Sugoi's RSE NeoShell jacket uses a lightweight version of Polartec's NeoShell, a breathable, waterproof fabric for a road-specific shell. While the fabric itself works very well – keeping the elements out without stifling or overheating you – the cut isn't as dialed as it should be for a piece at this price.
With the RSE, Sugoi appears to be going after Gore, whose Gore-Tex material has dominated the waterproof/breathable shell landscape for some time. We tested the NeoShell in a wide range of conditions, from cool and dry, to cool and wet, to sub-freezing and snowing.
We were impressed by the breathability of the material; only really hard, sustained efforts required unzipping. One- and two-hour rides in the jacket, with a wicking base layer and a jersey underneath, didn't result in drenched clothing, as some lower-performance jackets can.
[Editor's note: We received this piece to test from Sugoi's PR firm. After the review was published, Sugoi contacted us to say the RSE NeoShell is not yet in full production, and some changes might still be made. We will review the final production jacket if given the opportunity down the road.]
The RSE NeoShell isn't a superlight, packable shell. Yes, you can fold it up and cram it into a jersey pocket, but this isn't something you'd want to tuck in as a just-in-case rain shell. This is a jacket you'd start a cool or cold ride in and wear the entire time.
The fit is okay, without excess material flapping around in the wind. But the shoulders aren't shaped for an aggressive riding position, at least for men with wide shoulders. We found the jacket to bind a little at the shoulders when in the drops with elbows bent.
Also, the tail isn't as long as on some models, such as the Gore-Tex Active Shell. For riders who use a more upright position, this might not be as much of an issue.
The material is relatively stiff, so pulling it up to access jersey pockets requires us to pull over and stop. Similarly, the waterproof zippers are a battle with a large amount of resistance, especially when using gloves as the pull tabs are small. That is par for the course, though, with this type of jacket. The two deep vertical pockets on the rear do have loops on the pull tabs, which helps. The small chest pocket is just barely big enough to fit an iPhone.
Reflective elements are incorporated into the design, on the chest and the best. The cuffs feature Velcro closures, which can be adjusted more easily than the zippers.
Bottom line: the NeoShell technology is excellent, but for this price we would want a cut designed specifically for having the arms extended in the riding position.