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Here's the bottom-line: I'd like to return the bloody thing and get something better made and better designed for touring.
Here's why . . . .
After years of using non-cycling specific rain gear, I finally decided to buy a rain jacket just for biking. Several reviews and the information on the Showers Pass website convinced me to buy a Showers Pass Touring Jacket. Suits aside, I had never spent so much on much on a single piece of clothing, but Showers Pass sounded like they should know what they were doing and did it well:
Inspired by the challenging rides and weather of northern California and the Pacific Northwest, we have been combining top-notch fabrics with innovative, functional design elements since 1997. The result? Truly superior cycling outerwear.
When the jacket arrived, I was ecstatic. Deep pockets, extra long flap in the rear, room for another layer, great vents, and sturdy material. Riding in it in the cold and light rain was wonderful.
Then, within a week, part of one cuff fell off.
The stitching on the velcro-secured tab used to tighten the cuff came undone.
I called customer service. The person I chatted with didn't seem particularly surprised -- she didn't apologize or make sympathetic noises -- and I came away with the idea that pieces falling off their jackets might be a routine problem for Showers Pass. She said Showers Pass would pay for a local repair (rather nice, I thought) or repair it for me if I paid to ship it to them. (I sewed it up at home.)
Then the main zipper started misbehaving. Unless aligned just right, the zipper refuses to zip. Sometimes it simply refuses to budge for six or seven tries. Annoying but not a huge problem when one is getting ready to head out the door. A super pain in the ass when standing in a downpour on the side of the road.
Those problems cropped up during the first month.
Now that I have used the jacket for about a year and am using it on a tour, I realize there are a few more problems, design problems rather than workmanship.
The first is minor but weird. The jacket's cuffs are made of lycra. The cuffs are neither waterproof nor water resistant. So, once the cuffs are wet, they stay wet. They stay wet all day. They stay wet overnight. If there's a brief rain every day for a week, they stay wet for a week.
This is surprisingly irritating. (Gerty says in her inimitable fashion, "It must be like putting on a wet bra every morning.")
Second, and I know this is debatable, flapless pockets look slick, but without a flap, when I open a pocket in the rain, water instantly runs down the jacket and settles in the waterproof pockets. I'm not sure a flap would help, but it would be worth trying. Once there's water in the pockets, it's damnably hard to get the water out and the pockets dry again.
Finally, and this is the biggie. The arms of the jacket leak like crazy. I think the problem is that there are two main seams on the arms of the jacket and only one seam, the top one, is taped. I think the untaped seam leaks like crazy. (An alternate explanation that I have seen elsewhere, two reviews of the jacket and a couple reviews of some Showers Pass pants, is that the thinner, black material used in several places on the jacket, including the arms, simply isn't waterproof. Might be right: I have noticed that my sides, where there is another black panel get wet when we are moving slowly in a downpour, but it could be water coming in through sleeves or pockets, too.)
Whatever the cause, after some time in the rain, the jacket becomes more akin to a vest. Dry chest; sodden arms. In fact, the jacket is worse than a vest because when the rain pauses, one's arms don't dry, they just stay wet inside the jacket.
I can explain the lycra cuffs (a desire for a snug fit) and the absence of pocket flaps (better looks; perhaps more convenient; and I'm not sure flaps would help very much), but the untaped seam (or non-waterproof fabric) is inexplicable. I can only think they are saving some cash in manufacture.
I should also mention that the "hideaway drop down tail" that seemed like a good feature initially turned out to be useless to me. My bike has fenders. The jacket itself is cut long enough to cover any potential gap between jacket and pants without dropping the extra tail. The snap away tail only comes in useful for sitting on wet park benches. Other than that, the extra tail just adds weight (and sometimes catches on the bike seat.)
One more thing . . . I also have the detachable hood that goes with the jacket. It's waterproof with taped seams. The sides of the hood do not interfere with my side vision the way some non-cycle specific hoods do when I put them over my helmet. And the hood is great for keeping my ears warm in very cold weather -- best think that I have found.
But, the hood attaches to the jacket with three velcro patches. The patches on the jacket are simply too small to make attaching the hood easy or to keep the hood securely attached.
Once one fiddles around to get the hood attached and the jacket and hood on one's body and over a helmet, the hood generally stays on (as long as one doesn't tug too hard to close the hood at the neck -- more on that in a second.) But if you pack the jacket (or hang it on a hook by the hood or among other jackets on a hanger), the hood often comes lose. This means searching for the bloody thing in a pannier or on the floor or stuck between other coats in the closet and then going through the aggravating nonsense of matching up the velcro patches again. Just an unneeded pain that could be fixed by enlarging the velcro patches.
And there's a problem with the design of the hood, too. The hood is cut too tight at the neck. I wear a 15 or 15 and a half inch shirt -- that's skinny to normal size -- and when I close the hood around the neck of the jacket and hop on the bike, I feel vaguely choked. I end up riding with the neck of the hood only attached on a corner which mean it pops open from time to time.
UPDATE: After yet another day in the rain, I'm leaning toward the "leaky black fabric" explanation though the untaped seams don't help. The bottom line is that the jacket leaks in the rain and that sucks.
I bought a SP Club Pro jacket last summer and used it several times in the beginning of Portland’s rainy fall weather. At first, everything was fine. Then, little by little the jacket began to show signs of pesky behaviour: zipper got fussy; pit-zips weren’t really in a good place to manage one-handed on the bike; and water began seeping in near the zipper area.
About the time I was ready to call SP, the ajcket was stolen off a hook at a restaurant, and I had to buy another jacket to get me through the rest of the fall and winter.
This time, I bought a J & G “Waterproof-Breathable” rain jacket.
The fit is slightly more utilitarian-boxy (which fits fine over my chest and hips, and/or a wool sweater in coldest weather), has the longest pit-zips I’ve ever seen, and – get this – actually repels water. Reliably. Every time. The color is slightly louder than I like but the jacket works so well that I don’t care. I’ve worn the jacket all winter long and into a very wet, cold spring and it continued to work beautifully.
Best of all, it’s made in the USA.
In fact, when my SP Club pants began to fail (after less than a dozen rides!), I decided to skip calling SP, pony up and buy J & G’s “Waterproof-Breathable” rain pants to match. I anticipate a drier fall in 2011.
Thanks for the comment. I saw your notes on the Bike Portland site about J&G and checked out their website. Hadn’t heard of them before. I believe I’ll try some of their stuff.
Your comments on the SP zippers and pit zips are in accord with what I’ve found.
They mystery to me is why so many people say the SP Touring jacket is waterproof when it obviously is not. Perhaps, and I’m grasping at straw here, the often lighter rains of the NW don’t leak through so quickly.
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