Gore’s Phantom is a fairly water-resistant softshell jacket and outer layer designed for cycling. It also has a neat trick – the arms zip off revealing small t-shirt sleeves for maximum all-weather versatilitiy.
In the winter, the WindStopper fabric does what it says on the tin. And short of a sustained soaking, it's fairly water-resistant too. Combine the Phantom with two light layers (or even just a merino wool base layer) and you're warm and dry enough for most winter rides.
Warm, cold, warm
Come spring and autumn, the sleeves zip off and the body remains windproof, while you can always use arm warmers or a long-sleeve base layer on your limbs. The techno fabric's even smart enough and breathable to cope with a reasonable amount of summer warmth (and you can unzip from the neck to give your chest some extra ventilation).
So does that make the Phantom a mythical ‘four season’ cycling jacket? Not quite. In the depths of winter, you'll need something far tougher – the Endura Stealth cuts it as a softshell, or get an eVent or Gore-Tex hardshell. The Phantom can't quite cope with a long, cold drenching.
Equally, in the summer, you'd probably be better off with nothing more than a tiny roll-up, lightweight pac-a-mac stuffed in your backpack, pannier or jersey pocket, as the Phantom isn’t light enough or pack down small enough to take around as a ‘just in case’ jacket.
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For the rest of the time – cold, windy, showery early spring to, well, cold, windy, showery late autumn, the Phantom's just about perfect. And little details throughout really help it rise above most rivals. You can even loosen the zips on the zip-off sleeves to give your armpits a breather in muggy conditions.
Other nice touches include an excellent cycling-specific cut from the experts at Gore that makes the jacket look a bit weird, until you're bent over a bike when it suddenly feels just right. And once there, the subtle differences in panelling from back to front, designed to efficiently wick sweat and keep you cool, are brilliant. As are the design details on hems, pockets and zips.
In all, the Phantom's nearly the perfect jacket. If it could turn into an Endura Stealth in deep winter, it'd be the ultimate.