By Stan Purdum
- The reflective arrow on the back tells drivers to “Move over!”
- Can double as windbreaker
- Cut to fit riders with “normal” physiques
- Comes in screaming yellow at about 600 candlepower for high visibility. (Also available in “hi-viz” dark, but at lower candlepower)
- Taped seams
- Fleece-lined collar fits snugly around your neck to keep water out
- Sturdy zipper with storm flap
- Elastic in waistband and sleeve ends
- Available in separate sizes for women and men
- No vents in the jacket
- No straps for the pocket/pouch
How obtained: Sample from company
RBR Advertiser: No
In June of 2013, I participated in a week-long bike ride run by the Adventure Cycling Association on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Virginia. All-in-all, it was a great ride well managed and supported by the ACA. The first four days of the ride were in sunshine — crisply cool in the mornings but warming nicely as hours ticked by. On riding day five, however, tropical storm Andrea sucker-punched us. She did that by allowing the day to start out warm like the previous ones, with a forecast declaring a 50% chance of rain, but only later in the day. Thus, most of us dressed lightly as we had the previous days, packing our wet-weather gear and warm layer clothing in our luggage and loading it in the baggage truck.
Shortly after we mounted up, however, the temperature dropped steeply, and cold rain pelted down. And we had to face that garbed only in what we’d put on that morning plus whatever extra items we had in our bike bags (very little, in most cases). I was wearing a windbreaker, which I quickly discovered offered no protection at all against rain. The soaking downpour continued all day, and soon those of us without actual rain gear were as wet and chilled as if we’d jumped fully clothed into a cold bath. That, coupled with the refrigerating effect of swooping down deep descents and being buffeted by strong winds on mountain curves not protected by trees, eventually had many of us shivering uncontrollably.
Under these circumstances, the ACA staff swung into action, using their vans to sweep riders off the road and transport them to the designated site for that evening. A handful of riders who had wet-weather clothing with them or simply possessed extra grit actually pedaled the whole day’s route, but most of us ended up in a van for the final miles, seriously chilled and in the early stages of hypothermia.
People familiar with that area of Virginia said it was unusual for a tropical storm to come that far inland so early in the season. Most years, the first week of June is ideal weather with flame azaleas and rhododendrons bursting with blooms.
While that was not the first time I’ve gotten caught in rain without wet weather gear while cycling, the previous times had been in warmer temperatures and on shorter rides, where I just toughed it out and took a hot shower when I got home. But this was different, and with the tour riders stretched out over the miles of that day’s route, it was a couple of hours before the van got to the clump of riders I was with.
Afterward, I thought about how unprepared I was for that day’s torrent. I did have a rain jacket in my sagged luggage, but it was too heavy and had too little breathability for the kind of weather I was expecting that day, and I didn’t have my bike set up with enough bags to carry a second jacket. That’s when I decided I needed to have one jacket that would serve both as a windbreaker and as a raincoat. Shortly after that ride, I purchased one that handled both tasks well, but that brand was available only in “race fit” (think skinny professional bike racers) which was snugger around my midriff than I liked, and in the years since, my midriff has expended a bit, making that jacket uncomfortably tight, especially when wearing other layers underneath.
That’s why I was glad to try out the ArroWhere Lightweight Waterproof Jacket. A company representative told me that while they consider their jacket to be a “club” fit (think the more normal physique of average riders), it’s trim enough that if you are on the line between two sizes, you should opt for a jacket in the larger of the two sizes. Since a club fit normally accommodates my girth, I chose my usual size, and found it to fit comfortably without a lot of extra fabric to flap in the wind.
I’ve been wearing the jacket recently while on early morning springtime rides, finding its wind-breaking capacity sufficient to keep me warm. And later in the day, when I remove the jacket, it folds down small enough to easily stuff it into a jersey pocket. The jacket will also stuff into its own pocket, which serves as a pouch. But without some sort of straps attached to the pocket/pouch, which would enable attaching the pouch around one’s waist or tying it to one’s handlebars, I don’t see any advantage to the pouch/pocket for carrying the jacket when not wearing it. The pocket itself, however, being zippered, is a good place for carrying a wallet and phone. The zipper is on the lower right side of the jacket with most of the depth of the pocket in the back.
Since I’ve not been caught in rain yet while in the jacket, I put it on with a cotton T-shirt underneath and wore it into a cold shower. The T-shirt stayed dry, as did I. The jacket is made with a polyester 20,000 waterproof/breathability rated material, which is a good number, both in terms of waterproofness and breathability. A fabric rated 20,000 for waterproofness resists approximately 66 feet of liquid stacked up in a 1-inch square tube before any seepage begins. And the high number also indicates a good capacity for letting your sweat pass through and out of the garment. (The breathability number for a rubber raincoat, in comparison, is zero.)
I’ve not yet mentioned the one thing that is unique and proprietary to the ArroWhere jacket lineup: the large, reflective arrow on the back, which the company says is universal for “Move Over!”’
For riders in North America and other countries where drivers use the right side of the road, the arrow points left. The company, with headquarters in Canada and in business for nine years, makes equivalent jackets with the arrow pointing the opposite way for riders in countries that drive on the left.
As ArroWhere explains it, the arrow idea “was conceived from the notion of reacting to road signs. Most road users (even today) do not know how to respond or react to cyclists, whilst sharing the road. The main driver behind the idea is one of our co-founders, who was commuting to work on his bike in Calgary, Canada. We came up with the idea to turn cyclists into road signs, by placing a highly retroreflective, ArroWhere-designed Arrow on the back. That way, instead of trying to figure out how to react to a cyclist, a road user can see the sign and know they have to move over. We did some initial testing and found the results to be staggering.”
Some of those studies were with the University of British Columbia. They “have shown that significant results can be had while using an ArroWhere product over the standard construction vest. The results identified that ArroWhere users can experience up to twice the anticipated three-feet passing distance by a vehicle and up to 50% speed reduction while being passed.” ArroWhere’s gear can be seen up to 1/4 mile away or more, the company says. See this for yourself here. This high visibility feature makes this jacket a good choice not only for road riders but also for commuters.
This is a multi-use jacket that is worthy of your consideration.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.