Gear Shed

Q:

What’s the best rain gear for mountain biking?

I have the hardest time regulating my temperature when mountain biking in the rain. What should I wear? Do I even bother with a rain jacket? Michael Richmond, Virginia

Evolution Jacket     Photo: courtesy, Marmot

Marmot Evolution Jacket

Evolution Jacket

A:Mountain biking—any bicycling, really—poses what I regard as maybe the toughest test for high-performance outdoor wear. Chances are you aren’t out when it’s below freezing, so it’s 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. It’s not in widespread use, but Marmot has done an interesting piece with its Evolution Jacket ($150; marmot.com), a very clean, close-fitting jacket that’s 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 it’s, 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 that’s 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 Izumi’s discontinued Channel Jacket ($200) used it, and still can be found at some online retailers (such as performancebike.com). Westcomb’s Chimera Jacket ($379; westcomb.com) is pricey and really designed more for mountaineering, but it uses eVent and is an excellent all-purpose jacket.

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