A warm layer that breathes well and will work through winter and autumn when dressed up and down with layers. Good value, but the fit could do with refinement.
Soft and stretchy
Poor fit on our tester
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January's cold snap has provided ample opportunity for testing cold weather cycling clothing, and the Kalf club women's softshell has been my companion on several of the bitterest days, when layered up with one of the best base layers and thermal gilets.
To create the winter ready garment, Kalf has teamed up with eVent, using its DVstretch windproof fabric - a warm but highly breathable material utilised elsewhere for nordic ski and winter sports clothing.
Blocking cold wind is high on the agenda, and the material has a durable water repellant (DWR) coating which repels the very worst of the rain, though you can expect to get wet in a real downpour.
I wouldn't mark it down for that though, as unless you have a specifically dedicated waterproof on, even the best long sleeved cycling jerseys will breach after a while.
Inside is a 'waffle lining' which traps air and turns the system into a warming mini-radiator.
The fabric absolutely did its job, keeping me warm without overheating, even on higher intensity sections of long winter rides. It was soft and stretchy and a pleasure to pull on, too.
I was disappointed with the fit - in a size small, the shoulders and arms fitted as expected, but despite being advertised as 'form fit' I found I had a lot of excess material around the lower half. I felt a lot more aero with a tighter gilet zipped up over the top.
When it comes to the details, there's some well thought out features which offer extra protection for the conditions in mind. Stretchy narrow sleeves keep cold air from making its way up the openings, and a stormguard zip blocks out water whilst the droptail keeps your rear covered in the riding position.
The hem features silicone dots to ensure it all stays in place.
The pocket layout is a bit unconventional - with two large rear compartments, covered by a storm flap, and a small zipped compartment at the front.
The front pocket makes a lot of sense - at the cafe stop I could produce my debit card without having to fish around among food wrappers and keys, and my door keys were easy to locate on arrival home, too.
I felt less favourably to the rear layout. Even when wearing one of the best cycling vests for the job, I still had quite a job trying to get my hand far enough up my back to reach the pocket, and even then I had to negotiate the storm flap and this all felt more difficult than it needed to be. On the plus side, the height of the pockets did mean I could forget worries of losing my pump on a bumpy road.
There is a reflective trim to aid visibility which is always a useful addition to kit that will likely be worn in low visibility.
At £120, the Kalf Club Softshell outperforms its price tag in terms of weather proofing and breathability, riding like a much more expensive item. The boxy fit was less impressive, though if you're after something with relaxed styling it could be just the thing.
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