The Gore Oxygen Jacket is a classic rain cape: waterproof as a sippy cup, tail longer than a cat’s, less insulated than the feelings of a poet and only slightly more breathable than Tupperware. You expect those things in a rain cape the way you expect any car you drive to go fast enough to achieve freeway speeds. Without that, what’s the point? And I’ll say that while I have claimed not to wear windbreakers, I will wear a rain cape, but only when the conditions would be described as duress.
What I didn’t expect was that the $249.99 Oxygen jacket would fit better than my Assos ClimaJet rain cape. Virtually nothing ever fits better than anything I have from Assos. The best fitting bibs, jersey and gloves I’ve ever worn were all conceived and manufactured in Switzerland. Same for my favorite long-sleeve jersey.
But the Oxygen rain cape? The difference in fit between this and the ClimaJet is a matter of just slightly more deliberate and careful cut in a few key dimensions. Remarkably, fit of the sleeves and torso is a touch snugger on the Oxygen. The sleeves are also longer on the Oxygen and cover a portion of my hand, instead of just ending at my wrist. Plus, there are zippers at the wrist so that you can pull the jacket on and then add your long-finger gloves afterward. By zipping the jacket down over the end of the glove, your hands are likely to stay a bit drier, at least as dry as the glove will permit. What you won’t have to suffer is rain running down the sleeve and then into the glove thanks to the gap between the cuff of the sleeve and the beginning of the glove.
The tail of the jacket is both wider and longer. It actually envelopes my rather substantial trunk. Keeping the tail in place is gripper elastic, something lacking on the ClimaJet. This is significant because while no one without fenders will finish a ride with a dry butt, the difference between a good tail on a jacket and a bad one is whether your chamois is damp or a dripping sponge. Dripping sponge is bueno-free.
I need to acknowledge that in comparing the Oxygen to the ClimaJet, I’m almost playing a bit of dirty pool. Assos has replaced the ClimaJet with the ClimaSchutz, so I’m comparing a current jacket to a not current jacket. However, I’m doing this for two good reasons. First, I haven’t tried the ClimaSchutz, so there’s that. Second, the ClimaJet was absolutely the best rain cape I’d ever used until the Oxygen came down the pike.
On a rainy day that also happened to be cold, the ClimaJet would be better because it would allow me to layer more beneath it. Despite the lack of mesh panels for ventilation (like the ClimaJet), the Oxygen was every bit as breathable, presumably because of the Gore-Tex Active Shell fabric it is cut from. Gore claims it feels great against your skin, but I’d still prefer at least a light layer of wool or poly between me and this thing; certainly, that’s how I rode it. However, unlike other lightweight, stuff-in-your-pocket rain capes, this unit is a bit bulky for pocket duty. This is the sort of piece that you’re going to leave home wearing, with the likely expectation that you’ll have it on for the whole of the ride. It’s not impossible, mind you, but if you’re looking for something that wads up like a banned plastic grocery bag, this ain’t it. Ooh, I should also mention that the zipper is more watertight than some wine corks.
My only beef with this thing is that while it comes in eight colors (yay!), I was given the all-black version. What the hell? Going ninja couture on a rainy day makes as much sense as chumming for sharks from a canoe. Any of the other color ways seems a much better idea, even the white, which will probably be tan/gray permanently by the end of the first ride. It comes in five sizes: S, M, L, XL and XXL; I wear the medium.
It’s pieces like this that make me wonder why the hell Gore’s reputation for cycling apparel isn’t better. They’ve done the work. Now they deserve some credit.
This year, the Interbike show has moved to a new venue. Even though it’s still all the same (most of the same) companies inside, everyone I spoke to admitted that they were getting lost in the show and often walking in the wrong direction. It’s definitely a first-world problem, but until I was lead through the door as the show closed this evening, I couldn’t have told you which way was north, even with a compass and a map.
There are a lot of clothing manufacturers that have significant history in the cycling industry. DeMarchi has been around since Italy’s reconstruction after the Second World War. While there have been some companies doing faux replicas of old jerseys, DeMarchi is the only company still in existence that was doing the high-end embroidered wool way back when. They’ve brought that quality of work back. They are featuring two lines that give people a chance to have that classic work. The Bottecchia jersey pictured above features the classic tube construction with set-in sleeves, hand embroidery and mother-of-pearl buttons. And at $250, they are undercharging for it.
The jersey above is a cotton piece that blends the look of the collared jersey with an easy to care for cotton fabric. It’s a piece I think I’d be more likely to wear with jeans than on the bike.
The DeMarchi family owns Cytech, the makers of the elastic interface chamois. The bibs featured above and below incorporate a proprietary pad that uses four layers of foam sandwiched together, to offer a chamois that presents what I’m told is an unusual degree of comfort for days that may go longer than six horus.
The bibs come in several colors and all of them feature a very breathable mesh to keep them dry on long days.
Gore apparel continues to surprise and impress me because of how well-thought-out so many of their products are. This jersey began its life as a kind of backpack. The white ‘V’ of fabric is cut from a material that features very little stretch. The idea was that those panels might function as straps to keep the jersey pockets from sagging down like a skirt if you loaded them up. While the jersey wasn’t a great fit for the mannequin, it was obvious that the design kept the overstuffed pockets from sagging to the floor.
Same jersey, different color way, from the front.
This short sleeve jersey from Gore features Windstopper for spring and fall conditions, or even winter conditions in more temperate places when combined with Gore’s Windstopper arm warmers.
The Lake CX237 had a really clean, classic look. It featured an upper cut from genuine leather and used a double BOA closure system. The amazing thing was that as I was admiring how handsome this shoe is, I was told it wasn’t the top of the line.
I’m fortunate not to need a winter shoe, but this Lake winter shoe looks like a rather instant life-improvment scheme.
Chrome was showing this Merino wool pullover. It had a high collar, a great half zipper and thumb loops to keep the sleeves down as you ride. It reminded me of cotton pullovers I have in that it was super soft and didn’t attract attention, but this could be a stunningly versatile top in a rider’s wardrobe.
Chrome is offering a new bag perfect for racers. The netting on the outside is ideal for separating dirty clothes from clean ones and for carrying your helmet.
Sugoi was showing a new shell for rainy conditions. They had a little demonstration set up to show the difference between most waterproof fabrics and the material used in this piece. They had a pump bulb attached to hose to allow you to try to push air through the membrane of their jacket and another popular waterproof material.
This shot shows air bumbles pushing right through the jacket, but when you weren’t pumping air through, impressively, the water volume wasn’t decreasing from water draining through the jacket. I’ll definitely be reviewing this.
Brevity isn’t our usual approach, but I just want to get you an introduction to some of the things we’ve seen that impressed us. This is, to some degree, simply a heads-up on many items I’m interested to review next year. By no means is this all I saw, but it’s all I have time to write about before heading back to the show.