Very light, very thin jacket that manages to pack a load of technical features in a small, light package
Posted on April 11 2017
The Vermarc Extreme SPL Rain Jacket is a very light, very thin jacket that manages to pack in a load of technical features at a reasonable price while fitting into a jersey pocket. And it keeps you dry too.
Belgian brand Vermarc have been around since 1977 and outfit a number of pro teams. The feedback they gain from these relationships will inevitably result in products that facilitate riding fast in poor conditions, and that's what the Extreme SPL jacket does.
What you notice when trying on the SPL for the first time is what isn't there: no pockets, no vents, only one zip, almost non-existent branding and very little weight. At 209g for a medium size the SPL seems almost too light. The fact that it can scrunch up and be put into a jersey pocket without much fuss would lead you to think that this is not a serious contender for keeping you dry come a UK winter. Or spring, or the other two seasons, come to think of it. You'd be wrong.
Your reviewer suffers from an Ape Index of 1.04, meaning I have an armspan of 6ft 4in, beating out Michael Phelps and quite a few NBA players in the knuckledragging stakes. This usually means cycling products that fit around the shoulders and particularly the chest/waist are laughably short at the wrist when on the hoods or even worse, the drops. The Extreme SPL cut is generous in this regard but not overly so. Those of normal stature will not be faced with an excess of sleeve, while those of a simian persuasion will enjoy dry wrists without resorting to Marigolds. For the medium size the underarm length from pit to cuff is 61cm, and from top of collar to bottom of back drop, 88cm. Vermarc's sizing guide pretty much bears out the reality of the fit.
Fortunately black is still the new black, and as the Extreme SPL is only available in black the choice is easy. Avoiding the christmas-tree-vs.-fashionista debate, Vermarc have for safety's sake added subtle grey reflective piping from the collar down to each armpit, front and back. These are very bright under car or bike headlights.
The combination Thermosquare/Windtex fabric is ever-so-slightly shiny and stiff. Above about 20MPH you will notice some noise as any loose areas ripple in the wind. The zip is waterproof, as well as being backed by a layer of the jacket fabric to block anything that did get through. At the top there's the obligatory zip garage, and the collar stands reasonably straight thanks to the material but isn't overly snug.
On the bike this jacket demands to be ridden fast. The race cut, the light weight, the features plus knowing you look the business make for enjoyable thrashing. Over a 2 1/2hr run at 85% maximum heart rate in thick 6 °C fog the SPL performed perfectly. With a thin Merino base and long-sleeved Merino jersey underneath the Extreme SPL maintained a comfortable body temperature, with no clamminess around the arms. The zip was used to adjust temperature when attacking hills, and is easily adjusted with one hand.
On a 90-minute run in 2 °C rain the design showed its pedigree. The collar was just right to facilitate head movement without admitting draughts or noticeable quantities of water, the back flap prevented soaking of the bib pad and the cuffs were just long enough to fit over the generous gauntlet of a pair of Sealskinz Handlebar mitts. Arriving home from this ride it seemed the jersey was wetter than would be expected, leading to the suspicion that the untaped seam along the collar may have admitted some water. However it was raining hard the whole ride, so this may well have been the result of sweat plus the inevitable trickle of water down the head/neck. Certainly when on the bike in what were by anyone's measure miserable conditions it felt like the jacket was doing its job admirably.
Riding in warmer temperatures up to 12 °C a small amount of condensation was apparent on the inside, but certainly nothing noticeable whilst riding. As the temperatures warm the benefit of adjustable cuffs to get a draught going becomes apparent. If you run particularly hot & sweaty the lack of vents may make this jacket sub-optimal for you. That said, if Vermarc added vents it would gain weight but critically would almost certainly not fit into a jersey pocket anymore.
For an MSRP of £83 the Vermarc Extreme SPL is very good value indeed. The combination of fabric, cut and features adds up to a jacket you will want to ride in. The light weight and jersey-pocket-ability means you aren't constrained to days you know it's going to pour and therefore will wear it the whole ride.
You could almost treat it like a gilet, it's that small and light. For the price, getting technically-cuffed arms and tape-sealed waterproofness almost renders a gilet superfluous to your wardrobe. When the sun comes out it can be easily stuffed into a pocket, keeping your temperature down and increasing the aero quotient on that last descent to the cake. Thankfully the elastic hem will accommodate, should you over-indulge. Win.