Soft shell jackets appear to be all the rage right now both on and off the bike. Howies' offering: the Cross, feels a bit weird at first with its Scholler 3Xdry material outer that looks a cross between neoprene and regular material. It is actually extremely flexible and stretchy making for a good fit and comfort while moving.
The outer is highly breathable while remaining completely windproof to keep you warm. Bonded to the inside of this is a soft fleecy lining that keeps you nice and toastie and makes for a warm jacket without the bulk. The Cross works well on cooler days and does a great job of keeping you dry on the inside because of its top wicking abilities. It's not a waterproof though, or designed to replace one, but works fine in a quick shower all the same. Fortunately it is quick drying if you do get wet.
Up front there's a double zip, which allows for temperature control, and when closed pulls the front hems neatly together. That said there's a lack of rear draft flap on this and while the zip doesn't irritate a flap to avoid neck or chin rub would have been welcome. While we love the simplicity of the Cross and it ticks all the essential boxes for a jacket of this kind, some might argue that a few bike specific technical features like a bottom draw cord to seal the jacket along with wrist closures would be a bonus on a jacket of this price.
The cut of the Cross is slim and relatively tight fitting which is fine if you're a svelte racing whippet but for most it might be worth trying a size up over your usual. There are two useful front pockets but nothing on the rear. While the Cross is a warm, quick drying and ethically made jacket that works well all round there are more cycle specific soft shells out there for the cash. Available in black or orange in men's and women's specific fit.