Designed in the heart of Scotland — a country that isn’t exactly renowned for its favourable climes — the Endura Pro SL Shell is a super-high-quality and excellent performing jacket for the discerning roadie.
At £165/$220, the jacket is still obviously a high-ticket purchase, but presents great value for money when compared to jackets of a similar quality.
And to top it off, it even comes in a classy shade of navy — what’s not to love?
7Mesh is a small brand based in Canada’s North Shore and was founded by former Arc’teryx team members — and their experience with technical fabrics shows with the Oro.
Made using Gore-Tex’s Active with Shakedry technology fabric, instead of the normal three-layer laminated fabric, the waterproof membrane occupies the outermost layer.
In addition to welded raw-hem edges, a laminated zipper and taped seams, the jacket also sees rear flaps that allow for easy access to pockets. It also has a drop tail and reflective strip on the bottom edge.
Unfortunately, the jacket’s collar is a bit short and the zipper isn’t so easy to use while riding.
Also made from Gore’s Active with Shakedry fabric, Castelli’s Idro is tight fitting and weighs 125g, size Large.
With red accents, reflective stripes and Castelli’s trademark Scorpion logo it’s great looking, though we’re hoping Gore will start making the Active fabric in a colour that’s not black.
The wrist closures are tight fitting, which limits flapping, but also makes getting your hand out of the sleeve precarious. It’s also got a tall fitted collar and a chunky YKK zip with a pull tab that’s easy to use on the bike.
Exceptional eVent fabric is waterproof and breathable
Great feel — more like a light windproof garment than heavy waterproof jacket
Pockets are an unusual but welcome addition
The Castelli Tempesta Race Jacket is a protective, foul-weather shell that breathes so well you can race in it.
It’s made with eVent fabric, Castelli’s answer to Gore-Tex, and it’s exceptional. Breathability in a fully waterproof layer is no easy trick to pull off, and the Tempesta is right on par with Gore-Tex’s best offerings. Also, the light, silky fabric feels more like a windproof softshell than a stiff, waterproof hardshell.
The rear flap extends below the pockets and is welcome when the rain is pouring. Reflective, elastic seams ring the bottom of the extension and the two large, mesh-bottom pockets.
The presence of pockets on a rain jacket struck us as odd at first, but you’ll appreciate the extra storage and the ease of access they provide when the alternative is removing your jacket or searching through a tightly packed saddle bag.
Gore’s One jacket and its innovative Shakedry technology shook up the cycling jacket market when it launched a few years ago.
At an insanely low 109g in a size large, the jacket is hardly noticeable when on. This barely there effect is compounded by the jacket’s excellent breathability.
With no fabric on the inside of the jacket, there’s no thermal value apart from wind protection, so pairing it with suitable clothing is key. Thankfully, the cut – which is just about generous enough – makes it easy to layer up underneath.
If the tail was a touch longer with a bit of gripper, and perhaps the wrists were easier to get on and off, we reckon this would be the perfect rain jacket for road riding.
Coming from Castelli’s sister company Sportful is the Fiandare WS LRR Jacket SS.
While the name is definitely a mouthful, it’s made using Gore’s Windstopper Light Rain Resistant fabric, making it a bit lighter weight than the Gabba and seeing a more relaxed cut too.
Suggested for temperatures between 5–15°C, the Sportful jacket has three rear pockets complete with drainage holes, a silicone gripper along the bottom hem, brushed interior, YKK waterproof zipper and an extra high collar.
Available in both short- and long-sleeve versions, the Gabba (now called the Perfetto) was the one that started the jerket craze.
In fact, so much of the pro peloton started using them as a joke that the brand began shipping them with a Sharpie so you too could black out the logos.
Made from Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric, the Gabba is meant to be worn as a jersey instead of a temporary shell. It has three pockets and fits close to the skin. Because of this, it doesn’t pack down well and is difficult to fit in your pockets.
The thin soft-shell material wicks well even when you’re hammering along, and two big zipped vents help control core temperature.
It’s completely windproof and largely water repellent, with the coating shrugging off showers, and long sleeves and a dropped tail mean excellent coverage.
What to look for in a waterproof jacket for cycling
A waterproof jacket used to mean a hard-shell garment made from a fabric that felt more like plastic. However, we’re now seeing the rise of the ‘jerket’ or rain jersey. These are softshell tops that feel like a jersey but use a waterproof membrane or DWR treatment to repel precipitation.
Things would be easier if it were simply a matter of keeping the rain out, but pedalling makes you hot and sweaty, and the heat and moisture you generate needs an escape route.
The trouble is, the properties that allow a waterproof jacket to keep the rain off also make it difficult to deal with the damp building up on the inside.
The ideal solution, therefore, is a cycling jacket that combines being waterproof with breathability, which is difficult, but by no means impossible. Some garments manage it by using advanced materials; others solve the problem by incorporating vents into their designs.
