GRVL apparel is an exciting new brand of clothing specifically designed for gravel riders. GRVL gear gets my thumbs up straight away and here's why...
I recently had a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride the Gran Guanche gravel Audax Route across the Canary Islands. It was very special, and provided a fantastic testing ground for machine and man - and his or her clothing!
I wore the jersey gilet and 3 season jacket day and night for 4 days for this endurance ride!
It's safe to say that the GRVL Jersey and Gilet are now firm favourites in my gravel wardrobe. But it's the 3 Season Jacket that deserves a writeup all of its own! Having spent half a lifetime working in the fashion industry, I know just how difficult it is to launch a genuinely innovative range of clothing. It's too easy for new brands to piggyback off other brands or cut corners, so it's rather refreshing to see that the people at GRVL Apparel have put some excellent work into the designs and produced products with genuinely novel features. Wearing the gear it’s clear that GRVL is designed by gravel riders, for gravel riders… and it works!
Probably one of the most important features of this jacket is that it’s considerately manufactured to be kind to the environment. The jacket is made out of a combination of microfibre fabrics produced from recycled ocean plastic. It gives me a warm inner glow to think that I'm wearing ocean plastic that may otherwise have been caught around the neck of a gentle sea creature as a result of reckless human behaviour. I know that many of my cycling friends also feel passionate about our environment and I’m sure you do too! I think this is because cyclists spend a lot of time closely engaged with nature - particularly the gravel genre.
I well and truly tested the kit “in the field” for its strength and durability (read my blog of the ride here). The inside of the jacket has orange strips glued onto the back of all the main joining seams, which as well as looking great, also make the jacket very strong indeed. This is clearly a well-made jacket that feels like it's going to last for years and remain looking good.
The GRVL 3 Season Jacket is designed to be a great all-rounder, with a focus on breathability rather than 100% water resistance. It provides the perfect blend of sufficient protection in most conditions without that boiling feeling you can get when riding in a typical waterproof jacket. In fact I never actually felt overheated, even in the baking Lanzarote lava fields. And when I finally took it off, I found tying it around my waist was easy and secure due to the stretchy material. It also folds up compactly. Compared to my Katusha light rain jacket it comes out only slightly bigger but is far more useful and versatile Compared to my (Uniqlo) puffer jacket, it comes in around two thirds the size and again, was more useful for the range of weathers I experienced on my trip
. . I had originally planned to take the puffer to stay warm and the Katusha to stay dry but in the end I opted for the GRVL Jacket to do both of these jobs and I think it was the right choice. I can see how perfect it will be for the changeable UK weather! I also found that I could invert the middle rear packet and stuff the jacket into itself to neatly pack away in a saddle bag.
Probably the best thing for me about this jacket is that it is comfortable and stylish. I really like the colour and the tailored cut felt and looked good. The base of the jacket fits neatly around the waist and is backed by grippy rubber that holds it perfectly in place. I am 180cm tall and usually fit a medium or even a small if I want a tighter fit. The jacket I tested was a medium and I felt that it was just about right. Not too tight and not too baggy.
I particularly like the long soft sleeves that have a hole for your thumb. This ensures there is never a gap between the sleeve end and your gloves. There's also a hood which is useful for when you're between rides and it rolls up into a kind of collar to help keep any unnecessary flapping in the wind to a minimum. I felt snug with it rolled up and securely wrapped around my neck and underneath my helmet - perfect for the windy night riding but also for the cold mountain rain. It was so comfortable and protective that I could relax and enjoy whatever's going on around me... I have a fantastic memory of climbing into the clouds on the side of a volcano in this jacket. For what felt like a good few miles the clouds rushed across the landscape all around me until the trail took us higher into the clear again above the clouds. The jacket felt like such a secure barrier to the harsh environment that I could relax and just enjoy this unusual phenomenon.
I rode in this jacket through night and day, hot sun and cold mountain wind and rain, through deserts and beaches, up mountains and urban environments too. I never got wet, I never got too hot or too cold and incredibly, the material never got particularly dirty and I think this was due to the durable water repellent treatment. I wore it for four days straight on the Gran Guanche ride and it looked just as fresh at the end of the ride as it did at the start!
If I had to point out one single favourite feature about this jacket it would probably be the pockets. They're just so useful. They don’t look big, but trust me, you can actually fit a lot in them. At one point I had a one litre bottle of water, a bottle of sunscreen, a couple of bananas, two cheese rolls, a couple of muesli bars and a bike pump neatly stowed in them. They are lined with elastic and so they stretch to fit much more than you think. This is super useful when you know you've got long distances between refuelling opportunities and are forced to carry as much as you can. There are three large open pockets that feel secure plus for extra security there is a fourth pocket with a zip, this is ideal for keys, wallets, phones etc. and can fit all three at the same time no problem at all.
For me, the attention to detail here is a major bonus, the front zipper tucks neatly under a fold of material and looks really smart. The same is also true for the zipper on the rear pocket, a subtle effect but one that many riders will appreciate.
I felt good in this jacket, the branding feels like a reflection of my inner self and so in that respect it does an incredible job of connecting with me. The logo on the back of the jacket is highly reflective which is just another bonus for when you've stayed out a bit longer than you planned to and end up riding home in the dark.
I'm going to end here where I started and state that the GRVL 3 Season Jacket gets two thumbs up from me. If you're looking for a light jacket that looks great and is comfortable to ride in for the rest of the cold and crossover season (and for many years to come), then I think you should seriously consider the beautifully designed and made GRVL 3 Season Jacket.