A dry February, besides increasing my despair at the prospect of even more Spartan water rationing come summer, fooled me into thinking that my ever-expanding collection of raingear was a waste of money. Well, no worries now! Since the beginning of March we’ve gotten over 11 inches of rain here in Contra Costa. Besides making garden plans more than pipe dreams, it’s been a great way to test some new raingear.
Showers Pass Spring Classic. My new BFF for jackets is the Showers Pass Spring Classic. This is Showers Pass’s new jacket for 2016 and it is significantly lighter and less “backpacky” than their previous high-end model, the Elite. Showers Pass happened to have a sale just before the rains restarted and mine arrived the day it began to rain in earnest. So it was immediately put into service. Like most of Showers Pass’s other jackets the Spring Classic is made of a three-layer breathable yet waterproof fabric similar to Gore-Tex or E-Vent; the seams are fully taped. There are two long, zippered side vents and a small zippered back neck vent. What distinguishes this jacket from SP’s others is the fit and weight: it’s definitely trim fitting and intended to be worn over just a base layer or at most a jersey and baselayer. It’s intended for “performance” riding and the fit is on-the-bike, i.e. the front seems slightly short until you sit on your bike and the arms are the correct length for being on the bars, i.e. they don’t pull up and expose your wrists. The cuffs are elastic and can be pulled over gloves so that water doesn’t pour into them. This jacket does not rustle in the wind and make a racket, which is nice.
It is noticeably light especially for a three-layer waterproof garment so much so that it’s doesn’t have that characteristic rustling sound when you move. The Spring Classic is over 100 grams lighter than SP’s previous top-of-the-line jacket, coming in around 300 grams. It’s also easy to roll up and stuff in a rear jersey pocket.
I use a SP Transit jacket when I’m on tour. In comparison the Transit is cut much, much bigger and allows for more clothing–and even a Camelbak–to be worn underneath. It’s equally waterproof but much heavier and impossible to stuff in a jersey pocket (hence the Camelbak!). The Spring Classic is a different beast altogether—it’s more portable with a race-cut fit for ease of donning and taking off yet it’s good enough to wear all day.
I’ve found this jacket to be completely waterproof regardless of the torrent. If water intrudes it will be either from it dripping down your neck or from the vents being open–actually I’ve not had either problem—and not from the fabric or seams.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve stayed dry. Like all three-layer waterproof garments the breathability of the Spring Classic can be overwhelmed when you’re working and sweating hard, and those vents suddenly become necessary. In the low 60s, this jacket is almost too warm for medium efforts and I find the vents must be fully open. Fortunately the design of the side vents is such that I’ve experienced little wetness intruding. When the temp is in the 50s the Spring Classic starts to feel more comfortable at effort; it’s too late in the year to try it in the 40s but I imagine that overwhelming its breathability would be very hard in that range.
It comes in black or red; obviously the black version hides filth more easily but the red is much more visible. The list cost is $289—ouch!—but I got it on sale.
Shower Pass CrossPoint Softshell Gloves. I’ve also been trying out Showers Pass new Crosspoint Softshell Waterproof gloves. I’ve said in the past that there is no such thing as a waterproof cycling glove. Showers Pass has proven me wrong—these gloves are indeed completely free of water intrusion. But the waterproof membrane, Outdry, doesn’t seem to breathe at all and my hands always have ended up soaking wet from sweat. Perhaps if the temperature were lower I wouldn’t have encountered this conundrum. But 50s and 60s are pretty typical temps in the Bay Area and I suspect they are really going to be used regularly on colder days or on days when I’m noodling along. If the temperature isn’t too cold I find it is more comfortable just to wear glove liners underneath regular cycling gloves and let the hands get soaked. The Crosspoint gloves cost $80. Not worth it in my experience.
Assos Sturmnuss Knickers. As for the lower body I have been wearing Assos’ expensive Sturmnuss knickers. These babies are $339 list, which is absurd regardless of how good they are. But they are good. For rainwear Assos subscribes to the belief that waterproof breathable membranes are not good enough for hard cycling—you will always end up sweating up a storm, so it’s better to be aim for increased breathability at the expense of sheer waterproofness. I have not had any water intrusion nor dampness caused by sweating. But they aren’t perfect. First, they are intended to go over your shorts or tights, which means that for changing conditions you have to stop to put them on or off. The leg holes are just big enough for me to get my clodhopper touring shoes with covers through them but your experience might differ. If you have to take off your booties to get these knickers on, then that would be a significant inconvenience. That’s why I usually prefer to use Rainlegs because they can be rolled up or down easily and quickly, and since I ride with fenders it doesn’t matter that they only cover the tops of my legs. Second, they are roomy around the thighs, which is good for unhindered movement, but they look like like MC Hammer’s harem pants only in black. Third, since they’re knickers they don’t cover your lower legs, which isn’t a problem per se since you don’t lose a lot of warmth in that area anyway. But the water pouring down your legs ends up going into your booties or shoe covers if you’re out in the rain for an extended time. That is the advantage of rain pants—they go over the tops of your shoes so water isn’t given the opportunity to compromise them. But knickers do keep you cooler and that reduces your sweating inside the knickers. You’ll have to decide whether you can live with wet shoes. That said, as with gloves I’ve never found a shoe cover or bootie that truly keeps my feet dry. It doesn’t matter what it’s made of—GoreTex, neoprene, PU—they all leak. They only differ in how long before they let water in. If you’re out in the rain for just an hour, no problem. But if you ride for two or more hours, your feet are going to get damp, period. With the Assos knickers you’ll probably find that your feet get wetter just a little faster. Still it’s better than if you didn’t have any rain pants at all; if you just had shorts then everything, feet included, would get wet very quickly.
Final verdict: The Showers Pass Spring Classic jacket is extraordinary and although not quite perfect (I wish it would breathe even more) it is an improvement on their previous jackets, which set the mark for rain jackets. But they are best for cool conditions. The Showers Pass Crosspoint gloves are mediocre. They are indeed waterproof but they don’t breathe so you end up having wet (but warm) hands. The Assos Sturmnuss rain knickers are almost the Holy Grail—waterproof, light, totally breathable—but are very expensive and are not easy to put on or take off if the weather changes.
For more information:
Showers Pass: www.showerspass.com