Ground Effect Flash Gordon
Material: Hydrofoil fabric
We’ve had this jacket for nearly two years now, so it’s seen just about every weather condition possible. It still holds off water well, the fleecey bits are still soft and comfy, the stitching is completely intact and all the zips are working fine. What more do you want in terms of durability?
Ground Effect are a bunch of mountain bikers in New Zealand, who started making really well-designed no nonsense gear that answered their own needs – very like Parrot clothing over here. Keeping away from big brand name fabrics and selling directly over the web also means their prices are really good and items typically arrive within a few days of ordering.
The Flash Gordon is a fairly lightweight riding shell, which uses Hydrofoil fabric (similar to Gore Activent / Windstopper which is what our old one is). It provides: long monkey arms with snug fleece cuffs and thumbloops, a really high fleece collar, full length zip with stormflap, drawcord hem, plus two zipped and stormflapped rear pockets.
The smaller pocket will hold keys / cash / wallet etc. while the bigger zipped pocket swallows bottles, under layers, food, tools etc. as well as swallowing the jacket itself if necessary. A stitched-in belt turns it into a bum bag.
What really sets it apart though are the huge 10” pit zips that open up the whole of you armpit to gulp cooling air in when you start to steam.
Does it work?
All water / weather proof fabrics are a compromise between rain resistance and sweat loss. We reckon New Zealand must have fairly similar weather to us as the Flash is pretty much spot on. It cuts out wind completely helped by snug collar and cuffs, and it rolls the first ten minutes of rain straight off until it gradually wets out and damp comes in at the seams. Even if it does get soaked during heavy rain it still keeps the wind off and dries out itself and underlayers very quickly.
When you’re just trundling along, the Flash Gordon sucks sweat through as fast as you produce it and when things get a bit steamier just yank open the side vents (using the fast running zips and handy tabs) and feel the cooling wind whip straight through. It’s certainly been our first ‘fast ride, iffy conditions jacket’ since we got it.
As with other GE gear sizing is generous, with a small giving a reasonably close fit (but still easily enough arm and back length) for a scrawny 6-footer. However, a cunning diamond panel across the shoulder-yoke stops material behind the head bunching even with the pit zips open. There’s even enough stretch in the cuffs to just hoik them up without having to faff with Velcro straps.
Should I buy one?
Good price, really good design and a well balanced fabric performance that mean you’ll be reaching for the Flash Gordon on a regular basis throughout the year and marking it out as a favourite. What really sets it apart are those all important pit zips that nearly everyone else (except for Race Face’s Aqualite) refuses to put in their lightweight jackets, reducing you to a sticky, steaming stew as soon as you turn up the heat.
All we’d say is that sizing is on the large size, and you can’t try before you buy. But if you can handle that, then Flash Gordon is an ideal jacket when the weather is minging and merciless.
Also check out: Ground Effect Stormtrooper – waterproof and hooded but no pit zips. Ground Effect Dr Smock – Same fabric as Flash Gordon but smock cut and no pit zips.
Top trivia fact: Ground effect is the aeronautical phenomena where the efficiency of lift of a plane wing is much greater within a certain distance from the ground. However as this is typically about half the wingspan of the plane that means about the height of trees, power cables, hills etc. The Russians were very keen on developing it for crossing the sea or huge areas of flat steppe though.
Not much to do with kiwi bike clobber then!