Spring showers are or will be upon most of us soon. If you’re out riding in wet, cool weather, regulating your body temperature is a must, and that means having the right clothes.
Dressing in layers is always recommended, especially with high exertion pursuits like cycling that take you through changing conditions. Each layer manages moisture you produce as well environmental moisture. Additionally, each layer manages air movement, either restricting it for insulation and warmth, or evacuating it for evaporative and convective cooling. Finding the balance of type and number of layers is a process of trial and error based on conditions for most riders.
In this review we’re looking at an outwear piece from Showers Pass, a rain jacket, as well as a pair of their waterproof socks, and some waterproof gloves and socks from SealSkinz based in the UK.
Outerwear from Showers Pass: The Spring Classic Jacket
On the outside, a waterproof jacket will spill water off you instead of letting moisture penetrate the outer layer, cooling you off. At the same time though, any outerwear piece has to allow your sweat vapor to escape so you won’t be drenched from within. Hence the breathable, waterproof fabrics used by outerwear companies.
We received a sample of the new Spring Classic Jacket from Showers Pass of Portland, Oregon. With a name like Showers Pass, you imagine their main mission is to produce fine rainwear. The Spring Classic jacket is a new top-tier outer garment built off the Elite Pro model that the Russian Katusha World Tour pro team bought for themselves to use for the 2014 season.
The Spring Classic is pared down to be lighter and more compactable, substituting in a one-way zipper and forgoing the Elite Pro’s adjustable cuffs. The Spring Classic retains Showers Pass’ Elite fabric, a lightweight three-layer laminate. Three layer fabrics are said to be more breathable than 2.5 layer offerings. The three layers include an outer fabric coated with a durable water-repellent finish, the middle waterproof breathable layer underneath that and an inner mesh-face fabric.
The Spring Classic jacket fits snugly, but leaves enough room for a baselayer and an insulated jersey. It is cut for a typical riding position, just a bit taught across the chest with your arms at your sides, but that prevents bagginess in the torso with your arms forward. The sleeves are long to accommodate the forward reach and the back is long to give coverage below you hips when riding.
Its offset zipper and soft collar make it comfortable with the jacket zipped up all the way and an interesting zippered vent across the nape of your neck is supposed to allow airflow on the leeward side when you’re hunkered down riding into the rain. To further aid the ventilation there is a zippered core vent along each side. Waterproof, breathable fabric that stretches along the sleeve backs and side panels allows good mobility.
Waterproof performance of the Spring Classic Jacket is excellent as is ventilation thanks to its ventilating features. Any rain jacket can feel steamy and force perspiration, but the jacket’s ability to manage that and keep you warm and relatively dry that is the mark of success.
The fit, fabrics and design features make the Spring Classic jacket a top performer. If you don’t like a lot of frills, the Showers Pass Spring Classic is pared of all except the necessary. It is very well constructed and feels durable, so dirt, a branch or a tumble should not cause damage to the outer fabric. The Spring Classic is not the most compact rain jacket, though it packs into its single zippered back pocket the size of a small airline pillow, but can be squeezed into a large jersey pocket, or be easily strapped to your bike or extra bottle cage.
Stand and Deliver: Showers Pass Crosspoint Wool and Sealskinz Stretchdry Socks
Aside from your core, a main key to comfort, at least in our experience, is warm, dry feet. So we find that waterproof socks are a nice accessory. The socks in mind are not over-sock or over-shoe booties, but worn in lieu of normal socks. They have a waterproof, breathable membrane sandwiched between two knit layers.
We tested samples from Showers Pass and Seal Skinz. Conceptually the same, both products are completely waterproof, reasonably breathable and have a hydrophobic synthetic knit outer with a merino wool liner. However they differ in features and fit, and we found preferences.
The Showers Pass Crosspoint wool sock comes up mid calf and fits snugly from the toes to the calf. Thanks to the membrane, the sock does have a bit of a stiff feel and wrinkles a bit when bending your ankle. Showers Pass has non-wool lined versions of the Crosspoint, but the wool will help manage moisture better and help prevent stink. The Crosspoint’s toe is a bit narrow, something to keep in mind if you have wide feet up front.
