Operating with a healthy dose of skepticism is a part of my daily life. I'm not entirely sure how it started, but it's an undeniable part of who I am. Many might find this a peculiar trait for someone who spends his days reviewing gear, but I've come to see it as a protective layer for my psyche. If a product falls short, I can confidently say, “I knew it,” giving myself a pat on the back. However, if it turns out to be exceptional, I'm met with a genuine surge of happiness and pleasant surprise. Either way, I win.
Over the last decade, my search for the perfect winter cycling jacket has been an utter disaster. This unfortunate streak began when I purchased a Chrome Industries jacket in Tokyo, which left me super confused by its features and bizarre fit. Who was this jacket for? Years went by, and still, no jacket cut the mustard—the way I wanted the mustard cut. Over that time, I went through about a dozen jackets from brands big and small with no luck. However, there began a glimmer of hope when I discovered 7Mesh last year. I absolutely love their Northwoods Shell and it has become a daily staple for me on and off the bike. The challenge is that I wear it far more often than I should and in conditions way past its intended purpose, including winter.
So, after a decades worth of growing disdain for cycling jackets coupled with my general skepticism, you can imagine the mindset I was in when I began testing the Trail Magic Jacket from Ornot.
Ornot: A Quick Backstory
Ornot was founded by Matt Quann after transitioning from a career in visual design (a move I deeply resonate with) and recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary. Inspired by San Francisco's diverse climate, the brand prioritizes breathability, wicking, and minimal branding. Ornot is committed to using eco-friendly materials like recycled fibers, merino wool, and deadstock fabric. On the environmental front, Ornot has been Climate Neutral Certified for over five years and supports the "1% For the Planet" initiative. Their sustainable approach extends to packaging, utilizing recycled and ocean-upcycled materials. At its core, Ornot celebrates the diverse joys of cycling, from racing to everyday commuting. A good team doing good things.
A Closer Look: Design & Features
On a gray afternoon, matching the mood I was in, the package from Ornot arrived at my door. Unwrapping the jacket, I was immediately taken by its suppleness and a multitude of great details. Holding it in my hands, there was an undeniable level of quality, one I hadn't felt with any jacket in the past decade. The bonded seams seemed sturdy, and the stretch was stretchy (in the right places). I was immediately drawn to the minimal branding—present, but not dominating the jacket. Yay, designers. The reliable YKK zippers, the protective inner seam covers—everything checked out as legit. The sun broke through the clouds.
Slipping it on, the fit was impeccable—like a glove. The immediate comfort was striking. I realized that the magic of the Trail Magic Jacket lay in its fit. Past jackets always faltered, either at the shoulders or, more frustratingly, the arm length. Yet, this Ornot jacket felt almost tailor-made for my entirely average frame. Most impressively, the arm length was perfect. I've grappled with countless cycling jackets that sported short arms with restrictive elastics or Velcro cinches—a complete deal-breaker for me. Such designs always felt like a heavy-handed compromise to accommodate the masses. But the Trail Magic Jacket's elongated arms, devoid of any constraints, felt heavenly. Standing in the mirror, I also adored the neck's design: sufficiently high, potentially negating the need for a neck warmer.
For context, I stand at an average 5’10”, weighing 165 lbs. Each winter sees me fluctuating 5-10 lbs, a remnant from my cold-climate French Canadian ancestry that relied on some added fat for survival. With this in mind, I did find the jacket a tad snug around my torso. But this snugness stemmed from the removable vest liner inside. On shedding it, the jacket's fit felt spot on. Given the mild winters on our island, the liner might be redundant for me anyway. This liner, which can double up as a standalone vest, was effortlessly removable. I’ll straight up admit I am not a vest guy, but for those of you that are, the Trail Magic is two in one. A rain layer with a built-in Polartec® Alpha® Direct vest. Can’t really beat that.
Another delightful find was the two-way zipper at the front—a first for me, and I was eager to test it out as I tend to get warm quickly. The side pockets were spacious and easy to access, the hood was somehow large enough to fit a helmet but not dorky big, while the rear pocket, accessible via a right-side zipper, appeared ample. The jacket's design clearly bore the touch and experience of true cyclists, not just mechanized production. As I took it all in, I felt my ingrained skepticism slowly melting away.
Trail Magic Performance
My usual gravel rides cover anywhere between 60-160 km across various terrains. Our winters tend to be fairly temperate, with temperatures in the 0-10C (32-50F) range. Typical of the PNW (or as we say in Canada, “the west”), we receive a ton of rain and there's a fair amount of moisture in the air, which can cut right through you. However, we often joke that in BC, you can experience all four seasons in a single afternoon, so you need to be prepared for all of them. I was excited to start riding with the Trail Magic Jacket to see how it would adapt to these fluctuations in weather and temperature.
