A versatile cycling shell comes in handy year-round. And, one of the most important factors in an all-season shell is its breathability. The new Sugoi RSE NeoShell jacket is one of the first cycling jackets to use this highly breathable, waterproof technology.
Sugoi RSE NeoShell Jacket Features:
- Polartec® Neoshell® main body construction with fully taped seams keeps you dry when riding in heavy rain
- Offset front zipper for improved fit and comfort at the neck opening
- Rear zippered hand pockets to stow ride essentials
- Reflective accents for low light and night time visibility
- Weight: 9.9 oz (size large, as tested)
- Colors: Cyan (tested), Black
- MSRP: $280
Sugoi RSE NeoShell delivers
Over the years, several advancements have been made in waterproof/breathable fabrics. Gore-Tex had the market for quite some time until people smarted up to the fact that the original versions of the fabric were waterproof, but definitely not breathable. They have since improved their technology, but so have other players in the market. One such player, Polartec, is more widely-known for their insulating fleece materials, and is a relative newcomer to the battle for waterproof/breathable supremacy. But, in that short amount of time, their NeoShell fabric has won numerous awards as well as the confidence of backcountry athletes worldwide.
As one of the first cycling-specific shells to use Polartec Neoshell, the Sugoi RSE NeoShell Jacket is a great example of just what makes this laminate so special. The road-specific cut of the RSE provides an efficient, comfortable fit that effectively protects against the worst of Mother Nature. Born in coastal British Columbia, this jacket is just what the doctor ordered for wet, soggy and cold rides. Luckily, the fall weather has cooperated on several occasions and I’ve been able to put the RSE to the test. Unlike my native Seattle, Salt Lake City isn’t known for constant rain, but we have had some of those days and the RSE NeoShell has been my trusted companion.
The fit of the RSE is “cycling perfect” with form-fitting sleeves and a body that’s also streamlined, but capable of fitting atop a winter-weight layer. One of the best things about NeoShell is its brushed backing. Unlike some laminated fabrics, NeoShell feels comfortable next-to-skin and never sticks to bare skin. That feature alone makes the RSE a winner as nothing is more frustrating than having a sweat-lined jacket sticking to your skin.
NeoShell breathes and protects
As mentioned, waterproof/breathable fabrics have come a long way and NeoShell is a prime example of extreme breathability and waterproofing. I’ve seen NeoShell demos, but hadn’t used the fabric previously. As I’ve continued riding through inclement weather and cold conditions, I’ve been simply amazed at how well this jacket breathes. Pit zips are a thing of the past and so is water build-up. To further test breathability, I’ve worn the RSE while trail running as well. After use, I’d carefully examine the fabric for any evidence of moisture build-up and not once did I even find so much as a drop of moisture built up inside this jacket. In my experience, nothing quite breathes as well as NeoShell — this stuff is amazing.
Many laminate fabrics require an elevated air temperature before they expel moisture, but NeoShell seems to breathe immediately without the need of a warm-up period. Looking at their technical highlights, its no wonder it performs so well. While I’ve not done my own independent scientific research to confim the charts and graphs shown, I can speak from countless hours of real-world experience and confidently say that there’s no BS here… it’s the real deal.
When it starts raining, the exterior of the RSE keeps the water out for a warm, comfortable ride. After an hour or more of rain, it just keeps beading up and blowing off.
Bits and pieces
While NeoShell is obviously the star of the show, there are some great touches on this jacket worth mentioning. I particularly like the dual-sided rear zippered pockets. Both are the perfect size for a smartphone and a handful of gel packets and are easily-accessed via a quick pull with or without winter-weight gloves.
To keep the elements out, the RSE features a simple drawstring at the hem that stays in place using small channeled toggles. This works well and reduces bulk. The cuffs feature a simple Velcro tab closure that’s easily-adjusted and wide enough to go over lightweight gloves or tuck underneath winter-weight gloves. The asymmetrical collar is a nice touch and effectively gets the zipper garage away from the chin — really nice. Not only that, but the lightweight fleece backing around the entire collar makes the experience even more comfortable.
The cyan color is nice and bright for improved visibility and also features reflective materials to be seen in low light. While black may look nice (my wife says its slimming even), I’d opt for the cyan color and I’d admonish Sugoi to go with more high-vis color schemes in the future.
As far as the fit goes, the only negative I can point out is the lack of angle-cut wrist cuffs. For a bike-specific fit, the cuffs should have a slight angle cut to them. On occasion, I noticed an air gap between the sleeve and my gloves that could be eliminated with angle-cut cuffs.
- NeoShell breathes extremely-well
- Softshell flexes with movement
- Excellent anti-odor properties after multiple uses
- Love the asymmetrical zipper
- Double rear pockets are easily-reached
- Sheds rain with aplomb (even after several hours)
- Nicely-cut for weather coverage
- Angle-cut cuffs would help with exposure gaps, ensure better weather barrier
- Front zipper can be difficult to reach, pull with winter-weight gloves on
The Bottom Line: Sugoi RSE Jacket
The Sugoi RSE NeoShell jacket is the first cycling jacket using this fabric, but it won’t be the last. The RSE has been hands-down the most breathable, waterproof softshell jacket I’ve tested. I can’t oversweat it — no matter how hard I try. It has a great cycling cut and can be easily stuffed into a back pocket when not in use.
Buy Now: Available at CompetitiveCyclist.com