Upper Downs Neo Jacket – Performance
First the uppers: the fabric performance is brilliant. NeoShell is the closest thing we’ve used to a waterproof fabric that breathes more like a windproof. That means you can use it on a bike without overheating regularly and, when you do get hot and sticky, your damp baselayers dry out faster than with other fabrics.
It works exceptionally well and has a nice, soft, slightly stretchy feel to it too. It doesn’t, of course, mean you won’t get hot and sweaty, but it happens less frequently, and when you do, the fug clears faster.
We also like the feel of quality about the jacket, which is manufactured – unusually – in Portugal and the basic cut. It’s neat, reasonably slim fitting, with longish sleeves and a neat, pronounced drop-tail. All that works well on a bike.
What No Cord?
It comes in a swank box too. But we’d happily swap that for some detail changes to the design. Most obviously, the hem doesn’t have any sort of elastication or drawcord. For us that meant a coupe of inches of slack which allowed wind, rain and grit to get up underneath the hem.
It’s less of an issue if you wear a pack with a belt, but it’s still less than ideal. A half cord around the tail would snug things up nicely while keeping the front of the jacket flat and, if you didn’t want it, you needn’t use it.
Make Mine A Ninja
Also not quite right is the collar hood arrangement. Again the collar is non-adjustable making it harder to seal stuff out. But the hood could also do with an upgrade. It zips on and off neatly enough, but only really works if you wear it under your helmet as it’s so shallow.
That makes it slightly limiting for general use off the bike. A close fitting ‘Ninja-style’ hood would arguably work better. Finally, we found the pit-zips really fiddly to reach while on the move. They’re sited quite a long way back and are hard to completely undo on the move – maybe our arms are slightly too short. The lack of a zip-tab doesn’t help there either.
If that sounds a bit negative, bear in mind there’s plenty to like as well. The spec is good with a YKK Vislon moulded tooth main-zip, twin hand-warmer pockets with a phone-holding insert and, in the inside pocket, a glasses wipe attached to a key-clip.
One final point, the Neo is expensive in bike market terms, but it’s not a cheap fabric and the performance of the material is, we reckon, good enough to justify the price.