Mountain bikingany bicycling, reallyposes what I regard as maybe the toughest test for high-performance outdoor wear. Chances are you arent out when its below freezing, so its easy to overheat when cranking uphill. But it might be cool and wet, so long downhills can chill you in a hurry.
My principle is to keep biking rainwear as light and breathable as possible, even at the expense of complete moisture protection. That suggests something made from the new-generation Windstopper N2S (next to skin) fabric that Gore is pushing. Its not in widespread use, but Marmot has done an interesting piece with its Evolution Jacket ($150; marmot.com), a very clean, close-fitting jacket thats meant to be worn with not much more than a T-shirt underneath.
Here I must briefly lament Gore Activent, a high-performance fabric developed in the late 1990s that never found a market. W.L. Gore, please bring back Activent, and let gear designers do whatever they want with it, such as skipping the seam-taping.
Another Gore product, PacLite, has promise in this arena as well because its, wait for it, light. The Gore Bike Wear Countdown Jacket ($189; performancebike.com) has a trim, hoodless design with a long back for full coverage when cycling.
I also like anything made with eVent, a material thats chemically similar to Gore-Tex but has a different molecular composition or something like that. It breathes wonderfully well and is, for all intents and purposes, waterproof. Pearl Izumis discontinued Channel Jacket ($200) used it, and still can be found at some online retailers (such as performancebike.com). Westcombs Chimera Jacket ($379; westcomb.com) is pricey and really designed more for mountaineering, but it uses eVent and is an excellent all-purpose jacket.
Check out Outside's picks for Gear of the Year and 400-plus gear reviews in the 2007 Summer Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now.