Touted to be a "storm fortress" with a pedal-specific cut, the Cyclical Shell offers a solid waterproof/breathable top with a svelte look tailored for commuters and the urban single-speed set. It employs
eVent fabric, which is commonly used in outdoors- and mountain-oriented outerwear, to make a form-fitting, sweat-dispensing jacket that repels rain, sleet, snow, and wind. And it comes in both men's and women's models.
At $299.95, the shell is expensive when compared to other cycling-specific rainwear (you can get it on sale, though, while it lasts for $179.97 at cutterbike.com). The price may be high, but it's performed almost flawlessly on the road and trail in my tests so far.
There's no doubt the Cyclical jacket was designed by cyclists. It has a "pedal-specific cut," as the company puts it, meaning the lines and seams are made to cover and fit a person crouched over handlebars. There are long, hand-covering cuffs, waterproof zippers, and extra long coverage on the "tail" (lower back area) to help block tire spray on clothes.
The men's size large weighed 8.5 ounces on my scale--light for a
bomber waterproof shell. It stuffs into its own back pocket for stowing in a messenger bag when the weather is good. At the sight of rain, unpack the shell and zip it to your chin. There is no hood, but the eVent fabric is waterproof to the hilt. Drops of rain bead and run off the shoulders and sleeves. The jacket is black and has few reflective details, so be sure to clip a red blinker light on your bike for riding at night. Cutter does include a chest pocket with a headphone-cord port, but I don't recommend employing an iPod in traffic, so listen to music and pedal at your own risk.
Like all Cutter products, the Cyclical Shell Jacket is warranted for life. Cutter will refund or exchange the shell if there is a fabric or manufacturing defect. The official company line is: “All Cutter gear carries a lifetime warranty. If our stuff sucks, send it back.”
On the road--and for crossover use in mountain biking and hiking this fall--the Cyclical Shell Jacket, so far, does not suck. Indeed, the light, streamlined design, plus a breathable shell fabric and a good fit, makes the Cyclical one of my favorite new jackets this year.
--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.