By Graham Hutson
The irony of a windproof cycling jacket is that you're likely to spend a lot of time not wearing it. This tends to be the kind of garment that you'd rather have tucked away in your pocket in case the weather turns.
It's why one of the main considerations when choosing one is how much it weighs. You want it to disappear when you don't need it, to remain there, ready for deployment when the time comes.
On a ride in the high mountains, that time is likely to come a few thousand feet up, when the balmy haze of the valley floor is but a distant memory and you're up there in the heavens, in a battle of wits with gravity.
Descending off a mountain without a wind jacket can be an uncomfortable experience, the wind cutting through your jersey and into your very marrow as you steer yourself through barren switchbacks.
That's when you need a wind jacket, and you'll want it to do what it says on the label.
We had to make do with a windswept seafront in Essex to put Ashmei's version of a wind jacket through the ringer - arguably a less attractive prospect in the deep midwinter. But we shouldn't have worried.
Ashmei doesn't do anything on a whim, which is why it has taken a couple of years for the brand to produce the latest tranch of cyclewear. This is a brand founded on perfection, on developing everything from the fabric up to the final finishing. It occupies an increasingly exclusive niche in an increasingly crowded market.
Time and thought has gone into every step of the manufacturing process of this gear, and each piece is a demonstration in great British design. Ashmei launched in 2011 as a running brand, providing a level of integrity previously unheard of in the market. In 2014 it moved into cycling with a capsule collection, bringing founder Stuart Brooke back to familiar territory. His company, Blue Associates, develops sportswear and played a pivotal part in the creation of one of Rapha's earliest and best-loved products, the Softshell Jacket.
Ashmei's mission statement was simple: to produce the best there is, regardless of the cost. This is one of those brands you turn to if you're into keeping your wardrobe to a minimum, because you won't need anything else.
This is the kind of philosophy that has gone into this windproof cycling jacket. The fabric is ridiculously light, making a garment that weighs 163g (medium size) but it manages to pack serious windproofing to the front panel. Meanwhile the back of the jacket is made from a breathable, high stretch fabric that allows moisture out and has incredible stretch. Laser cut holes add to the breathability.
The Windjacket has been given a coating of DWR which will keep light showers at bay but don't rely on it to stop you getting wet in a downpour. The jacket also incorporates three pockets at the rear so you don't have to hoik it up to get at stuff. It does, however mean transferring everything from your jersey to your jacket when you put it on so you might decide to leave them empty.
You'll notice the stretch the most. That and the softness of the microfibre fabric. It allows a fit that's so comfortable you'll forget you're wearing the jacket. The arms are nice and long and finished with a neoprene cuff to keep wind out. You'll struggle to find the standard features such as reflective shoulder seams and hem binding because they've been so well incorporated into the design.
There are other features, of course. A zipped security pocket doubles as the pouch when you're not wearing the jacket and the jacket has a reassuringly competent zipper, which is more important than you think when you're trying to fasten fabric as flyaway as this.
So comfortable is this jacket, in fact that it defies the first rule of the wind jacket - that it should live forever in your pocket. This is one wind jacket you're going to want to wear as much as possible.
Summary: Stunningly constructed jacket that does the job so well that you'll find it difficult to put in your pocket - in a good way. There really is nothing bad to say about it.