The Albion Zoa Rain Shell is a high-performance, high-cost jacket with fit and styling that aims to contest for the best waterproof cycling jacket crown. During testing, however, while it withstood some harsh conditions and a range of temperatures, and offered good protection, it didn't quite deliver a good fit.
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Albion Zoa Rain Shell - Fit & Sizing
The Zoa Rain shell is available in six sizes, from XS to XXL, covering chest sizes 81cm (32in) to 117cm (46in). Based on the Albion size guide I straddled XS and S and chose to test the XS.
The Zoa is certainly more on the casual side and felt large in most areas, most noticeably around the chest area. Albion also produces the Zoa Insulated Jacket, which is reasonably thick. It does mean that when worn over a standard cycling jersey it felt a few sizes too big, despite me being on the upper limit of the size guide recommendations. Depending on individual preferences and riding style, sizing down could be an option unless, like me, you are an XS.
The length of the jacket was also on the long side for riding use, although It felt OK when worn casually. While riding in various positions (but especially on a gravel bike), the chest area bellowed out with ridges forming and flapping at speed. The compromise does at least mean you can wear it casually without it looking like it is a cropped top.
The Rain Shell only has a very slight drop tail and I found it gave almost no protection to the rear of your shorts, meaning that while I was dry from the heaviest downpour, I got very wet from the spray of the rear wheel. It would mean that in all riding positions a pair of waterproof shorts or trousers would be needed for any real protection.
The sleeves are more in keeping with what I would expect, and I found both the length and the diameter to be perfect while riding without being too tight and still allowing space for extra insulation beneath.
The hood is not removable but has an elastic adjustment on both sides, the rear and a semi-flexible cord to hold the shape of the peak.
There are two pockets, featuring a two-way zip and they are generous in size allowing plenty to be packed inside if needed.
Albion Zoa Rain Shell - Performance
The main fabric the jacket is constructed from is Pertex Shield Air, a three-layer, 100% recycled nylon fabric that is waterproof and breathable. No figures are given on the exact level of protection such as the hydrostatic head or breathability g/sqm by Albion or Pertex. The jacket also features a C0 DWR coat that aims to improve performance in wet conditions.
There are fully taped seals on all panels except for the interior sections of the pockets, these performed well and I didn’t find any water had crept through while riding on test. The pockets have waterproof two-way zips, but inside is mesh, and Albion suggests that they could provide some increased ventilation. Based on my experience wearing the jacket I don’t think having the pockets open has any noticeable effect on breathability due to the minimal size and crucially, the location being the main issue. While riding the pockets are to the side, not in front and this allows minimal airflow to pass through.
I had some very suitable conditions in order to test the jacket, riding during several heavy downpours and thunderstorms from the very first ride. My initial impression was that the breathability was limited, as I did find myself warming up despite only moderate intensity, but found this levelled off, and even with temperatures rising slightly, or an increased intensity it never felt wet on the inside. I did not use the jacket on very intensive rides, and this is unlikely to be an issue for the riders it is aimed toward. Due to the more relaxed fit and style, it's arguably not a true performance-orientated jacket.
In terms of the water protection, it held off even the heaviest of rain showers and kept my top dry, although the DWR coating did wear off alarmingly quickly, and even on the second ride. Before even being washed, the panel on the front had lost the ability to easily bead water. The lack of a true dropped tail also meant that spray from the rear wheel was an issue.
While I would personally have preferred a removable hood, and only chose to use it on the heaviest downpours, the amount of adjustment meant that it was possible to easily put it over the helmet and adjust it while riding to keep the water off and ensure it didn’t blow off when riding at slightly higher speeds. Having the hood in place did impact the overall comfort as I found it increased heat build-up slightly, especially when riding uphill. The adjustment on offer meant that it can be used without a helmet, unlike some jackets that have an oversized hood.
Possibly my favourite area is the design of the cuffs, and these are far from your standard Velcro strap. The cuff and Velcro form a triangular shape that was wide enough to put on whilst wearing gloves, but also gives easy adjustment while riding.
For anyone looking for a jacket that can serve a dual role and be worn casually, the more generous fit and cut are less of a problem. I found myself reaching to use it off the bike more than while riding.
The Zoa Water shell is certainly priced at the upper end of the market, among the most expensive tested at £250. While the fabrics are good, and it does hold off poor weather, there is nothing that truly stands out to justify the price. The level of protection is like the Fox Ranger 3L jacket recently tested which is £50 cheaper and the Endura MT500 that Liam tested, which scored full marks and is a little less at £230. If you are after a more performance-orientated jacket, the Zoa Rain Shell can’t beat Gore Shakedry fabric for breathability, with the Gore C5 Gore-Tex Shakedry 1985 Viz, now priced at £300.
Albion Zoa Rain Shell - Verdict
The Albion Zoa helps defend you against heavy rain, and no matter what was thrown at me it kept me dry, but the casual fit and design meant I was getting wet from the spray from the back wheel. The fit and sizing feel far too generous to be a true riding-orientated jacket because the low front rolling up around the chest and flapping about feels odd when combined with slimmer sleeves.
There are some great touches, such as the cuffs and the amount of adjustment possible on the hood, but they don’t add enough to justify the price if you are after a jacket primarily for on-the-bike performance. With a generous fit and cut that doesn't maximise protection while riding, the Zoa Rain Shell feels more like a hiking, or general-purpose waterproof jacket.