The Trail Series Rain Jacket is the flagship of Specialized’s new Trail Series weather protection range, investing in Polartec’s expensive Neoshell fabric for outstanding breathability and weather protection. It’s heavy though and while the casual cut is great for off-bike versatility and the hood is great, the sleeves are short when on the bike. Is it a worthy option when it comes to the best MTB jackets? Guy Kesteven reports.
Specialized has gone all out with the fabric choices for its new Trail Series range and that means the Rain Jacket uses Polartec’s Neoshell fabric. However, if you’re looking at the women’s version it uses a cheaper, lower-performance fabric, which is an odd call as everything else in the range is matched in materials across genders. We reached out to Specialized who said that, despite being positioned in the men's range, the Trail Series Rain Jacket is intended as a unisex model and the jacket is casual enough in cut that it will fit everyone. The membrane is also stretchy to aid mobility if the simple multi-panel construction gets pulled to its limits.
While it’s seriously expensive the Neoshell works in a different way to most waterproof and breathable fabrics to regulate heat and sweat extremely well. Polartec uses the term ‘dynamic breathability’ for its open weave Nanofibre membrane which is actually 80 per cent air. This lets hot air and sweat vapor escape from the jacket straight away rather than relying on osmosis or a temperature/moisture differential between the inside and outside.
It’s not as waterproof as other shell fabrics in ‘turn-a-hose-on-it’ or ‘watch-it-roll-the-droplets-off’ terms and it wets out relatively quickly. Crucially, however, the open membrane and sealed construction still keep you dry inside even when you’re working pretty hard and it doesn’t feel cold when damp either. That’s a big comfort boost if you’re climbing then descending or just coping with the irregular work levels of an average MTB ride. The woven fabric is quieter, softer and tougher than most shells, too, and we’ve not caused it any damage despite several crashes and hours of backpack/waist pack-wearing. That translates into a long and durable life to pay back the high investment price.
Physical protection is enhanced by the cut in most places, too. The draw-cord hem is long enough to give good butt coverage and the collar comes right up to your nose if you want it to. The hood is big enough to pull over your helmet, with draw-cords to cinch it close so it doesn’t blow straight off on descents. Massive front pockets are useful off the bike or for warming hands between runs but any contents will bounce off your legs when pedaling. There’s also a zippered side split which we think must be for reaching into back pockets or waist packs without hiking the whole jacket up. The chunky front zip is double-ended for easy venting when you start exceeding the heat dumping performance of the Neoshell.
Weighing half a kilo in a size medium, it's heavy overall and has a bulky pack size, so you'll need a big pack to carry it if the weather improves. However, its comfort, effort and temperature bandwidth are definitely wider than most waterproofs, so it's worth it.
Disappointingly, while the body is generously sized for sub-layers and civilian looks off the bike, the sleeves are definitely on the short side. That means even with a small extender flap on the top edge there was regularly a cold, wet gap between jacket and gloves when riding.
Specialized’s Trail Series Rain Jacket is expensive, but if you’re into riding for extended periods in the worst weather, then the comfort levels provided by the Polartec Neoshell fabric make it well worth it. It’s heavy and bulky if you’re looking for an occasional use coat though, and the short sleeves are a potentially frustrating and irritatingly uncomfortable flaw.
Tech Specs: Specialized Trail Series Rain Jacket
- Price: $375.00
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Weight: 555g (medium)
- Color: Black