In use, there is no direct leakage from water penetration. You can stand in a bucket of water and your feet will stay dry, so if you wear rain pants and your shoes get soaked, you’ll be fine. The sock is designed so that when wearing shorts water will run down your legs and the sock’s snug fit will prevent water from running in. However, in use, the top is not quite snug enough and the wicking properties of the wool liner will wick water into the sock. In a deluge your socks will likely fill with water if you wear these with shorts.
The UK’s SealSkinz has waterproof, breathable accessories for multiple sports, and for cycling SealSkinz offers waterproof riding socks of differing weights. We tried the mid-weight, mid-length Stretchdry sock with Hydrostop, a sticky non-silicone rubbery seal inside the top of the sock to prevent water ingress.
If you wear shorts in the rain, this is your sock. The fit is a bit wider in the foot than the Showers Pass sock we tried, but the construction and fabrics are similar with a merino knit inner lining for comfort and moisture management. We preferred the slightly wider fit as waterproof socks generally take up extra shoe volume, so it’s nice not to have the sock further constrict the foot.
The SealSkins fit well up the ankle and have a similar stiffness to them as the Showers Pass offering, but the addition of the SealSkinz Hydrostop sticky rubber seal is the real winning feature. It holds the sock up and keeps it tight around the mid calf so dirt, mud and water were held at bay when riding in shorts in the rain. Even in a deluge there was no water ingress, though a small amount of moisture wicks in from the top. If you ride with long rain pants water would not be an issue at all. If you ride with shorts in the rain, these are winners.
Get a Handle on It: SealSkinz Ultra Grip and All Weather Cycle XP Gloves
Cold, wet hands affect not only your comfort, but your safety. Water robs heat and cold hands loose strength. And wet hands can obviously slip. In the rain, waterproof gloves that offer enhanced grip are a necessity. There are gloves with coated outer fabric but sewn through stitching or non-waterproof palms. But the best gloves for rain have some sort of complete membrane that is seam sealed and laminated to the outer layer, or sandwiched between the inner and outer layers. Those with a floating membrane between a coated outer layer and wicking inner one work, but are less durable. We once observed someone wring out wet gloves only to pop the membrane like a balloon, and ripping the outer stitches in the process.
SealSkinz has a broad selection of gloves for all outdoor sports and endeavors some of which are waterproof. They sent two good examples of waterproof cycling gloves for testing. The first is the Ultra Grip, using the same construction as the Stretchdry sock. If you like the look and fit of knit gloves, these will likely be attractive, with complete waterproof, breathable performance and a merino wool lining to boot.
There is a rubberized textured palm print and on the fingers for grip, and on the thumb and forefinger tips have an element that is touchscreen friendly. The fit and feel are great, and the Ultra Grips are completely waterproof, keeping hands warm and dry. There is no rubber Hydrostop seal, so we tucked them under jacket sleeves. However, just like knit gloves, the limitation is durability, especially at the web between the thumb and forefinger where you hold the brake hoods. The outer knit fabric is definitely wearing at that point after multiple uses, exposing the laminated membrane. So far the membrane is intact, but for how much longer we cannot predict.
The other waterproof glove from SealSkinz is an example of a more common waterproof cycling glove, with a hardshell fabric on the back of the hand and a synthetic leather palm with cycling-specific padding. This All Weather Cycle XP glove has a short gauntlet that goes just past the wrist and a velcro adjustable strap. There is a nose wipe on the back of the thumb and a reflective logo.
The All Weather Cycle XP is not insulated, but with the complete outer layers laminated with a sealed waterproof, breathable membrane, and a wicking liner, these gloves are warm. These gloves fit great, cut with curved fingers and definitely show toughness and durability. They are stiffer and bulkier than the Ultra Grip glove and are not touchscreen friendly, so you’ll have to take care of business before or after your ride. They also proved completely waterproof, though they were definitely a bit steamier than the Ultra Grip gloves.
Spring Classic jacket $289.00 USD
Crosspoint Waterproof Wool Crew socks $39.00 USD
More info: Showerspass.com
Mid Weight Mid Length sock with Hydrostop $55.00 USD
Ultra Grip Touchscreen glove $55.00 USD
All Weather Cycle XP glove $60.00 USD
More info: Sealskinz.com/US/