By Matt Beebe
Author: Matt Beebe is a former IDEO designer and has been working with mobile devices for several years. Before becoming an insanely proud father, Matt was an avid racer, and specialized in time trials. These days Matt races cyclocross and is a founding team member of several start ups. Matt was tasked with writing this review of a great new rain jacket in the middle of California’s longest drought in decades.
Drought. All NorCal cyclists are talking about it. A few lament the Tahoe ski conditions. There is definitely concern about our water supply. But for cyclists there’s a near term benefit – lots of early season riding. To be clear, even in the worst of years NorCal is a great place for early season riding. Polar Vortex? Not here. But usually we have to put up with a little rain and Mediterranean-winter temperatures.
Normally this time of year NorCal cyclists have to reach down into their box of “cold weather” gear for an outer shell to use in chillier temps and rain. I’ve tried a lot of outer shell jackets. Some are flappy in the wind, some too tight, some aren’t breathable, some don’t have enough rain protection, and some are just too ugly.
So I was excited to try the Search and State S1-J Riding Jacket. This brand came on my radar sometime in the past year and was immediately appealing to me. It looked to be simple, no nonsense cycling gear. I liked that it’s made in America too.
The jacket arrived and I had a good first impression. No bells and whistles. I tried it on and was relieved. The large fit me with just enough room to have some stuff in my jersey pockets. The Scholler® C-Change™ fabric is just a bit stretchy to make room for my holiday weight gain. I also liked that the simple style would work with my NCCN kit.
Whenever I could get on my bike for the past week weeks I rolled out with the S1-J. I found it comfortable in a good range of temperatures and I liked that it packed up nicely for when it warmed up enough. On early morning outings it was about 40 degrees and I wore this jacket with a medium weight long sleeve jersey. On warmer 60 degree days I just wore my short sleeve jersey under the jacket. The chunky zipper was easy to grip and manipulate even with my full finger gloves on. I guess it’s bionic so that’s cool.
“The S1-J is a 3 season jacket that features C-Change™ fabric technology by Scholler®. C-Change™ is a bionic climate membrane that independently reacts to changing temperatures, closing when exposed to cold and opening in response to warmth. The S1-J traps heat when you need it, vents moisture as it’s produced and will be the most versatile piece of technical apparel you own.” ~ Search and State Website
It fit me very nicely. I was surprised at how much quieter descending was without my jacket shoulder material flapping in my ears.
The rear pocket is a single zippered pouch. I’ve never really liked that approach and prefer to have an un-zippered, easily accessible, storage area. Zippers in the rear are just too difficult for me while riding. Once I unhooked the zipper while opening the rear pocket and it took me a few minutes to get it hooked back up. I could imagine that if you lived someplace where you have to ride in the rain more often then the zipper is an important feature.
This brings me to the final component of any comprehensive review of an outer shell for cycling. Performance in rain. I prayed for rain. I wanted to be able to tell you about how well it shed the water and how warm I stayed. But alas, no rain in NorCal. No showers this summer, brown lawns all around, no xc skiing and you would think – an incomplete review of the S1-J riding Jacket.
But I take my job at NorCal Cycling News seriously. So when no one else was home, I showered in the jacket. While I don’t think this test is perfect the results did suggest that the bionic capabilities were kicking in yet again.
It’s not clear that we’re out of trouble, but we have had some solid rain. I used to ride in the rain all the time. Then I started a policy of never starting a ride in the rain but still heading out if rain is threatening. These days I’m pretty much a fair weather cyclist and I spend a lot more time on my trainer. I figured wearing the S1-J riding jacket on the trainer while it’s raining isn’t really what’s required for this product review so I went back to my old ways and headed out in what could be described as a proper rain.
I’m glad I did. From the first minutes of the ride till the end of my soggy two hours I noticed the beading of the rain on my sleeves. I stayed warm and didn’t get the “raining on the inside” that comes with so many outer shells.
There were way more people out riding than I thought there should be. Their mud splattered grimaces betrayed a dislike of our much needed rain. Next time they should stay home – or get themselves an S1-J.
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