Friday Group Ride #404

Friday Group Ride #404

They say in places where the weather is truly seasonal, that there is nothing wrong with the weather itself, but you may have an issue with your jacket, which is to say, yes, it’s cold/rainy/windy as it always is, but you’ll be fine if you’re wearing the right stuff. I have lived in New England for nearly 30 years now, so it’s odd, to say the least, that I don’t have a light cycling jacket that I like.

I have a great super-light, packable rain jacket, made by Mavic. It is translucent and really a last resort if real weather happens. I have a great thin, fleece-lined jacket with jersey-style pockets, made by Capo. It’s great when it’s not raining, and it’s cold, but not too cold. I have an array of warmer jackets from Cadence, and Panache, and Pearl Izumi, stuff I was given to review or simply given, and so I’m in good shape when the mercury drops below freezing.

But I just don’t have that one “cool” weather, wind-resistant top layer that I find myself wanting pretty much all the time right now.

Before you flood me with suggestions (and I do want suggestions), let me tell you what I care about, and what I don’t. First, I like simple things. So one color, probably black or gray or white or green, is best. I don’t like garish logos. I don’t need this jacket to have pockets. I don’t mind if it flaps a little in the wind. It doesn’t need to be waterproof, but it ought not be crocheted either. I am 5’9″ and 160lbs, so tall, thin, race-cut stuff doesn’t work so well for me. Money is not an object, not because I have a lot, but more because I like to buy one thing and use it a lot. When I get this jacket, I will likely jettison two or three others.

So, this week’s Group Ride asks, what everyday, light cycling jacket should I get? And even if what you like doesn’t work for me, what do you wear and why do you like it? Be sure to include some information about your body shape because, in my experience, what jacket wears well often depends on what body-type it was tailored for.

Image: Cafe du Cycliste Madeleine

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  1. Winky

    My only real concern is that it must be light enough to easily go in a jersey pocket once I no-longer need it. I don’t actually care if it is really waterproof or not. The idea is just to have a warmer option that I can stow later. I have a flyweight PI translucent jacket that has been great. It packs down smaller than a pair of arm-warmers. I wear it under my gilet to minimize parachuting/ballooning, and when it gets too sweaty I can easily stow it. It’s great for descents, and can be as warm as I like, depending on base-layers. I’ve had/have heavier jackets but never use them because I’m stuck with them, even once I start to overheat. I just hate riding in a personal sauna.

    My real suggestion/secret for cool/cold/wet is Helly Hansen synthetic LS base layers. They don’t get super soggy, are warm even when wet, allow breeze through to cool you after a climb, and dry quickly once the rain lets up. And the arms are LONG ENOUGH for cycling. I can’t emphasize this enough. Basically, no-one else makes arms long enough, not Icebreaker, not Rapha, no-one. I wear one under a SS jersey for all my winter riding. I hate arm-warmers because of the gap issue, and if I get ones that even half stay up, they are just way too short.

  2. AG

    This time of year I put on my Bellwether feather-light wind jacket. I think it is an older version of their Velocity Ultralight. No pockets (love that) and a shorter backside. It is just long enough in the back for proper bike fit but it doesn’t hang like a potato sack walking around. I am 5′-9″ tall and 160 pounds (hmm…) and a medium fits me great and is snug enough not to flap around. Mine is white (not translucent) which is great for pre-dawn darkness. I’m not sure they still make the white one. It is perfect to stop the wind, but it’s no rain jacket. With a thin long sleeve base layer and a long sleeve jersey (for the pockets) it is perfect to about 38 degrees, colder with a more substantial base layer. Can you tell I like my jacket?

  3. Steve Barner

    It sounds like what Winky described is what Robot already has. I also have one of those Mavic translucent jackets, and while it can be a blessing when the temperature dips and gets damp, it’s not fun to have all that flapping.

