Rab Vapour Rise Cinder review – does fluffy teddy bear tech make Rab’s softshell jacket the ultimate lightweight all-rounder?

Rab’s Vapour Rise Cinder softshell adds a biking cut and features to one of their most popular fast moving mountain designs

Rab Vapour Rise Cinder jacket
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

Rab’s binary performance, semi teddy bear softshell is super light and packable with outstanding product support but it works best for really cold or really steady rides.

Pros

  • +

    Fleecy lined sections are incredibly warm for the weight

  • +

    Breezy back fabrics and side zips help cooling

  • +

    Low weight and pack size

  • +

    Outstanding customer service

  • +

    Excellent eco credentials

Cons

  • -

    Binary rather than balanced fabric split

  • -

    Excessive back pocket droop when loaded

  • -

    Wrinkles a lot round the shoulders

  • -

    Can get pretty soggy while ‘wicking’

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UK brand Rab have a huge reputation for top performance and outstanding customer support among mountain athletes. Their Cinder range is designed to bring those wins to the biking world. The Vapour Rise soft-shell shares a lot of fabric tech from their existing trail running / fast moving range. The result is amazingly warm for it’s low weight and pack size, but there are pluses and minuses to the overall performance.

Rab Vapour Rise Cinder jacket

The Rab Vapour Rise Cinder jacket takes fabric tech from their running range and reshapes it for riding (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and specifications

The outer fabric for the whole jacket is a lightweight (47gsm) 20D Pertex Quantum Air windshell treated with a fluorocarbon-free DWR (Durable Water Repellent) surface coating. The front of the jacket and sleeves plus collar and yoke are lined with Rab’s own ‘VR Warm’ fabric. This is a super plushy, ultra fine fleece that in the golden Sahara color I tested, looked a lot like those super expensive Stieff teddy bears. The back and sides of the jacket and back of the sleeves is lined with a much lighter ‘base layer’ style fabric. 

The jacket isn’t seam sealed but there’s a stiff storm flap behind the full length YKK zip. The cuffs have a cowl of stiffened fabric too, with a stretch panel on the underside. There’s also an upward opening zip side vent on each side where the liner changes from fleece to base. The zipped back pocket is lined with the same Pertex as the shell and its zip is weather flapped too. The deep dropped hem has a single sided tightening cord and silicon gripper logos round the lower edge and there are small reflective details on the tail and shoulders.

Performance

I’d describe fit as ‘athletic’ rather than baggy with a very deep, rounded tail dropping right over hips. This becomes much more pronounced if you load up the rear pocket too and while it doesn’t sag as badly as Rab’s Ridgeline top, it can still catch on the back of your saddle. The sleeves are relatively short too, so while the cuff shape is great I found it pulled back off my gloves when riding. The stretch panel so you easily pull them up to see your watch is a neat touch though. Despite a multi-panel arm and T shoulder cut, there’s a lot of extra fabric bunching up in the upper arm/armpit area as well.

The different performance of the two liner fabrics is very obvious when riding too. The VR Warm teddy bear sections are super toasty for their weight and can easily cope with windchill well below freezing. While the fleece sucks sweat off skin or base layers well, it doesn’t transfer through the Pertex as fast. That can leave it obviously soggy – particularly in the lower arms – when you’re working harder than it can breathe. The side vents do help a bit with airflow and the upward opening/downward closing zip is great when you need to stop the draught fast. However, having them behind the part of the jacket that’s likely to overheat means they’re less effective than they would be on the chest (like they are on Rab’s Vapour Rise Alpine Light jacket). 

The same slow breathing rate of the Pertex is apparent on the thin rear panels which don't dry as fast as I expected. The dramatic contrast between the cosy front and breezy back can be uncomfortable at times too. Especially in heavy rain or strong following winds where completely fleece lined jackets like Specialized’s Polartec Alpha Trail are obviously more protected. The upside is that you’re much less likely to overheat on climbs etc. when you’re working extra hard. It’s also cheaper and proving more robust than other Polartec Alpha jackets we’ve tested.

Speaking of robust, Rab offer a full lifetime warranty on defects as well as a repair / reproof / rewashing service where they’ll restore your gear to as near new condition as possible for a very reasonable rate. They didn’t even balk when I dropped in a shredded 21-year-old jacket on a recent factory visit either, so they’ve got your back long term.

They’re also very committed to making their manufacturing, logistics and selling as eco friendly and sustainable as possible. That includes being extremely transparent about the composition of their gear, with the Vapour–Rise Cinder scoring an overall 17 percent recycled fabric, peaking at 55 for the VR Warm liner. It’s totally PFC free apart from the zip too.

Rab Vapour Rise Cinder jacket on the floor

The split between Stieff teddy bear front fabric and lightweight back panel liner is obvious when you've got the jacket inside out and when you've got it on (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

There are lots of ‘body mapped’ options out there and I’d class the Vapour–Rise Cinder as one of the more binary rather than balanced. I’ve found it works well on either really steady rides or really cold, hard working rides. Heat for weight ratio and packability are excellent too and Rab’s customer service and product back up is worth a lot long term. It tends to be either too sweaty or too breezy in a lot of situations though, the cut, pocket and vent positioning could be better too.

Rab Vapour Rise Cinder jacket side vent

The zipped vents are deep, but the position means that don't exchange quite enough air to make a big difference (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Tech specs: Rab Vapour Rise Cinder softshell

  • Price: $160 / £160 / €190
  • Sizes: S to XXL
  • Options: Ebony, Orion Blue, Sahara (tested)
  • Weight: 260g (medium)
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg