December, 2010 – By Jordana Whyte

Let me just set the tone right away: I am a freeze-baby. If you’re not familiar with this particular colloquialism, it means that I pretty much cold all the time. I spend my winters under a down comforter cloaked in alternating layers of wool and fleece. My friends mock me for toting jackets to protect against overzealous air conditioning in the summer. To this end, I am not one of those die-hard riders that you see bravely – read: foolishly – battling the elements all year round. I do, however, believe that if you’re properly prepared with the right equipment for the conditions, there are very few situations that you can’t handle in relative comfort; this includes riding a scooter in sub freezing temperatures.

The Fieldsheer Roma 2.0 is an armored, cold-weather, women’s-specific riding jacket packed with features.   The outer shell is made from a highly abrasive-resistant waterproof material that was still surprisingly pliable. The zip-in thermal liner is both waterproof and breathable, though these claims went untested in my review rides, as conditions were dry and it was far too cold for me to sweat. The zipper is “weather-proofed” with an additional strip of wind resistant fabric to cut down on drafts; this is critical in windchill situations.

There are zippered vents on both biceps and at both sides at the lower back/waist area. While these are probably necessary in transitional weather, I didn’t have a need to use them and therefore can’t rate them. However, they were easily accessible even when wearing bulky winter riding gloves.

One of the first things I noticed about this jacket was the two rows of three snaps on each sleeve, located just above and below the elbow armor. These allow you to adjust the fit of the sleeve. Initially I thought this was useless, but the snaps let you snug down the elbow armor exactly were you want it so it’s in the perfect spot for both safety and comfort. The armor at both the shoulders and elbows are “CE-approved” meaning that it meets safety standards for riding protection. There is a back panel pad for spine protection but it feels like little more than an additional layer of soft abrasion protection. Consider replacing this if you want more serious protection. All armor is easily accessible and relatively uncomplicated to remove via Velcro-sealed pockets. I’m unclear on why you’d want to remove the elbow and shoulder armor – isn’t that the whole point of this jacket? – especially given that the outer shell of the jacket is not machine washable. This is a definite drawback to the Roma. How many of use will actually take the time to sponge off their jackets like the company suggests doing? Unlikely. The interior thermal liner is removable and safe to machine wash.

The Roma has clever piping that looks black in the daytime but is reflective at night for safety. The rubberized logo at the back of the jacket is also reflective.

There are tons of pockets in this jacket: two zippered waist pockets, internal cell phone and map pockets with Velcro closures and an internal zippered breast pocket. The cell phone and map pockets are included in both the liner AND the shell, so even with the liner out you’re covered for all your gadget and way-finding needs. The phone pocket was ample enough for even my somewhat hulking and antiquated smart phone.  My only complaint about the external waist pockets is that they don’t have tabs attached for easy pulling without having to remove your gloves.

The cuffs and bottom hem of the jacket are adjustable with Velcro and easy to manipulate with gloves on. I was able to cinch the sleeves tight to accommodate my over-the-cuff winter gloves. You could also clamp down pretty hard on under-the-cuff gloves to shut out drafts. The bottom hem similarly cinches to cut down on wind infiltration. The back of the jacket is slightly longer than the front to protect you from the jacket riding up and allowing for drafts, though this is generally mitigated by cinching down the bottom of the jacket.

My first ride in the Fieldsheer was about 12 miles in low 40s ambient temperature but with a pretty serious wind chill factor and gusts up to 26mph. It was a gray day with absolutely no redeeming qualities. My second ride was considerably colder, and only for the benefit of you, dear readers, as it was far outside my normal riding zone at 17 degrees and cloudy. It was also shorter at about 6 miles.

The Fieldsheer performed admirably. In fact, it far outstripped my expectations. However, be warned that what you’re wearing underneath the jacket may effect its performance. For the first review ride I was wearing my favorite hooded sweatshirt underneath. While there was just enough room for this thick layer, the large hood completely threw off the intended fit of the jacket. I wasn’t able to secure the Velcro tab at the throat, and this allowed for serious wind infiltration straight down the front of the jacket. On the second, significantly colder ride, I wore a long sleeve shirt and a very lightweight wool zip up sweater with no hood. I did not experience any wind infiltration, drafts or even “cold spots” as the jacket was seated and sealed properly. In fact, I was amazed at how unaffected my core was despite the freezing temperatures. For a freeze-baby, this is nothing short of miraculous. My hands, face and feet were another story for another review.

In terms of substance, the Fieldsheer Roma is top notch in a relatively inexpensive cold-weather jacket, retailing at about $140.

For style, I give it about a 5 out of 10. Though I loved the soft silver-gray color and greatly appreciate the unassuming Roma’s lack of gaudy “motowear” aesthetic, it is not exactly flattering. It has a square, boxy, waist-less fit that does nothing for the female form. Fieldsheer clearly has function down but could use a little help in the form department.

The Roma also comes in black with pink piping and white with black piping.

I recommend sizing up in this jacket. Though I am typically a size 6 in most tops and jackets, the size 8 fit me comfortably with enough room to move and for a couple of light layers underneath. The Roma is available in sizes 4 – 12.

Jordana Whyte