When you’re a new mum, fabric choice is important. Every day is an onslaught of baby sick, bath water spray and catapulted puree, so the first few months are certainly not a time to delve into your best pre-pregnancy wardrobe or that dry clean number you’ve been eyeing up for a sunny day. Then there is your daily ‘schedule’ which becomes pretty… fluid when it comes to having a newborn, but that makes it all the more important that when you do get out for a ride you make the most of it.
OK so riding bikes might not be a priority when baby first arrives (plus sitting on the saddle and pushing on the pedals is clearly an issue for a while), but at about six weeks in it becomes a definite possibility. Getting out for a ride unlocks a whole world of sanity that you momentarily lose grasp of as a new parent: it’s a wonderful way to rehabilitate and build strength, taking care not to overdo it at first of course.
And that’s where this jacket comes in, as – for those of us living in changeable climates – it’s essentially the key to unlocking regular riding. Baby or no baby, almost every cyclist is a sucker for hitting refresh on their chosen weather app and extrapolating the best possible window for the day. If you are a parent these weather windows compete with numerous other demands and may have to slot into a relentless feeding cycle, so knowing you’ve a reliable shell to throw on is like having some sort of video game invulnerability power-up in your riding wardrobe.
My partner has a first generation version of the GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY jacket and after its first outing he became an immediate fan. For a while I felt I couldn’t justify the price tag (mainly because I was pregnant and a poncho would therefore have been more appropriate), but if you’re a regular rider you can quickly divide the cost down to a ‘per ride’ basis and it totally makes sense. Unless you live in the Sahara in which case maybe this isn’t for you.
Out of the bag it looks like a bin bag. There’s no getting away from it. There are a couple of GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY jackets on the market and you may prefer one over the other, but the simplicity of the Rapha design appealed. One thing I should point out here is that you don’t really get a whole range of colours to choose from. With that all-important fabric essentially being a single-layer shell, it’s been impossible so far to apply colour or pattern in a meaningful way. This jacket does have some handy reflective detailing though, which stood out to me as something pretty essential on an item of clothing that is otherwise almost completely ninja.
One other thing to mention here is that the sleeves are roomy. When I first put the jacket on I was a little disappointed that there was quite a bit of excess fabric on the tops of the sleeves especially. For something that I thought was going to be race fit, there is a lot of potential for flapping. Once on the move though, I actually found the odd little reservoirs of air this fabric created to be pretty refreshing. More on that shortly.
In a shower
Despite buying the jacket at the height of summer, there was actually quite a lot of rain. This was the July of 2020, which was both wet and pandemic-y. For every wet ride since I’ve headed out with the jacket already on, though it does have excellent packability for shoving into jersey pockets. And while the fabric feels delicate it’s actually pretty robust and screws up into its own internal pocket. Best stored hung up, though.
In the rain the jacket creates some very pleasant beading (if you’re into that sort of thing). I found myself regularly taking a hand off the bars to flail my arm around and watch the water literally shake off (the clue’s in the name of the fabric!). While I’m over the novelty now, the jacket really does continue to perform and it’s so refreshing – literally – to be able to ride in a waterproof in humid summer weather. The magic of the fabric is in the ability for heat and moisture transfer to take place across the membrane, totally removing the ‘boil in the bag’ effect of seemingly every cycling waterproof that came before it. While you’ll notice a slight rise in temperature when you first start out, bear with it and the shell quickly gets you back to something nice and ambient.
This is where those (bingo wing) air reservoirs also come in handy. While wearing a super thin jersey under the jacket to avoid the shell being directly on my skin, the cool air sitting in this part of the jacket is refreshing: offering up a convection cooling system that helps to prevent you from overheating. In Rapha jerseys I’m an XS but sized up to a small to be able to wear layers underneath without it being tight across my chest (another mum-related issue!). Don’t expect the jacket to sit close all over: it’s not going to be a true race fit. When rolling though you hardly notice it, apart from perhaps a bit of shoulder flapping on faster downhills.
The jacket’s main technical features are otherwise what you’d expect to see on a jacket at this price point: a dropped hem, taped seams, storm flap and close-fitting collar. The elasticated waistband makes it nice and easy to access jersey pockets, while the two-way zip offers a bit of venting if required and is something that really sets this piece of kit apart from waterproof jackets at the same price point. Not a feature to be underestimated!
If you ride regularly and are committed enough to head out in the rain – or perhaps you’re looking for an excuse to be brave – a GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY jacket is for you. Yes it’s expensive compared to something off the hanger in your local bike shop, but it’s one of those buy-it-once-and-you-won’t-regret-it pieces of kit that will really make you notice the niggles of your previous wet weather solution.
For me it’s negated wet weather forecasts (OK, so maybe not when combined with 30mph+ gusts) and really reminded me how much I enjoy riding in the rain. While your bike needs a deeper clean when you get in and it’s an idea to leave a towel by the door before you leave, the riding itself is gloriously simple and focusing (especially given the lack of layering management faff while rolling). And with six months of motherhood ticked off these sorts of rides are a hugely welcome serving of adventure, stoking the fire in your belly that makes you crave more. More riding, more fun and more of that indescribable feeling that compels you to do what makes you grin.