“Neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow…”
If you aspire to be Postal in perseverance, you may need help in the form of some protective coverings. We tested five different brands of jackets and pants made for wet-weather use through all kinds of precipitation.
[Ed. note: This article originally appeared in print in Bicycle Times Issue #1. Words by staff, as noted. Photos by Maurice Tierney.]
Canari Barrier Jacket II and Barrier Pant
Primary fabric material: 3-layer polyester
Waterproofness rating: 20,000mm
Breathability rating: 20,000g
Seams: Taped and welded
Pit zips: Yes, 16″
Back flap: Yes
Price: Jacket – $130 Pants – $100
The Barrier jacket and pants have literally been just that, a barrier. My first ride with the gear was a 40 degree morning commute in heavy rain—the rain and traffic spray tested just how much water Canari could keep off my clothes. Both pieces are made of a waterproof, windproof and breathable polyurethane membrane with taped seams and waterproof zippers.
The sleeve length is ample enough to overlap my winter gloves. A mesh air scoop on the back of the jacket has a generous overlap that prevents water from entering but does not inhibit ventilation. Although I would prefer that the pit zips have the same tab as the front zipper for easy use with my winter gloves, these are a valuable feature for regulating my temperature.
The Barrier Pants feature articulated knees which allowed me to pedal comfortably. There are also ankle flaps that provide easy pant removal without taking my shoes off, and side zippers for pocket access, but I like to use them for ventilation. The toggled drawcord waist kept the pants where I wanted them and provided a proper fit regardless of layers and how much I ate during the holidays.
Both the Barrier Jacket and Pant have reflective piping along legs and arms. I’m taller then the average cyclist and the size large Barrier gear has sufficient length in both the leg and sleeve to accommodate me, something that can be difficult for taller riders to find in outerwear. Each are “comfort” cut according to Canari which provides a looser fit, designed to be worn over layers.
I stayed very dry while wearing these in rain. Blocking the wind is another strong suit of the jacket and pant, which helped keep me warm. Breathability with that much water-resistance is rare and I’m glad there was sufficient ventilation, because the fabric itself doesn’t seem to breathe well. The Barrier jacket and pants come with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing or material defects. —Matt Kasprzyk
*[Ed. note: The website for Canari was incorrectly listed in the print version of this article.]
Endura Luminite Jacket and Techpant Overtrousers
Waterproofness rating: 10,000mm
Breathability rating: 10,000g
Primary fabric material: Jacket – 2.5L nylon polyurethane, pants – 3-layer ripstop nylon
Pit zips: Yes – 12″
Back flap: No
Origin: Great Britain
Price: Jacket – $139 Pants – $130
Since December, I’ve been commuting and mountain biking in Endura’s Luminite hard-shell jacket and Techpant Overtrousers. Both hinder cold temperatures, wind, and all forms of precipitation.
My comfort zone for using both of these is below 60 degrees—anything above and I would become too warm. The fit is generous and the extra-long sleeves extend 3.75″ beyond my wrists, much appreciated, since sleeves are usually too short for my long arms. The wide cuffs slip easily over winter gloves and have Velcro adjusters for cinching, while the waist and neck have drawstring adjusters.
An incredible amount of highly reflective material embellishes the jacket for 360 degree visibility. On the back, a fiber optic Luminite LED Light Strip rests in a bonded compartment and shines outward through a clear strip for increased safety. It operates on a CR2032 watch-style battery, has a 50-hour burn time, and is removable for laundering. The main zipper has a reflective piped storm flap but it, and the pit-vents, could use a two-way zipper with pull-tabs to make unzipping friendlier when wearing a messenger bag.
The collar and hand pockets have a soft fabric lining, as well as the waterproof chest pocket with media port and taped zipper. There’s a large pocket on the back with a zippered storm flap, and two deep inside pockets. Mesh-lined pit-vents cooled my core, but I had trouble with the mesh becoming caught in the zipper and with locating the zipper while wearing thick gloves. The jacket is so warm that I just left the vents open most of the time anyway. A back vent would help with airflow.
This jacket plus my standard commuting layers was enough to keep me warm through winter and dry from rain in the heaviest precipitation that I encountered. Its breathability is comparable to other waterproof jackets I’ve ridden in, which means condensation from sweat does build up inside the jacket.
