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Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket

Noah Bodman reviews the Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket for Blister

Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket

Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket

Reviewer: 5’9”, 160 lbs

Size Tested: Medium

Fabric: 3L Gore-Tex Active

Stated Features:

  • Adjustable hem, collar, and waist
  • Extended back drop
  • Velcro adjustable cuffs
  • Reflective prints

MSRP: $299

Test Location: Montana

Test Duration: ~12 days

Intro

Anyone who’s ventured out on a bike ride in the cold and wet knows that a good jacket makes things a whole lot more enjoyable. But good bike jackets are tricky — they need to be waterproof to deal with rain from above and tire spray from below. They need to be windproof to keep things warmer on fast descents, but at the same time, breathable enough to keep from overheating on long climbs. They need to be durable enough to fend off sticks and branches, and hold up to the occasional crash. And they need to be small enough to compress down nicely into a pack.

There’s no shortage of jackets on the market that are trying to accomplish all of that, and quite a few of them do a pretty good job. The Delirious jacket does all of that, and it takes a slightly different approach that works impressively well.

Construction

The Delirious jacket is built around a Gore-Tex Active membrane, which is Gore-Tex’s most breathable fabric. If you want to learn all about waterproof membranes, check out Sam Shaheen’s Outerwear 101 and 201 pieces, but the executive summary is that Gore-Tex Active is a particularly thin waterproof layer that’s the most breathable in the Gore-Tex family, and it’s more breathable that the vast majority of waterproof membranes on the market (with some air-permeable membranes like Polartec NeoShell and eVent being the likely exceptions). The fabric is also coated in a durable water repellent (DWR) that keeps the jacket from “wetting out” — that’s the stuff that makes water bead up and roll off the jacket.

Aside from the waterproofing, the jacket is quite simple. It has water resistant YKK zippers for both the main zipper and the breast pocket, and it has elastic cinches at the collar and waist. Velcro tabs at the cuff let you tighten things down around your wrists.

But that’s about it — the Delirious jacket is a no-frills piece of outerwear. There’s a single breast pocket (big enough to fit a smartphone), but aside from that, the Delirious is all business and no fluff.

Fit

At 5’9”, 160 lbs (175 cm, 72.5 kg) I’m a size Medium from almost any brand, and the Delirious jacket is no exception. The jacket fits loose enough to not feel constricting, but definitely not baggy.

The cut is very much cycling-oriented — the back drops down quite low to maintain coverage while hunched over the handlebars, and the sleeves are extra long so they don’t ride up, regardless of riding position. In a nice touch, the cuffs are cut at an angle to give a bit more coverage over the top and side of the hand without getting in the way.

Noah Bodman in the Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket, Whitefish, MT. (photo by Marc O’Brien)

The only potential gripe I have about the fit is that the water resistant zippers are stiff, which, when in a seated riding position, can make the front of the jacket balloon out awkwardly. This isn’t an issue specific to this jacket — I’ve found that pretty much any lighter weight jacket with a heavy zipper has this issue, and Sweet Protection hasn’t found some magical solution to this.

On the Trail

Most other riding jackets I’ve used advertise their waterproofness and breathability. And plenty of them are decently waterproof, but I’ve generally found that I quickly get hot and sweaty if I try climbing in them. And that hot sweatiness then turns to cold and claminess once I point the bike back downhill.

For most jackets I’ve worn in the past, the preferred way to deal with this is a bunch of vents; pit zips, flaps on the back, and opening zippers in the front allow some extra airflow. It works… sort of.

The Delirious Jacket takes a different approach — no vents, no flaps, and no way to really increase airflow through the jacket except by opening the main zipper in the front. Instead, it just uses a really good, breathable fabric (the Gore-Tex Active membrane).

And you know what? It actually works really, really well. Despite not having any built-in ventilation features, the Delirious Jacket breathes better and does a better job at keeping me from overheating than any other waterproof jacket I’ve used.

