A versatile and reasonably practical jacket that, if teamed with a wind-cheating layer, will be perfect for either urban errands in your civvies, or long club runs in your full cycling regalia, assuming you have a crisp autumnal or spring day.
Need to team with wind-cheater
Cycling on a crisp sunny autumnal or winter day surely has to be up there as some of the best rides you'll do all year, personally it's probably my favourite time to ride.
However, the challenge always comes in what to wear on the bike on days like these. The solar gain is noticeable when in the sun, but as soon as you hit the shade, the temperature can plummet by several degrees. All weather jackets seem overkill, but a thermal jersey doesn't quite cut the mustard.
Enter then the Sportful Sportful Crystal Thermo jacket. Made from polyester mix thermal fabrics, this is a jacket of two halves: a padded quilted front and Roubaix-like brushed fleece fabric on the arms and back.
Its subtle and understated design is a bit of a departure from Sportful's normal highly technical pieces of apparel, and it would easily cross over to nice civvy jacket when riding around town and just running errands.
Riding the jacket on a perfect blue sky autumn day with ride start temperatures in the single digits, the Sportful Crystal Thermo jacket provided reasonable warmth when riding at a slow pace with a just a lightweight long sleeved Rapha base layer underneath.
My ride was segmented throughout the day, meaning that as well an early morning ride, I was also riding at lunchtime at then again early evening. While the sunny weather remained constant, the temperature fluctuated by about 10°C depending on the time of the ride, with the chilly ambient air in the shade noticeable throughout the day.
While far from a full-gas ride, I was, at times, working reasonably hard on climbs and when in the sunshine I fully expected to over heat, however, thanks to the two panel design ensuring torso and arm breathability, I was never uncomfortably warm or even sweaty.
Although, as soon as I was riding a descent, especially in the shade, the lack of wind proofing was apparent and left me wishing I had donned a wind-cheater base layer or gilet, especially on my chest as the quilted design let a significant amount of air flow through the stitched pattern.
To be fair to Sportful, it’s clear that the Crystal Thermo jacket isn’t designed to be windproof, so as long as you take that in to account when dressing for your ride, then it’s all good. It does mean that the idea of pulling the Crystal over just a work shirt when using it for a short commute/urban ride will need some further thought or extra layering.
All three rear pockets are a practical size, big enough for snacks, spares and tools, and the all important wind-cheater outer layer (if you didn’t opt for a base layer one) making me think it's almost possible for function and form to coexist.
I say almost, because there are a couple of small snags with the Sportful Crystal Thermo jacket. The fit needs a bit of harmonising between top and bottom halves, with the arms and upper fitting reasonably snugly, but the waist more of a relaxed, flared leisure style fit.
My only other ‘but’ is the limited level of reflective detailing to help you stand out on the road. The full black back with reflective ‘S’ does have plenty of practical aspects in terms of keeping it clean, but I feel there really should be a bigger nod to being seen on the road.
I really liked the Sportful Crystal Thermo jacket. It's an ideal riding accompaniment to a sunny autumnal ride if you team it with a wind-cheater base layer or gilet.
I loved the design and, if there was a bit more reflective detailing, think it could really work as a crossover jacket to easily team with jeans etc, but it will need a bit of thought as to what you wear underneath to ensure you are warm enough if you plan on riding at more than a pedestrian pace.
At £90, it's not going to be a priority wardrobe item, but on the days when the sky is blue and the leaves are crisp under tyre, it will be the perfect riding garment.
Hannah Bussey is Cycling Weekly’s longest serving Tech writer, having started with the Magazine back in 2011.
She's specialises on the technical side of all things cycling, including Pro Peloton Team kit having covered multiple seasons of the Spring Classics, and Grand Tours for both print and websites. Prior to joining Cycling Weekly, Hannah was a successful road and track racer, competing in UCI races across the world, and has raced in most of Europe, China, Pakistan and New Zealand. For fun, she's ridden LEJoG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, win 24 hour mountain bike race and tackle famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas. She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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