The Showers Pass Torch Jacket is one for those who want to be seen at all costs. There are neon panels on the arms for daylight visibility and LED ‘Beacon Light’ inserts on the cuffs and tail of the jacket, however the stand out (see what I did there??) feature of this jacket is Showers Pass’ own ‘MapReflect’ fabric.
The MapReflect fabric appears a slightly silvery grey in daylight, with a squiggly pattern all over that is in fact street maps of various American cities. Apparently there’s also a map of South Shields in there – Showers Pass’ UK base. Riding along, you don’t notice anything going on, however point a video camera in your direction and you’ll discover that under lights this jacket is highly reflective and visible. Because it doesn’t look like anything is happening from the rider’s eye perspective, it’s something of a surprise when you get the (regular) comments about how bright you are. This has given me a feeling of confidence riding in low light conditions and the dark – if someone doesn’t see me, they’ve really no excuses.
I’ve not really felt the need to add the LED lights into the equation, although I can see that those with a busier commute might welcome the additional chance to attract the attention of drivers. They’re positioned in such a way on the outside of each cuff that they’re designed to perform as a visual aid for road users behind you when you thrust out an arm to indicate for a turn.
The lights are certainly bright, and that’s good for visibility. However, when riding flat/riser bars, I found the LEDs sat in my field of vision too much, being eye hurtingly-bright when configured on the flash settings, of which there are two: a fast one and a slower one. For me, a flashing light in my field of vision is a recipe for a migraine, so the continuous ‘on’ setting is preferred. One thing to note is that on all settings the lights automatically switch off at around the 1 hour mark – a handy battery saving feature if you leave your jacket lighting up the cloakroom, but something to bear in mind if you’re on a longer ride.
The lights take a replaceable CR2032 battery and promise 200 hours of light in flash mode. They’re like little rubbery pills which you can insert into the jacket. Remember to remove them before washing the jacket, although in use on wet rides I’ve had no problems with water ingress, but one of them has become a little trickier to turn on and off over time, so I suspect a connection or spring has worn a touch. Replacement Beacon Lights are available at £12 for a pack of four.
I have washed this jacket repeatedly, having worn it for many muddy rides. The fabric is still waterproof, and there’s no sign of wear on the fabric. This is pretty impressive, as I’ve really done my best to hammer it and grind mud into it, thinking that the fabric might crack or thin like I’ve seen other high visibility fabrics do – but no, it’s still good as new, and still attracting ‘Woah, how bright are you!’ comments.
It’s quite a thick feeling fabric – not a stuff in your pack kind of thing – with a brushed lining, so you can wear it with a t-shirt underneath without having it stick to your skin. The collar is particularly comfortable, with a light fleecy lining and stretchy drawstring to cinch it up and keep out the drafts. Should you wish, you can buy an additional rain hood at £25 to fit to the velcro fastenings on the outside of the collar. The cuffs have extensive velcro fastening, so you can seal yourself away from draughts or leave them a little loose for ventilation. In use, the jacket is pleasingly un-rustley to wear and doesn’t have the stiffness of some flouro jackets I’ve experienced – so you might look a bit geeky, but you don’t feel it.
As well as the cuffs, there are two zip panels on the front sides of the jacket to allow airflow. These are just zips, with no mesh behind them, which could potentially allow for an unwelcome flying creature in warmer months when such things are about (though in fairness perhaps this jacket is less likely to be used when there’s not so much darkness around and bugs are more of a problem). There’s also a flap across the shoulders, which I found was held down by riding with a backpack. In really torrential rain and spray I felt that some water was making its way up the flap, but then in such conditions the rest of me is so wet that this makes little difference.
My overall impression is that this is an effective waterproof jacket, however I did find myself getting quite sweaty inside it, causing that inner brushed fabric liner to feel damp. This wasn’t so much a problem during a ride, but I found that it was quite noticeable putting the jacket back on after having stopped for a bit. In dry conditions when I could maximise the ventilation this was less of an issue, although with a pack the back flap ventilation can’t really operate and the straps get in the way of unzipping the front vents on the move. Even with the ventilation open it’s pretty hot if you’ve got any real climbing (and I’m measuring it against Calderdale climbs here rather than perhaps what most would consider a climb), so it’s perhaps better suited to the relatively flat routed commuter (ideally with panniers).
The fit on the jacket is quite roomy – certainly not a snug roadie race/club ride sort of a fit – and I found that I could comfortably get layers under the women’s medium I was testing (there’s a men’s option available as well). For those who are commuting in their work clothes, or who want to layer up and pedal slowly in the cold, there’s a decent amount of room under there.
This is undeniably a pricey jacket. For trail riding there are probably better and more breathable waterproof options (indeed Showers Pass offers the Refuge which has previously done well on test, and we’ve just received the new ‘IMBA’ jacket, developed in collaboration with mountain bikers) at this price point. However, this jacket is all about the visibility and the high quality fabric – I’ve already got a year of use out of mine without it ageing visibly, so it may well be a better investment in the long run than multiple cheaper options. Yes, drivers should look where they’re going, and no, being lit up like a Christmas tree shouldn’t be necessary. But then taking the moral high ground isn’t particularly comforting when you’ve just been taken out by someone who says ‘Sorry Mate, I didn’t see you‘. If someone says that to you while you’re wearing this, they really shouldn’t be on the road.
An excellent quality jacket for those who value being seen through the winter months. If I was a city commuter contending with lots of environmental lights and traffic, this would be on my shopping list.
|Tested:||by Hannah for 12 months|