Price: $199.99 MSRP
Colors: Ember (red); Graphite (dark gray)
How obtained: review sample
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 30+ hours
The Hincapie Gradient jacket is impressive on first sight, with a look of quality and purpose. The outer part of the fabric is smooth to the touch, with Hincapie claiming water-resistant protection. Inside is a comfortable fleece lining which feels good against the skin. The overall look and feel highlights the technical nature of the jacket.
In terms of fit, I found the jacket to have a more "American" fit; that is, to run a bit larger than typical European gear. I am a little under 6 feet (1.83m) tall and typically wear a medium size in jerseys and jackets. However, the sample provided by the company was a large and seems more suited to someone probably a couple of inches taller and a bit bulkier than I.
If you're considering purchasing this jacket, I would recommend you stick to your normal size for uppers. No need to size up to allow for room underneath; Hincapie already seems to have done that for you.
Performance Across a Range of Conditions
I have used this jacket for the past three months as fall turned to winter, both on group rides and for commuting to work -- in temperatures as low as 25F (-4 degrees Celsius) and as high as 60F (15.5C), in rain and on sunny days.
Overall, I found the jacket to be a great tool to keep me comfortable on the road across the range of temperatures and conditions. At the bottom of that temperature range, adding a pair of arm warmers under the jacket kept some of the extra chill at bay. Above 35F, the arm warmers were not needed.
I also added a light vest over the top of the jacket at the bottom end of the range, on occasion. Although the jacket has the nice fleece lining and is sealed against the wind, a vest added an extra measure of warmth.
The maximum temperature for which the jacket was still useful was around 60F, with the zipper open most of the way. It's not unusual to have temperature swings of 30F in North Carolina, so heading out on a cold morning dressed appropriately can often mean being overdressed toward the end of a ride. The zipper is easy to manipulate, even with winter gloves on, and the jacket can get you through such temperature variations with ease.
It can also handle a little rain. A few times I got caught out in light showers, and the jacket was surprisingly effective at shedding the rain. Perhaps more surprising was that the Hincapie Gradient proved to be the best wicking jacket I have worn to date. It was truly a standout feature and kept me from overheating in conditions that other jackets might not be able to handle.
The jacket has a fairly high neck and fits well at the top, preventing cold air infiltration. The sleeves are long and fit snugly around the wrists, again preventing wind exposure. The cuffs are not elastic but are form-fitting on the wrists and slipped easily inside cold weather gloves.
The jacket has three large back pockets that provide ample storage and are easily accessible. On long base-mile days I could comfortably take along my cell phone, plenty of cycling food, plus have some leftover room for gloves when the temperature got higher.
I found that the vest I sometimes wore at the start of the ride could not fit in the pockets, however, and I ended up tucking it up inside the back of the jacket. This worked pretty well but highlighted one possible issue with the jacket. The bottom seam of the jacket does have a silicone strip to help hold it in place, but does not contain any elastic. As a result, there is the possibility that items stored within the back of the jacket, as I stored my vest, might work themselves free and fall out. This nearly happened once with my vest. Elastic in the seam would be a benefit, and I'm confident that the tighter fit of a medium would have helped in my case, as well.
Value for the money?
The only real issue I have with this jacket is the price. With a recommended retail price of $200, I'm not sure it's $100 more jacket than the Pearl Izumi Select jacket I have been wearing for previous cold-season rides. The rain resistance of the Hincapie Gradient is quite good, and the jacket still manages to be comfortable to wear and reduce internal sweat buildup. With price not an issue, this jacket gets a high recommendation, but the value-for-money proposition may be a little lower.
The Bottom Line
This is a great jacket with good all-around characteristics. The jacket performed admirably in a wide range of temperatures, has generous and easy-to-access pockets, is well-sealed against the wind and wicks sweat away from your body. The only caveat is price, but if you are looking for a high-end jacket for a variety of riding conditions, the Hincapie Gradient should be among those you consider.
Paul Smith regularly reviews products for RBR. He’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. He commutes often, and his car is worth less than any of his bikes. Click to read Paul's full bio.