    I’d suggest looking for a crosscountry ski shell. I have a Swix shell that I’ve had for many years that is almost exactly what Robot said he’s looking for. I don’t use it much for riding, though, as I value rear pockets a bit more. I’ve collected quite a few cycling jackets over the years, and I can pretty much fine tune what I wear in under 10 degree increments, but it’s rare that I would wear a jacket in the conditions Robot describes. I’d more likely wear a long sleeve jersey and a vest–perhaps an insulated one. I do have an unlined Mavic jacket that has removable sleeves and which is a great transitional piece. It’s especially fine for commuting, when it might be 40 degrees in the morning, but in the 50s on the way home. The jacket is an interesting shade of orange–tasteful and quite visible, without screaming “cyclist!” Its zipper swings to one side near the top to keep cold air that seeps through it away from your windpipe.

    I realize that many people consider color a fashion choice, but I think it’s just plain foolish for cyclists to wear black. You don’t have to wear garish colors, like neon yellow, and run your flasher during the day, but black is just asking for trouble. It’s hard enough to get drivers to notice you–I can’t understand why so many riders try to become invisible. I challenge you to name any other group of people who are likely to be out in the road for an extended period of time (construction workers, emergency personnel, police officers, etc.) who think wearing dark colors is a good plan. Personally, I think it’s a shame that there are so few yellow helmets available, let alone tasteful ones.

  4. Aar

    I suggest the Gore C7 Gore Tex Active Jacket with a secondary nod to the Gore C5 Gore Tex Shakedry 1985 Viz Jacket. The C7 seems to be the successor to the Gore Oxygen jacket I used this year. I found that Oxygen jacket to be my most versatile piece this winter. With the right layers, I used it in lower temps than my Gore Softshell jacket and by openin the zip up to cool windy days. Yes, they’re waterproof. That also by definition means they’re windproof.

    Gore Tex can be your own personal steam room. To counter this the C7 has nicely positioned vent zips both on the back to let sweat vapor out and from wrist to elbow to let’s cool, dry air in. The C5 Shakedry uses The most breathable GoreTex ever. While it’s arguably still not as breathable nor as nice in hand as eVent, it’s close and it’s lighter.

    Gore is never going to set the style world ablaze and almost all of their products come in both stealth and “hey, I’m here” color variations. I live in a no fault state where cyclists have won cases but been awarded nothing due to wearing stealth clothing. So, I’m all about being seen on the bike!

    I find the key to making a light to mid weight jacket work is your arsenal of layers. I switched to wool this season and am not inclined to go back to synthetic anytime soon. It just regulates better. I rearely ride without a sleeveless wool mesh baselayer. Between that and my jacket I have my choice of short or long sleeve lightweight wool as well as long sleeve mid-weight 3/4 zip wool or any combination thereof.

    Since you asked, I’m 5’11. When I bought the size large Gore Oxygen jacket in November I was 235 lbs and it was marginally tight everywhere but the sleeves were the right length. Now, at 205 lbs, it’s too big everywhere and flapping in the wind the entire time I’m riding. My Specialized Tarmac has a 130 stem, not due to a long torso but to hip and spine flexibility. The front of the Oxygen jacket is not so long as to bunch at the waist nor short enough that I have a gap there. If I have any gripes with it, I’d say the back is too long and so are the sleeves. However, Both are only too long when not riding. They’re about perfect when flat backed in the drops and not obtrusive when sitting up hands on hoods.

    I will need a smaller lightweight jacket in the fall and, assuming the Gore line stays the same, I’ll chose between these 2 jackets. I think it should be easy to find the C7 (Oxygen) on sale but Gore loves those Shakedry products and they’re rarely on sale. Also, despite the “Viz” in the name, the C5 Shakedry is just too stealth for a state with no fault laws.

    I hope that touches upon everything you asked (and more), Robot. Good luck with your product selection.

  5. Kayce

    The Sportful Hotpack line is really great, its packability is 2nd to none. And it holds temp very well. Sounds like the hotpack 6 would be better for you than the ultralight.

  6. ken ashton

    Jackets are hard to get right, I think the best one I ever had was an old REI. The elastic from the cuffs gave up on the grip from rolling the sleeves up. These past few years its been a long sleeve jersey and a wind vest. Castlli(old club’s kit), Verge(new club’s kit). That way it all depends in the base layer.

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