Leave it to a company based in rainy Portland, Oregon, to make one of the best rain jackets. The aptly named Showers Pass brand is synonymous with quality foul-weather cycling gear.
I recently purchased and used the Double Century jacket, which retails for $125. You can spend up to $255 for a jacket.
A little about my background riding in the rain. I hate it. It’s uncomfortable and dangerous. However, as a dedicated commuter in Northern California, I expect rain. I also get caught in the rain on occasion during weekend rides, so a rain jacket is a necessity.
In all my years of riding, I’ve never owned a quality rain jacket. Of course, when I started riding, Gore-Tex and other “breathable” fabrics was unheard of. Over the years, breathable fabrics have gotten better and more affordable.
Is “breathable” real?
I’ve also been a big doubter of their worth. Do they really breathe? After riding in the rain on a recent weekend, I can say breathable fabrics work as advertised. It’s still not as comfortable as dry riding, but I don’t arrive home drenched in sweat from wearing a nylon-only jacket, and I’m fairly comfortable riding in the rain.
Features to look for in a rain jacket, all present in the Double Century:
Breathability. The Gore-Tex patent for breathable fabric (basically Teflon) expired in 1996, so now we have lots of breathable clothing. The fabric’s pores allow body perspiration to escape, but keep out rain. Many breathable fabrics now have three layers, with the breathable fabric protected in the middle by more durable nylon fabrics.
Ventilation. My jacket has a vent across the back, a front zipper, and two vertical zippered vents below the arm pits.
Draw strings and Velcro. Many rain jackets have a waist draw string. Velcro wrist straps can be adjusted to keep out the rain. The Double Century has Velcro attachments around the neck for a detachable hood.
Visibility. Look for reflective material on the arms and back.
Packability. How much can a jacket be compressed? It matters if you’re riding light and you will be removing your jacket.
Of course, rain jackets made for cycling have a longer taper in the back to keep off road splash.
Showers Pass has an interesting rating matrix for durability, ventilation, packability, breathability, and waterproofness. In looking at the ratings, the Club Pro Jacket ($100) appears to have the best value.
The main advantage of the Double Century over the Club Pro is its packability. It can be compressed enough to stuff into a jersey pocket, with difficulty.
I like the Showers Pass rain jacket, but does it make me want to go out and ride in the rain? Not.
Follow-up 2017: The jacket’s white inner lining started to peel. I do not recommend this jacket. My current jacket is a Cannondale. Much better.