ASHMEI SOFTSHELL JACKET – THE CYCLIST’S LBD?

ashmei Softshell Jacket

The easy answer to that is an emphatic yes! The caveat being, it might just be the perfect three season piece that completes your cycling wardrobe.

But….. lets start a little further back. ashmei are a relative newcomer to the cycling market. They are well established at the high end of the running kit market and saw plenty of scope to bring their attention to detail and quality across to offer something different to the discerning cyclist. In recent years, there have been a number of manufacturers entering the cycling market, and some have done so more successfully than others. On the strength of the two items that I have been testing for ashmei, I would say that they are here to stay.

It is increasingly the case that when buying a product that is positioned as a piece of luxury wear, the customer has high expectations for the whole of the ‘experience’. This might sound daft to some, but if you are reading exalt, you already know the kinds of brands that you like and will have a good idea about the quality that you expect. In this respect, ashemei does not dissappoint. The jacket and jersey arrived immaculately packaged. Inside the branded box, they were carefully wrapped in nicely printed paper along with a personal note from Georgie. To my mind, this set the tone for the pieces and my raised expectations were not disappointed.

ashmei Softshell Jacket

The ashmei softshell jacket is a thing of practical beauty. In many ways, it is an excellent example of the maxim that form should follow function. There is much here that has been thoughtfully designed, but at no point either to look at or for the wearer, does the jacket feel too busy or fussy in either appearance or features. For me, the great feature of the jacket lies in the different fabrics used. The front of the body and arms of the jacket are made from a softshell material, whilst the main back panel and back of the arms are a soft merino. This is a masterstroke. When riding in a chill wind or in the rain, the front of the jacket bears the brunt of the weather and keeps you warm and dry. As things heat up though, the merino panels do a marvelous job of letting the heat out.

ashmei Softshell Jacket

Feature-wise, the jacket has a lot to offer. The now ubiquitous off-set zip and zip garage mean that you can zip up to the top and ride in comfort, the elasticated cuffs keep out the chill and the generous length underarm ‘pit zips’ provide great ventilation. At the back, there is an elasticated hem on the drop down ‘rain tail’ and there are no less than six thoughtfully arranged pockets. Ranging from a normal sized cargo pocket to a tiny hidden zipped pouch, their variety allows you to spread your ballast evenly. I found that this meant a little more thought was initially required. In other jackets and jerseys that I have ridden in, the traditional three pocket design invites you to stuff them rather haphazardly. Here, I found that I thought more about where I put what. Having spread out my cash, keys, phone, pump, tiny tube and tool pouch, emergency gels and even on one occasion a pair of knee warmers, I never felt overloaded. If I was to have one criticism of this jacket, it would be a rather theoretical one – there is a headphone port through one of the pockets and some beautifully designed cable guides up through the back to the neck. This is great, but my position would be that when riding in traffic, your senses need to be at their sharpest. In the countryside, the same still applies, if you are not enjoying the peace and quiet, you can still be aware of the sound of an approaching vehicle hidden from view by a high hedgerow. However, it’s a nifty detail for wear off the bike. But, I digress.

ashmei Softshell Jacket

I have had this jacket for a month now and have put it through its paces in a variety of conditions. It has been my go-to jacket for my morning commute and has been out for an evening training ride as well as three longer weekend rides (including one in the filthy spring rain). Each of these situations presents a different challenge. When commuting (in April), I found that the jacket worked best with just a base layer underneath. I tend to run quite hot though and for me, the exercise mantra of ‘be bold, start cold’ tends to ring true. After a few minutes riding, I was always more than warm enough. This is in the main due to the versatility of the jacket and the effective breathability of both the softshell and the merino. For a 30 minute commute across London, this was perfect. The reflective strip down the back of the jacket was an added safety bonus. For a mid week training ride, I wished I had dressed lighter. This is not the fault of the jacket, but rather my planning. At high tempo when struggling through a few hill repeats, I found I was too warm. The base layer and jacket were just a little too much. On longer rides though where I was riding out with friends at a steadier tempo, it was perfect. On the wet ride, I found that the protection afforded by the soft shell on the front of the jacket was more than adequate. Again, this is a rather subjective judgment. I would rather be a little damp and warm than boiling away in a full waterproof.

ashmei Softshell Jacket

Having lived with the jacket for a while and ridden plenty of miles in it, I am (as might be evident from above), rather taken with it. It is a superb piece of kit and one that easily justifies its price tag. It is a perfect three season piece of outer wear that once you have it, you will find yourself reaching for more times than you might imagine. It is rather fashionable to decry expensive cycling kit as the refuge of mamils and Johnny-come-latelys. I disagree. ashmei is a first class example of a company providing quality design and beautifully manufactured pieces. This quality does not necessarily come cheap, but, for me at least, it is certainly worth it. The LBD of the title? Absolutely; it looks good every time, goes with everything and never lets you down! Have a look for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

ashmei Cycle Softshell Jacket
£210 GBP
ashmei.com