Evans Cycles turned their hand to cycling clothing this summer with the launch of their first ever bib shorts and jersey from in-house brand FWE. Designed to meet the needs of those with understated style and value for money on their shopping lists, the kit ticked the boxes for many shoppers and the brand brought out yet more stylish wallet friendly clothing this winter.
The range includes a long sleeved jersey, waist and bib tights - plus what we reckon is the pièce de résistance - the Queen of the Downs Softshell.
Named after the wickedly hilly Evans Cycles sportive, this softshell is designed for those braving potentially grim weather - wanting water resistance, wind proofing, but enough breathability to be able to work hard without overheating. Tough criteria to meet, but one that done well can provide you with a multipurpose layer you can wear throughout spring, winter and autumn. At just £69.99, the FWE softshell offers all of this, plus value for money in a clothing category where that quality isn’t found too often.
The fabric, a mixture of Polyester, Elastane and Polyurethane, is fairly heavyweight, and I found performed at its best on proper wintery days when warmth was high on the agenda. The blue inside layer is soft to the touch and the side panels feature an extra helping of Elastane to ensure an individualised fit that meets the contours of its given frame.
The droplet tests proves that water beads on the surface of the fabric, so we know claims to water resistance ring true, and there are drainage holes at the bottom of the rear pockets that are often seen on much more pricey garments. Granted, if it’s wet enough for your pockets to fill up you’ve got serious problems, but this is a lovely nice-to-have detail.
On the topic of pockets, there are three angled compartments, plus a zip up compartment for safekeeping. The cuffs are another luxury detail, with a stretchy fabric that snaps to meet your wrist, avoiding excess cold air making its way up the sleeve.
The rear of the jacket features a silicone gripper, artistically printed with the rather suave looking FWE logo, though this gripper stops when reaching the front half of the fabric. This clever trick means the droptail stays in place throughout a ride, without the gripper putting undue pressure on the wearer, so that the fabric stretches easily when it comes to doing up.
All logos and washing instructions are printed on the inside, as opposed to using itchy-scratcy logos, a lovely detail that currently seems to be the most popular method among clothing brands.
I found myself incredibly impressed by this jacket when wearing it over the first properly wintery weekend of November. Saturday morning’s reading showed a balmy -5 degrees and Sunday wasn’t much warmer.
Bundling myself up for a short stint on the outdoor velodrome on Saturday I challenged the jacket with the ultimate test – keeping me warm in freezing conditions, without causing overheating during harder efforts. I’m pleased to say it passed, even more so considering the pocket friendly price tag. Obviously I wasn’t exactly toasty to begin with (by which I mean I was hopping around trying to breathe warm air into my hands), but I was comfortably warm warm once working, and didn’t feel myself overheating enough to want to reduce my layer count at any point.
On Sunday, I tried it out again over a more relaxed 30mile spin around Surrey. Again there was a serious chill in the air, and some suspiciously shiny patches of ground dotted around on some lanes less visited by traffic, but again I was kept toasty warm.
The fit is very close to skin – I tested the XSmall and found it much tighter than the Lunch Time Ride Jersey which I tried over summer in the same size. However, this is purposeful as the snug fit means that a layer of air can be trapped against the skin, and then used to keep you warm as your body temperature rises. I did find that the collar was quite high, and though this does keep the warmth in, I was more comfortable undoing it an inch or so for extra breathing room!
My only real criticism on this jacket is the stealth colour scheme. There are reflective details in the form of a stripe on the rear and stripes on both sleeves, but in daylight these don’t stand out much and neither does the largely black fabric. Of course, the all-black look does appeal to a lot of riders, and there are plenty of other accessories you could team up with for added visibility, but I would favour some brighter details.
An incredibly cosy softshell that is water resistant, windproof and breathable as advertised – all for a rather impressive sum under £70. It could do with a couple of flashes of colour to add a bit of visibility, but at this price you could probably just invest in an extra clip on light to mark you out!