The Chainlink

So, the zipper on my Mountain Hardwear jacket is on its last legs and it has lost all its waterproofing (I just discovered in the sleet/rain/mess that descended this evening). It lasted me a good six years, and I'm looking for any suggestions on a great cycling jacket. The same model but newer version of my jacket still doesn't have pit zips and they really uglied it up since I bought mine.

The cons of my current jacket (which I'd like to address now that I'm looking again) are:

no pit zips (it's a bit like wearing a garbage bag after the first few miles, as it doesn't let any moisture out)
too short when riding so I end up showing off my drawers

Anyone had any luck with a jacket that's:

good for layering
windproof
doesn't have a hood (the extra bulk just gets in the way when riding)
waterproof (or at least very water resistant)
has a pull down butt flap for drawer coverage
has pit zips
is fairly nondescript
available somewhere in Chicago so I can try it on before I buy it

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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i went to rei and got my gear when it was on sale. they still have a sale goin till the 10th
I am so happy with the Rei jacket i got, but it has a hood. totally water and windproof, pitzips, a little stretchy, covers my butt really well. works really well for layering. but yeah the hood is a little annoying, except for when it comes in handy...

http://www.rei.com/product/786836
I don't know about non-descript but I've got a Showers Pass (www.showerspass.com) Touring jacket in blue. It's got large pit-zips (12") and a full back vent flap and drop-down tail. You can look for a Chicago-based distributor on their website.

It's on the pricey end but I love it and maybe you can find one of their jackets on sale somewhere since it is the time of year to find some good pricing. I keep the waterproofing intact using Nikwax Tech Wash followed by Nikwax TX.Direct every now and then. It can be bought with a hood that can be attached via velcro, and therefore detached as well.

Btw, I'd try washing your Mountain Hardwear (MH) jacket in that Nikwax combination in order to restore the waterproofing and then using it for non-biking stuff. If that idea works, you've extended your investment in your MH gear. Fyi, I've got an MH shell w/ rollable hood that I really like using for non-strenuous activity. Both my MH and SPass jackets are storm-proof. Yeah... I'm biased but I've put them through the weather testing.
X2 on the Nik Wax wash and waterproofing. I have an 8 yr old REI jacket that was dying and I used that combo and it again repels water.

Depending on the usage, I try to use the Nikwax once or twice a year on all of my shells. It is a great way to get more mileage out of your gear investment.

You may want to check out Patagonia. They have an specials area and sometimes you can score on some good gear. I love my shell- though it has a hood, it has large it zips and is long enough in back that it provides great coverage. I got it on special 3 years ago and it is still going strong.

Alan Ortiz said:
I don't know about non-descript but I've got a Showers Pass (www.showerspass.com) Touring jacket in blue. It's got large pit-zips (12") and a full back vent flap and drop-down tail. You can look for a Chicago-based distributor on their website.

It's on the pricey end but I love it and maybe you can find one of their jackets on sale somewhere since it is the time of year to find some good pricing. I keep the waterproofing intact using Nikwax Tech Wash followed by Nikwax TX.Direct every now and then. It can be bought with a hood that can be attached via velcro, and therefore detached as well.

Btw, I'd try washing your Mountain Hardwear (MH) jacket in that Nikwax combination in order to restore the waterproofing and then using it for non-biking stuff. If that idea works, you've extended your investment in your MH gear. Fyi, I've got an MH shell w/ rollable hood that I really like using for non-strenuous activity. Both my MH and SPass jackets are storm-proof. Yeah... I'm biased but I've put them through the weather testing.
>>available somewhere in Chicago so I can try it on before I buy it

This is key. There are plenty of good shells on the market, available in a wide range of prices, but the cut can really vary widely. Most non-cycling specific shells seem great standing up, but then bunch like crazy when on a bike, and don't have a long enough tail to cover the lower back. And of course some are race (ie very narrow and tight, especially around the shoulders and arms) and others are very casual.

One tough thing to test out is breathability, and unfortunately anecdotal evidence only goes so far. Personally, I use an Ibex softshell -- these score high on your nondescript vector, but lack many cycling-specific features. They have a very thin wool lining married to a super waterproof breathable shell.

I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned Endura (http://www.endurasport.com) yet -- it's a Scottish company and can be found at several local Chicago shops. The pricing is very good, and the quality arguably as high as it comes. Many of their jackets are simply black but with reflective piping for visibility.

