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It’s rained on and off all day but the last four hours have seen the sporadic showers morph into something much more continual. A mixture of pedalling and pushing through the darkness allowed little time to think of such things but twenty minutes ago, that came to an abrupt and welcome halt with the arrival of a slate roof and four thick, cold stone walls.

My left arse cheek is now uncomfortably perched on the metal frame of a long deceased deckchair. Balance is difficult but I’m trying hard to maintain the status quo while attempting to prise my sodden shoe from my equally wet foot. With my footwear removed, I stand and roll my shorts down to the floor, then pick up the pile of mud and material and place it on a nail next to my dripping jacket. Attention is diverted back to my feet; with my socks removed I paddle over to the door and ring them out into the night before laying them to rest beside my shorts.

The process continues in a similar fashion to removing the skin from an onion. Each layer removed reveals another wet but slightly drier one underneath, until eventually, there’s nothing left covering the waxy skin except for goose bumps. A quick rub down with an old newspaper gets the blood circulating and I push my hand into the depths of my bag and grope for the warm touch of dry clothes. The next stark bollock minutes that separate nakedness and clothed, feel like hours but twenty minutes after first squelching through the door, I’m eventually dry and warm.



The above is a small glimpse into a world that anyone stupid enough or adventurous enough – depending on your point of view, will be familiar with. I’m sure some people with less of an adventurous / stupid streak will read it and think, ‘what did you expect, it’s winter?’ Sadly, the answer to their question is probably, ‘too much’. It may have been windy and raining but my stupidity is guided by experience, meaning that I didn’t venture out dressed in an Hawaiian shirt and Hush Puppies. On the contrary, I left home seemingly prepared for the inevitable. A jacket with a three figure price tag, shorts that cost more than a flight to Europe and socks so expensive you’d be forgiven for thinking you were buying a pair for each day of the week. I’d invested a not inconsiderable sum in items designed to keep their occupant shielded from the watery world outside, yet, there I was, soaked to the skin on a welsh hillside after a not untypical November day. How could this be? The labels all proclaimed ‘100% waterproof’, they didn’t say, ‘waterproof for a bit’ or ‘it’ll do for half an hour’ – they said 100%, no caveat, no ifs and no buts; 100% as in absolute, cast iron and dead cert.

The realist that resides within me, knows that a small pinch of salt should be rubbed into all ‘waterproof’ clothing before use but like so many times before, I couldn’t help but feel let down. I don’t believe for one minute that clothing manufacturers are blatantly mis-selling their products but I also find it hard to believe that the vast majority are tested in what might be termed, ‘the real world’. I’m sure there’s lots of lab tests conducted and perhaps someone wears one beneath a sprinkler for five minutes but are they actually tested in conditions that you or I might subject them to? Rain measured in hours and inches not minutes and millimeters, wind capable to tearing down trees and hail that will blind you should you dare lift your gaze. Maybe it’s time the industry introduced a new rating, a gold standard, the ultimate guarantee of performance and perhaps they could call it ‘Bikepacker Proof’?

10 Comments

  1. I totally agree. After two + months touring Europe I find that waterproof cycling kit is still really just heavy showerprooof. I have spent years and a small fortune on breathable waterproffs only to find that they just do not live upto the adverts. Now I accept I will get soaked and change clothing in bus shelters just before hypothermia sets in. So far I have not been arrested, but …

  2. Totally agree Iain, it almost seems that anyone cycling for more than four hours in the rain, will be left disappointed and wet ;o)

  3. vistaed says:

    Maybe it's our expectations that are unreasonable? We should strive not for dry but instead warm. It's changes the rules of the game by which we judge and therefore select outdoor clothing. The only time I want waterproof is to keep my work shirt and tie dry during a wet city visit to a coffee shop.

  4. Unknown says:

    Ever read this:

    http://andy-kirkpatrick.com/articles/view/the_truth_about_breathable_waterproofs

    It more or less made me realise how myuch money I'd wasted on waterproofs. I go for wet but warm now.

  5. Cantab says:

    Essentially the problem is cycling, like many outdoor activity generates sweat – so 'waterproofs' must be breathable which for most technologies means they are no longer truly waterproof (except in the context of the artificial Hydrostatic Head test) because the route by which sweat exits provides a chink in the rain defences. And that's before you even consider the issue of the various gaping holes in the form of zips, cuffs and neck holes that unfortunately our anatomy demands.

    The answer?
    Two options
    1) Get wet, stay warm. Use materials such as neoprene and merino wool to stay warm even when wet. This tactic is fine while you're active but rapidly fails as soon as you stop and you're straight in to the scenario you describe above
    2) In winter, Paramo provides the answer. Their magic not-waterproof-but-actively-water-expelling fabric genuinely works in my experience, and the 'lite' versions are not so warm that you will overheat after 5 minutes. It doesn't always look super snazzy, but if I'm going to be out in the freezing rain for hours on end, there's only one jacket I'm reaching for if I want to be dry by the end of the day.

  6. Oh dear.... says:

    ^^ just took a look. Certainly premium pricing. Any experience of the trousers on a bike please?

  7. Unknown says:

    It's okay saying wet and warm but if u r like me once I'm wet that's it my body temp drops and I get so cold. If I could stay dry then I'm fine with the cold.wet is a different story :0(

  8. Unknown says:

    Yes – Paramo FTW!

  9. Pirahna says:

    A Goretex jacket I owned in the early 90's was waterproof. If I wasn't wearing it the it was rolled up and strapped to the outside of my dispatch bag. It lasted close to five years before it started leaking on the shoulder where the bag strap was wearing through. I've never found anything since which has come close.

  10. Muddycus says:

    The best bit of kit and portable tent is the poncho – available from £5, military or for those that want to make a fashion statement £58 from https://www.thepeoplesponcho.co.uk/. Unfortunately a poncho is so cheap and practical it just gets dismissed. I guess if Gore bike ware brought one out for £250 every one would be buying one.

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