Aside from being waterproof and breathable, it’s worth seeking out a jacket that packs down into a tiny package that’s easy to stow. Better still, if the rain stops, you can take it off and put it away rather than keep wearing it long after it’s done its job.
How waterproof fabrics work
Waterproof fabrics are either multi-layer laminate fabrics or regular woven fabrics that get a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment designed to keep water out. While both achieve the same goal, they work slightly differently.
Durable Water Repellent or DWR is your wet weather gear’s first line of defence. It’s not a laminate or coating but a treatment applied to the fabric’s outer surface. All waterproof garments, except those where the membrane is the outermost surface, receive a DWR finish.
The treatment does not inhibit breathability because it doesn’t fill the gaps between the fibres, instead it bonds the individual fibres to help the garment shed water and prevent saturation.
Refreshing and retreating a garment is quite simple and there are plenty of spray on or wash in options available
DWR treatments shed water because they increase the contact angle of moisture on a fabric by forcing a water droplet to maintain its surface tension; so when you see water beading on a fabric, the DWR is hard at work.
When the DWR is applied to a fabric it creates micropegs or microspikes that protrude from the fibres and prevent water from spreading out, forcing it to form beads that slide off the fabric without seeping in.
However, DWR treatments wear off over time, accelerated by abrasions and some detergents. When this happens, the fabric no longer causes water to bead and will become saturated and heavy.
GoreTex, eVent and Windstopper membranes all use a similar constructionCourtesy
Most waterproof breathable fabrics are made from laminate materials, which usually consist of an inner fabric optimised for wicking moisture, a waterproof membrane, and an outer face fabric with a DWR treatment.
Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, Polartec and eVent are all internal membranes that are sandwiched between two other materials — usually something abrasion resistant on the outside, with a soft liner on the inside. Even the Castelli Gabba Jersey is made using a Windstopper laminate fabric.
The reason these lamination techniques allow for water repellent characteristics is that the inner membranes are full of holes. This may seem counterintuitive, but a Gore-Tex membrane boasts nine billion pores, each 1µm — a millionth of a metre — wide per square inch. The holes are big enough to allow water vapour created by sweat evaporation to escape, but are too small for water droplets to sneak through.
The advantage of these fabrics is they can’t wet-out because there is no face fabric to saturate
These internal membranes are quite fragile, which is why there’s an abrasion resistant layer on the outside of the garment. This outer layer receives DWR treatment and, as we mentioned before, the problem with DWR treatments is they eventually wash away, causing a jacket to ‘wet out’, meaning the moisture escaping from inside and landing on the outside saturates the outer fabric, clogging the pores of the membrane and eliminating breathability.
When a jacket stops breathing, the moisture your body creates gets trapped inside, creating that unpleasant, steaming-hot sensation.
Most outerwear today is based on this two and a half or three-layer lamination, but the fabrics and membranes are continuing to evolve and we’re now seeing jackets eliminating the outer fabric.
Pioneered by Columbia with its OutDry fabric, brands have figured out how to toughen up these membranes and eliminated the DWR-treated outer fabric.
We’ve now seen a few cycling specific jackets using GoreTex’s version, the One Active fabric, which allows the membrane to be used as an outer ‘beading surface’.
The advantage of these fabrics is they can’t wet-out because there is no face fabric to saturate, and weigh next to nothing and breathe better too.
What to look for when buying a waterproof cycling jacket
Taping is used to seal the seams in a waterproof jacket on the inside. It does add bulk and reduce a jacket’s breathability — so some of the jackets here trade a bit of seam leakage for a better overall performance.
It’s no good keeping rain out if you get soaked by sweat from within. Different fabrics have different water vapour transfer rates but cut, lining, membranes and vents all make a significant difference to how dry you stay.
To be officially waterproof a garment has to withstand the pressure of 1,000mm of water without leaking. This test concentrates on jackets that keep moisture managed so you stay warm however foul the forecast.
Usually, this is achieved through an internal membrane like those from Gore-Tex and eVent.
The worst enemy of your wet-weather gear is your washing machine. Detergents strip off waterproof coatings, and conditioners clog the pores and fibres that help fabric wick and breath. Still, it’s important to keep waterproof fabrics clean because dirt and oil can clog membranes and degrade DWR treatments, too. Always read washing instructions.
Often overlooked is the outer DWR treatment. If your jacket is wetting out as described above, there are ways to revive the treatment on your jacket.
Some manufacturers say to throw the garment in the tumble dryer for a few minutes on low to medium heat, others recommend ‘touch ups’ with an iron on the warm setting. Again refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Finally, if the DWR treatment can’t be saved you can re-treat it — there are quite a few spray-on and wash-in products available from brands such as Granger’s and Nikwax. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.