Oxford Products “Advanced Rider Wear” range includes the modular layer construction ‘Continental’ jacket and pants. These consist of a three part system of textile outer, a detachable waterproof breathable liner and a removable thermal liner. Oxford reckon that these are “all day, every day, 4-season” riding wear.
The ‘WarmDry’™ thermal liner is described as “high insulation, low bulk” and certainly lives up to the claim – the liners pack down remarkably small and in a rather snowy Pyrenees in April, with just a pair of ordinary jeans underneath, I didn’t feel the cold on or off the bike, even when sitting in the snow waiting to take photos of my travelling companion zooming past. The liner does a good job of preventing wind chill and holding heat against your body to keep you warm.
Of note is that the jacket size which should have fitted, (a Large from the Oxford size chart) the forearms on the outer textile were so tight that I couldn’t have comfortably worn much by way of further insulating layers underneath without cutting the circulation off. In the end I went for the XL instead which was very comfortable and just a bit large in the body and long in the sleeve compared to the L, which had fitted beautifully everywhere except the forearms. The trousers in an L fitted me just fine.
The waterproof liner is created with Oxford’s ‘Dry2Dry’™ technology which is certainly windproof although it hasn’t been tested in all but the lightest of showers yet to truly assess its waterproof credentials. However, if it lives up to the manufacturer’s description as well as the rest of the kit, I imagine it will perform as described – it is breathable and when riding in changeable weather in temperatures of 25c+ with the liner in place still I didn’t become overheated. That is thanks in no small part to the excellent venting on the textile outers. The trousers have sizeable cargo pockets which (provided you don’t put too much into them…) double as vents which popper open to allow significant airflow to the thighs. The jacket has zip open vents on the forearms, upper arms and chest, with large zipped exhaust vents down either side of the back. As a summer riding jacket, this outer would be hard to beat for the money and a lot of far more expensive jackets can’t provide the same level of comfort. Oxford say that their DirectVent™ system are designed to be used “in the most extreme hot-weather riding environments” and I reckon they would fare pretty well – it has certainly made for a much nicer riding experience on hot days.
Is it perfect? No, but the negatives are minor. The textile outers are designed to let through both air and moisture, which means I imagine they will waterlog in extremely wet weather, as opposed to a laminate system where the waterproof layer is outermost. There are no external chest pockets, which means you end up using the chest vents as a pocket, which you then can’t do when it’s hot… Both outers feature reflective strips, but those on the arms of the jacket (while of some use off the bike) point towards the sky when your hands are on the grips, which seems a shame.
The pants come with zip off braces, and both the outer and the waterproof liner of the jacket can be zipped on to the pants – however, not together, as the zip for the outer is inboard of the zip for the waterproof middle layer, which seems like a simple thing to avoid.
The jacket comes with well placed elbow and shoulder armour and a pocket for a back protector, and the pants have knee armour and pockets for hip armour. However, although the knee armour is adjustable to one of three heights, it was lateral displacement I had an issue with – try as I might, the armour tended to slide inwards, leaving the outermost edge of my knee unprotected. Possibly less of an issue for others, or possibly an issue with the riding position on the particular bike I’ve been using – we’ll know more as the months go by.
I plumped for the adventurey ‘Desert’ colour for the jacket although it also comes in ‘Tech Black’, ‘Tech Grey’, and a (more commuter friendly?) ‘Black/Fluo’ with fluorescent yellow shoulders and upper arms. The trousers are available in ‘Desert’ and ‘Tech Black’ – I went for the latter as single colour suits aren’t my thing.
Overall, what’s the initial verdict? Well as a four season riding suit the jury is out until it’s been through a wet winter, but the signs are promising, it certainly performs well from snowy mountain passes to mini-heatwaves, and in fact once you’ve experienced the cool from those vents, as a UK summer choice the jacket is hard to beat. All in all, it’s actually amazing quality for the price and dare I say it, very much better quality than I’d expected from Oxford Products, who I’d generally associated with utility rather than the rigours of the adventure sector. If this kit is anything to go by, that perception couldn’t be further from the truth.
Continental Jacket RRP £199.99
Continental Pants RRP £169.99
For more info see Oxford Products