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To answer the comment after this question, what should one know about wind- and water-resistent jackets?

For example, what is "Gore-Tex", is it always expensive, and is there anything else like it?

This is for for wearing at near freezing temperatures (I don't need a summer rain jacket).

I want this for commuting, an hour each way, (almost) every day.

I'm usually warm or too warm whenever it's above freezing: traffic lights, bike lanes, cycle paths, some hills.

But when it is freezing, for an hour, I need, apart from shoes and gloves (and trousers/pants), some wind resistance: otherwise my skin arrives chilled. And cold rain can be chilling too.

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Gore-Tex is not cheap. There are cheaper imitations. Gore-Tex "breathes" better than most other water/windproof fabrics (or at least this was true 15-20 years ago -- there may be better now). –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 6 '11 at 4:13
    
What is "Gore-Tex"? Check out the site of W.L. Gore and Associates, Inc. They'll tell you. gore-tex.com/remote/Satellite/content/what-is-gore-tex –  user313 Dec 6 '11 at 6:54
    
Basically, like DRH said, they make wind/waterproof/breathable fabrics and clothing. They make great stuff for cold, windy, and wet weather. –  user313 Dec 6 '11 at 6:57
    
I was in this an hour ago....gore-tex.com/remote/Satellite/activities/men-cycling-road/… –  user313 Dec 6 '11 at 7:02
    
@ChrisW -- Note that it's not just the chemical but also the manufacturing process. –  Daniel R Hicks Dec 6 '11 at 11:55
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6 Answers

Gore-Tex is a line of fabrics and outdoor clothing made by W.L. Gore and Associates, Inc. They use various technologies to make breathable, waterproof and windproof fabrics.

The Gore brand tends to be on the expensive side. However, I think that they license out their fabrics to other manufacturers, but I'm not sure about that.

I have used Gore cycling products for several years and have yet to be displeased. Rain, wind, cold, etc.... actually, I found their winter gloves to be too thin, but otherwise....

My favorite, most versatile cycling jersey is made by Gore. The front panels are made with "windstopper" fabrics and the long sleeves zip on/off. Here at gorebikewear.com. And I also have a 5+ year old gorebikewear jacket which appears to have a few more years left. I'll no doubt take a look at other alternatives when I shop for a new one in a few years.

A note based on the question, "This is for wearing at near freezing temperatures (I have decided I don't need a summer rain jacket)" - I currently use a gorebikewear wind/rain jacket year round. This is an unlined jacket. In warm, rainy weather, it's layered with nothing but a short-sleeve jersey. As the weather gets progressively colder, I manipulate the layers beneath the jacket...so roughly, in the fall, it's a light base layer + jersey + jacket...and in winter, it's a heavier base layer + jersey + fleece + jacket, etc. Anyway, the outermost layer (jacket) is primarily for wind/rain protection; and the layers beneath are for temperature control.

So, for me at least (in the rainy and sometimes cold Pacific NW), a single wind/rain jacket gets me through the entire year.


Edit: This link ("Waterproof Breathable Fabric Technologies: A Comprehensive Primer and State of the Market Technology Review") is a pay-for-view ($5) article, written in 2004, which describes about five different types of fabric: how they are made, and how well they perform.

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There are other brands and fabrics, I've used a few

eVent is very similar to GoreTex. Wind stopper, waterproof, breathable, my rain pants are made with eVent. I love my clothes and gloves made with WindStopper, a little cheaper, but not waterproof. When I first started commuting by bicycle, I got a Nylon jacket, made with coated nylon and taped seams. It worked well until the coating wore off. I do think it is worth it to spend the extra money and get something that works from the start.

I have not seen many fully waterproof jackets that are lined for warmth, you may need to get the best shell and layer underneath. I find the wind blocking aspects keep me warm with a nice thermal base layer.

Very similar for rain pants too. I have fleece lined bicycle pants (WindStopper material on the front) for when no rain (or very light). If it is raining, I wear leggings underneath my fully waterproof pants, which don't offer as much warmth, but they do keep the rain/wind out.

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Good tip. I hadn't heard of eVent. I'll have to check it out the next time I shop for outerwear. –  user313 Dec 6 '11 at 20:49
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Gore-Tex is a semi-permeable membrane: a fabric, like a net, but not woven: it's formed by stretching. It's made of expanded PTFE, like a spongy Teflon (and their patent was about how to do the expansion/manufacturing). A microscope shows it's something like bone, or a net, or holey Swiss cheese. The holes in the fabric layer are much bigger than air and water vapour molecules (which therefore pass through); but smaller than liquid water droplets (which are many water molecules bound together), which therefore don't pass through (water on the fabric should stay on it, until it's brushed off or evaporates).

So Gore-Tex is:

  • Semi-permeable to water vapour
  • Impermeable to liquid water

It is therefore (allegedly, more or less) waterproof but at the same time 'breathable'.

Sometimes (as in my jacket) you don't see Gore-Tex. It's a middle layer, sewn in between the jacket's inner lining and outer shell. These other layers (i.e. the inner lining and the outer shell) are, principally, meant to be durable. They're woven, and have pockets etc. They also (being a water-resistant nylon fabric themselves) help to keep the sewn-in Gore-Tex from getting soaked: a sheet of water on the Gore-Tex would prevent its 'breathing'. In rain the Gore-Tex middle layer keeps the jacket's wet outer shell away from the inner lining and from my skin. In extremis (when all is soaked in very heavy rain) the Gore-Tex tries to stay water-repellent albeit no longer so 'breathable' (but in very heavy rain, I'm happy enough to be warm: and to have air inside the jacket).

