Specialized isn’t the first brand to produce a short-sleeve rain jacket, but it's done it well and riding with your arms out actually makes a lot more sense than it would seem on paper, especially if it’s wet and warm or you’re just charging hard.
Like the Trail Series Wind Jacket Specialized have used a smock cut with a half zip to keep pack size small. The zipped rear pocket also has an elasticated, buckled belt to make the jacket into a waist pack roughly the size of a large water bottle. It’s not quite small enough to squeeze into a SWAT compartment on a Specialized frame though.
While the front zip gets a dart of thin fabric to stop it pulling open too far and ‘inflating’ the jacket, ventilation would be a lot better if it was more generous and/or the fabric was an open mesh. It’s an odd move anyway as while Specialized calls the fit ‘casual’ we’d suggest it was more circus tent in terms of volume and the men’s medium we were sent for test was absolutely vast. Luckily they sent us a women’s small, too, which fitted our slim male testers much better and meant the zipped side split for pulling the smock over our head actually came in useful. Even on the women’s small the neck area was an amphitheater of fabric that would engulf us up to the nose unless we rolled it down and tethered it in place with the hood shrinking cords. If we needed extra protection the peaked, over the helmet hood was a definite bonus, but again it’s an odd move when the jacket clearly has a major and deliberate weather protection compromise.
At which point we come to the arms. Or the lack of arms below the elbow. Obviously, this is no fun if you’re chugging along into snow and rain in really cold weather as the blood in your unprotected forearms will be icing up before it even gets to your hands. On the other hand, having your hot blood exposed means you’ll stay a lot cooler if you’re working hard or riding in warm and wet conditions. That means the overall temperature regulation of the jacket is noticeably better than comparable 3 layer waterproofs of a similar weight and water resistance. Once our thermostats had compensated enough (or we’d ridden hard enough) for our hands to catch up it’s a really comfortable jacket to ride in, even if it’s raining hard enough that all the woodland animals are teaming up two by two. The temperature regulation is also noticeable when wearing the anorak as wind protection, shielding the core from wind chill whilst letting the arms regulate temperature more naturally.
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There’s also the fact that lower sleeves are nearly always the first part of your base layers to get wet under a jacket. Either through percolation up from the cuffs or from brushing against wet undergrowth so in reality, you might not actually be any wetter without a shell layer over them. There’s zero danger of nonstretch forearms or too tight cuffs compromising blood flow and causing arm pump either. That’s a crucial counter to the argument that you could get the same effect just by rolling your sleeves up on a normal jacket too, as we’ve NEVER tried a jacket yet with enough spare wrist space not to feel like you’re riding a 90s elastomer fork after ten minutes with the sleeves rolled.
It’s not a jacket for cruising icy wastes, you definitely need to try sizing before you buy and even then the huge neck volume, zip venting and heavy-duty hood don’t sync with where this jacket works best. If you ride at high intensity whatever the weather and want a lightweight, packable jacket that protects your core without boiling up like you would in a similar full sleeve jacket then this might be the off-beat answer. Unfortunately, it’s not available in the UK and some other countries at the time of writing.
Tech Specs: Specialized Trail Series Rain Jacket
- Price: $150.00
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Weight: 261g (medium)
- Color: Black, Taupe