REVIEW: Proviz REFLECT 360+ Women's Cycling Jacket
by Sarah Lewis
|Colour||Grey / Hi-Vis|
This jacket is a bit of a game-changer; no cycling kit before it has committed so heavily to making the rider so incredibly visible.
REVIEW: Proviz REFLECT 360+ Women's Cycling Jacket
Size: 6 - 16
In 1980, Ottowan got to number two with their word game-inspired song, D.I.S.C.O. 25 years later, I thought it was probably about time to give their songwriting ability the respect it deserves by adopting the same approach to reviewing... a cycling jacket.
Now this isn't just any cycling jacket. For starters, it's probably more disco than any you might have seen before due to it resembling a slightly distorted and laterally mobile mirror ball. With a couple of tricks up its sleeves, there are also more than enough features to match (and probably, exceed) the required number of letters; in this case, six.
So imagine the lights have just gone up on the set of a very eighties-looking Top of the Pops, sit back, appreciate the lip-syncing and tap your foot along.
A big old pocket on the back
P: adequate Pockets
With two 'technical' pockets up on the chest and a further, generous zipped pocket on the back, the jacket definitely isn't short on storage space. While this might not be as organised as your 'old faithful' jersey that fits anything from sandwiches to spare tubes in their own individual compartments, the three options really don't need to be more complex if you have a jersey underneath.
The chest-height pockets are pretty handy and not something you usually have access to when out on the bike. For things like snacks or a phone to populate your Instagram feed, these cater for both left- and right-handed riders while the huge rear pocket could even swallow up an OS map with room to spare.
Sticking an arm out to signal suddenly got exciting!
So while 'reflective' was the most obvious choice for this one, the official name of 'REFLECT360+' would also have fit rather well (but is perhaps less easy to sing along to).
Giving the jacket its mirror ball appearance are thousands of tiny glass beads that sit on the surface of the jacket - an innovative approach that Proviz has been the first to take. The result on application of white light is a pretty uniform glow that is only broken by the zips and logos, as the above image illustrates rather well.
Having used the jacket commuting, I can report back that you definitely get some looks as the effect is really quite impressive. In the same way that weirdly pulsating LED indicators on particular models of car draw your attention and really hit home the fact that the car is definitely turning, the jacket is almost a bit of a territory marker on the road. With that in mind, I'd be intrigued to see how passing distances might differ what with being surrounded by a bubble of emanating light.
O: a handy Outer shell
The main selling point of the jacket is clearly its ability to bounce light away and protect you from other road users, but being tailored towards use in the winter it also needs to stand up to the elements. Looking after this is a newly improved protective layer which has been developed since last year's 'REFLECT360' range to bolster waterproofing and breathability.
In typical Manchester weather (mostly wet and windy), the jacket stood up to pretty much everything that autumn and the beginning of winter could throw at it. On a couple of the tougher days I came away with wet patches on my arms due to the folding of the fabric - a by-product of the fit of the arms being roomy for me with the extra fabric folding to allowed water to sit.
I should point out here however that the fit is most definitely one for commuting. Opting for a size 8, I found the jacket to be spacious with the option of popping on extra layers and with a neck that needed filling with a Buff when the wind really dug its claws in.
No race fit here... but that's not what they're aiming for; the Provis PixElite range plays that role.
Zips closed, but vents at work on a chilly day
The paragraph above might make the jacket sound like an impenetrable fortress, but Proviz were careful to include integrated ventilation so that it is adaptable for changeable days and tougher efforts.
Similar to a lot of waterproofs on the market, the first lines of defence are the under-arm zips that open up some sizeable gaps for air to flow through. Paired with the soft cotton mesh lining inside, this gives a refreshing micro-climate inside the jacket that can easily be managed.
Working all the time are the three vents between your shoulder blades which help to prevent overheating. These are subtly worked into the overall design and together with the overall flexibility of the garment's fabric, react to your movements and exothermic bursts when trying to beat a light change or pushing uphill.
What the traffic/drafters see
While this isn't strictly listed as one of the product's attributes, the main thing for me is that this jacket is a bit of a game-changer; no cycling kit before it has committed so heavily to making the rider so incredibly visible. Most jackets and jerseys will have a token strip of hi-vis, but actually turning the top half of a human into a traffic warning surely makes drivers think differently about what they are approaching.
With a lot of debate about cycling infrastructure, women turning left in London and overtaking distances, this jacket marks you out as exactly what you are: a cyclist. It's like riding with a big flashing neon sign above your head that feels slightly reassuring, while also forcing you to appreciate your responsibility as a road user.
Glowing doesn't (and shouldn't) give you an elevated sense of importance, but it's heartening to know that by simply throwing on a jacket you are helping not only those around you, but also yourself.
Features on the front
Z: taped Zips (and seams)
Ok, so the review doesn't finish on a particularly impressive feature or something to match the oh-oh-oh at the end of the song - but what else begins with Z?
With a grand total of six zips, you could see the jacket as having just as many weak points where water could penetrate and valuable warmth could escape. Thankfully, this just isn't the case with each of the zips being taped - along with the seams.
Going back to the slight dampness mentioned above, none of this came through the seams and the jacket wasn't draughty in the slightest. The cuffs can also be pulled tight with a Velcro fastening, creating a wind- and waterproof barrier on top of gloves or against your skin.
Using Top of the Pops' chart scoring system, Ottowan actually got it pretty bang-on the first time around coming in at a number two. For me the spacious and therefore slightly leaky sleeves deny the Proviz REFLECT360+ women's cycling jacket the top spot, but for peace of mind while ferrying yourself to and from work it really does do the job.
Finally, in the weeks I've had this jacket to review I've definitely noticed an increase in the number of glowing orbs on bikes in and around Greater Manchester and Cheshire. One absolutely brilliant thing is being able to give fellow disco cyclists a big old nod or wave if your paths cross.
For more information visit www.provizsports.com.
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