Back in the autumn of 2013 I got my hands on my favourite piece of Intrepid clothing to date – their softshell Freedom gilet. It’s a great idea, offering warmth where you need it and plenty of flexibility for layering.
This is the perfect piece of clothing for three season riding – initially I thought this would mean autumn, winter (at the milder end of the temperature spectrum) and spring. This logic was perfectly sound until we were visited by the Great Precipitation of 2013/2014 which decimated the riding plans of many a Mountain Biker that winter and spring. At times nothing short of full rain gear could even be considered.
So it’s possible that the third season may now include summer instead!
That aside, this IS a very useful addition to the wardrobe. The Intrepid Freedom gilet, made from a windproof (and largely waterproof) softshell fabric manages to keep your core lovely and warm when used over a jersey or baselayer. Crisp autumn mornings, mildly cold winter days and chilly spring evenings suit this perfectly, allowing just the right amount of temperature control via the unprotected arms to make riding very comfortable. The Freedom gilt has become my go-to outer layer when it’s not hosing it down as a result.
Not having the shoulders and arms restricted unnecessarily means no over-heating on those 3-4° and upward days and is especially noticeable if there’s a bit of humidity around.
If you’re working hard you will eventually get a bit of moisture build up but you only really notice it when you get back from a ride and it’s never significant. As an aside, I have found a couple of other softshell full jackets that I own suffer from limited breathability which seems to be a feature of this sort of fabric. It’s one reason why I’ve started to move away from using full softshells.
The fabric itself is quite thick but retains plenty of flexibility without that horrible ‘rustling’ you get from some jackets – think fat bird in corduroys as Billy Connolly once memorably riffed on. It’s complemented by a brushed inner surface which helps with the comfort but also means an extra bit of insulation, which makes the gilet useable down to surprisingly low temperatures.
Chunky zips – an Intrepid trademark – are present and correct, with a Napoleon pocket at the front and a side pocket to the rear which provides space of money, keys (secured with a carabiner) and gels etc. without being so voluminous that you pack more than you need. The Napoleon pocket is my preferred location for a mobile and I avoid jackets without one these days.
There’s also the odd design detail that we’ve come to expect from Intrepid. Despite being largely black with white zips and a white logo embroidered on the rear of the collar, the gilet manages to surprise with bright red seams inside and a red rear zip. These little things mark out the discerning gentleman dresser and I think they are discrete but individual.
In short, you should seriously consider this gilet – it will block the wind and keep you warm on many days when a full jacket is too much (which in Surrey is most days), but will let you layer up underneath if you need to. A long sleeved baselayer plus the gilet is warm, with a long sleeve jersey on as well you will be toasty down to very low temperatures provided it stays dry.
After riding with it for nearly two years as a core wardrobe item, mine remains pretty much as good as new.