Madison Zenith Hooded Softshell Jacket

RRP £79.99
Madison Zenith Hooded Softshell Jacket
7.3

Fabric

9.0 /10

Hood

3.0 /10

Cuffs

8.0 /10

Length

9.0 /10

For

  • Good colour scheme
  • Fit "just right" for on the bike
  • Cuffs that "just work" for me

Against

  • Hood not MTB-helmet friendly
  • Not seam-sealed
  • Probably a bit short for the "post-ride" trip to the pub

A great jacket, let down by the hood

It started so well. My LBS (Drover Cycles) had managed to order this jacket in for me, in the right size. Although the option of black with yellow trim was nice, I did (and do!) really liked the bright green (called “Fern Green” by Madison).

Initial Inspection

Upon arrival, things were still good. Fit was a trim affair, but still allowed plenty of movement – perfect for on the bike, avoiding the flapping in the wind on those long descents. The length was pretty good for on the bike, but a little short at the front for that post-ride trip to the pub. A bit of extra length at the back covers the bum well!

The fabric felt good, both against the skin and on the outer – certainly felt more softshell than waterproof. A quick water test and it’s beaded well. This was to be expected, as the Madison sites says

The Zenith’s showerproof constructed comes from a DWR 3-layer 10,000mm waterproof and 10,000gms breathable fabric, with a bonded mesh backing to further enhance breathability

 

Beading works well on the fabric

I usually suffer at the wrists. Mine are really narrow, so wrists without adjusters are really loose, meaning a veritable wind tunnel, or having to put my gloves over the top – neither ideal. I was initially worried this would be the same, as it has no such adjuster. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The jacket has what I can only describe as a “sort-of loose elasticated wrist”. It’s certainly not tight on my skinny wrists. Bringing it up onto my hands a bit results in:

A – less air coming through and

B – a bit of hand protection.

If I do need to “vent”, I can simply pull it back more towards it’s normal position, or pull it up my forearm a little. For those with “normal” sized wrists, I’m sure this would result in a snug fit.

For my skinny wrists, it just kind of works!

The only feature I was initially a little disappointed about was the hood. With no adjustment at all, there was no way to cinch it down to keep out the elements. No real issue I thought, it’ll be fine over the top of my helmet.

No hood adjustment… it’ll be ok, right?

First Outing

So I took this out on it’s first outing, on my January BAM. I had a standard cycling base layer underneath, with my staple Patagonia R1 Hoody for some extra warmth if needed.¬†Throughout Day 1, it worked pretty well, keeping the slush / snow / damp at bay, without getting too sweaty underneath.

Keeping pretty comfy in the mix of weather

Opening up the main zip allowed a good amount of air flow. The only real annoyance was the hood. With the main zip open down to around mid-chest, the hood fitted over most of my helmet (a Carnac Quartz XC MTB Helmet) and still allowed a good range of movement. However, when the temp dropped, especially heading down some of the big descents, trying to zip the jacket back up resulted in a VERY tight fit, to the point where I couldn’t really look up enough to be in the right position. Not a huge problem, as the R1 neck section did a good job of keeping me warm.

a VERY tight fitting hood once done up

Overnight, it was hung up along with most of the rest of our kit to dry in the bothy – this came out pretty much dry by the morning.

Day 2 was one where, to be honest, no matter what you were wearing, you were going to get wet. I opted to leave this on, and not bother to wear my full-on waterproof – preferring the extra breathability.

This is designed to be softshell jacket, rather than a full-on waterproof. Although the fabric is waterproof and breathable, none of the seams are taped, so water can penetrate. And penetrate it did! Within about 10 mins of riding, I could feel the damp seeping down my the outside of my arm. A jacket for all day wet riding, this is not, but then it’s not designed for that.

As the day wore on, and the rain continued, sections of the route required the jacket to be done up fully to try and offer some protection from the elements – the driving rain and near-freezing wind. Once again, the fit of the hood let this otherwise great jacket down. Keeping my head down and trying to look up occasionally to see the road ahead became very uncomfortable, to the point where I had to open the main zip and let more rain in.

Summary

I’m pretty gutted that the fit of the hood spoils an otherwise great jacket. I’m surprised, given Madison’s heritage and that this is specifically marketed as a mountain bike jacket, that it simply doesn’t work for larger volume helmets. I’ve given it a try with a lower volume road helmet since getting back, and its not any better there. The lack of adjustment means that it doesn’t really work under a helmet either.

There has previously been a hood-less version of this, which I think would work well, but this now looks to be discontinued on the Madison site.

I’ll continue to use this and come back for a long term use review in a few months’ time.