Halvarssons ‘Optimal’ jacket and ‘Zen’ trousers

It was coming up to winter 2011 when I treated myself to my first ever ‘high end’ textile suit. Until then my kit had been made up of the usual bits and bobs from various sources, second hand jackets, cheap pants etc. Just like most other people I knew.

I was working in the industry at the time, so when a brand new suit from Lindstrands/Jofama was offered at a small discount, I jumped at the chance…The Optimal Jacket and Zen pants I chose were carefully selected from the range as their best four season suit, because I ride every day – all year.

The jacket has a detachable storm collar which is very handy for keeping out the worst of the winter wind and rain, but it zips off for the summer (when we get one…) There’s also a reflective day-glo waistcoat which attaches to the outer jacket, which I leave on for the dark winter mornings. It comes off for the lighter, brighter summer weather and it adds a useful extra layer against wind and rain.

I can honestly say it’s never let a drop of water in nearly two years of ownership.  I refresh it annually with a spot of Nikwax wash-in waterproofer and detergent, but the inner ‘drop’ membrane has retained its properties for the duration. The outer pockets aren’t waterproof and aren’t claimed to be, so no mobile phones in them! The jacket gets a bit heavy when it rains, because all the water soaks through the outer layer and runs off the liner, which can lead to a bit of extra wind chill. But generally it’s a great year-round choice.

The Optima jacket has ‘TFL Cool’, a unique coating which reflects sunlight, ensuring you don’t need to boil in the sun and it really works. It is also lined with an Outlast thermal liner, which absorbs and then releases  excess heat from your body. This remains constant, rather than warm as it leeches heat when you’re hot and then feeds it back when you start cooling. All this amounts to a comfortable, but never actually too warm jacket year round. Adjustable fit on the arms and waist ensure a snug fit and welcome vents in the chest and under the arms take the heat (and smell) away in really hot environments.

 The ‘Zen’ trousers I chose as compliment, have the same outlast liner and TFL cool coating to ensure a constant temperature in any weather, they’re also heavily vented in the thighs to keep the ‘wind in the willows’ as it were. CE approved knee and hip armour provide protection and again, while they’re heavy when wet, it’s only on the outside never through to your undies.  I’ve never had to remove the liners due to their unique two way thermal properties leeching and releasing heat energy respectively. They have some rather useful thigh pockets for losing fags and lighters in (a regular thing with me…) which have a decent capacity but aren’t waterproof (soggy fags), and the usual hip pockets, closed with a zip. There’s also a zip to link them to the jacket.

Just a caveat here: the benefits of this type of gear are largely based on wearing proper base layers with wicking abilities. Having a soaking wet t-shirt on won’t work with the Outlast, it’ll just confuse it, but that’s the case for most suits today. But day to day like many others, I simply forget it and wear whatever I like, only reverting to base layers for longer journeys and I’ve never had a major problem.

Both jacket and trousers have been recently superseded in the range by updated versions with further improvements, so best check up on the website to see what’s available. They’re a Swedish manufacturer and their background is actually in ski, skidoo, snowboard and Ice hockey kit, so I guess the thermal properties are pretty much sorted. Try it…their reputation is deserved.

See the whole range here. Jacket £379

Craig Witney