My first ride with the Trail Magic Jacket was on a chilly, frosty morning that would really test the warmth factor of the jacket. Before leaving the house, I pondered what to wear as a base layer and chose a simple long-sleeve microfiber jersey. Putting on the jacket (without the liner), I was again impressed with its fit and promptly hit the dirt. Within a few kilometers, I could easily feel that the jacket was regulating my heat amazingly, allowing fresh air in a way that no other jacket has. It almost felt like the incoming air was being distributed up and down my arms, keeping them at a perfect temperature: cool but not cold. My sweat didn't seem to stick to me at all and almost felt like it was being fanned off my skin. As the sun started to rise over the forest and the frost began baking off, I was waiting for the moment I would overheat, which is very typical for any winter ride. Only that moment never came. No matter how high the sun rose or how directly it hit me, I never overheated. The jacket seemingly had a mind of its own and could regulate temperature better than my century old house.
It's been unusually dry this season, and so far, I've only had the chance to test the jacket in the rain once. During that ride, there was a moment when the rain hit hard, and I could see water visibly repelling off the jacket's arms. The Ornot site states that the Trail Magic is '99% wind and waterproof'. Personally, I'd estimate this closer to 82.6%. I believe that we riders in the PNW may have a distinct perspective on what 'waterproofing' truly means, as our winter rides can sometimes resemble scuba diving. I could feel rain soaking in ever-so-slightly at the shoulders, seeping into my base layer. This observation isn't meant as criticism; to me, the trade-off between breathability and a slight dampness seems well worth it.
Maybe one of the greatest things about the Trail Magic Jacket is simply how hot it looks. There aren't many cycling jackets I would consider wearing casually around town, but I have been wearing the Trail Magic Jacket everywhere for the past month or so. And guess what? All those fantastic qualities of heat regulation apply when you're going to buy groceries too. It's pretty simple, really: the jacket looks cool and feels even cooler.
Before you accuse me of being too over complimentary, I do feel there are three areas for improvement with the jacket. It's very much the first jacket I've had that does not boast armpit vents. I assume this is an intentional decision by the team, and it's arguable whether they are even needed, but having them as an option might be a nice touch for when you want that extra air. I'm not fully in love with the concrete gray color. As much as I love neutral colors, this tone of gray tends to catch the light as if it was a brighter color. The jacket did come in black once upon a time, but apparently there's no reissue of that color anytime soon. My humble suggestion would be a slightly darker gray, almost in the charcoal range. The lightness of it makes me worry about how it'll handle the mud in the singletrack, which I haven't tested yet. Lastly, the jacket didn't pack down as small as I had hoped, especially with the inner liner. But I may be comparing this to my Northwoods nylon shell, which might be apples and oranges.
The industry, at times, seems more bent on pushing products rather than perfecting them. This is not the case with the Ornot Trail Magic Jacket. Every detail of this jacket reflects careful consideration, and it's evident how much dedication the team poured into it. Good things don't happen by accident; they arise from experience, intuition, and a solid understanding of design.
As I mentioned at the start, I've always approached new products with a healthy dose of skepticism. And this is probably due to my experience with crap jackets. However, I will say, it's not every day that a product not only challenges but entirely shatters those initial doubts. The Trail Magic Jacket did just that. From its unparalleled heat regulation to its stylish aesthetics suitable for both the trails and city streets, it has genuinely surpassed all my expectations. While there are areas of improvement, they pale in comparison to the benefits this jacket offers. Drawing from countless rides and diverse weather conditions, I can confidently say it's the best cycling jacket I've ever worn. I plan on wearing the Trail Magic Jacket all winter on the bike and off. I am already dreading the spring when I'll have to eventually take it off.
The Trail Magic Jacket is currently on sale for $339 USD. Get it here, Ornot.
|Unparalleled Heat Regulation: The jacket adapts well to fluctuating weather conditions, ensuring consistent warmth without overheating.|
|Stylish Aesthetics: Suitable for both trails and city streets, making it versatile for various occasions.|
|Superior Material: Polartec® NeoShell® is lightweight, breathable, and waterproof, adding to the jacket's effectiveness.|
|Positive Air Exchange: The unique membrane structure allows for moisture vapor release while maintaining waterproofness.|
|Comfort and Fit: The jacket offers an impressive fit even without the inner liner.|
|Lack of Armpit Vents: The design might benefit from optional armpit vents for additional air circulation.|
|Concrete Gray Shade: The particular shade of gray can sometimes reflect light as if it were a brighter color.|
|Mud Concerns: The light color raises questions about how it will handle mud on the trails.|