Gore Bike Wear Phantom Jacket
New to our lineup is an excellent product from W.L. Gore & Associates of Elkton, Maryland. Named several times as one of the "Top 100 Best Companies to Work For," Gore not only knows how to take care of its employees, but its customers across many all-weather sports as well.
Apparel is a component of our beloved sport that goes well beyond the initial reaction of our riding buddies. It's an important piece of your cycling equipment, especially when the mercury drops and we must factor in time of day, distance, intensity and objectives. It's lousy to have a good ride ruined by a bad clothing decision. So it's good that Gore Bike Wear has built the Phantom II jacket with their signature Windstopper technology in all the right areas.
We have been testing the Gore Phantom II jacket in conditions ranging from the humid and rainy Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to the dry and subfreezing cyclo-cross races in Durango, Colorado. Even though the Phantom II doesn't claim to be the "jacket-of-all-trades", it has yet to let us down. Its key feature, the Windstopper membrane, contains 1.4 billion pores in every square inch. This allows perspiration to pass out while not permitting wind to pass through. It's a claim we can personally verify after numerous tests in actual use.
The front of the jacket is a seamless piece of material on each side of the low profile zipper. Gore Bike Wear has followed the trend of many other clothing companies by installing the zipper inside out, which creates a cleaner look with no added complications. The inside of the YKK zipper never touches your skin or jersey due to a full-length neoprene flap. Unlike some other jackets we have used, this flap never became frustratingly snagged in the zipper tracks. When it was being used top to bottom, the zipper tucks into a little garage near your neck. A cord allows you to get a grip when wearing winter gloves. Another well thought-out consideration is the diameter and design of the neck collar. Even when fully zipped it was un-restricting and comfortable without riding too high. Wear-resistant elastic bindings sewn into the wrists and lower hem replace traditional Velcro closures, which tend to bulk at the glove/wrist interface.
Another valuable element is the removable sleeves. The sleeves are a lighter weight elastic material allowing ample breathability around the armpits so your Mitchum never has to work any harder. Their raglan design means they extend in one seamless piece from armpit to collarbone, a huge ergonomic advantage over traditional tube sleeves. Yes, they can be used as arm warmers in a pinch, but they go well beyond that in versatility. Once removed using their own zippers, we noticed something unique -- we weren't left with a jacket/vest hybrid but a jacket/jersey hybrid as we were now wearing short sleeves like you would find on a jersey.
This is ideal for times when it is cold but you're not riding below zone 3. Think cyclo-cross or MTB races in winter months when a full jacket is overkill for the level of exertion. The short sleeves allowed us to shoulder our cross bike or wear a hydration pack without hooking anything -- an instance when a vest might snag at the shoulder. The full-length center section on the back uses the same material as the sleeves so perspiration continues its easy exit. Even the center pocket on the lower back is mesh so it never interferes with the keep-dry properties. The two outer pockets are slightly angled at the top, an advantage when reaching for a GU or to hit the iPod repeat button to hear Viva la Vida. (Disclaimer: We are not admitting to having the new Coldplay album.)
Gore advertises this jacket as a slim fit. Personally we would modify that to say "American slim fit." So when it comes to sizing, do not immediately think you have to go up a notch, it runs true to size. As a reference, our tester is six feet tall with a fighting weight of 155lbs. The medium fit perfectly with a casual feel. However, if we wanted to attain the Euro fit, a small would have worked. (Our stats in that case would be 1.83 meters tall and 70 kilos.)
It is also worth mentioning that even after several wearings in the muddiest conditions, our jacket emerged from a standard washing and drying cycle as clean as a whistle.
All in all, Gore Bike Wear, a company widely known for its ever-reliable Gore-Tex waterproof and breathable garments, has literally pulled a few neat new tricks from up their sleeve.