By Adam Newman
Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Vest – $80
Ah yes, the cycling vest, or gilet if you’re so inclined. It’s an exceedingly useful but often overlooked bit of kit. Rarely does the ambient temperature or your body remain static throughout a ride, so on goes the jacket, off goes the jacket, on goes the jacket, etc. A vest like this is perfect for the cruise down to the start of the group ride, the chilly descent down the backside of the mountain or the ride home after a post-ride beer.
I like this version because it’s a little nicer looking than the all-one-color style you usually see. Since so many of the times I’m wearing a vest are that annoying border temperature between warm and cold I appreciate the vented back panel and big back pocket to stuff my hat or gloves into as things warm up. Unzipped you’d hardly notice it’s there. Plus it packs into itself so it’s always handy when you need it.
There’s nothing really mind blowing about this version of the classic cycling vest, but it certainly checks all my boxes.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero WXB Jacket – $165
Pearl Izumi was one of the first brands to offer high-vis cycling apparel and considering how sketched out I am riding on the roads these days, I’m glad it’s back in style.
I can’t even tell you how bright this jacket is. There’s no way to capture its retina-searing pinkness in a photograph. Pearl Izumi says its molecules actually vibrate in sunlight. I have no idea if that’s true but staring at it too long might result in your brain jiggling.
Part of Pearl Izumi’s BioViz line—read more about BioViz in our story on page 40—this jacket isn’t just bright, it’s practical too. A thin, waterproof layer, it’s perfect for keeping in your jersey pocket just in case. The long tail and extra long sleeves mean it will keep you covered and won’t slow you down. Because of its slim fit I wasn’t able to layer it over a heavy sweater or anything—this is for go-fast rides only. It also doesn’t offer much in the way of features—there’s no pockets or anything—but sometimes less is more.
Like many true waterproof jackets, the temperature I’d ride this at is lower than you might expect, as it breathes, but not super well. Be careful when temperatures rise as you’ll end up soaked from the inside in your own sweat.
This jacket is also available in Screaming Green, and in a short-sleeve version. Dunno how that works. I’d also love to see this color make its way onto a more relaxed-cut version for layering over street clothes for commuting.
There is a coming revolution in cycling apparel, not just in high-visibility colors (which are oh-so-hot right now) but in reflective garments. The technical capabilities to print on or impregnate materials with reflective details has taken huge leaps in the last few years, and it’s leading to better products and safer cycling.
A lot of companies tout their jackets, bags, hats or shoes with reflective stitching or other “hits,” but few can come close to the new Zap jacket from Sugoi, which has thousands of micro glass beads inserted into the shell to make the entire jacket pop under light. This Pixel fabric has every inch of it covered with small, reflective dots that look like any sort of printed pattern during the day, but glow intensely under a streetlight or when reflecting a car’s headlights.
The Zap is built around Sugoi’s semi-fit, which is athletic enough for riding but certainly not a race fit. I found my normal size was plenty roomy enough to wear over a bulky sweater for commuting—the perfect application for a reflective jacket. I was impressed with its water protection abilities as well, and the drop tail is unusually long to keep your rear dry.
While it may seem like a simple jacket, the reflectivity has made it absolutely my favorite lightweight wind and rain shell. I feel safer riding in the city knowing that I’m glowing like a light bulb, while I can still feel comfortable walking into a coffee shop without looking like I just stepped out the movie Tron.
Sugoi has launched a whole line of Zap products, including gloves, hats, booties, knickers and other accessories. The Zap jacket is available in both men’s and women’s versions too. The men’s version we tested comes in red, black or high-vis yellow for $150.
Check out the Zap jacket in action here:Tweet Print
Showers Pass has been producing rainwear for cyclists since 1997. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, they know a thing or two about staying comfortable in foul weather. New for 2015 are the Metro Jacket and Rogue Pant.
Photos by Emily Walley
Metro Jacket – $199
The Metro Jacket is an Artex 2.5-layer hardshell that’s lightweight and designed to pack a lot of performance on the bike while not looking too bike-geeky off the bike. For me, the fit is pretty trim; I’d say it runs a bit smaller than the sizing chart suggests. Definitely size up if you’d like to have room for insulating layers underneath, or if you’re between sizes. On the bright side, sleeve length is generous.
Two large vents take the place of traditional hand warmer pockets to provide abundant ventilation. Teamed with the “exhaust pipe” zippered vent at the base of the neck on the back of the jacket, there is quite a bit of torso airflow and adjustability. Unfortunately, the exhaust vent’s effectiveness decreases dramatically when wearing a backpack. Large, adjustable cuffs help tailor fit and adjust airflow through the arms, but I would still love to see some sort of underarm ventilation on this jacket as torso ventilation surpases that of the arms.
Waterproofness is excellent with no sign of the face fabric wetting through, and I’ll give the Metro decent marks for breathability as well—for a hardshell. There’s no way around it; if you’re operating at high exertion levels you will be sweaty under even the most “breathable” of hardshells.
Initially, I was a little confused by the Metro Jacket. The trim fit, elastic bottom hem, ventilation arrange and subsequent lack of handwarmer pockets point to the performance end of the spectrum. On the other hand, the subtle color palette and the name Metro imply a certain level of street cred. For me, the end result is a damn fine jacket that I’ll use mostly in performance settings; longer, more dedicated rides where weather protection and ventilation take top priority, both on and off road. For casual spins to the pub on a damp evening, I’d be more likely to spring for the similarly priced softshell Amsterdam Jacket instead.
Rogue Pant – $99
The Rogue Pant is a casual looking softshell trouser made with water resistant stretch fabric and finished with a DWR treatment to further enhance moisture resistance. The tightly woven face of the fabric blocks most of the breeze and a good bit of moisture, while a soft terry interior feels great next to skin. The Rogue pants are styled and fit like a pair of relaxed fit jeans, but offer a gusseted crotch to reduce seam irritation and facilitate movement on the bike. Fit seems to run a little on the large size. I’m normally a 33- to 34-inch waist and the 32-inch Rogue pant fit me comfortably. If you’re between sizes, you should be able step down a size without issue.
Subtle reflective cues increase visibility at night, including reflective chevrons printed inside the bottom of both pant legs that are revealed when you roll up the legs. A buttoned cinch strap is hidden in the hem of the pants to keep them out of your chainrings and to secure the pants when rolled up. There’s a hidden zippered pocket inside the right back pocket for secure storage, and a buttoned utility hook to fasten keys or the like to one of the right-hand belt loops. The only gripe I can muster revolves around the shallow front pockets. They’re a little small for today’s larger smartphones; a little more depth would increase security.
I’ve been looking for a pair of softshell pants like these for a while now because they’re so versatile through the fall, winter and spring. Wear them alone for cool days or layer underneath for comfort in much colder temps. The Rogue Pant’s combo of ample wind resistance and stellar breathability make for an incredibly comfortable pair of pants. I’ve worn them for everything from mountain biking, to rainy commutes home from work, to going out for a date-night drink. There are the rare product that delivers a casual aesthetic to blend in with most any situation, but offer the technical chops to keep you comfy in most any situation short of a heavy, sustained rain—they’re not designed to be waterproof after all. These pants are worth every penny of the $99 asking price. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.