any unwanted gaps between the cuff and glove for the cold and wet to seep in and the overall length of the jacket is on the longer side giving plenty of coverage.
While the hood is really big, the adjusters do let you cinch it up and take a lot of the material in making it less flappy when not in use. This also tightens up the collar area, helping to keep out the elements and once I’d set it to how I wanted, the elastic in the adjusters allowed me to still get it over a helmet without having to readjust.
I’ve been wearing the jacket for a couple of months now and the weather has ranged from just under 10 degrees and clear, to cold and heavy rain, to sub zero temperatures and snow. The material is comfortable and has a good feel next to the skin, and is nice and quiet compared to some other waterproof materials.
As mentioned, the material isn’t the thinnest out there and I’ve been happy wearing just a base layer and this jacket in temperatures down to around -4, although if I stopped for any length of time then I’d start to feel the cold. The big hood does a good job of keeping the worst of the weather and the long arms and back make sure you don’t have any unprotected gaps for the wind and rain.
When climbing, the Neoshell does a decent job of keeping things cool, but this is partly down to the huge pit vents which reach from right under the arm to almost down to the elbow. On longer sustained climbs I did find myself building up a bit of a heat and sweat but I pretty much kept the vents open to some degree for the majority of the test period, and the jacket did a decent job of moving the perspiration.
With the vents fully open the jacket lets a huge amount of airflow in, but if you do have them fully open, then remember to close them up before descending as they are so big they can start acting like a parachute
Wet weather performance is OK with the material doing a good job of keeping things dry in drizzle and intermittent showers. After an hour or so in persistent rain though the jacket starts wetting through from the seams initially, and then on areas that can hold water.
This was most prevalent on the arms, and on the chest / stomach area where excess material bunched and allowed water to collect then soak through. And while the DWR treatment did initially do a good job of beading water initially, the material did end up wetting through in some places, which seemed to get worse after washing.
The Flexair Neoshell Water jacket looks good, is really well made, and I like the fit and the material – but it’s not flaw free. After using it in a range of conditions it’s proven to be a pretty versatile piece of kit thanks to the venting and big hood, and has done a decent job of protecting me from the elements
If you’re the sort of rider that is out in all weathers and conditions and wants to stay fully dry then you may find Neoshell to be slightly lacking. But if you want a comfortable jacket that is usable from Autumn through to the start of Spring in a range of conditions, and don’t mind the price, then it would be worth a look.
|Product:||Flexair Neoshell Water|
|Tested:||by Ross for 3 months|
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