4 Soft Shell Jackets for Mountain Bikers, Tested and Reviewed

Deciduous forests north of the equator are aswim in the scent of fungus and slowly rotting leaves, and the crisp air has folks brewing a hot beverage after every ride. It’s time to fold up the mesh jerseys and pull out some cozier autumn layers. Here are four soft shell jackets worth considering.

Dainese HG Rata

The Dainese HG Rata is a decidedly simple warming layer that closely resembles a winter road biking jersey. Thinner material on the shoulders, back, and along the length of the underarms provides ample cooling. It provides warmth in similar temps to the Dainese HG Harashimaya jacket, without the rain protection. Putting these two Dainese jackets together would make for a very warm setup indeed.

Fit for this gray layer is tight, with a little room for a base layer and jersey underneath. The internal material is comfortably soft, and doesn’t glue to the skin with sweat. The cuffs and waist hem are nice and stretchy to fit around your trunk, and the neck hole has a soft fleece lining that feels quite comforting in the cold. Folks who are into going fast and keeping an aerodynamic profile will find what they need in this jacket.

  • Price: $174.95, €149.90, available at Amazon
  • Weight: 301g
  • Three pockets
  • Materials: 84% polyester and 14% polyurethane outer, 96% polyester and 4% elastane lining
  • Stuff pocket for packing

The single external pocket is large enough for a modern cell phone and snacks, and there’s a second internal pouch that could fit a pump. A third large internal pocket could house some items, though its intention is to stuff the jacket inside for safekeeping.

Icebreaker Merino Quantum II Long Sleeve Zip Hood Jacket

Temperatures are dropping here in California and that means we must go find warm layers to survive this 60° freezing winter. Joking! Although California isn’t known to be an icy-cold state, here in the Bay Area temperatures often drop down to 40° early in the morning and can rise up to 70° in the afternoon. So, if it’s getting cold where you live, it’s time to be thoughtful about the layers for the day. Luckily, Merino Wool exists.

The Men’s Merino Quantum II Long Sleeve Zip Hood Jacket comes to the rescue with its body temperature regulating properties. Made of stretchy, highly technical merino wool that’s designed for cool-weather alpine pursuits, this jacket is ready to take on any outdoor adventure, busy workday at the office, or anything in between.

I have fallen in love with Merino wool, as it is very soft and non-itchy. Unlike cotton, Merino is meant to keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat, which means you can wear it all day without it getting stinky as cotton does. This is where Merino shines in my opinion, a piece of clothing that can be worn comfortably all day as it adapts to the quickly changing weather and busy lifestyle. 

I love a simple design that packs performance. This is an excellent pre and post bike ride jacket that you can pair with a Merino wool trail jersey. I’m not sure that I would wear this during a trail bike ride as it’s not robust enough for that style of riding, though it would be great for commuting by bike or casual rides around the city. 

Although this jacket looks like a performance piece, it can also be worn casually throughout the day. Two zippered hand pockets and one hidden chest pocket offer enough storage for a cellphone, keys, and wallet, although I found that carrying too much inside will make the hoodie droop and sag. 

The Ice Breakers sizing guide is fairly accurate. The jacket fits a bit loosely on me, which I like, but you might want to size down by if you like a fitted look and feel. Merino wool has some heft to it, and my size XL is not my lightest hoodie, but I like how it hugs the body and reminds me of one of those weighted blankets.

Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room: the price tag. I will be honest with you, I have never owned a $195 Zip Hoodie, and I don’t think I will buy another merino hoodie for a while. Not because I didn’t like it, but because this hoodie will last me a very long time. 

The gritstone heather colorway goes well with any outfit, and I noticed that even one of my old Target heather hoodies looked similar in style. I might go for a richer color next time. Note that you need to wash merino clothing with wool wash and not regular detergent if you want it to keep its natural properties. 

Pearl Izumi Elevate Insulated AmFIB jacket

Tester: Jeff Barber / Photos: Leah Barber

The Pearl Izumi Elevate Insulated AmFIB jacket has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of winter gear this year. With its sleek, athletic cut the jacket moves well on the bike, and despite its lack of bulk it’s incredibly warm too. I’ve tested this in sub-freezing temperatures with just a short sleeve jersey underneath and have found it to offer plenty of warmth.

The Elevate Insulated AmFIB jacket features bands of Primaloft insulation across the front and tops of the sleeves, while the back is lined with a thinner fleece material to help regulate body temperature. The main zipper includes two pulls so it’s easy to vent from the top or bottom of the jacket (or both!) if things start getting too hot inside. Zipped to the top, the high collar prevents wind infiltration. Two hidden, zippered hand pockets are available on the sides for warming digits or storing small items.

There’s no hood on the men’s version of the AmFIB (tested), though the women’s version of this jacket does feature one. The sleeve cuffs are only marginally stretchy, and could benefit from some type of closure to keep cold air out on particularly windy rides. A slightly dropped tail extends coverage in the rear while in a riding position.

Aside from providing warmth, the Elevate Insulated AmFIB jacket also includes a DWR finish to protect against mist and light rain. Of course this isn’t a rain jacket — it’s a soft shell — but the finish does provide some moisture protection.

  • Price: $200, available at JensonUSA
  • Weight: 410g (size medium)

I’m 6’3″ and weigh about 160lbs. and I found the size medium to be a good fit from the width of the chest to the length of the arms. In addition to the Forest/Gravel colorway I tested, there is also a Black/Phantom version.

Velocio Recon Hoodie

Photo: Hannah Morvay

The Velocio Recon hoodie is a high-quality and high-cozy hooded sweatshirt, perfect for when the leaves are falling. The Recon hoodie is made from a heavy weight Merino and the inside is lined with fleece for comfort. Velocio placed a woven fabric around the elbows so that the joints can have a durable place to move without worry of wearing quickly. The Recon hoodie does feel heavy for a sweatshirt. Riders will want to opt for this on cold days, or don it after the ride, though it is easy enough to move in.

The Recon hoodie’s price is steep, but the sweatshirt is comfortable, durable, and has sharp details. There is a rear hip pocket for popping a set of keys or some snacks into. Velocio makes the Recon hoodie slim and form fitting. On my size large, after a wash, the sweatshirt fit me well with a little extra room, but check their size guide before ordering to determine the best fit. MSRP: $250.

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