GEAR UP: Rain suits
Continuing the theme of winter-related gear, we descended on Cycletreads to meet with Karen and Sean for advice on choosing and using rain gear.
Cycletreads has been a specialist supplier of tyres, motorcycle clothing and accessories since 1986, so they know a bit about gear choices. Having both Sean and Karen on hand to dispense advice was a privilege, and the first thing they emphasised about specialist rain gear is that its not always the best choice. A really good quality two-piece Cordura suit has a lot of advantages, says Karen. With breathable membranes, zip-in thermal layers and built-in armour, it will do pretty much everything, including keeping you dry. And youre already wearing it: you don't have to pack it, stop and take it out, then put it on when it has started raining.
Good advice. But there are still a number of riders who will want a waterproof over-layer, such as when wearing leathers. So what sort of options are available
A simple, one-piece over-suit that gets the job done at an affordable price. Why spend more? Well, theres nothing wrong with this for occasional use, advises Karen. Its lightweight, so it packs well. It even has a breathable liner, and the legs open wide to get over your boots. And the difference between this and more expensive choices? You can get something thats heavier and more durable, with more details, says Sean. And sometimes its the details that make a difference. Things like collars that stretch to fit with comfortable, hypo-allergenic lining material.
Very good at keeping the rain out, and great for visibility, says Sean. Its also got a lot of stretch around the waist, which helps putting it on over your gear. The liner also helps with getting this one-piece suit on and a clever touch is that the Oxford folds up on itself to make its own belt bag.
Going down the two-piece route, this ensemble from Australias RJays is about as affordable as it gets. Theyre lightweight, so easy to pack, and according to Karen and Sean do a perfectly good job of keeping you dry. Only, there is no such thing as water proof in reality, cautions Sean. Its just a question of how long will it keep water out. In theory, a one-piece should be better, but not always. Tape welded seams and PVC-backed nylon construction help with the water resistance, but theres no breathability on offer.
The Vector jacket and pant come with a stack more features than the basic Rain two-piece. Theyre breathable, the jacket has pockets for elbow and shoulder armour, there are loads of sealable pockets and the outer has a high degree of abrasion resistance. What you see here is where a rain oversuit starts to overlap with a textile two-piece, says Karen.This is top quality, but it pretty much only does one job. So whats the alternative? Karen pulled out two textile suitsone at the high end and one more budget-orientatedto show the advantages.
Rather than apply a band-aid, this is the sort of suit that will cover pretty much any riding, says Karen of this higher-end Cordura suit. Its more expensive, but youll wear it all the time. The jacket is close fitting, with CE armour in the shoulders and elbows, so it allows movement without the risk of the armour moving out place. Dainese pants come with composite armour in the hips and knees. Unlike anything worn over the top, it won't flap around at speed. Its a lovely bit of kit, she adds. Jacket and pants feature Daineses proprietary D-Dry breathable liner, which is removable, offering a layered approach. The jacket has a pocket for a back protector (bought separately).
If a two-piece Cordura suit has all the advantages, this option also comes in at a fairly wallet-friendly price. So what are you losing versus the more expensive Dainese? Not much, advises Karen. The features are pretty much the same. You still get the layered approach with a breathable membrane and removable thermal liner. It has sealed seams, CE armour in the elbows, shoulder and back for the jacket, and in the hip and knees on the pants. You only notice the difference in the details. Its a really sound choice.
Two areas where theres really no substitute for a covering layer are hands and feet. By completely shielding your riding gloves and boots, these covering layers really do help keep water out. The heavy duty overboots feature a protective rubber sole for walking.