And I think a big part of this is that it doesn’t have a bunch of frills. If you think about it, anywhere on a jacket that has two layers of fabric isn’t going to breathe as well as areas with one layer — this means taped seams, pockets, reinforcements, etc. The more of that stuff you load into a jacket, the less real estate there is for hot air and water vapor to escape. The Delirious Jacket minimizes those sort of features — what looks like a plain, featureless jacket at first glance actually results in the most breathable waterproof jacket I’ve ever worn.

And what that means on any given ride is that I don’t really have to worry about taking the jacket on and off. It breathes well enough that I can keep it on for climbs, and it’s windproof so it keeps me comfy on cold descents.

And, it’s impressively waterproof. I had a few legitimately wet, rainy rides where temps were dipping into the low 40’s (~5° C) — the kind of ride where you really want your jacket to keep you dry. And indeed, the Delirious jacket did just that; it kept the rain out, and it still breathed well enough that I didn’t get damp with sweat. Rain beaded off without issue, and the jacket didn’t wet out.

Sweet Protection doesn’t give a traditional waterproof or breathability rating for the Delirious Jacket, but based on my use on some legitimately wet rides, it’s as waterproof as any other bike jacket I’ve used, and it’s probably the most breathable waterproof jacket I’ve ever used.

Noah Bodman reviews the Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket for Blister

Noah Bodman in the Sweet Protection Delirious Jacket, Whitefish, MT. (photo by Marc O’Brien)

I’d say, at least for me, ideal riding temps for the Delirious are anything below around 50° F (10° C). Above that, I’d only bring out the jacket if it’s raining. But between 40° and 50° F, I was pretty happy in the Delirious with just a normal jersey under it.

For longer rides where I grabbed the jacket more as a “just in case” measure, the Delirious packs down nicely. It doesn’t smash into a pack quite as tightly as some of the super light shells out there, but I can still roll it up into something the size of a decently large cucumber, which I’d say is pretty small by wadded-up-jacket standards. And the Delirious certainly performs better on the trail than any of the superlight shells that I’ve ever used, so there’s that.

Durability

Durability is always tricky with bike jackets — on one hand, a big burly jacket tends to be a lot less breathable, and they don’t pack down well. On the other hand, bike jackets tend to take a beating — even if you’re not crashing, the jacket’s inevitably going to get covered in mud from tire spray, and that mud is going to get ground into the jacket from shoulder straps and general use. In other words, bike jackets lead a hard life.

I have around 12 rides in the Delirious, which obviously isn’t enough to assess long-term durability. But so far, it’s shrugged off mud and spray quite well — the DWR coating does a good job of repelling water, and it also does a pretty admirable job of repelling mud.

The jacket has been through the wash a couple times, and so far the DWR is holding strong. While any waterproofing is going to eventually wear off and/or wash off, so far the DWR coating on the Delirious jacket seems to be high quality and fairly durable.

I haven’t hit the ground in the Delirious (yet), but despite the jacket being fairly light, I’d actually expect it to hold up decently. It’s not a heavy, reinforced, burly garment, but there are some lightweight jackets that seem like they’d rip if you just looked at them wrong. The Delirious isn’t like that — the outer fabric seems like it’ll take at least a moderate level of abuse, and I’ll update this review if my experience does not reflect this.

Bottom Line

I’m on record saying I really like lots of pockets — you never know when you’re gonna need a place to stash your phone, sunglasses, bike tool, and maybe some random interesting object you found on the side of the trail. The Delirious jacket only has one pocket, but the jacket is good enough that it’s converted me. I’m willing to find other places to stash my crap, because the Delirious is just so damn comfortable to ride in, and most of that is because it breathes so well.

The biggest concern I have about the Delirious jacket really comes down to the price. It’s not that the price is unreasonable — it’s in line with other high-end products that use the Gore-Tex Active membrane, which is likely the main factor in the cost. But for a jacket that’s inevitably going to get covered in mud and grime on a regular basis, the price tag stings a bit more than usual. So if you can handle the price tag, or if you’re more gentle with your bike outerwear than I am, the Delirious jacket is a fantastic piece.

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