In case you hadn’t heard, Patagonia entered the mountain bike apparel market late last year, and their spring collection is starting to hit retailers as we speak. I received an early sample of the Houdini Vest that I’ve been wearing for a few months now in various conditions. What I’ve learned so far is this is a versatile piece of clothing that’s well0constructed and pretty well suited to the rigors of mountain biking.
The Patagonia Houdini vest is about as lightweight as you can get (about 73g) without going totally naked. Seriously, when you feel how paper-thin the rip-stop material is you’ll think, “this can’t possibly provide any protection!” But I can assure you, this vest does an excellent job blocking out wind and even moisture, thanks to its DWR (durable water repellent) coating.
In my opinion, the great thing about this vest is that it lets my body breathe while keeping my core warm. I never overheated in the Houdini, and yet it also took the chill off cool night rides as if by magic.
Thanks to the lightweight, packable fabric, the Houdini vest easily folds into the breast pocket into a tiny pouch you could almost attach to your keychain. Start your ride in short sleeves and bust out the Houdini at the top of a windy mountain pass if you need a little extra protection during the descent.
The Houdini Vest sports a typically elongated back to keep the waist covered even when bent over on the bike in riding position. My one complaint is that Patagonia didn’t include a rear pocket or two for stashing snacks or a helmet light battery. As a cyclist I pretty much rely on rear pockets, though so far I’ve managed to use the rear pockets in the jersey I wear underneath the vest.
Lately I’ve started judging clothing quality by the quality of the zipper and by this measure, the Patagonia Houdini scores high marks. The zipper is smooth, catches easily, and has a really solid pull.
Finally, I’m really stoked on the color of the vest I tested (the Houdini is offered in red, gray, and blue). Red is a great high-vis color for riding on the road but it’s also a really good choice for mountain biking, especially during hunting season. No, it’s not hunter orange (thankfully), but hopefully it’s bright enough that even a color-blind hunter won’t mistake me for a really graceful deer.
Patagonia is a company that’s known for producing fashionable, high-quality apparel for the outdoor lifestyle and so far, the company’s new mountain bike line does not disappoint. The Houdini Vest is one of those magical pieces of mountain bike wear that will simultaneously keep you warm AND cool with a fashionable, compact package. Look for this vest to retail for around $79 US.
Thanks to Patagonia for providing the Houdini Vest for review.