Is softshell apparel actually crap?

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  • Is softshell apparel actually crap?
  • hock

    After riding with varying layers of merino underwear and tops plus windstopper gilly for most of the year adding a non-bike specific, slightly fragile windbreaker when it rained and/or was too cool I was tired of:
    – having to put on multiple layers in order to stand a chance of staying warm
    . (how much easier it is to get ready in summer…)
    – being restricted mobility wise due to too many layers in the cold
    – getting cold due to moisture being stuck in the merino stuff (evaporative cold)
    – flapping windbreaker

    So I decided to invest into warm and dry winter apparel and went to the local bike shop yesterday. He recommended warm longsleeve underwear (Odlo Evolution warm) plus a fleece faced windstopper softshell jacket (Gore Tool jacket). That’s it – nothing more even in cold weather. Sounded great so I spent a substantial amount of money and went for a ride today.

    Result: at 6°C/43°Fahrenheit I felt slightly cold for the first hour of the ride (windchill despite windstopper…) and clammy and cold for the last hour of a five hour ride (evaporative cold).

    Is this due to the soft shell being insulation and outer in one rather than a separate windbreaker outer?
    Or was it too warm for this kind of kit?
    Has anyone else experienced this? What’s the cure? Hardshell outer + mid-layer and underwear?

    I ride up to -10°C/14°Fahrenheit.

    Many thanks for any advise!

    P.S.: Is there any good cold-weather pant that is well cut (like a trouser and not like a waste bag) not too tight, not too wide? Tried MT500 Spray trousers but too tight at the calves thus strains over knees results in restricted mobility. Not keen on trying soft shell pants. 😉

    Premier Icon FOG

    My Gore soft shell is about the only thing I wear on the road bike from November to March [if not raining] but I never wear it on the mtb because it is too hot. It might be just down to personal heat levels. I have substantial built in insulation so a long sleeve base layer and a softshell are plenty.

    Premier Icon Northwind

    I can’t see much point in it normally, it’s either not waterproof/windproof enough, or too hot to layer effectively. Got a very cheap Decathlon one which is good for, well, days like today- not quite cold, not wet, not quite windy either. But it’s very specific.

    Premier Icon cinnamon_girl

    I would say that your base layer was overkill when temperature is 6 degrees.

    Today I was riding in a gilet and I think the warmest it got was 8 degrees.

    I swear by my Gore Windstopper jacket but feel that you need to experiment with what to put on underneath. For example, I would normally wear a Berghaus base layer which is lightweight and in fact wore this with my gilet today.

    Edit: I’ve fallen out of love with merino due to the slight damp feeling.

    Premier Icon jamj1974

    I wear soft shell in winter and find it really effective. I only swap to a shell and heavier mid-layer in pouring rain.

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout

    I found I have to experiment all the time, and finally after a couple of decades in the hills, on bikes and in canoes, I seem to get it right more times than not.
    I find being too hot / not vented enough to get rid of sweat is as bad as being too cold.

    Premier Icon gonetothehills

    I wear an Endura softshell on the road bike in the winter. I just can’t get on with ‘waterproof’ ‘breathable’ shells – they just aren’t, so put up with the damp but warm feeling in the softshell. It’s not perfect, but I prefer it to getting soaked inside expensive and supposedly breathable alternatives. I’ve got a Rab fleece / pertex top that I wear offroad that works in a similar fashion, I think.

    Your baselayer will make a difference though. I discovered Helly Hansen recently and they work a treat, wicking well whilst still insulating. I had one that I picked up off here on today – it’s part poly, part merino. I’m right off 100% merino baselayers – just too wet.

    Best thing about the Endura softshell is the big pit zips. I have them open almost all the time. It’s all a compromise though – when your riding in wet / damp weather and producing a lot of heat, it seems to be asking a lot of clothing to cope with it.


    I’ve noticed that soft shells where the windproof part is the front panel only, you start off with cold arms, but end up about right. Fully windproof softshells are normally way too warm until it gets close to freezing.

    The non-windproof “Pro cycling” Aldi jacket with a baselayer underneath was fine today. Warmer sleeves seem to make up for the lack of windproofness.

    Were you keeping up the same workrate towards the end of the ride, or were you getting clammy cos you either upped your effort or were cooling down a little?

