A Short Sleeve Rain Jacket? Specialized Trail-Series Short Sleeve Rain Anorak Review

When you think about protecting yourself from the elements, a jacket that stops at the elbows might not seem like the most obvious choice. But, if you dare to consider it, you come up with a few interesting questions: Do your forearms need to be covered? What are the benefits of letting them swing free?

These are the questions Specialized is answering with its new jacket, the Trail-Series Short Sleeve Rain Anorak. So what is the short sleeve benefit? It’s a two parter: mobility, and ventilation. First, mobility. It’s not uncommon to see golfers wearing short sleeve rain jackets to give them full mobility during their swing; the thinking is the same here. The short sleeves give your arms the freedom to move how they need to on a bike without getting caught in the bend of the elbow fabric. “You have real full range of motion,” says Julie Krasniak, equipment marketing manager at Specialized. And this is helpful for not only mountain bikers, but also “people who have to carry a bag when they ride,” like commuters.     

The short sleeves also give greater ventilation while only sacrificing a small amount of waterproofing. “This will keep you more protected but the sweat will evaporate more,” says Krasniak. While waterproofing layers are getting more and more breathable, there is still a compromise. Cutting the jacket off at the elbows gives your core the ability to stay dry while pumping heat out of the sleeves and bringing fresh air in to keep you from sweating and getting wet from the inside. Whether its mountain biking layers or work clothes, they’ll still look crisp when you arrive where you’re headed.

The jacket’s cut is athletic and trim, with a longer rear than front, so it covers your back when you lean over the bars. The color is muted, logos discrete and, of course, the sleeves end at the elbow. If the jacket didn’t have wet weather performance chops, you would be forgiven for thinking the short sleeves were a style choice for the streets. That means you can use it even when you aren’t biking, which helps justify the $150 price tag.

The exterior shell is wind resistant, breathable and waterproof. The oversized hood is big enough to come up over your helmet while the half zip front allows for ventilation, but keeps the jacket from flapping in the wind. Gusseted fabric keeps each side of the zipper no more than 3 inches apart, no matter how unzipped the jacket is. And for those worried about their wrists being cold, wet, or scraped up on the trail, a durable, synthetic base layer makes a perfect layer to poke out from under your sleeves.

The jacket has other cycling features we love like a zipper on the hem that lets you open up the bottom of the jacket for more ventilation, without allowing rain to rush into your chest. Rather than having a kangaroo pocket on the front, where your belongings would swing under your stomach as you ride, like many anoraks, it instead has a small zippered pocket in the rear just above your lower back.

This zippered pocket also gives the jacket one of our favorite features: it turns into a fanny pack. Yes, you read that right. All you have to do is unzip the pocket, pull the sewn-in strap out, turn the pocket inside out, stuff the entire jacket into the pocket, zip it back up and attach the strap around your waist. It won’t hold other gear, but it makes it easy to bring the jacket with you if you don’t know the afternoon weather on your commute; take it off on your causal ride when the rain stops and the day gets warmer; or use it on the downhills of a mountain bike ride to block the wind, while ditching it to cool off on the uphills.

We’ve had this jacket for a few weeks now, and find ourselves wearing it around the house. While it is a fun and effective layer, it is also supremely comfortable, capable and cool—it’s tough to beat that! So bring it with you, even if you’re not sure you’ll need it. It’s a no-brainer.

$150; 2 colors; specialized.com