ION Products Shell Amp Jacket Vario 2017 Mountain Bike Review

ION Products Shell Amp Jacket Vario 2017

Reviews / Jackets

ION Products 122,649

At A Glance

The new Vario jacket from ION builds on the highly successful jacket from last year but is almost unrecognisable. Forgoing traditional hard shell waterproofing, the Shell Amp Jacket Vario, as it’s now called, is a three layer 'soft shell' allowing for a softer and stretchier feel while maintaining protection from the elements. All the seams are taped to keep the wet stuff out, but with breathability improved thanks to the new fabric.

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Notable features include a hood large enough to fit over a helmet, tricep vents, two pockets and the ever-present glasses cleaning cloth. YKK zippers provide quality closures to the full zip front, vents and pockets, with Velcro fastenings on the cuffs to keep things neat and tidy.

The style is good, taking a least a few nods from snowboarding fashion sense, but not making things too baggy. On paper, this is a high-end bike jacket with a lot of well thought out features fitting nicely atop the 2017 ION range, which looks very much like their best year yet.

On The Trail

The fit is good, and the feel is excellent, immediately comfortable with none of the rough, noisy feel of an old-fashioned hard shell waterproof. I put it on and rarely took it off for two months, and although I'm not wearing it now, it is on the back of my chair! As it doesn't immediately scream bike, I've used it casually as well as on the trail and rarely has such a technical piece of kit been used so widely. This comes down entirely due to the style, fit and feel, being casual and comfortable.

On the trail the fit falls down a little as I have found with the previous ION jackets, they are a little too generous with volume around the middle. The size large is great for long limbs, and the arms are a great length for riding, as is the body length, making sure everything is well covered. What does happen is when sat pedalling, the stiff zip bulges the jacket a little in front of me, and just feels like I need a few more pies to grow into the jacket! This is minor, but a slimmer fit for me would be welcome.

The hood is one of the best I've used, and truly does go over a lid easily, but again maybe a little more length in the neck would feel a little less restrictive. Once up, the hood shelters you from the elements, and those cold starts to winter rides are so much more pleasurable hiding away in the cosiness of a hood. Once you emerge from the comforting cocoon of the hood, it would be great to have a way to stow it simply, but I never had much reason to complain about it flapping about.

The waterproofing is excellent, don't be fooled by the softness, this will repel water with the best of them, and as always, I choose to live somewhere with the highest rainfall in England, so, well, there you go. Durability has been great, and it washes extremely well and dries very quick due to its lightweight. I've managed one proper hole in it, as I got snagged on a pine tree. This didn't just rip it to shreds, instead, it hooked me and wouldn't let me go, a testament to the strength of the material, as other jackets would have sliced and torn.

The glasses cleaner is something ION seem to love, but for anywhere wet and muddy it is nothing more than a neat feature allowing them to print a funky little pair of sunglasses on the pocket. It’s a nice touch, but for a jacket designed for inclement weather, I would need a small towel in there for it to be any use.

Overall

A fine looking jacket with serious off-road riding features and functionality. Don't be fooled by the casual looks, this is a proper piece of technical riding kit, designed to keep you warm and dry in the worst of weather. The fit could be slimmed slightly, but the length of arms and the massive hood are truly great features. ION have pretty much nailed it with this jacket, waterproof, comfortable and stylish, it's one of the best mountain bike jackets I've ever used.

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This review was in Issue 45 of IMB.

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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