I was headed for the desert and needed a rain jacket.
A paradox? Not really. The Southwest got hammered with record rain in early 2005. I knew that I’d better be prepared for wet weather during two weeks of coaching at the PAC Tour Training Camps in southern Arizona. So I went looking for a suitable garment.
I have two litmus tests for a foul-weather cycling jacket:
First, is the material billed as breathable and waterproof? If so, I don’t buy it. No fabric known to humans can do both. You get wet from sweat and from rain. I prefer a waterproof fabric and plenty of ventilation.
Second, can the jacket be rolled small enough to fit unobtrusively in the middle rear pocket of a jersey? Many full-featured rain jackets are too bulky so must be carried in a large seat bag or rack trunk.
I figured I’d found the perfect garment when I saw the Showers Pass Club Jacket. Designed as a light-duty alternative to the company’s regular rain gear, it promised plenty of protection with low bulk.
But I was afraid I wouldn’t get a chance to test it. What if dry weather returned to the desert?
No problem. On an 85-mile ride from Tucson to Sierra Vista, we were hit with torrential rain and hail. It was pouring as we left the motel. The 10 miles leading to the lunch stop featured streams of water on the road and hail rattling off our helmets.
We ate lunch huddled under an awning trying to keep the hailstones out of our turkey sandwiches. Then we leapt back on our bikes to warm up while pedaling.
Better Than Advertised
Showers Pass says the Club Jacket is designed only for light rain because it’s made without sealed seams. But in that torrential desert downpour, my jersey stayed dry. No leakage through the seams or fabric was apparent.
The jacket saves weight and keeps cost down in another way, too — it doesn’t have armpit zippers. Even so, it ventilated surprisingly well via the two-way front zipper. Cooling air flowed in the front and out the mesh yoke. The jacket didn’t billow even
on fast downhills. I got additional ventilation by opening the wrist bands wide, easy to do with handy hook-and-loop fasteners. I could feel the air flow up my arms. After the ride I noticed some moisture inside, but it Wasn’t apparent while riding.
Attentive readers of my product reviews know that I insist on a long tail for rain jackets. Keeping water from the rear wheel off the seat and my rear end is important for comfort and to avoid saddle sores due to soaked skin. The Club Jacket’s tail would
be better if it were 2-3 inches longer, but my size “large” provided adequate coverage.
Another useful feature is the high collar, which affords protection on cold downhills. But there’s no way to snug the seal around your neck — say with a hook-and-loop tab — so some air streams in unless you have the 19-inch neck of a pro linebacker.
About That Color
Visibility is excellent. The jacket has reflective material on the yoke and sleeves and it comes in international orange instead of traditional rainwear yellow. It certainly shows up, although I felt like a traffic cone or a school crossing guard.
I polled other riders at camp and opinion was divided on the color. But they all agreed that it did what it was designed to do — be visible from a long distance. One rider told me: “I have that orange color seared onto my retinas after following you
for 10 miles.”
The jacket also has a rear pocket accessible through a side zipper. It was useful for storing energy bars and long-finger gloves.
This jacket is a winner. I’ll tuck it in my jersey pocket anytime rain threatens a ride. It’ll work for tours, camps and even for off-bike wear.
I just hope I’m not arrested for impersonating a highway department worker.
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.