Endura’s Techpant Overtrousers breathe incredibly well and are waterproof. The pants fit loosely enough to wear casual pants underneath and are a good length. The 15″ long ankle zips, with storm flaps and Velcro, make slipping them over shoes and pants easier. The articulated knees and rear area have stretch panels to make pedaling in them comfortable, and the crotch area fabric doesn’t slip around on the saddle like other rain pants I’ve used.
The Techpants have waterproof, taped zippers covering the built-in mesh-lined pockets and the access pockets, which allow you to use the pockets of the pants underneath. A rear portion stretchy waistband and an included/removable belt keep the trousers from sagging.
The Luminite jacket comes in three colors: black, green, or yellow. —Shannon Mominee
Gore Bike Wear ALP-X Jacket and Pants
Primary fabric material: Nylon
Waterproofness rating: (not available)
Breathability rating: (not available)
Pit zips: No (front vent)
Hood? Sold separately
Back flap? Yes
Origin: Jacket – China, pants – Romania
Price: Jacket – $270, Pants – $210
My first impression of the ALP-X jacket and pants was that I was surprised at how light they felt in comparison to other rain gear I’ve used. I was pleased, but a little skeptical that such lightweight fabric would be durable enough for both cycling on and off-road.
Why so light? The ALP-X jacket and pants, are constructed of GORE-TEX Paclite Shell material that was designed to be light and packable on top of being waterproof, windproof and breathable. All seams are sealed with GORE-SEAM tape, and both jacket and pants are guaranteed by GORE to keep you dry.
The ALP-X jacket and pants have been durable and live up to the GORE-TEX claims of “No liquid from the outside will get to you on the inside.” I commuted and mountain biked through some soggy fall and winter weather in the ALP-X kit and remained relatively dry and comfortable, even after a few hours of pedaling. One morning I did notice a small amount of condensation build-up on the inside of the jacket after a particularly cold commute in the single digits, but I think that would be unavoidable in those conditions.
Being a hard shell fabric, Paclite doesn’t really stretch, so proper fit is important. Both the ALP-X jacket and pants have a slim fit, meaning there’s not a lot of extra fabric flapping around while riding. Some riders who deviate from “average” body proportions may have a problem with this, but for me, the fit was perfect.
Both the jacket and pants are designed specifically to fit the cyclist posture. The jacket has pre-shaped elbows and an ergonomically shaped collar that dips slightly in the back to fit the rider’s position. The pants have a high-cut back and pre-shaped knees.
One of the more interesting features of the jacket is a 1.5cm-wide mesh ventilation strip running down the right hand side of the front zipper. The ventilation strip and zipper are covered with a double flap secured with Velcro tabs. When things start to heat up, the flap can be held partially or fully open with two small hidden Velcro tabs. I really liked this feature because it was easy to open the vent with one hand while riding. Once open, the vent provides good air circulation without the jacket getting blown open like a sail.
Other noteworthy features of the jacket are a Velcro fastening for a hood (sold separately), a fold-away extra long tail, a zip Napoleon pocket in front and a zip pocket in the lower back that doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket.
The pants have a reinforced seat to resist wear, adjustable Velcro fasteners on the bottom of the leg and a stuff sackable-rear center pocket. Both the jacket and pant have reflective piping down the back and sides and reflective logos. The ALP-X jacket and pants waterproofness and breathability are guaranteed for the life of the garments with proper care. –Andy Bruno
Novara Stratos Jacket and Pants
Primary fabric material: 3-layer nylon, polyester, and polyurethane laminate
Waterproofness rating: (not available)
Breathability rating: (not available)
Pit zips: 16″
Back flap? Yes
Price: Jacket – $150 Pants – $100
Novara’s Stratos rain jacket is made with a three-layer polyurethane laminated nylon material. I tested the medium size Stratos jacket, which fit my 5’4″ average-build frame very comfortably. I had room to layer accordingly, without feeling like I was swimming in fabric, and the tailoring was flattering without being snug and binding. The stretch panels in the elbows and shoulders added extra maneuverability. Stretching for the handlebars pulled the sleeves up to my wrists, but they still overlapped my gloves. The Velcro stays on the cuffs made it easy to adjust and prevent any bare skin exposure as I rode, steered, waved to cars and braked. Perfect.
