Discovering overlooked new product deserving praise is one of best parts of being at mbr, and our latest find is the Specialized Trail-Series Alpha jacket.
The Specialized Trail-Series Alpha Jacket is designed as a mid layer, the idea is you add a few bases underneath then pop a jacket over the top to wrap yourself up warm. It deserves better than that though, the Alpha works brilliantly as an outer layer thanks to a relaxed fit and superior insulation.
The Alpha is more suited to life as a jacket because it’s moderately windproof and has a slight level of waterproofing. That doesn’t sound that great, and indeed you wouldn’t want it on a rainy day or a road ride where the windchill would be too much, but on singletrack in winter it breathes like nothing else.
It’s lined with something called Alpha Direct Insulation, made by Polartec it’s a fluffy inner layer that provides warmth and also wicks sweat away from your body. Insulation like this is usually sandwiched between two nylon shells to keep it in place, but Alpha Direct Insulation doesn’t need this, instead you come into direct contact with a lovely fluffy layer. Why is that good? Simply put, there’s one less – usually relatively impermeable – barrier stopping your sweat evaporating away. Wear a regular softshell or thermal jacket on a cold day and you’ll inevitably overheat at some point, sweat buckets and then get cold as your sweat rips away all your heat. The Alpha manages moisture better than that, and like an AC unit it seems to manage to keep your heat just right.
Besides its clever material, the Specialized Trail-Series Alpha Jacket is relatively feature free. There’s no hood to shelter in (it’s a mid layer after all), and no vents to open (not that you need them). There are no laser-cut holes in the fabric either, like plenty of insulated jackets need. All you get are big pockets, and a zippered flap at the back on one side to help you access your Specialized SWAT storage pockets, should you use them. It’s a great riding jacket for winter then, but it comes at an equally great price.