Georgina von Marburg tests Ground Effect's She Shell Waterproof Jacket.
Words: Georgina von Marburg
Photos: Nick Waygood
With the cold and wet quarter of the year looming over us, it’s time to consider your winter gear. If you’re a fair-weather cyclist, you can cease reading this now. But if you’re a fearless swashbuckler who thrives in “un-rideable” conditions and unpredictable weather, this review is for you.
New Zealanders are hardened experts in the wet season, so naturally their homemade cycling apparel brand, Ground Effect, provides a plethora of rain jackets. The She Shell model (more appropriately named the Stormtrooper in the equivalent men’s version) is their mid-range offering at $356. Instinctively, this is not cheap; but when you explore jackets with similar waterproof ratings from other outdoor apparel brands, you’ll find this price competitive.
Exactly how waterproof is this jacket? For those interested, waterproofing is measured in millimetres of pressure – i.e. how many millimeters of water a square metre of material can withstand before the water begins to permeate it. For example, a garment rated to 5000mm will withstand light rain at minimal pressure; a garment rated to 20,000mm will withstand heavy rain, beating down on it at high pressure. The She Shell is rated to a very impressive, fire-hose worthy, 23,000mm. And what better way to test this than in the rain, sleet, and snow of Alpine Victoria.
While riding through low valleys and high hilltops, the icy autumn rain would vary from a drizzle to heavy pour. At no point was my torso cold or damp, thanks in particular to the She Shell’s long ‘WaleTail’ back and appropriately high collar, which also stows away a waterproof hood. The wrist cuffs could be slightly tighter however, lessening the chance of water or wind breaking through. A corded waist hem means you can tighten if needed, but I believe the fit (discussed later) is tapered enough not to require this.
One of the most pressing questions around waterproof jackets and mountain biking however, is not their waterproofness but their breathability. Excessive, clammy sweat is the biggest deterrent to wearing a waterproof jacket as opposed to a more breathable, water ‘resistant’ shell. This is a very hard balance to strike: empowering the rider to take on severe conditions while not inhibiting their comfort or performance. We need to break down some ratings again, this time on breathability. Garment breathability is typically measured by the grams of water vapour that will pass through a square metre of fabric over 24hrs. Most outdoor apparel brands will use 8000g as baseline breathability for low activity garments, while garments utilising the premium Goretex Pro technology are rated to 25,000g. Again, the She Shell specs surpassed my expectations here, rated to a whopping 33,000g. While I wasn’t racing in this jacket, the steady alpine climbs were enough to raise the heartrate and core temperature to uncomfortable levels. At this point I found myself in a rare equilibrium: pleasantly toasty and sheltered from the sleet and wind, but without building up moisture beneath the jacket as a result of sweating. This is fantastic news for damp winter rides, which often see you overheating on the climbs only to have you freezing on the descents as the sweat turns to icicles. For this reason alone, the She Shell will have plenty of fans.
Interested in more jackets reviews? See below.
The She Shell’s fit is on-point for mountain-biking, once you find your correct size. Ground Effects sizing appears to run large, so I would suggest purchasing a size down from the recommended fit on their sizing charts. Of course if you're in a truly cold environment and need lots of layers underneath – size accordingly. While getting fit just right is mildly frustrating via the internet, the brand does provide an expansive range of sizes, designed for the real world rather than elite athletes. Kudos to Ground Effect here for offering high-tech gear to all shapes and sizes in the sport.
The fit around the waist and hips of this jacket is well tapered, with a short front for on-the-bike positioning, and a long rear for protection against mud slaps and splashes. There are few things less flattering in a jacket than a front zip that crumples and subsequently bulges outwards when in a hunched riding position. But the She Shell does an excellent job at quelling this with its short frontend, hugging the hips without pressing on them. The sleeves are adequately long to cover the arms’ extension while riding, as you’d expect from any cycling-specific jacket. But the shoulder room is what really defines the She Shell as the perfect mountain bike and bikepacking jacket; without risking a baggy look or feel, the underarms and shoulders allow for plenty of movement in those inevitable hike-a-bike situations. You won’t find the jacket creeping up or restricting movement while pushing your bike or lifting overhead.
On initial use, it was very difficult to justify the price given the jacket’s relative bulk (330g). However, after further investigation, the large zipped rear pocket acts as more than a mere storage compartment. The She Shell in fact stuffs into its own pocket, and an extendable strap turns the whole piece into a bum-bag. Ingenious. Alternatively, this could be slung around a shoulder or strapped to a frame/handlebar bag. However, given the ease of packing into the spacious rear pocket, the jacket may as well have included two front hip/chest pockets; the convenience of extra pockets would not have inhibited its packability (though supposedly this is where Ground Effect’s top-of-the-range Antidote jacket enters scene).
The jacket tested was in Ground Effect’s newest colour, ‘Kakariki’ green. By all accounts, this is a divisive colour which some consumers will embrace, and others detest. It’s definitely not khaki green, being closer to a bright green than the implied dark green. However, this does make it extremely visible, incapable of blending into forest or ferns. ‘Marine Blue’ and ‘Agent Orange’ colours are also available, but for those who value function over form, Kakariki is an excellent high-visibility choice without being the typical fluorescent green.
The intended market for this heavy-duty rain jacket is none other than the heavy-duty adventurer. The She Shell’s excellent waterproofing and visibility ratings make this relatively under-the-radar brand extremely competitive in the saturated market of outdoor apparel. Paired with a base-layer or two, this jacket should be rugged enough to take on any winter conditions in its Kiwi homeland, let alone Australia.
- Excellent waterproofness and construction
- Breathability and fit
- Ingenious packability feature
- Colour – but that's personal
- Only one pocket
- RRP: $356