A brilliantly weatherproofed garment that does not let the wind or rain in at all while simultaneously being insulating due to weather protection and also very breathable when exercising. The lack of hood is frustrating and the price is high, but the functionality is superb and visibility unmatched.
Brilliant water and wind proofing
Visibility in low light is great
Reflectivity is superb
Breathability very good
A hood would be a very welcome edition for commuting
It is mightily expensive
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On Castelli's waterproofing and windproofing scale, the Italian brand gives the Commuter Reflex Jacket a full five out of five rating. We'll be the judges of just how well the jacket stacks up, but it at least gives you an insight into the exactly what level Castelli is pitching the Commuter Reflex at.
It’s all about giving you the best protection possible while on inevitable grim that comes with regularly cycle commuting to work. Understanding that you want to turn up to the office looking stylish, the reflectivity Castelli has used is pretty subtle during the day, but really lights up at night in order to improve your visibility while cycling on the roads - it's this quality, and several others that we'll get into below, that make Castelli's offering one of the best commuter cycling jackets.
Castelli Commuter Reflex jacket: construction
With the 20,000mm water column and 20,000 MVTR breathability rating the Castelli Commuter Reflex should be very waterproof and very breathable. For reference, MVTR stands for Moisture Vapour Transition Rate, and a score of 40,000 is the best possible, while 10,000 is considered very breathable.
Water column refers to the pressure of water needed before the proofing is broken. So sitting down on wet grass in waterproof trousers is apparently 2,000mm. 5,000-10,000 is considered ideal for mountain hiking in foul weather, whereas 10,000-20,000 is considered enough for skiers and snowboarders. So the Castelli Commuter Reflex jacket is pretty good for its weatherproofing!
I went for a size large as my experience of Castelli clothing is that you generally need to size up a little – normally I’m a small, but I go for medium in Castelli. With this being a commuter jacket I thought the size large would be best for wearing over various different casual wear.
However, I went too large and a medium would have fit me perfectly well. Long story short, if medium fits you in Castelli, get this jacket in medium and don’t size up as it comes in a more relaxed fit that suits the intended use of wearing over your day to day attire.
The sleeves are helpfully wide enough to be put on over any gloves, and feature a Velcro fastening cuff so that you won’t get any cold air rushing up your sleeve.
The front zip is covered except for the bottom fifth or so, which is very useful as it makes getting the initial zipping up of the jacket easier when you’re in a rush, perhaps waiting at the lights.
There is also a button up garter at the hem of the jacket to prevent the jacket flapping around when it’s unzipped. This also keeps the base nicely in place and with the front and rear of the jacket extending quite far down, any suit jacket or shirt you have on underneath will be protected by the elements even without the best bike mudguards.
The jacket has another nice addition which are the two zip pockets at the front. Most cycling kit will have pockets on the back, which makes sense for hunched over road bike positions, but for more upright commuting having these two front zip pockets is ideal for easy access to phone or keys.
The big star of the show in my opinion though is the reflectivity of the jacket. In daylight, it looks pretty casual, a little mundane even. But when a light is directed onto the jacket, it lights up in a dazzle of reflective dots and makes the wearer very visible.
Castelli Commuter Reflex jacket: the ride
I used the jacket in a variety of conditions and usually only for commuting into town and back. For longer rides or those doing faster training rides (30kph+ maybe), the jacket is quite a relaxed fit so will blow around a little. However, if I had opted for the medium this would have been less of an issue.
When the weather was a bit warmer, I did find that I got a little hot in the jacket. It doesn’t add insulation as such, but it prevents any wind chill from getting in. That said, when unzipped and using the garter, this does stop the jacket blowing around whilst also letting in some cool air. I also loosened off the sleeves to increase airflow.
In the rain, this jacket really does not let any water in at all, even in a howling gale with sideways rain.
As for visibility, the Fiery Red really is the perfect colour. The black and the blue are stylish, but I don’t think these stand out enough in daylight. The red colour is perfect for contrast against urban areas and also rural roads under tree cover. Then once people turn the lights on in their cars, the jacket really pops out thanks to the abstract patterning of the reflective dots.
It’s also very comfortable to wear. For commuting, you don’t want race fit and tight clothing. You simply want something that gives good coverage and can be worn over a variety of clothing. This is where this jacket does exactly what’s needed. It’s not the lightest jacket, but it really isn’t noticeable when wearing.
That said, it’s not easy to pack away and you wouldn’t be able to stuff it into a pocket, whereas you could with a jacket made from GoreTex ShakeDry. Although visibility-wise, it is far better than the GoreTex which is mostly dark grey.
One thing I really wish this jacket had was a hood. I know that can be difficult to put over a helmet, but one with a drawstring would be ideal as you can get them so that you can turn your head without visibility being blocked. At this price, and as a commuter jacket, I do think this is something that should be included and is something that comes with jackets like the much cheaper Rapha Commuter Lightweight Jacket.
Castelli Commuter Reflex jacket: value and conclusion
There’s no getting around that in the UK this jacket is expensive at $239.99 / £280. There is the Altura Nightvision Electron jacket that we tested which is very good for visibility, and is a touch cheaper than the Castelli at $233.00 / £190.00
The Rapha Commuter Lightweight jacket, for example, is much cheaper at $115.00 / £85.00, although not as strongly weatherproofed and suffers when it comes to breathability.
There are similar options from GoreTex that offer the same breathability, water and wind proofing, whilst also being more packable. But they are more race fit and less likely to fit nicely over clothing – and still come in at a premium price.
In all, the Castelli Reflex Commuter Jacket is an expensive, but highly effective water and wind proof jacket that offers good breathability and thanks to its inability to let the winter weather in, also a good level of insulation.
Reflectivity is incredible and in the Fiery Red colour day time visibility is also very good without looking garish. Aided by functional length, cuffs, and pockets, the only thing lacking for commuting is a hood. Aside from that this jacket does everything it could possibly need to.
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