Rainwear for bicyclists is a big deal. If it’s cold and wet, you want to be warm and dry – you want waterproofness and insulation or room for insulation. If it’s hot you want to be dry from both inside and outside – you want waterproofness and breathability. You don’t want it flapping in the breeze but you want to be able to move. You want to be seen by drivers. Depending on your needs, you may want it easily packable. You want pockets or access to the pockets in the layer underneath. You want the sleeves long enough to cover your wrists when in riding position, likewise the back.
And that’s just the jacket. What about hands, feet, head, legs?
I have owned several rain jackets. Gore-Tex claims waterproofness and breathability, as do some other proprietary products, some of which are just previous generations of Gore-Tex. Some add ventilating zippers, as the breathability never seems to match the claim.
For the past few years I have been reading about Gore Shake Dry. It claims to be lightweight, packable, waterproof, and breathable. When you take it off, you just shake it to dry. It is also insanely expensive.
When the first iteration came out, it was found to be hard to fit, with absolutely no stretch. It came only in black. Gore said the technology did not allow for colors. Black might be fine if you are a bike racer on a closed course, but it’s not great for the rest of us.
Future generations came with stretch panels. Then they added reflective accents and bright yellow panels. It was still insanely expensive, and generally available only at list price.
Along came a bike shop in Vermont with a mail order presence and one jacket in my size at a sizable discount and with free shipping. Hey, I thought – I’m going on a coast-to-coast bike trip and this jacket sounds like just the ticket for days when it might rain. I bought it.
Monday morning rain was threatening. The forecast kept changing, but warm was in all versions. I didn’t need my bulky rain jacket. I slipped the new jacket (which stuffs into its own pocket, zips shut, and fits in a jersey pocket) into my jersey pocket and headed out.
It was warm and humid. Light rain began falling, then got harder. I slipped the jacket on. There are bright yellow ends to the sleeves, which are long enough to overlap with my gloves and snug enough to stay put. There is a bright yellow patch in the lumbar region (the pocket which it stuffs into and which is a usable pocket while riding) and it’s long enough to protect from spray. There are reflective accents front and rear. It has a two-way zipper so can be closed up tightly (with a Velcro throat closure) or unzipped from either end to ventilate. The rain came hard and beaded up on the surface.
The rain let up. I opened the zipper a bit from both ends to vent. The rain stopped. I opened it further. It was warm and humid. I unzipped it completely but kept it on. I didn’t get sweaty and clammy. The rain came back periodically. I kept the jacket on (while watching others stop to remove and pack away their jackets, then stop to put them on again – repeated throughout the day). When the sun came out in earnest, I shook the jacket out, flinging beaded water off, stuffed it into its pocket, and put it in my jersey pocket.
At the end of the ride, the yellow pocket (which is not the Shake Dry fabric) was damp and dirty. The rest of the jacket was clean and dry. I gave the pocket a quick wash in a bathroom sink, shook out the jacket, and hung it to dry the pocket.
This jacket is a winner! Longevity is the remaining question.
Oh, yeah…what about the ride?
The dew was heavy enough that my rainfly would be no wetter had I dipped it in the lake. We rode out on the paved trail trail, cruising effortlessly at ~20 mph.
Why I don’t yell “clear!” (see post from a couple days ago) was brought home. The rail trail crosses many streets. We have stop signs at every crossing. I was riding a few bike lengths behind a group of three. As they entered the intersection, three voices called “clear!” By the time three frantic voices called “car!car!car!car!car!”, I was already braking.
The driver was also stopping. Which made the greater impression on her – three bikes running the stop sign, forcing her to stop; or one bike stopping and waving her through?
Had I listened to the people ahead of me and had the driver been less attentive, I might be a ghost bike and not writing this post.
Thirty five miles in we turned off the path and rode through Midland, home of my friend NB and Dow Chemical, maker of napalm. (“Napalmolive, for a clean so clean, your skin will disappear.”)
We turned onto a road with holes big enough to swallow small children. From there we turned to a road with a network of transverse and longitudinal cracks like a checkerboard made by a drunk, then to pavement like an alligator with a dry skin problem. For relief we found a road that shook us harder than a Magic Fingers bed in a cheap motel.
Riding into Frankenmuth I saw a sign saying “espresso”. Since it was just noon I stopped to give others a chance to unload the trailer. My double espresso was huge. When I said this had about four times as much water as it should have, the barista informed me that she used four shots. I don’t think I’ll need a pre-dinner nap.
We’re staying at a Jellystone Park campground. I will hide my picnic basket.