The folks at Burley have always done rainwear right. Maybe it’s their location in the rain-drenched Pacific Northwest (Eugene, OR). Maybe it’s the avid cyclists on their staff, including Rob Templin, a mega-mileage rider and once
a silver medalist in the Race Across America.
Because Burley realizes that a true waterproof and breathable material had yet to be invented, their jackets have always been made of waterproof fabric with ventilation provided by plentiful armpit zippers and a mesh yoke in back.
A few years ago, I rode for a rainy week in Ireland with an earlier version of the Rock Point jacket. It kept out the “light Irish mist” (my host’s words; I’d call it a torrential downpour) and I stayed warm inside.
So I was eager to test Burley’s new jacket, which they tout as lighter, more compact and made from a fabric called Gelanots reputed to be — you guessed it — waterproof and breathable.
The good stuff first. When it’s rainy and gray, you want drivers to see you on the road. The yellow version of this jacket isn’t just yellow, it’s screaming yellow that stands out in the murkiest conditions. Plenty of 3M reflective material adds to visibility.
Don’t buy the all-black or even blue/black version if you value your life.
I liked the pit zips, too. They open from elbow to mid chest, so they scoop in plenty of cooling air to combat overheating. The zippers work easily. Another nice touch: A fleece-lined collar for neck comfort.
In a cold Colorado rain-and-hail mix, the jacket kept me warm and dry (with one exception noted below). When the hail stopped and temperatures moderated, I opened the pit zips to keep from overheating in a steady rain.
Unfortunately, a few deficiencies mar what could have been a great jacket.
First, a skimpy tail. My old Burley jacket had a long tail that folded up inside the back and attached with hook-and-loop fasteners to keep it concealed. When rain started, it was easy to reach around and pull the tail down. Result: No rear wheel spray
soaking shorts and chamois, even on a fenderless bike.
But the Rock Point has a short tail that doesn’t fold up. On this 5-foot-10 rider wearing a size “medium” jacket, the tail was at least 4 inches too short to be effective. What good is a rain jacket without a long tail?
Sure, you could use fenders, even a temporary clip-on version, to keep the spray away from your backside. But this jacket is billed as compact enough to fit in a jersey pocket. It’s designed to tote on a ride when rain threatens, presumably allowing you
to fend of water without fenders.
The jacket does fit in a jersey pocket, but just barely. Roll it tightly on the floor at home and you can squeeze it in. It’s a much tighter fit when you take it off along the roadside after the rain stops and try to roll the soggy fabric against your
I didn’t care for the collar design. It doesn’t have a hook-and-loop tab to adjust the size of the opening. All you can do is zip it all the way up and hope for a good seal against the elements. The fleece lining adds comfort, but it’s one reason the
jacket is hard to roll compactly.
And how about Gelanots, the miracle fabric billed as waterproof and breathable? It didn’t soak through even in hard rain, but it certainly didn’t release body heat and prevent condensation. It was the ventilation system that kept me from basting
in my own sweat. When new, the fabric had a stiff, tinny feel that crinkled when I moved. It softened after washing but remained noisy.
Bottom line: A good jacket brought down by one important shortcoming. With a longer tail, it’d be much closer to a winner.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.