When we received this modest looking Upper Downs Neo jacket, designed in the UK and manufactured in Portugal, with its heavy price-tag of € 342, we really weren’t sure what to expect. Many boutique “fully waterproof” jackets have failed when subjected to a season of UK riding, so we were keen to see if the Upper Downs Neo could survive a year of abuse..
This Upper Downs Neo jacket has been designed from the ground up, in Brighton (UK) then manufactured in Portugal from three layers of what is claimed to be the highest grade Polartec Neoshell layers. The guys behind Upper Downs Neo jacket are hardcore British trail and Enduro riders, so they should know exactly what to expect from a waterproof, and this can be seen in the fit and comfort of the Jacket. The Upper Downs Neo is marketed as being ultra-breathable, super light-weight at 316 g (medium size) and high performance.
So most importantly, what is it like to ride in? We’ve now been testing it for over a year, through a horrendous UK winter and one of the wettest springs the UK has seen in ages; so its testing has been thorough. We were initially impressed with the lightweight construction and loved the fit, it really does feel like you are wearing a trail top more than a waterproof. The cut of the jacket seems to hug the body in all the right places and we have raced and ridden in it countless times now, opting to run slim fitting elbow pads on this large version with no issues.
From the neck down the seams and stitching are very neat and tidy, with none of those irregular lines or dodgy stitches seen in many of the cheaper produced clothing items! The Upper Downs Neo features a very comfortable removable “under helmet” hood with a hidden zip. When using the hood in heavy rain whilst riding uphill it is impressive how well the Polartec breathes. All the waterproof zippers still work well and work unhindered by the edge of the zip seam; an annoying trait of many a jacket! The underarm zips do a good job of letting more air in when the temperature starts to rise and the jacket fits neatly inside a lower zip as a bag to stow away in your pack.
The cut of the arms with the long Velcro cuff adjusters is spot-on, with a lot of adjustability for wearing gloves over or under the cuff and letting air in through the sleeve if necessary. Inside the right-hand pocket there is a very neat extra compartment for your phone with an internal cable router to keep any wires out of the way for earphones if a rider should want to wear some. At the bottom of the jacket Upper Downs have decided to do away with the usual tightening cord, as they rightly claim that the fit and overhang is body hugging enough not to warrant one.
So, is it worth it? We have blown away by just how light it felt and how well it keeps the rain out. During the winter, when paired with a merino-wool base layer the jacket provided all the protection we needed, even in driving rain. Even repeated jet-wash cleans have not damaged it, ready to dry out the next day for racing. It really does keep the water at bay and stop the rider perspiring. After a few months, the jacket did start to let water in around the arms a bit, but this was soon cured with the use of waterproofing detergent in the clothes washer and a treatment spray after drying.
The whole concept of design, creation through to production of the Neo jacket was funded with aid from the ever-popular Kick Starter campaign and now it is fully available in sizes from XS through to XXL. Colours are this Storm Grey or the very limited Atlas Blue. We think this really is a remarkable jacket that we could not fault, but for that huge price it should be really. However, even though the Upper Downs Neo is superb, only time will tell if riders are willing to fork out such an expense for something that could be ripped to shreds after one huge crash on jagged rocks!
For more information on the Upper Downs Neo, you can check their Website Here
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Isac Paddock