    I sold my Gore softshell as it did what you describe i.e. wasn’t that windstoppery yet didn’t breathe that well either. I ended up with the following wardrobe depending on temp:

    -mild – either a Endura Jetstream jacket or a similar Capo one.
    -bit colder – Gore N2S fabric phantom or vapour jacket
    -cold – Campag thermo textran jacket

    all with a Craft synthetic base, again I’ve got a few types depending on temp.

    The word ‘apparel’ most definitely is crap.

    Premier Icon chakaping

    I’ve got three or four softshell jackets of varying thickness and waterproofness.

    Love them, but gotta have the right one on for the temperature/rain.

    Premier Icon Northwind

    cinnamon_girl – Member

    Edit: I’ve fallen out of love with merino due to the slight damp feeling.

    It’s alright for socks but I can’t understand what anyone sees in it anywhere else tbh. Give me a cheapo sport direct baselayer any day, better at everything.


    softshell is **** brilliant. I absolutely love it for climbing / mountaineering type stuff and would not go back to other systems. Having said that, I don’t use it on the bike: I think the level of exertion, heat output, sweating etc won’t work. Maybe I should try again when it’s really cold – it is very insulating once you get going.


    It’s all a compromise though – when your riding in wet / damp weather and producing a lot of heat, it seems to be asking a lot of clothing to cope with it.

    THIS nothing actually works all the times wet with rain or wet with sweat is often the choice.

    Merino stays warm even when wet, which I find a real boon. Plus, it doesn’t stink.

    Premier Icon jameso

    Softshell works as an easy-to-sell idea but not in practice, ime. I prefer separate layers for insulation and water/windproofing. Insulation needs to be fairly close fitting and wicking, and windproofs that have some space between them and the base seems to breathe and vent better. Combining them into one layer seems a daft idea to me. (edit to add, I do have a few that I use, just only on moderate days and local rides)
    Something that is sort-of one layer with loads of venting options like a Buffalo/Montane Extreme jacket works for cold-weather hill walking and I have a similar combo of fabrics in a thinner jacket that is good for cycling, but neither are a single-layer construction like a typical softshell.


    In reality most “softshells” are not softshells. A good article explaining the difference can be found here. It’s more aimed at climbers, but the priciples are the same.


    Love mine, particularly the gilllet. The trick is to make sure they’re well fitting, I.e. If you’re a medium go for a small. No need to spend loads either. I have Karrimor for mtb but posher hi viz Gore stuff for road. 🙂

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout

    And, not all soft shells are equal. I have a Montane that is neither water or wind proof – but breathes superbly. I have another Montane that is wind proof, warmer and slightly water resistant – but less breathable. I have a Cloud Veil that is warm, wind proof and water resistant – but least breathable. I then have half a dozen soft shell trousers, all of which use different fabrics and all work differently again. So you need to find the one that works for you.


    I have a gore jacket that has soft shell wind stopper on front and arms only. Works really well on road bike at about 7 degrees and under but too hot for Mtb. The arms zip off so you can half undo them to regulate your heat which works really well.


    Eat more pies.

    HTH 😉

    Premier Icon ChrisI

    TBH that sounds like overkill for 6c. I commute in a Gore Phantom all year round with varying levels of arms on or off and part way betwen as pit zips (of sorts). In 6c I’d be in the Phantom with arms part zipped off with a thin Helly Hansen base layer, not a thermal one.

    I am a big fan of softshells though.

    Premier Icon adsh

    I have an endura windchill that comes out when it’s really cold and wet or absolutely freezing. It’s a pretty good compromise, it’s definately windproof but even with the normal jersey bits it still ends up damp inside. Fine when pedalling but cold when stopped for any length of time.

    Never really get soft shell as see s neither one thing or another. Base layer/thermal plus wind proof top does me all winter unless it is stupidly cold and then a thin fleece or wind proof underneath. I would be sweating buckets wearing what others wear riding and running.

    Thank goodness for Helly Hanson – Mtb, skiing, running, climbing, golf…..


    I’ve done night time road rides for nearly 3 hours in a tight fitting rash vest, a haglofs hoodless synthetic down jacket and a gore windstopper with the pit zips open a few inches after the first 20 mins or so. I get home with the down jacket soaking but I’ve felt warm and not too hot throughout it all. I do dress a bit overkill and hate the descent back into town under dressed. 25-30kph in 2c-5c conditions.

