By Vernon Felton
Tested: Sugoi RSX NeoShell Jacket
There are those of you—people who live in mild, sunny climes—who will undoubtedly ask why I'm reviewing a rain jacket (and there are more to come) when the rainy season is, like, so over. To such people, I say, "You lucky bastards."
Perhaps the rainy season has wrung itself dry in your neck of the woods, but for plenty of us riders, our friends mud, clammy chamois and downpour are just now hitting their stride. I know I've got a solid three months of precipitation in my immediate future and I'm not alone (I'm looking at you Buffalo, Eugene, Portland and Burlington).
So with that disclaimer aside, here's Sugoi's latest, caviar-level rain jacket: the RSX NeoShell. I ran a preview of this jacket when Winter was just starting to feel its oats and I've got several months of rainshower duty in it now.
But here's a refresher if you missed the first post. The RSX is constructed from NeoShell, a Polartec fabric with a 10,000 mm waterproof rating. That, for the record, is a very high level of water repellency. Think hardshell protecton in a much lighter and more comfortable package. Sugoi, for its part, has made ballsy claims about the RSX NeoShell's ability to keep you dry. To be blunt, they're calling this thing 100 percent waterproof. That's a tall order when you're spending anywhere between an hour and five hours in pissing rain. To their credit, the waterproofing on this thing really is pretty outstanding. It's withstood dozens of heavy storms and though rain drops no longer bead up the way they did when the jacket was fresh, I'm still staying dry. Or, more exactly, the rain isn't soaking through.
At times, however, I find myself getting a bit damp—from the inside out. Sugoi claims that the Neoshell material is exceptionally breathable. They're so confident that the jacket won't steam you alive that they didn't give the thing the standard pit zips that many manufacturers employ to help you dump heat during hard efforts.
Well, I wish they'd given this thing the dang pit zips. Yes, NeoShell is quite breatheable and if you are merely tooling around at a 60 or 70 percent cardio effort or your rides don't entail big, ugly climbs, you won't mind the lack of mechanical vents. Many of my favorite rides, however, begin with a good 1,000 feet of gain to even get to the goods and on those occasions I repeatedly found myself steaming up while wearing nothing more than a short sleeve jersey under the jacket. This was even true during rides when the mercury was hanging out in the high 30s and 40s, so it wasn't a case of wearing a coat when the weather was too warm for it. Riding in the rain with the main zipper open to your navel? It just isn’t right, but I found myself doing precisely that during really hard efforts.
Don't get me wrong the Sugoi isn’t a sweat box. In fact, it still "breathes" better that some lower-cost jackets with zips. It's just that this jacket comes so close to being perfect… Add those pit zips and this thing would be unstoppable.
Among the many things that I liked on the jacket are the removable hood, the sealed zippers, the comfortable brushed collar, and the reflective accents, which make the RSX NeoShell a smart option for commuters. Overall, fit and function are excellent. The RSX NeoShell ain't cheap, but it's a fine piece of kit.