much has been said regarding the design of the british jerseys for the olympics, perhaps less the styling, more the fact that the colour red seems to be almost conspicuous by its absence. the bulk of the torso is decorated predominantly in shades of blue and white with, as i recall (having been left out of the british team this year, i do not have a jersey to hand) a red collar. the discussion, perhaps bizarrely, has revolved less around the fact that red is all but missing, but more regarding its influence on performance.
it will become a very strange world if the uci or the ioc carry out further research to determine if certain hues could be considered doping in one form or another. current consternation, perhaps responsible for today's desultory perfromance by the british squad in the men's road race, is that the vagueness of rouge in the lycra has a slowing influence on performance. i noticed tom booned on a bright red specialized, who seemed no better placed than cavendish, but if i point out that the eventual winner, vinokourov, was also astride a red specialized, perhaps those more well-versed in colour science than i, have a point?
in the summers i spent working when a student, my unit manager apparently suffered from regular migraine headaches. in order to lessen the blow caused by this malady, he had the walls of his office painted a particularly unattractive shade of green, one that he said exerted a calming influence and allowed him to continue being a complete pain in the neck. if colour, therefore, has truly an effect outside its more normal sphere of influence, perhaps there are uninvestigated aspects of this feature that could be researched in our favour. for instance, am i any less likely to garner a soaking if wearing an orange or purple waterproof than perhaps grey or white?
with stunningly large sums of money provided as research grants to provide answers to the most obvious questions, i think it beholden upon thewashingmachinepost to find the appropriate form, fill it in, then sit back and await squillions that will allow me a wardrobe full of all colours of waterproof, ready and waiting to be scientifically graded according to colour. i think we all know the answer that will appear at the bottom of my research paper, but that seems not to have too much bearing on the success of one's application. after all, if £27 million can be found for what passed as olympic opening entertainment, a couple of hundred thousand for a comprehensive waterproof study seems like exceptional value for money.
waterproof jackets own a mystery all of their own, predominantly asserted by the descriptions provided by the manufacturers. while i am more than willing to be proved wrong on this, it is my understanding that only a garment featuring fully-taped seams can legally be described as waterproof. everything else can only be said to be water-resistant. this is a thoroughly confusing situation, for i'm sure the majority of us take more heed of the water repellency of the fabric from which the jacket is constructed rather than investigating the status of the seams.
i have worn many a waterproof in years past that has bobbled the water all across the sleeves, yet experienced modest or excessive seepage where it's all joined together. it is, therefore, legalese be damned, far better to find ourselves a jacket that proffers waterproofing to a depth of several metres with seams taped to within an inch of their lives. of course, there is then the not inconsiderable problem of breathability.
the latter is often the real bugbear when it comes to keeping dry. one of the world's foremost apparel providers brought their first waterproof to market advertising a degree of water repellency that exceeded the minimum standard by a factor of five, a claim that seemed substantially true. however, the breathability left a great deal to be desired, meaning that, while the rain remained on the outside most successfully, anything above modest effort on the bike resulted in a mobile sauna behind the fully taped zip.
the holy grail one would imagine.
which brings me to the garment under consideration; a showers pass double century ex; a breathable and fully waterproof jacket. the waterproof/breathability aspect is taken care of by cocona xcelerator fabric, a product containing so called active particles which attract humidity vapour and absorb body heat. but then, they would say that, wouldn't they?
as seems perennially the case, everytime a waterproof arrives at washingmachinepost cottage, the weather takes a turn for the better, rather belieing our average annual rainfall of around 1236mm. portland, oregon, where showers pass live, gives us a good run for our money, managing an average of just under 1000mm. endless offers of assistance from the girls in the office to throw buckets of water over me during the warm and dry period were strongly resisted. it's just not the way things are done. in fact, i firmly believe that the only way to properly test a waterproof jacket is to go out on the bike and attempt to get very wet.
my first endeavour to do so failed miserably. after heavy rain throughout the night, by the time breakfast was past and i was out and rolling, the rain had ameliorated to a fine drizzle. enough to make it seriously damp, but hardly the worst that could be expected. ironically several hours of very wet rain were experienced on a day when i hadn't expected to get particularly wet in the first place.
the ideal factor attaching to the double century jacket is the ability to roll it into a compact and bijou bundle and unceremoniously stuff it in a back pocket, exactly what i did when setting out this morning. it had been showery up until that point, but i made it only a kilometre or two before it seemed more prudent to remove the showers pass jacket from its pocket and put it on. and there it stayed for the next 55km as the rain got wetter and wetter. though i have no doubt many of my fellow islanders think me a mite strange when extending the length of a ride despite heavy rain, there's no way a satisfactory test can be undertaken if a ride is curtailed at the first sign of precipitation.
though it's a pleasant sensation to watch rain drops form baubles of water on the surface before harmlessly rolling off, the proof of the pudding is in what state the garments sheltering beneath are in when retiring for a coffee and a cheese and pickle sandwich (i did have a slice of st clements cake too, but we'll ignore that for the time being). in this case, my upper layer was bone dry. not only was there no sign of any rain having sneaked in, there was also no evidence of any breathability problem either. ed at showers pass said "My objective was to find a dryer to-the-skin waterproof /breathable fabric with improved MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) and better durability. The Cocona Xcelerator Fabric is fantastic and meets all the criteria I was targeting." he may just have achieved his wish.
it cannot have escaped your attention that the plasticky lining that informs most breathable waterproofs is rather clammy to the touch under extenuating circumstances, ie, bike-riding. in the majority of cases, breathability seems to be more than adequate until pedalling is introduced to the equation. despite there being two zippable flaps, one each side of the jacket to allow additional ventilation, i'd be lying if i said dessication was the order of the day, but it would be highly unrealistic to expect this to be the case after a couple of hours in the saddle. regular riding bereft of any jacket covering a cycle jersey in dry weather will inevitably result in some degree of perspiration invading the fabric of both baselayer and jersey. so why we should expect even a breathable jacket to keep us thoroughly dry internally is quite beyond me.
the jacket cuffs feature velcro straps to close the arms to unwarranted ingress of cold air; leaving these at their loosest setting noticeably aids the jacket's breathability. there is also a drawcord at the hem to alter how close the jacket fits. the drop tail provides a modicum of protection from rear wheel spray, a bonus in today's case, as my review bicycle had no guards/fenders fitted. though there are no rear pockets of any description, there is a taped vertically zipped pocket on the front left breast with an internal grommet for ipod headphones. the full-length front zip operates as a two-way closure, and it is suprisingly untaped, though the full length waterproof baffle behind it ought to take care of any suspect water ingress.
in view of its success as a breathable, waterproof jacket that can be stuffed in a back pocket, i fully intend to make this my first choice as i depart through the back door en route to my palatial bike shed in inclement weather. the folks at showers pass experience pretty much the same climate as that of the hebrides, though perhaps eased by a touch less wind. it is no coincidence that a jersey sent me by rapha's slate olson was accompanied by a card that mentioned "i suppose we are brethren in rain."
never a truer word was written.
the showers pass double century ex jacket is available in sizes ranging from small to xxl and in either orange/black or white/black. cost is $160 (£104). the jacket could likely be ordered in the uk through nrg4. a list of uk dealers can be found here showers pass uk dealers
saturday 28th july 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................