This review of a Proviz jacket is written by a friend Adam Thornton, who is a bike-ability instructor in Sheffield.
Proviz REFLECT 360 Cycling Jacket Review
Or, how I feel like auditioning for the next Tron film
I write this review after going out for an early-morning ride on a bleak morning. It was raining – that fine rain that I quite like cycling in because it’s soft when it hits your face. I’m now looking at my jacket drying on the clotheshorse and, despite it being on the far side of the room and away from the window (the only source of light), the jacket has an ethereal quality to it in the way it reflects light. This ability to reflect light and its chameleon-like quality is the jacket’s primary selling point, but we’ll get to that later.
Back when the jacket arrived in the post I could immediately see it was well finished, with tissue paper wrapped around the zip pulls and a quality-looking product. The material has an unusual feel to it due to the technical nature of the special fabric. It’s a bit like a gore-tex jacket, but smoother.
A closer look: The inside-out test
One of the tricks I’ve learnt to do when considering buying an item of clothing I’ll be using for sport is to turn it inside out and have a good look at the sewing and the inside. I’ve found that because of the vigorous nature of training and the frequent putting-on and taking-off of the garment, if the sewing inside isn’t top notch or even if there’s a tiny thread loose then it only takes one catch as you’re putting your arm in to cause proper damage. The Proviz REFLECT 360 is advertised as having sealed seams for waterproofing so it was particularly important that the stitching is top grade. Also, sometimes I’ve had clothing with a soft cotton mesh inside which isn’t good quality, so once something snags on it in a sleeve, then it’s not long before the whole inner-sleeve becomes shredded. Throughout the whole Proviz jacket it is clear that the seams, stitching, and material quality are very good and that jacket will have a long life. In fact, the stitching is very well hidden and on the outside is completely sealed to make the jacket very waterproof.
Waterproofing, breathability, and pockets
The waterproofing is very good ‘out in the field’. I sometimes find that well-waterproofed clothes don’t breathe very well but the Proviz REFLECT 360 did a pretty good job. I’d say I’m a moderate sweater and was only a bit damp when I return home. However, on long cold rides this might be a problem for people who want more breathability. There are vents across the back and zipped vents under each armpit. There are also two vertical tipped pockets on either chest panel and I’ve found that, as long as you don’t have anything inside the pockets, keeping them open helps to increase a bit of airflow.
There is another long pocket in the panel across the lower back, which would be good for a few gels or sports bars. The zip is concealed by a flap that neatly fits over it. The last pocket is on the inside, on the left chest panel. It is closed by a strip of Velcro. The pocket is wide enough to carry a smart phone, but not deep enough to seal the Velcro over the top.
When I put the jacket on it fits snugly. If you are of slightly bigger build and if wearing more than a thin top under the Proviz jacket then you might find that when cycling the jacket can be a bit tight across the back. However, this was not enough to be a problem. I’m a big 6’ 4” cyclist and was quite happy with the snug fit across my back. I’ve had the jacket a few weeks now and have used it on average 4 – 5 days each week and the fit has always felt good, although as it gets colder into winter time and I feel I need to put on more clothing under the jacket then the fit across the back might become an issue. However, in the meantime the fit across the back added to the streamlining by less flapping about of surplus material or that balloon-look some cyclists get when air streaming into their jacket at the front travels around their body and is caught at the back. This is clearly important so the jacket doesn’t act like a sail and slow you down. The back panel is also quite a bit longer than the front of the jacket, so when you’re leaning forward on the bike you have more protection from the weather around your lower back.
The collar is quite tall, but is flexible and provides added protection on cold, rainy rides.
Despite the snug fit around the top of the jacket, interestingly though, when I first put on the jacket, the sleeves seemed quite baggy, especially around the forearms. However, when I get on the bike, the way the jacket has been designed to fit around the body in the forward cycling position, the baggy sleeves effectively disappear. You can see from the photo that they are also slightly too long when standing upright, but again this is perfect for cycling because the forward leaning cycling position means that the sleeve-ends cover the wrists perfectly, and the wrist straps mean that you can seal out any cold air coming in on a chilly day.
The reflective material
You can see from the photo of me indoors that under the artificial non-direct light in the room, the jacket looks very grey in colour. In fact, what we are seeing is the same material that you see as grey strips on hi-viz tabards that are popular among cyclists and street workmen. These grey strips are highly reflective in direct light and shine when a car headlight is pointed at it – making it so visible and appealing to us cyclists. Over the years I’ve often thought to myself that if it is actually the grey strips that are so visible under headlights, why doesn’t someone make a whole jacket like that? Now Proviz have. They’ve used a similar material made from millions of highly reflective tiny glass beads, which really reflect the light quite incredibly. To test just how effective the jacket is I took out the camera and tripod and hopped on the bike one evening after dark and set the timer and flash on the camera. I intentionally didn’t put on my cycle lights for this demonstration so as not to detract from the effect of the jacket, but cycled in a quiet car park by my home. The following photographs speak for themselves.
Undoubtedly, as long as you’re cycling sensibly, i.e. not carelessly weaving around traffic or in a vehicle’s blind spot, then the excellent reflectability of the Proviz jacket at night in direct light means you are much more visible than wearing regular clothing. And because the jacket looks a neutral grey colour under normal artificial room lighting then when you arrive at work on a winter’s morning you’re not going to dazzle anyone in the office, nor draw attention to yourself by wearing a hi-viz day-glo yellow cycling tabard. So the Proviz jacket is a smarter choice.
The only caution I can think of, and to remember when you’re on the road, regarding the reflective nature of the jacket is that under yellow street lighting you are not as bright, if at all. So if you are in the company of pedestrians or other cyclists with lights shining away from you, then you won’t be glowing in the same way you would be with a direct car/bicycle light (or camera flash). Also, if you live in more rural areas with little street-lighting and are out on your bike shortly before sunrise or at dusk or even on a low cloudy day and car drivers don’t have their headlights on, then the grey colour of the Proviz jacket will paradoxically make you blend into the background rather than stand out. But, of course, you will have your good-quality bike lights on anyway!
Is the jacket of a high quality?
Yes. Despite it’s lightweight material, the jacket is well designed and manufactured.
Is it geared towards somebody like me?
It is designed and made specifically for cyclists.
Have others had a good experience with the product?
From reading other reviews on the internet the vast majority give the Proviz jacket good feedback, with generally four out of five stars.
What are the pros and cons of the product?
Good innovative reflective material with all the standard features you would want and expect from a cycling jacket. Good fit, although a bit snug across the back for the bigger cyclist. Moderate breathability. For me, one of the biggest pros is that you look a bit like Tron!
Is the product worth my money?
I believe that if you are happy with the supposed shortcomings of the Proviz 360 jacket discussed above, then the outstanding reflective material from which it is constructed makes you significantly more visible on the roads, which should lead to safer cycling. This is itself makes it worth your money.