I am particularly fond of the soft fabric lining along the inner collar. The Stratos droptail protected my back; it snaps up out of the way when not in use and I could pull it down easily halfway through the ride. I’m not a fast rider or a particularly warm person, so I didn’t use the extra-long underarm vents much, but the double zippers have pull cords on them to make grabbing them easy. The final layer of defense against the weather includes a nice draw cord around the bottom of jacket, Velcro at the neck, and flaps on the front zipper with a bottom snap to secure it.
Most of the rain I pedaled through while testing varied from sprinkles to steady rainfall and I was more than satisfied with the jacket’s performance. On one particular 40 degree day, I rode my 45-minute commute in a lousy hard downpour that would have left Noah looking for dry wood. When I arrived, I found my arms were bone dry. Having negotiated several steep inclines I found the jacket’s breathability excellent.
The Stratos jacket has two pockets for storing items, a large rear pocket with a zipper and storm flap and a zippered breast pocket. The breast pocket did not have a storm flap, but the zipper was taped and the times I carried my cell phone in it, it suffered no harm from the rain.
On mid-20’s winter days the Stratos over a wool jersey made the same ride feel incredibly comfortable and warm. On the downhill blasts it cut the wind to almost nothing.
Novara also makes a Stratos pant using the same three-layer polyurethane laminated nylon material. Drawstring waist, knee to ankle zips with a fabric flap and reflective piping, and Velcro cuffs make it easy to slip on and off and adjust over your cycling shoes or hiking boots. The inner right leg at the ankle is reinforced to protect against damage from the chain. —Amanda Zimmerman
Race Face Aquanot Jacket and Pants
Primary fabric material: 2.5-ply nylon
Waterproofness rating: 15,000mm
Breathability rating: 7,500g
Pit zips: Yes, 12″
Back flap? Yes
Price: Jacket – $180 Pants – $150
In addition to bicycle components, Race Face has been producing a small line of casual and technical apparel inspired by British Columbia’s style and climate.
This second generation Aquanot top and bottom is made of 2.5 ply waterproof/breathable nylon fabric that is seam-sealed, and all zippers are of the waterproof variety. There is no internal lining in either the jacket or pants. Both have a fair amount of reflective piping, and the jacket has a reflective patch on its extended tail.
These garments were obviously designed by someone who has spent their fair share of time riding a bike in the rain and thinking about ways to improve the functionality of rain gear. The jacket fits loosely enough to layer fleece underneath in cold weather, but isn’t so big that it flaps around in the breeze. Underarm vents feature two-way waterproof zippers, which allowed me to fine tune the quantity and placement of ventilation with different bag setups. There are two hand warmer pockets on the front, and one large pass-through pocket across the rear of the jacket with vertical zippers—large enough to hold four cans of your favorite beverage. Both the right hand warmer and rear pockets have ports for the cords of your audio devices. Sleeve cuffs have a bit of elasticity in addition to hook and loop tabs to snug things up. The waist hem has an elastic draw cord, which can be snugged from either side of the jacket, and the collar is lined with soft, brushed polyester for comfort.
Pants are equally well though out, if a little simpler, with no pockets. Two snaps and a waterproof zipper keep them on, and the non-elastic waist has a hook and loop pull-tab on each side to allow for a decent amount of cookie-fueled belly expansion. Two-way zippers running three quarters of the length of the legs make these pants easy to put on and take off while wearing shoes or boots. Additionally, by allowing one to zip the leg opening down from the top, the Aquanot pant allows great flexibility in ventilation. Hook and loop pull-tabs on the leg openings keep the pants out of your drivetrain.
My Moss jacket and Slate pants are a pretty sharp combo. As with any waterproof rainwear, I had condensed sweat vapor inside the jacket, par for the course no matter how breathable a fabric is claimed to be. The outer fabric started to saturate after about 45 minutes of riding in a steady rain, but that didn’t seem to affect the waterproof-ness of either the pants or the jacket. I never found any leaks. The only issue I had was a weirdly-fitting crotch; the depth of which was too great, causing slight restriction of movement if I didn’t hike ’em up high, and then roll down the front half of the waistband. I have been assured that this issue has been corrected on future production. The Aquanot jacket is available in Black, Slate, and Moss, while the pants are available in Black or Slate. —Justin Steiner