    If its is proper windstopper material then it is the least breathable thing thing since suffocation. Hence all your hard earned sweat stays firmly on the inside.

    I keep it to three separate layers in conditions you describe Eg over the Nan Bield pass in crappy weather on Saturday I had HH light weight thermal, pearl izumi thermal long sleeve jersey full zip and a montane waterproof jacket ( old style entrant DT). Felt warm dry and cosy both carrying up and blatting down.


    Agreed regarding the variability of soft shell. Some are not breathable at all.

    It’s so dependant on how you hot you burn. I wear significantly less than the guys I ride with, I prefer to be cold for the first 10 mins and just right for the rest of the time, they hate the feeling if being cold and open zips etc as the ride goes on.

    My recommendation for road riding in the cold ( 0- 3deg c) is textran thermo or something similar – I found a bargain Campag top and Morvelo do a thermoactive top. Both do me on the coldest days with a thin berghaus LS base layer. This fabric seems to have the right combination of keeping warm in but allowing breathability to keep the worst of the damp out.

    I don’t think there is a solution for rain. You either get wet from the rain if you’re not wearing a shell or wet from sweat if you’re working at any moderate effort because manufacturers’ claims for breathability may sound wonderful, and event and gore text certainly breath better than other membranes, but I just cook inside.

    Premier Icon Cheezpleez

    Love my original Phantom N2S – incredibly versatile. It’s on it’s second zip and full of holes but I don’t know what to replace it with

    Premier Icon MSP

    I don’t find gore windstopper at all breathable, I recently purchased a jacket made from polartec power shield, and that is much better, Windstopper has a waterproof membrane, with tiny holes for supposed breathability, but IMO such systems fail very quickly when working hard. Power shield depends on the weave and a dwr for waterproofness and are much more breathable.

    Premier Icon njee20

    I’m a huge fan of softshell jackets. All I wear from about 10 degrees downwards is a base layer and a softshell. On the MTB I’ve got an old Gore Phantom N2S that I wear (as intended) on its own.

    On the road I’ve got a current style Assos 851, and old style 851 and a Gore Oxygen softshell (in order of warmness!).

    Never wear a waterproof, despite having a nice Gore one.

    Premier Icon epicyclo

    The most breathable outfit I’ve found is a thick wool zip neck jumper with a gillet and base layer.

    This can handle most conditions short of heavy rain, and is ok in light drizzle for a while. It’s easy enough to put an unlined Pertex on top of it if it’s too wet or if you stop in very cold conditions.

    Excess heat can be quickly dumped by pulling up the sleeves and unzipping the neck.

    It’s usually that or a Rab VapourRise jacket.

    Premier Icon DirtyLyle

    I’d take a bullet for my Gore Windstoppers. A BULLET.
    Too hot, and you take the sleeves off, bish, bash, bosh. Love ’em.


    Many thanks for all the replies!
    Seems like 50% get on with soft shells and 50% experience similar clamy-cold effects.

    And ’tis true
    – 6°C was maybe a little too warm for that sort of kit (Gore Tool jacket meant to be very warm)
    – I will give it a try at -4°C tomorrow night (similar intensity but shorter ride)
    – for the mid-3hours of the ride the jacket was fine and only got clamy-cold in the last hour when I stopped and then backed-off a little on the last tired transfer miles back home, less climbing, less intensity

    Many thanks again – I’ll give you an update when I have tested different layers, temperatures etc.

    Premier Icon stevenmenmuir

    Clothing is a very personal thing as you can tell from all the answers above. Also we all feel the cold to different degrees. I just bought my first softshell. Its a cheap Karrimor one but I like it so far. I did get wet in some monsoon like conditions a few weeks ago but its been up to the task in more showery conditions. I wore it and a merino base layer on my MBL training ride and didn’t need to add or take off layers all day. Did get a wee bit chilly if we were stopped for a bit and likewise a bit too warm on hard climbs but neither situation was uncomfortable. The others were regularly putting on or taking off layers. I will add that I’m not a fan of waterproof jackets as I generally find them too warm and only wear if its really wet and cold. Experiment and find what works for you.

