While recently sorting through all my kit in preparation for the Strathpuffer I counted 12 jackets of varying makes and styles. Some waterproof, some windproof, some expensive, some cheap, some paper-thin, others full-on winter mountaineering jobs. Even though not all of them are cycling specific, they share a common cause in that they’ve all been worn on my bike in weather that only idiots or show-offs would ride in. As a result I like to think I know my way around a decent jacket but having this many possibly indicates the opposite. One thing I do know though is that there are not many that can be used all year round for a multitude of purposes, and the Alpkit Argonaut might just be a candidate.
Marketed as a multi-purpose all-rounder, the Argonaut is a lightweight – 330g for a medium – waterproof shell constructed from 2.5 layer PU coated fabric retailing at £79. It uses a fairly simple design, featuring two mesh lined pockets which double up as vents, an adjustable roll away hood and ergonomic velcro adjustable cuffs. Unsurprisingly for a jacket at this price point, waterproof zips are foregone in favour of Velcro storm flaps to keep out the weather. It’s quite compact, not enough to fit in a jersey pocket but can be easily stowed in a small backpack.
Predictably for a jacket aiming to be all things to all people, the cut is fairly liberal. A skinny racing snake’s jacket this is not. In fact, for someone like myself who is an extremely average ‘medium’ in just about everything, this jacket felt a little tent-like. Initially I thought I had the wrong size but the fit of the arms, the body length and collar height and width confirmed this wasn’t case. On the plus side, for the avid beer drinkers out there, this may just be the perfect solution.
Aside from the forgiving frontal proportions, one of the first noticeable things is that it’s light. So light in fact that you soon forget you’re wearing it, but not so much that it reduces confidence in its sturdiness. This was put to the test in a somewhat unwelcome manner on its maiden voyage. Flying through the air over my bars towards some very pointy and hard looking rocks, I’d like to pretend I was thinking about the durability of the 2.5 layer fabric rather than mentally reciting many of the four letter words in the English language, but fortuitously my left forearm saved the day, and my face, while at the same time sacrificing itself to the science of jacket rip-testing. The jacket didn’t survive undamaged of course, but the resultant two inch tear was an acceptable result given my wrist took two months to heal.
In terms of protecting you from the elements, this jacket does everything it claims on the tin. Finding rain and wind in Calderdale is not difficult, at any time of year, but this winter has been especially miserable. So much so I spent the first month of it in my garage ‘competing’ against people on the internet who lie about their weight in order to improve their Watts per kg rating. However, once I did venture out into the wilds, thanks to the Argonaut I remained largely unbothered by rain, sleet and unexpected Siberian blizzards. That being said, this isn’t a jacket to rely solely on in the most extreme conditions, you need sufficient insulation beneath it, and the aforementioned spacious fit helps with this.
The breathability is good, but as with pretty much all waterproof jackets, cycling specific or not, it suffers from a modicum of internal condensation when you’re putting the effort in and this can result in quite rapid cooling if you then have to stand around in the cold waiting for your mates. The roomy and well-fitting hood is not quite big enough to fit over a helmet so needs to be worn underneath and can be neatly rolled up and secured by a velcro strap when not required, while the high and well-fitting collar and superbly designed adjustable cuffs complete the weather-beating capabilities.
This jacket performs excellently in a huge range of conditions, and while I only tested it on the bike in winter, I have no doubt it would suit other activities just as well at other times of year. The fit is perhaps a little too generic, but at this price it represents excellent value for money and performs as well as many more expensive jackets.