Fox has categorised its latest range of kit into the sort of weather it thinks it’s most suited to and designed it around a layering principle. There are suggestions on its site about which bits of kit should be paired with what, and the Defend Thermo jersey claims to bridge the gaps between weather conditions.
Fox is hedging its bets that the jersey is suited to autumn, winter and spring, so I went out in a mix of conditions to find out where it does – and doesn’t – excel.
Fox Defend Thermo Hooded jersey details
Made from Polartec Power Grid material that claims to provide lightweight and moisture-wicking insulation, the jersey’s construction should also be windproof and tough enough to brush off any abrasions without getting damaged.
The jersey’s sleeves are tougher than the main chest and back panels, although the dropped tail uses the same material as the sleeves, hopefully protecting both rider and garment from mud and muck flying up off the back wheel.
Like the dropped tail, the sleeves are made from a tougher fabric. This means the jersey is well matched with a gilet. Andy Lloyd
A zipped pocket on the right-hand rear hip is big enough to fit a modern smartphone.
There’s a fitted hood with an in-built balaclava and the jersey is designed to be worn next to your skin as a mid-layer or as the top-layer, depending on the weather conditions.
Fox Defend Thermo Hooded jersey performance
The Defend’s fit is fairly relaxed and there’s ample room underneath for a moderately thick baselayer or riding jersey. The fabric is pretty stretchy too and I didn’t notice it restricting my movement when climbing or descending.
The cuffs’ elastic is tight, which means the sleeves stay in place even over very rough terrain. The tougher material on the sleeves helps to keep the wind at bay on particularly chilly descents.
Peepo! Andy Lloyd
Although the jersey’s body offers less protection from the wind than the arms and back panel, and it works best when partnered with a gilet, there’s still enough insulation to use it on its own.
The thicker dropped tail not only helps to keep it in place and reduce the amount of mud flying down your undercrackers, but it also helps to protect you a little when riding in soggy conditions.
Overall, the jersey’s plenty breathable when you’re slogging uphill and the Polartec fabric lives up to its reputation of still providing enough heat when it’s soaked through with sweat or rainwater. It doesn’t quite match the performance of some Merino mid-layers I’ve used, though.
The hood and balaclava combo might make you look like a bank robber, but there’s no denying the high level of practicality they offer.
The under-helmet hood is tight enough to be worn in most scenarios, although I can’t comment on how it’ll affect a lid’s performance in a crash, so it might be best to wear the helmet as intended on the descents.
The dropped tail’s weightier fabric helps to keep the jersey in place, which reduces the amount of mud going down your pants. Andy Lloyd
For the climbs, especially on really cold days, or if your head is wet from sweat, it’s really good at keeping you toastie, though.
The over-face balaclava is a stroke of genius – yes, it might look a bit odd, especially if it’s pulled up over your nose – but it’s comfortable, keeps you warmer when it’s freezing cold and protects your nose and mouth. And because it’s made from the same fabric as the rest of the jersey, it’s comfortable and soft against the skin.
Pull the hood off your head and it’s tight enough to act as a snood, helping to reduce cold gusts heading down your neck.
In black the jersey doesn’t look especially flashy, but there are some highlight details such as a Fox logo on the left breast and a reflective stripe on the hood when it’s up.
Fox Defend Thermo Hooded jersey bottom line
It’s unusual to come across a piece of bike-specific clothing that truly feels like it’s trying to achieve something unique, but the Fox Defend Thermo jersey does exactly that.
If you ride in cold climes, love layering up or are just prone to the chills, it’s a true game-changer that combines performance, comfort, practicality and versatility in one package.
At £110/ €130.00 / $149.95 it’s not cheap, but I reckon it’s worth the price tag despite its potentially polarising looks when the hood’s up.