The Elite Pro is a lightweight winner © Robbie Carver
by Josh Liberles
It will come as no surprise to the dedicated cyclocrosser – one of a breed that chooses to compete in the most inclement time of the year – that smart clothing choices are the key to a happy ride or race. “There is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices,” or some variation thereof, is an oft-uttered adage that roughly translates to: HTFU. Showers Pass offers a line-up of technical foul weather riding gear that will quickly pick away at your excuses; be forewarned.
Showers Pass calls the Pacific Northwest home, so employees have plenty of opportunity to ride in the wet, and figure out how to keep moisture at bay – both from the elements and ride-induced perspiration. I tested three of the company’s weather-beating garments throughout a particularly wet Portland fall: the Elite Pro and Protech ST jackets, and the Club Convertible Pants. If you’re in the market for gear to keep you dry during training, race warm-up or even during competition on the nastiest days, these should rank high on your list.
Elite Pro Jacket
The long tail adds protection when in the drops © Robbie Carver
Although I’ve owned various rain jackets in the past, ranging from the PVC plastic clear type to more spendy technical fabric offerings, I’d pretty much given up hope that I could stay dry when riding in the rain, whether due to internal weather systems from my own sweat or “waterproof” fabric that wasn’t. OK, so the clouds didn’t part to reveal sunshine and singing angels when I donned the Elite Pro, and I still did experience some moisture build-up due to perspiration, but it is significantly better that anything I’ve ever used before.
An additional vent along the neck is another place to allow heat to escape © Robbie Carver
The Elite Pro is lightweight, keeps the water out, and it does a heck of a good job allowing perspiration to pass through and away from your body. There are also ample ventilation options, preventing overheating, moisture build-up and the accompanying clammy feeling. Two large pit zips are sealed to keep the weather out when closed, as is the asymmetrical front zipper, which also comes up to the side of your chin to avoid irritating your neck. There’s another zippered ventilation point in back at the base of the neck for even more airflow, and the Velcro cuffs can be adjusted for maximum warmth or for increased venting. The race cut, with the longer back tail, keeps you covered when you get low and aero.
The jacket is predominantly fabricated from Elite 3-ply fabric, which accounts for its extreme lightweight. The side panels of the jacket are constructed of softshell, and both materials offer a bit of stretch, so it won’t flap around in the wind. Riders can opt to wear the Elite Pro Jacket snugly fitted, making it a viable choice for a road race, or perhaps even a super-nasty cyclocross event. It’s light weight, easily compresses into a jersey pocket for on-the-fly layering adjustments and offers a zipped rear pocket to stow your gear. The two-way front zipper is a great feature – unzip from both the top and the bottom to further regulate temperature and adjust the fit.
Weight: 240 grams
Available in: Goldenrod (yellow)
Made in: China
Protech ST Jacket
The Protech ST lets your kit colors show through © Robbie Carver
The Protech ST is a revised version of the Protech jacket – the “ST” comes from the seam-taped seals, which improves the waterproofing over the earlier model. The new design also is more geared towards fitting the elite performance cyclist; it’s a tight fit and the stretchy fabric means the wind will have less impact on forward momentum.
So why, after raving about the Elite Pro, would I have eyes for another jacket? While they’re both light weight and compressible, the Protech ST stuffs down into half of a jersey pocket and weighs only 5 ounces. And while the clear jacket did bring back memories of clammy rain capes, the performance is mountain passes away – it keeps the water out as well as the Elite Pro and breathes almost as well. While the Elite Pro’s fabric may allow more moisture transfer, the open flap in the back of the Protech ST allows excellent ventilation, and the cuffs offer similar Velcro closures to allow for a sealed or vented fit. The Protech ST also shares the Elite Pro’s two-way zipper, a feature I’ve come to rely on in my various cycling jackets.
The flap across the back covers a vent © Robbie Carver
Another clear advantage of the Protech is just that – it’s clear! (or, more precisely, a semi-transparent white). Want to show off your kit’s colors, or perhaps to have an option that you can race in and still have your numbers be visible? It’s the perfect choice.
My only grousing is a relative nitpick: the fleecy material around the collar is a nice, soft contact point for the face and neck, but it’s white and inevitably shows dirt. That’s true of the jacket’s primary fabric too, especially if you use it off-road or for warming up on a muddy cyclocross course, as I did. Over time, it will start to take on a browner hue, and since it’s hand wash only, it will before long lose that new-jacket look. Also, because the jacket is so lightweight, it feels fragile – but it’s held up great thus far. I look forward to riding it for many miles to come, and expect that it’ll last for at least a few seasons.
If you live in a rainy, cold environment and want one jacket for all of your training, the Elite Pro is the better choice. But if you’re looking for an excellent emergency option or for something perfect for in-race use, go with the Protech ST. The best option? Get the Elite Pro with a little extra room for layering in your training, and the Protech ST in a tight-fitting size for race performance and warmer weather training.
Weight: approx. 145 grams
Available in: Clear
Specs: Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate of 1,000 g/square-meter/24 hours and Waterproof to a water column standard of 5,000mmm (according to Showers Pass)
Made in: China
Club Convertible Rain Pants
Pants vs knickers © Robbie Carver
Now that we’ve gotten our top halves covered, let’s see what Showers Pass has for down below. The Club Convertible pants are also made with three layers of waterproof fabric, like the Elite Pro jacket, but here it’s Artex, a heavier and more durable material. The pants are significantly weightier than the jackets, but that’s appropriate – I can’t imagine racing in rain pants, and the extra ruggedness means I won’t be shredding them when I inevitably have a tumble.
They go on like normal pants – a snap at the top and a zippered fly close things up, and an elasticized waist further tightens the seal. All seams are taped, and the Convertibles do an excellent job of keeping water out. Two large side pockets are protected by waterproof zippers and, when open, provide ventilation points. Lycra fabric in the articulated knees, underneath waterproof flaps, allow for both a good range of motion and further ventilation. But the unique aspect of the pants is their “convertibility” – a hidden zipper beneath reflective trim allows you to quickly go into knicker mode.
The hidden zipper is where the converting happens © Robbie Carver
While “rain knickers” initially sounded like a silly gimmick to me, I ended up riding with the lower legs off most of the time. If it’s raining, and therefore above freezing, I just didn’t need the extra coverage, and the extra breathability was worth the wet lower legs. Should you opt for full coverage, side zippers on the outside of the lower legs allow for sliding the pants on and off over shoes, and Velcros keeps the bottoms tightly around your ankles and away from any potential snags.
These worked great for training and for warming up for ’cross races; I was able to delay the inevitable mud-dousing. Although they can be crammed into a (large) jersey pocket, with about half of the pants sticking out in a pinch, these aren’t designed to be emergency back up pants – unless you’re training with a pack. But if you’re heading out in nasty weather and not taking them on and off during the ride, these will make the going a lot more pleasant.
My one beef was that the pants didn’t stay up high enough on their own, which is a particular concern if you’re doing any cyclocross mounts – the extra material in the crotch can be a saddle-snagging hazard. They do have tabs for suspenders, however, which take care of this issue and I’d say are a must (and Showers Pass offers its own model). I liked the pants well enough to buy a set for my girlfriend, and got some extra intel in the process – the women’s model is more form-fitting, especially around the hips, and therefore stays put, making suspenders unnecessary.
Available in: Black
Made in: China
More info on all models: ShowersPass.com