Endura Convert Soft Shell £99.99 vs The North Face Dirt Track jacket £135
Mountain biking jackets fall into a number of categories; lightweight, windproof, soft shell, waterproof. And then you’ve got these two, which with their removable sleeves fit somewhere in the middle.
Don’t be confused. We’re going to stick these in a category marked spring, as it’s during this period of the year that these jackets come into their own. When the weather is as unpredictable as it has been of late, their zip-off sleeves make it easy to adapt your outfit during a ride. So you can worry less about what to wear before you hit the trails, and that means more ride time.
Both of these jackets here have an ace up their sleeve for just such conditions: they both feature removable sleeves. Nifty huh? Finding it a little warm? Two minutes of rapid unzipping will see the jackets converted into gilets. The redundant sleeves can be stuffed in one of the provided pockets or better still in your hydration pack.
First up is The North Face, a familiar sight on the high street. That’s set to change though, with a new interest in mountain biking they’re looking to make a big impact into our sport. The North Face aren’t all style and no substance, this Dirt Track jacket is well designed and has all the credentials for the serious trail rider.
With roots firmly established in UK mountain biking and a constant favourite, and being designed in Scotland, Endura’s Convert Soft Shell should be right at home dealing with typical British weather.
Opting for Gore’s brilliant Windstopper fabric is a no-brainer for The North Face. It guarantees rock solid performance in the elements, decent breathability and is 100% wind resistant. The use of Gore’s fabric goes a little to explaining the £30 price difference between the two.
Endura use a three-layer MIG microfiber soft shell fabric with a windproof membrane built-in. Our tests proved it to work as effectively at keeping us well insulated from the cold and protected from the wind and rain as the North Face, so a tick in the box there.
Endura tend to go for a slightly more generous fit with their clothing and the Convert was no exception. The North Face is closer fitting, yet with enough room for several insulation layers and with no impact on freedom of movement. Stretch panel underarms help with the fit on the latter, and we found it to be generally more comfortable and with bulky when riding.
Both the jackets have zip-off sleeves. A pair of zips holds each sleeve in place and removal and reattachment was a painless job on both. The Endura leaves behind Xtract stretch wicking fabric gilet sleeves.
Three generously sized rear pockets and one zipped pocket feature on the Endura Convert jacket, trumping The North Face’s two rear zipped pockets which leaves fewer options for stashing the sleeves once you’ve removed them. Endura also manage to add a useful and discrete zipped chest pocket.
Hard to pick one clear winner here: the vastly better fit, Gore fabric and style makes the North Face a worthy contender. But the lower price, impressive durability and the extra pockets, the decision foes to the Endura Convert. But whichever you choose, they’re both great jackets for this time of year.