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Review: VIRUS Performance LS Top
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Thursday 24th March 2016


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After conquering his first Ironman last year, Paul Hayward has managed to conquer his 'Ironman blues' and get back into training for 2016. As he's not been able to face a return to the turbo, getting outside on the bike has been key - and that meant selecting some winter kit to keep him toasty.

In this piece, Paul tests a versatile jacket from a new brand to us, Virus Performance UK (www.virusperformance.co.uk). Their 'Men's Stay Warm Functional Fit Long Sleeve 1/2 Zip Top With Thumb Hole' (at the time of writing, available for a very reasonable £55), may not be the most efficiently titled garment we've ever featured...but, how did it perform? Rather well actually.


After a long year of training and racing in 2015, one thing scared me - returning back to the garage and hitting the turbo for months on end. Although vital to cycling training - I am led to believe that some triathletes even swear by it until race day - I just could not go back into the darkness of the “pleasure chamber” and there was only one real option; toughen up and get a winter bike.

The purchase of the winter bike was the easy part though; the issue is the winter kit to keep you warm throughout your rides. With a host of options available for a jacket, with prices ranging from £30 to £200, I was literally lost with the options open to me. I needed something that would keep me warm, dry and comfortable. This appeared to be no easy task and a possibly expensive mistake to make. Virus Performance UK (www.virusperformance.co.uk) has been causing waves in Obstacle Course Racing with their Performance Series, and the Stay Warm Series caught my eye not, only stylistically but functionally.

The Functional Fit Long Sleeve ½ Zip Top ('the jacket') promised:

  1. a reflective jacket that gives a tailored fit for a full-range motion of activities;
  2. importantly offering increased visibility in poor light;
  3. coffee charcoal fabric which allows athletes to stay warm, dry and comfortable; and
  4. quick dry technology that wicks away moisture and drys.

On closer inspection the real unique selling point appeared to be the fabric made out of coffee charcoal which acted as a natural heating element, that not only keeps you dry but promised to increase the surface temperature whilst you ride. With cycling conditions offering single figures in the mornings or evenings, if I was lucky, and a 21 mile commute as the target the jacket appeared to tick the right boxes.

First inspection

As first impressions go, aesthetically, I could not fail to be impressed. The jacket was wrapped up beautifully and on feeling the fabric, it was smooth to the touch and soft. The fit felt natural and unlike some cycling jackets it did not feel restrictive or tight.

Surprisingly, it does not benefit from a full zip: but yet the half zip works really well and it exudes comfort when you wear it. Importantly it does not look out of sync next to more household cycling brands and, if anything, competes aesthetically with them.

Functional Fit Long Sleeve ½ Zip Top

The commute / winter rides

The tests comprised of a series of short 9-mile blasts to a 21-mile commute to work once a week, at different times of the day, to push it through variable temperatures. Although the main test would consist of a 21-mile ride across Berkshire, with 741 foot of gain, some beautiful countryside views and unforgiving wind, it was important that the jacket would perform at all times as I wanted an all-purpose option.

Over the course of the last eight weeks I have cycled through strong winds, conditions below freezing (that made the water in my water bottle freeze), and the occasional glimmer of sun. The weather has not played fair at times and as the sun came up, or went down, it was bitter, cold and nasty. This being said the jacket has lapped up all of these challenges and impressively managed to keep me warm, comfortable and breathing steadily at all times.

The weather had been horrendous at points and my legs had been so cold, but the jacket ensured that my chest and arms remained toasty as the heat was retained. Importantly, I did not overheat and over the course of the 21 miles the jacket's performance was superb. I did not feel cold at all and despite the conditions the commute was achievable, enjoyable and more importantly comfortable.

Functional Fit Long Sleeve ½ Zip Top

To give some context to how warm the jacket is, I rode five miles with my girlfriend who wore a thermal vest and another brand's jacket in the middle of the day. At a number of points during the ride she complained about how cold it was, as she was visibly shaking at the traffic lights or when we stopped still, but yet I felt completely 'cool' in just the jacket and a normal t-shirt underneath. It felt like I was cheating, as the jacket provides warmth and comfort despite the weather that ensured that I remained able to cycle easily.

I entered this test slightly hesitant that the jacket would not deliver and I would be cold during my rides or commute. I could not have been more wrong, the jacket performed exceptionally and I was shocked at just how it delivered to ensure that I was warm throughout my journeys. One point I should make though, in order that it does not come as a surprise, is that the jacket does not have any pouches on the back or pockets. However, a fuel bag/bento box on the bike resolves this issue and this should not detract from what a great piece of kit this is.

It would have been easy to go for a more well-known name for my commute, however by taking a risk on an upcoming brand I found a real gem. The only real question I ask myself is why I did not opt for the leggings to go with it?

More information on Virus Performance UK's “Stay Warm” series can be found HERE.

The tested Functional Fit Long Sleeve ½ Zip Top can be found HERE.

Functional Fit Long Sleeve ½ Zip Top

 

 
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