Q:

What’s the best raingear for bike commuting in Seattle?

What raingear would you suggest for bike commuting in rainy Seattle? I need something that will keep me dry but not slow me down this winter. Martha Bainbridge Island, Washington

Sep 14, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Gore Bike Wear Allround Plus Jacket

Allround Plus Jacket

A:

I’m on that boat moderately often—you’ve probably pedaled past me a time or two. To think you’ve been that close to greatness.

In any event, the first thing I would do is make sure you have raingear for your bike—that is to say, fenders. Because a lot more water comes up off your tires than can usually come down from the sky, fenders are essential. And be sure you add an “extension" of some sort to the rear fender. Then, if someone on a bike should follow you, they won’t get soaked from your rooster tail. People who join our wet-ride groups and don’t have fender extensions are dealt repeated blows to the head and shoulders with a Zefal bike pump. Planet Bike SpeedEZ Fenders ($40; www.planetbike.com) work fine and even have semi-adequate extensions built onto them.

As for clothing, that can be tricky as the weather where you and I live, Martha, while often wet, is rarely that chilly. The minute you put on a rainsuit and start climbing a hill, steam is apt to start coming out from around your neck. So, layer up with a light wicking base, add a medium-weight insulating layer if needed, and then a shell.

I think the best rainproof bike gear is made from the relatively new fabric called eVent, which is chemically similar to Gore-Tex but has some differences in how it’s manufactured. I have a predecessor to the Pearl Izumi Trifecta Jacket ($220; www.performancebike.com) and it works great. But shop fast, Pearl Izumi is dropping eVent from its product line, although some Trifectas are still on the market at Performance and elsewhere. The fact the Trifecta is being discontinued isn’t a knock on eVent; it just hasn’t caught on with the public, much as Gore’s estimable Activent didn’t catch on earlier this decade.

Another good choice would be the Gore Bike Wear Allround Plus Jacket ($199; www.gorebikewear.com), which uses Gore-Tex XCR as its waterproof-breathable layer. It’s a nice, light piece. Gore Bike Wear also makes a waterproof pant from lightweight Paclite that sells for $159.

An alternate is to try a soft shell jacket, which keeps you pretty dry while offering better dry-weather performance and better performance than a rainproof shell. Cloudveil’s Switchback Jacket ($195; www.cloudveil.com) uses superb Schoeller Dynamic fabric, which breathes much more liberally than a strict shell. Layer it over a light T-shirt and you’re all set in all but the hardest downpour.

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive section of women’s gear, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

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