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout

    Do you use the zip and vents as well? That clears far more dampness than the breathability will.

    Not as bad as fleeces or boil in the bag waterproofs but yeah pretty crap, good for mincing round town/putting on back at the car


    Have a look at Sub4. Baselayers, glove liners etc ( at up and running) apparently they’re HH without the badge…..3 for 2 deal on now……so far feel better than my Howies merino and a fraction of the price


    Since when has wearing a coat been called a “system” ?????

    Nothing (besides my musto shooting jumper) is 100% windproof, nothing is 100% waterproof, it’s all a compromise.

    I generate a lot of heat anyway, but rarely wear a coat or jacket, prefer to go with a long sleeve base layer, t shirt over, and a thin waterproof if it’s actually raining, otherwise I just sweat too much & get damp.

    NONE of the breathable products I’ve ever bought actually do what the manufacturers claim, anything remotely waterproof doesn’t breathe, and anything that breathes isn’t waterproof.

    I really like soft shells for commuting, can’t be @rsed faffing round with loads of layers. Anyone used any of the Rose bikes own brand stuff?

    Premier Icon njee20

    Not as bad as fleeces or boil in the bag waterproofs but yeah pretty crap, good for mincing round town/putting on back at the car

    Out of interest what do you wear then?

    I can’t really imagine wearing anything other than a softshell for winter riding, and if you take fleeces and waterproofs out… what’s left?!

    I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve added or taken off additional layers on a ride, just can’t be arsed with that. When I have it’s more in spring/autumn when I think I may want a gilet or arm warmers to combine with a standard road jersey. Do people wearing loads of layers change mid ride?


    Have got a Mammut softshell in the cupboard but it has to be cold for me to wear it. Cold as in Winter 09/10 and 10/11. Wore it quite a lot then inc one morning when it was -15 on Cannock’s frozen arctic wastes

    Biggest problem for me is that it is not very versatile it has to be blazingly cold for the duration of the ride

    Merino stays warm even when wet

    It bloody well doesn’t, not with a zero degree breeze blowing over it!

    For the record, I’ve yet to find a clothing combo that keeps me warm on the road bike in winter. I’ve tried just about every conceivable combination from:-
    baselayer: HH Dry, HH Warm, Icebreaker merino
    mid; Gore Contest Thermo, Sombrio merino
    jacket: Gore Phantom windstopper
    shell: Montane Photon
    plus DHB balaclava & buff

    0-20 mins I’m chilly because I haven’t warmed up properly and…well…it’s chilly!
    20-40 mins in and I’ve warmed up properly and actually feel OK, but I’m starting to get a bit of a sweat on…
    40-60 mins the inevitable ingress from the cold wind and the cooling / evaporation effect leaves my core chilled.
    60+ mins is a miserable test of ‘endurance’.

    Basically, the ‘wicking effect’ however effective it may or may not be is not perfect, so there’s always an element of dampness in the base layer. Cold wind WILL find a way in and sure as eggs is eggs, I’ll feel **** cold!

    Premier Icon njee20

    For the record, I’ve yet to find a clothing combo that keeps me warm on the road bike in winter.

    There’s of course every chance that I’m a ‘warmer’ person than you – but if it’s properly cold (well, anything below about 5 degrees) then I wear a base layer (got a merino one, it gets damp, don’t like it. Fit’s crap too), either an old Briko synthetic one, a Nike thermal one, or an Altura compression one, with a Gore Oxygen softshell and a thermal skull cap – either DeMarchi or Altura, any bibshorts, Assos Airprotec bibtights, Gore Windstopper gloves, DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks and Northwave Fahrenheit boots.

    Whether I’m doing a 30 minute commute or a 5 hour ride I wear the same, don’t get cold or hot.

    Whether I’m doing a 30 minute commute or a 5 hour ride I wear the same, don’t get cold or hot.

    Alright…no need to **** rub it in!


    Off road I wear a LS base layer, LS merino zip neck top and a Madison soft shell gilet. keeps me warm, unless it’s getting down to freezing point or blowing a gale, and if I get hot I can roll the sleeves up for a few minutes. It’s the only combo I’ve found that works for me. If it gets really cold I have to put a showerproof jacket on top though.

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