I bought my jacket 10 or 15 years ago from MEC. Even if it is expensive (and it wasn't, especially - and I liked it so much that I bought duplicates as Christmas presents for my family, and they still wear theirs too), I'd consider whether it's durable and useful. My jacket does not have cycling-specific tailoring, so I can wear it anywhere/anytime when it's wet out. Also I (among other things) reckon I save $1,500/year in bus fare by commuting by bike: so amortizing that $1,500/year over two or more years can justify spending ('investing') the money, for buying a bike and clothes, and still come out ahead, relatively.

Anyway. So my jacket has a lining etc., as well as the Gore-Tex membrane hidden away as a middle layer. The inner lining of this jacket is mesh/webbing, which helps the jacket to stand off from the body. This makes it durable, and the nylon exterior shell makes it wind-proof. I regulate my heat (when cycling) by using the front zipper: up around the throat, or down to open the chest, which ventilates the jacket. There's a velcro strap at the cuffs to regulate the ventilation of the arms (which is why I avoid wearing a jacket in summer).

It used to be I think that Gore-Tex didn't manufacture clothes, but licensed the fabric to clothiers (e.g. my jacket was made and labelled and perhaps designed by Le Coq Sportif, who make sportswear). Now Gore-Tex seem to make and sell their own complete clothes? But other manfacturers presumably continue to license the fabric and use it.

There's a Gore-Tex "Paclite" fabric or jacket now, which I don't think I've seen/felt. I guess that's a single-layer jacket. I don't know whether that's pure Gore-Tex or otherwise how it's bonded to the shell (how it performs). I think it's aimed at cyclists. I don't know how good it is for cold-weather riding (mine, because it's lined and wind-proof, is good).

I'd like to find a good selection of jackets but I don't know where. Most LBS when I ask for Gore-Tex say "that's expensive" and don't stock it. I don't want to buy sight unseen because all the details matter.

Gore-Tex is still a brand and a trademark (and a company). Its patent has expired. I don't know what competing/similar products/solutions/manufacturers there are.

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My only affinity to gore-tex is that I have used the products. There are developing/developed alternative technologies. A link: backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00316.html –  user313 Dec 7 '11 at 22:33
    
@wdypdx22 - That is an excellent link. If it were an answer I would 'accept' it. –  ChrisW Dec 8 '11 at 4:22
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This is a really good question, and one that I found myself asking only a few weeks ago. The aforementioned posts are great if you feel like restricting yourself to "Goretex" as the main construction fabric of the jacket you're looking for. You can find a lot of technical information about Goretex online, but one of the most basic facts about the fabric is its 3,000mm rating. This means that, technically, the fabric isn't 100% waterproof, but is, rather, "rain proof." As found here - http://backcountrybeacon.com/2010/04/waterproof-ratings-demystified/ - you'll be able to see what I mean.

If you're open to discovering new jackets and fabrics, I would suggest looking beyond conventional Goretex jackets and taking a look at several retailers that are currently constructing jackets using Polartec's new NeoShell fabric. Marmot released their ZION jacket using NeoShell, which is rated at 10,000mm (100% waterproof by all industrial standards) and has received awards from Polartec for best use of their fabric. And so, after a heavy amount of research (really the only reason I know any of this), I decided to purchase one from a 3rd party retailer for quite a bit less than they are found on the site. Oh, another thing, NeoShell works as a passive membrane check this out -

Goretex is an active permeable fabric, what this means is that you'll need to start sweating and building pressure within the jacket before you notice any dissipation of heat through the fabric, relieving you of excess heat (but at this point it's kind of too late). SUCKS!

NeoShell is a passive permeable fabric, what this means is that the second you start to build up heat pressure in the jacket it is basically forced out. Pretty cool huh? It gets better...

I've been itching to write this review somewhere and a friend of mine JUST referred this site as a great resource for biking gear. So I got the jacket last Sunday and have been riding, running, and pushing myself harder than I ever could with my old riding jackets (which were all pearlIzumi, etc). I've got a similar commute to handle every morning in 19F (-7C) degree weather and the first time I got out on Monday and started to feel the heat in my jacket, it was as if it was being sucked out, leaving me with an even warmth that was comfortable and inspired me to ride even harder. The jacket has a great articulated hood, loooooong sleeves with asymmetrical cuffs that cover the tops of your hands from the wind, draw cords on the waist, and pockets that double as vents. It has a fleece lining to wick moisture. And because the fabric is so breathable, I've never had to unzip to regulate heat. Literally... the best riding jacket that was never meant to be a riding jacket. 100% wind and waterproof. It's a little pricey, but for something that can do what all others cannot AND be used for running, skiing, hiking, and climbing... it really doesn't get much better. I have yet to brave snow, but I've never been this excited to conquer terrible weather in my life.

I would recommend a baselayer and something warm on those extra cold days. Hope this helps!

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The best jacket that I've found for cold or cold and wet weather cycling is the Cycle Shirt by Buffalo.

The Pertex shell it isn't waterproof at all, but your body heat evaporates all but heavy rain. Contrast this with Goretex, which when soaked on the outside cannot pass water vapour, and so ends up condensated on the inside.

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I was out mountain biking yesterday in heavy rain. My eVent jacket (made by Rab) kept me dry. I believe eVent is supposed to be a bit more breathable than gore-tex, so if you are working hard and getting warm, some of your sweat will pass out.

I would recommend you don't try to get one waterproof and warm coat. You're much better off getting a waterproof coat that you can wear over a warm coat/top if it's really cold. Then you've got far more options and can get the best set up to match the weather and type of cycling you're doing.

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