The race-cut dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket is a great performer for the price, managing to keep you warm at all levels of activity on some of the coldest days.
Ergonomically shaped cuffs
Not brilliant at sweat wicking
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When it comes to winter riding, working out what to wear is hard. You need something robust enough to keep you warm in freezing conditions, but not cook you when you start working hard. Something that blocks the wind but is breathable at the same time; resistant to rain but wicks sweat.
So when the dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket landed with the pledge of doing all three, I just had to put it to the test.
Made from a nylon and elastane mix, the soft-shell jacket has been designed to deliver what dhb calls a 'performance' cut – racy rather than casual. High-stretch fabrics have been used to help with body contouring as well as a lower overall fabric volume at the front, so that the front measures just 53cm and is noticeably smaller than the size small Rapha Souplesse Insulated Jacket, which is 2cm longer at the front, or the small Castelli Alpha RoS, which is 7cm longer.
A windproof membrane has been laid throughout the dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket which, according to the brand, as well as providing a wind block also provides water resistance from light rain and road spray.
The soft-shell jacket has been fully fleece lined to help trap hot air, nature's best insulator, and to create a microclimate around your torso in dhb's words. A laser-cut venting system across the shoulders then helps let moisture and excess heat escape.
Slipping the dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket on, the fit is reasonably close – a race cut. For me personally there is a bit of a discrepancy between the arms and shoulders, which are a tight fit, and the body, which could do with slightly less fabric at the chest, but that could be perfect for those out there better endowed in that area than me.
What will work across any size, however, is the inclusion of ergonomic cuffs. In layman's terms, a cuff that will sit under your winter gloves and prevent any cold gaps appearing. dhb has delivered these exceptionally well and made it really easy to get gloves on with the extra-long stretch fabric slotting underneath no problem, making a perfect weatherproof transition from glove to arm.
I took the dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket on a similar ride to the one I treated the GORE C5 Windstopper Thermal Jacket to, hitting the gravel trails around north-east Cheshire. It makes a nice change from the seemingly never-ending climbs of the Peak District, but it's a hard test for a jacket to keep your temperature regulated when it's almost a binary switch between riding at cruising speeds or full gas.
Taking the slower-paced riding first, I pedalled out with temperatures hovering around 5° and full sun. Wearing a winter-level base layer I still felt the nip in the air for the first mile or so. This is where a ride can go one of two ways, with you either remaining cold for the duration of the ride and therefore probably cutting it short, or once the jacket has done its thing and warmed up the air inside, you stay toasty all ride.
I'm pleased to say that with the dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket it was the latter. By about mile two I had forgotten about my top half being chilly and was able just to focus on the ride.
Wanting to test the breathability vent system of the jacket, I stepped up the pace. I was really asking a lot of it as differing from climbing when the wind chill is reduced, by riding faster the wind chill increases, but so did my body temperature. I was impressed with how well the dhb managed to balance the wind blocking and temperature regulating needs when actually riding. Even when I took the pace right back down again I didn't feel cold from sweat.
However, on removing the jacket, I swiftly noticed I was damp underneath it. As I was home I was immediately able to jump in the shower and warm up, but if I'd been at a cafe stop, I might have felt concerned as to how I would dry off enough to keep warm on the return leg. It wasn't a huge pool of sweat by any means, just something to consider if you do like the odd cafe stop that it's not quite as good as sweat wicking as some of the brands out there, such as the ones I've mentioned above.
But also with the brands I've mentioned above comes a higher price tag and sometimes there's a compromise. Looking purely at the performance versus the lower price point of the dhb Aeron Women's Full Protection Soft-shell jacket it's impressively good value for money. The attention to detail around the cuffs and the windproofing for £110 offers great bang for buck.
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