A protective jacket with padding that offers a true compression fit and ability to carry a 2L hydration bladder
Six Six One has been in the protection game long enough to have a well-refined range, including this Evo jacket that differs from the slightly looser and thinner fabrics on other jackets by offering a proper tight mesh ‘compression fit’. 661’s jacket is one of the priciest here, but you’re getting extra shoulder protection for your cash (it’s £10 less than 100%’s short sleeve Tarka model for comparison). A long sleeve version is also available for £20 more.
Two useful back stash pockets are big enough for snacks or a multi tool while riding, and there’s also the ability to layer a hydration pack next to the spine protector, which some riders will definitely like. For those buying into the full 661 ecosystem, there’s also the added bonus of a PADLOCK arrangement to connect liner shorts or elbow pads and stop any annoying flapping and slippage.
The Evo jacket uses D30’s well-known impact-hardening polymer for padding in both the well-shaped shoulder cups and rear ‘Viper’ spine panel. This orange material has proven very effective in the past when we’ve run out of talent and is impressively supple once warmed up by body heat. The D30 panels appear reasonably sturdy and protective, but don’t offer the higher Level 2 protection rating. Being a bit thinner and floppier than some rivals affords superb flexibility to follow body’s movements precisely though; useful when locked firm by the extra close fit.
Once you breathe in to get zipped into 661’s tight-fitting compression suit, comfort is excellent – even with the snug fit – and there’s no rubbing or digging in. The string vest effect regulates temperature effectively, helping you stay warmer on cold days and controlling heat build-up when working hard.
We found that 661’s back panel gets a bit sweaty. On closer inspection we could see that the moulded perforations were partly blocked by excess material during the production process, which doesn’t help, and while the back panel extends higher up to protect shoulders and ribs, more padding further down the spine might better protect a zone vulnerable to over-the-bars accidents.
There’s excellent freedom of movement while riding, but you will notice the jacket more off the bike – when sitting in an uplift bus for example. The front chest protection and coverage isn’t as broad as others.