Normally we like to try on our clothes in a store, mostly because ordering clothes online is a "fit or miss" proposition. However, we had to order online when we wanted a jacket from a small company called BeyondFleece. You can't buy their jackets at your local EMS or CitySports because they are "just in time" manufacturers...they make the jacket just for your when you order it. Delivery time is a few weeks, but its worth the wait to get a custom-made jacket.
We were glad we decided to give them a try. The site was easy to use and informative, and the results (aka the jacket) exceeded our expectations. Ordering was a snap because of the practically instantaneous visual feedback. The site clearly showed which options had been selected and how the jacket would appear with those options...note the dotted outline of the inside jacket pockets in the screen capture above. The price is also immediately updated to show the current total with the options chosen.
We liked that they asked more detailed "sizing" questions. Instead of just the usual "L, M, S", they also had a series of questions such as ... "are sleeves usually too long/short/just right when purchased from the store?" It didn't require us to get out the tape measure, but in the end it was probably just as precise :-) In any case, the jacket we got fits perfectly.
The shoulders, chest, and sleeves of "our" jacket were made with BeyondFleece's "Cold Fusion" fabric. It's a thick fabric with a slight spongy feel...like really thin neoprene. It is very wind- and water-resistant and provides warmth similar to fleece without the bulk.
We added a few pockets to the outside and inside of the jacket, making it very much a one-of-a-kind-I-always-wanted-a-pocket-right-there piece of clothing. We did not order the optional hood, but did leave the possibility of buying one in the future by including a hood zipper in this order.
The outerside of the jacket is smooth, but the inside has a fleece-like lining, which is very soft and comfortable to the touch. In warmer weather, this jacket should work extremely well when paired with just an underlayer such as those from UnderArmour.
All of the zippers are made with heavy duty nylon. The zippers have a stiff outer shield to block wind and moisture. Note the quality and details such as the zipper pulls, the stitching of the sleeve opening, and around the pockets.
We also ordered the sleeve pocket and the thumb loop. The sleeve pocket is perfect for things like extra batteries and credit cards. The thumb loop if GREAT for keeping the sleeve inside the glove on those wet or windy days... especially when reaching for something, whether it is a beer or the handlebar on the racing bike :-)
The top and bottom of the jacket are made using different material. The lower front, back (below the shoulder blades), and back of sleeve is made with Schoeller Dry Skin... a light breathable material with strong warmth and moisture wicking properties. The bottom material, being thinner, fits tighter around the waist. It not only fits better, but also looks better.
Some might raise an eyebrow at the cost when all of the options are included. Considering the materials used, the overall construction quality, and the workmanship, the price BeyondFleece is charging for this jacket is actually an amazing value. Think of it as a custom designed jacket without the custom tailor price.
We will be testing this jacket all Spring and Fall. It will come with us on our 2006 SpringOuting. We are looking forward to seeing how it performs in the field.