Top quality winter cycling jacket at a budget price? Can this be true? We’ll be answering this question and much more as we review the Btwin 900 Visible from the French sport giant, Decathlon.
Decathlon has a significant presence on the domestic cycling apparel market, which is perhaps due to the down-to-earth pricing strategy and the wide range of products they offer on a continuous basis. In addition, their locations make them a practical alternative to local bike shops, as Decatlon stores can be found in all major regional cities in Hungary. This is where cyclist can see, try and purchase the Btwin line of clothing, along with high performance bikes and all kinds of accessories.
The Btwin cycling apparel is quite decisive on the domestic cycling scene. Many love the trendy mainstream design and the decent quality these useful items offer, others vowed never to wear one possibly due to the department store image and the social status associated with it. The Bikemag editorial team echoes the social trends- some being enthusiastic about the Bwin brand while others somewhat reluctant – but having tested a few excellent bikes from the brand, our attitude is slowly changing. Cycling apparel is a different kettle of fish, so we were quite curious if Decathlon’s fast progress on the bike “hardware” side translates to their other bike related products? We chose the Btwin 900 Visible for the present review as it’s timely, and fits well into the previously published Btwin winter cycling kit theme.
This year winter was slow to arrive, which resulted in a long parking period for the Btwin 900 Visible in my wardrobe. It was hanging next to my other winter apparel for ages before the real “action” started. I tried the jacket on one or twice in front of the mirror, checked the fit in different body positions, the construction details, the functionality, the zippers and the overall craftsmanship. I was truly satisfied with what I saw. The base material is surprisingly flexible for a winter jacket, and although I has a completely different body proportions compared to the male model on the Decathlon website, I was able to move quite freely in this apparel. The shoulder section was a bit off, but it seemed like a minor problem. So far so good, but as they often say: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Once the cold weather set in, it was finally time to start the test.
In the beginning I had great expectation regarding the Btwin 900 Visible jacket. The exterior looked quite professional, the zipper actuated air vents and the side ventilation panels seemed to be a thought-out design. Yes, I’m quite a sweaty person and have yet to encounter any jacket with a full wind protection membrane that offered enough ventilation for my needs. If the weather turns just a little warmer, I overheat and end up on pools of sweat. Active ventilation ports are essential features. I also liked the tubular neck extension which acts like a headscarf. It gives excellent protection while preventing the skin from touching the hard outer membrane of the jacket. It’s an excellent idea that’s rarely seen in even the priciest of jackets on the market!
At the first outing, I had no idea what kind of base layer to put on underneath the jacket. Eventually, I decided to use the long winter base layer as the outside temperature was 5 degrees Celsius. I felt a bit cold at the start but after 10 minutes I realized that I had made the wrong choice. This jacket offers way more insulation and wind protection that what one would expect based on the weight and thickness of the base material. I was worried that I would end up in a pool of sweat, so I opened the side air vents and pulled the zipper at the neck. The added ventilation proved to quite effective, and I felt comfortable once again. It seems the muffler at the neck also has a major role to the jacket’s heat management. I think every cycling jacket should have one built in, especially since most winter garments provide very little protection for the neck. With the Btwin 900 Visible you’ll never leave the headscarf at home: simply because it’s attached by the press studs.
As soon as I got out of town the sunshine was gone, and I found myself in the middle of thick fog. At that moment I was very happy to have a jacket with a bright fluorescent color: a black apparel would have made me rather nervous. I have to admit that good visibility is a truly useful feature for a winter jacket. This fog made the air temperature drop, so I started to close the vents. At this point everything seemed picture-perfect: neck protection, visibility, heat management constitute the most important attributes!
I continued my ride, the fog eased up, and the sun was trying hard to shine through the mist. After 2 hours of riding my back gradually started to feel chilly while I was sweating elsewhere. This was somewhat concerning, so after arriving home, I checked what had likely happened. Once the jacket was off, I could see why my back was somewhat cold: the ventilation panel running through the spine was wet from the inside, while the bulk of the jacket was almost dry. This is an interesting observation, which I have also experience with other high-end jacket with a waterproof outer membrane. The material itself is dry, while the vents are quite damp. I wonder what a physicist would say to this!
After this promising start, the Btwin 900 Visible became my go-to jacket for all my rides. The temperature outside dropped lower in the following weeks, often remaining all day in the 0-5 degrees range. When it was dry with little wind I only used a light summer base layer, if the conditions worsened, I went back to the warmer long-sleeve winter variant. I never had to resort to a second layer, even when the temperature dipped below zero for a few days in late November. On most rides I used the vents to control the inside temperature, which proved to a very effective feature of this jacket. When I started to feel sweaty I pulled them down, and I usually closed them for the descents. The only improvement I would have liked to see on the design is a vent at the armpit, or perhaps one on the underside of the forearms. The problem concerning the back panel remained: after a few hours riding this section would feel colder than the rest of the jacket. Comfort otherwise was quite decent!
The cuff was another highlight of the Btwin 900 Visible winter jacket. This special design will definitely be a game changer or those with cold hands. The glove literally melts into the sleeve, preventing any cold air prom entering either the arms of the jacket or the gloves.
On the other hand, there were some design elements that I did not like so much. For example, the rear pockets are placed too high for my liking, and an extensive yoga exercise is the last thing the bike rider wants to do in freezing cold weather. They are also on the small side, so finding them, taking small objects in and out seemed a great challenge with frozen hands and limbs. This problem has been reported by other riders as well. Again these are minor details, but unfortunately take quite a bit away from the functionality of the otherwise great winter apparel.
My overall impression regarding the Btwin 900 Visible jacket is quite positive. It’s not perfect, but pretty close, and if you take the HUF 19 900 price tag into consideration, these minor nags might be easier to forget. The rather small shoulder cut, the high placement of the pockets cannot be wiped out, but you can learn to live with them. There are very few flawless winter cycling jackets on the market, and assessment of perfection is on the subjective side anyway. There might be better models available, but not at this price level!
Overall the main functions – protection against the cold, the wind and the rain – is certainly above average, and ventilation also seems quite effective. The cut might not suit everybody, but on the other hand visibility is top notch. All in all we’re getting decent performance from this jacket at a rock-bottom price, much lower than the budget offerings from other sport clothing brands. Compared to them, the Btwin 900 Visible is in a league of its own!
Recommended retail price: HUF 19 900.
Learn more about this jacket at the Hunagrian Decathlon website:
On the international website: