POLARIS CHALLENGE PIONEER WINDPROOF JACKET

198g (Medium) £119.99

Polaris Challenge Pioneer Windproof Jacket is a lightweight, yet reassuringly rugged polyester shell. Clever design and thoughtful details translate into one that performs beautifully on the bike, but subtle enough that Polaris reckon you’ll want to wear it casually too. 

There are two colours our grey orange, or lime/navy. Ordinarily, if I’m looking for a garment that will also work with my civilian wardrobe, I opt for darker colours, although thankfully, the orange is a warm, rather than garish shade. 

 

Subtle retro reflective logos and detailing around the zipper and sides offer some additional presence after dark.  

 

Polaris enjoys a reputation for being on the generous side and the pioneer is no exception. Medium was perfect for my 1m81 70 odd kilo frame-long enough at the tail with sufficient room around the shoulders for long sleeve “winter” race jerseys. 

 

Draw-cords around the hem also help here; nip tighter on the bike, slacken for a less tailored look off it. 

Polyesters are a broad church; some come very close to Gore-Tex, using a capillary action to evict moisture; others are decidedly pedestrian. As with most things, price is a good indicator. At this end of the market, I was expecting something special.

 

This is a two ply “windproof” design; a large “exhaust” panel around the shoulders, encourages air to circulate and moisture to disperse. The unusual flock lining is designed to aid this process, while also protecting the shell from premature wear.

Obviously the retro-reflective front zipper with generous tag allows easy fine-tuning of airflow-it’s simpler than most to operate single handed, wearing full-finger gloves and at decent speeds too. A CF venting popper is employed to prevent the jacket fluttering like a builder’s tarp, when the zippers at half-mast sapping speed and energy. For the most part, I’ve been pleasantly surprised, although performance doesn’t equal Gore Tex and similar 3-ply fabrics.

During a temperate September, I’ve worn ours atop a base layer. There’s been a slight dampness creeping in around the pits, chest and lower back after thirty minutes or so at 20mph, it didn’t linger long. 

October’s blustery conditions called for mid layers and though I could feel winds battering outside, even with the zipper dropped, I never felt chill. On those few occasions where the sun pushed temperatures into the high teens, I didn’t feel unbearably warm either. Regular off road detours and the inevitable thorny encounters haven’t taxed the rip-stop shell, or the mesh pockets.

Talking of which, there are two-angled just above the hips. Deep enough for my jailors bunch of keys; energy bars etc, I noticed their tendency to gather when riding. On occasions, keys came close to tumbling out when thundering along some dirt roads and for this reason; I wasn’t prepared to risk smart phones or compact cameras.

The fabric isn’t waterproof but resisted persistent, showery rain. Sudden downpours had more impact but thankfully, the fibres wick reasonably efficiently, so with a gentle breeze and decent tempo, expect to be dry within twenty five minutes. It also machine washes beautifully at 30 degrees and is line dry in similar time. 

Bottom line, I’ve enjoyed using the pioneer. That said; there are better, not to mention cheaper options for commuting. The lack of hip pockets for parking hands when mooching around limits the appeal of casual wear, sans bikes. Talking of which, I would like to see these revised-deeper with more substantial cuffs to prevent loss before I’d indulge at full asking price.

Verdict: 3.5/5 Pricey, but generally competent shell jacket for touring/endurance riding.   

Michael Stenning

http://www.polaris-bikewear.co.uk/

 

PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2016

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