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The Cycle Life

Why I Love the One Gore-Tex Active Bike Jacket

As light as a wind vest and as watertight as a drybag, this rain piece redefines "prepared" for cyclists

Rain, rain...do what you want, I'm prepared. (JJAG Media)

As light as a wind vest and as watertight as a drybag, this rain piece redefines "prepared" for cyclists

The only way rain would ever catch me out these days is if I left my jacket at home, which I will never do again, thanks to the One Gore-Tex Active Bike Jacket ($280). This shell is so light and packable that it eliminates any excuses for not bringing it along.

This fully taped and sealed raincoat is so featherweight that it almost defies comprehension. My size medium weighs just 108 grams, the same as the eight-millimeter hex wrench that I often use to change pedals. It’s even lighter than my naked iPhone 6. And with a little gumption and a good rubber band, it packs down as small as a lightweight mountain bike tube. Roll it up tightly, and the jacket sits like a nutrition bar in the palm of your hand—or, more important, in a jersey pocket. It even squeezes into a road seat pack or a KEG bottle kit, along with the minimum necessities of a tube, microtool, and air canister.

But surely something so tiny and light won’t keep you dry, right? Wrong. I have been using this piece for more than a year, and I have yet to find a storm that got through. It doesn’t rain a lot in the desert, but it rains (and hails, and sleets, and snows) unexpectedly and with vigor, and every time I pull this jacket on, I stay toasty and dry. The things that finally won me over entirely, however, were my most recent two weekend excursions out bikepacking and backpacking. Despite New Mexico’s reputation for being dry, late summer is monsoon season in the state, and both weekends brought constant, 24-hour rain. It wasn’t perfect for camping and hiking and biking, but even after hours and hours out in the drizzle, the One jacket had me covered.

I’ve also come to appreciate how this jacket changes waterproof-breathable technology. Most waterproof jackets, standard Gore-Tex included, place a layer of waterproof PTFE, the same as Teflon, between two layers of fabric. The PTFE, with pores smaller than rain but larger than water vapor, prevents precipitation from getting in but allows your sweat to off-vent through evaporation. The difficulty is that the glue layers can inhibit breathability, and when the DWR treatment on the outside fabric wears off, the whole thing saturates and bogs down. The One, however, uses Gore-Tex’s Active technology, which forgoes the other layer and lets the membrane stand on its own. This means there’s no chance the jacket will wet out, and your sweat and heat have an easier path out.

Gore will tell you that the One Active keeps out all moisture and breathes better than anything before it. That that may be true. As I already said, I’ve worn it in a lot of storms in the mountains and ended up dry. Still, in warm, steamy conditions or when going particularly hard, I got steamy on the inside. That’s the nature of waterproof-breathable fabrics. They aren’t perfect yet. But they’re improving.

Several other jackets use Active, including the Castelli Idro and the 7Mesh Oro. These jackets are similar in weight, packability, and features and will be excellent additions to any cyclist’s closet courtesy of that new Active technology. But I still prefer the Gore jacket because the tailoring is just right for me. And while it’s a completely minimalist piece, it still has some exceptional features: a drop tail that keeps you dry in the steep positions of the road bike, an elastic waist and collar that hold everything in place, a soft layer at the chin, reflective bits on the back, and a right front pocket.

A few days ago, I headed out at 8 a.m. to climb the Ski Santa Fe hill. On the way out the door, I nearly grabbed my favorite wind piece for the descent, the Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight, because it almost never rains in the morning in New Mexico. The Sportful is awesome, and I have carried it for years, but it’s not waterproof, whereas the One jacket is 30 grams heavier—that’s exactly one ounce—but it’s completely impervious to the elements. After hesitating, I grabbed the Gore piece. On the way down, when the clouds unexpectedly let loose, I stayed dry, warm, and happy.

Back at the house, I decided to pack the One jacket permanently into my bike-fix kit. From now on, there will be no question whether I bring a jacket—or which one.

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