Among the mainstream cycling brands, you can easily find CRAFT (http://www.craft-usa.com) at both cycling and running shops. It's a Scandinavian brand that specializes in winter gear. Their range is huge, and a little pricier than some, but I've never heard anyone complain about the quality or effectiveness of their garments. The cuts tend to be tighter, and also -- most of the jackets are simply black with small reflective and/or red accents.
I have a BRIGHT yellow Craft jacket (size L) I am willing to get rid of at a low price. (I posted it on the Marketplace here and on Craigslist, but no luck). It did keep warm and dry all last winter, but I've since upgraded so no longer use it.
Yeah! I am rocking the Taku these days also. I'm on my third one! the first two had zipper design flaws so REI replaced them for free (as is their policy - yay!). The current design works great for me for biking. While riding I wear a reflective vest from MEC. That solves the visibility vs looking like a dork problem, except when riding of course. The hood is a bit bulky and not terribly comfortable when on, but I almost never use it. But on those rare occasions when I'm caught in a downpour I'm glad it is there.

AR said:
I am so happy with the Rei jacket i got, but it has a hood. totally water and windproof, pitzips, a little stretchy, covers my butt really well. works really well for layering. but yeah the hood is a little annoying, except for when it comes in handy...
http://www.rei.com/product/786836
I have a Mountain Hardware shell I picked up from REI outlet at a deep discount but I'm considering taking it back and getting the Taku instead. Its a good shell for the price but I tend to run hot and would like something more breathable. Only thing that bothers me about the Taku is the hood and I don't think its removable or foldable.

Tony Adams said:
Yeah! I am rocking the Taku these days also. I'm on my third one! the first two had zipper design flaws so REI replaced them for free (as is their policy - yay!). The current design works great for me for biking. While riding I wear a reflective vest from MEC. That solves the visibility vs looking like a dork problem, except when riding of course. The hood is a bit bulky and not terribly comfortable when on, but I almost never use it. But on those rare occasions when I'm caught in a downpour I'm glad it is there.

AR said:
I am so happy with the Rei jacket i got, but it has a hood. totally water and windproof, pitzips, a little stretchy, covers my butt really well. works really well for layering. but yeah the hood is a little annoying, except for when it comes in handy...
http://www.rei.com/product/786836
I have a Gore Bike wear shell that I use all fall winter and spring. It is made of Gore Pac-Lite and it does two things: It keeps the wind of my body, and at times of precipitation it keeps me dry. It provide little or no warmth, but that I accomplish by layering (up to 3 layers underneath the shell)
It is also bike specific, so it does cover my rearend when I am sitting on a bike

I bought it last year at REI on a deep discount. It would fit the bill, except that it is bright yellow, and it doesn't have pit-zips (but as I understand it, GoreTex shells don't have pit zips by design).

I think various bike specific jackets are out there that will fit your requirements and may come in colors other than hi-vis yellow. I would shop at Performance and REI for starters.
Duppie said:
... I think various bike specific jackets are out there ...

My goal in life is to have no bike specific attire. (I make an exception for the hideous styrofoam brain bucket.) Biking is woven into my life and as such, I don't want anything keeping me from riding everywhere and all the time.

alex said:
...considering taking it back and getting the Taku instead....Only thing that bothers me about the Taku is the hood and I don't think its removable or foldable.

The Taku hood is not removable or very foldable. It is the only flaw in the jacket for me, and it is something I can live with.
I'm gonna have to take a trip to REI and check out the Taku. I looked at the Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie and a few Gore Cycling and Cannondale jackets at Cycle Smithy today, if not for the hood, I'd probably go with the Swrve hoodie though the zippers seemed a little dodgy and the non-zippered front pockets would make really sweet pools of water in a good rain. I may be so ridiculous as to have a tailor just hack off the hood if I like the Taku jacket enough to go for it...

Thanks for all the suggestions!
jackets are just like bikes. no one will do. buy high quality stuff that will last for years and buy different jackets that will be suitable for different conditions. mix and match as required. seldom do i wear the same combo for more than 1 or 2 days at a time. skip the "cycling" marketed stuff and check out what mountain climbers where. similar requirements in use, cept climbers stake their lives on the quality of the stuff they buy, no garbage!

in my stable:
patagonia das parka
patagonia down jacket
patagonia down vest
tnf insulated softshell
patagonia non-insulated softshell
mountain hardware gore-tex parka
mountain hardware windstopper fleece
patagonia windstopper vest
marmot precip jacket
big heavy thick cotton zip hoody sweatshirt with my company logo on it (surprisingly, this gets worn ALLOT)

similar delio with pants.

sorry that i just recommended you buy $3,000 worth of jackets, but being warm and comfortable under severe conditions is essentially a decision you make with you pocketbook.

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