I have a love-hate relationship with waterproofs. On the plus side, they keep the rain off, which helps keep me comfortable and warm, especially on long, wet days in the saddle. On the downside, even the most breathable jackets get clammy when working hard (and ironically are less breathable the wetter conditions are outside the fabric); on changeable days, they are extra bulk that need carrying; and they then need special treatment when it comes to washing if you want to preserve the beading properties of the membrane (which you do, if you want the fabric to breathe properly).
Given the above statement, the Gore Bike Wear ONE Gore-Tex Active jacket (phew) was going to have to work really hard to change my mind. ‘Luckily’, January to April in the north of England has provided perfect conditions for me to put the jacket through the wringer.
The popularity of softshell type jackets and jerseys like the Castelli Gabba show that I’m not the only one who feels the pain when it comes to protection from grotty conditions. When the weather is truly awful though, a proper waterproof/breathable membrane will always have a place in the hardy cyclist’s wardrobe.
Gore-Tex are a name synonymous with good quality waterproofs, and makers of the original waterproof/breathable membrane. The ONE Active shell is their latest fabric for intense activities, and represents a significant evolutionary step from what has been before. The fabric is the first to do away with the need to add a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish, by actually building beading technology into the fabric. This removes any need for special treatment when washing, and also allows the weight of the fabric to be stripped back.
Partner company to Gore-Tex, Gore Bike Wear have taken the fabric and turned it into a riding shell. The cut is very much designed for on-bike comfort, with a high front and dropped tail, long arms, and a tailored, form-fitting cut. There is a single pocket on the left hand side, which will comfortably swallow a phone (even the comically huge iPhone 6plus). The jacket is extraordinarily light at 107g for my medium test model – as verified by The Kitchen Scales of Truth. A quick comparison with a few of my pertex windshells puts it right in the same ballpark, but with the obvious benefit of better weather protection. It bundles up into a similar size ball, and comfortably fits into a jersey pocket. In fact it is so packable, I rarely leave home without it now.
In use, I was blown away by the level of breathability the jacket offered. It is a definite step up from previous Gore-Tex offerings. Even hard efforts were dealt with, with minimal clamminess. Our wet winter gave me plenty of opportunity to test the waterproof claims. Even after a few hours of riding in torrential rain, that left every other part of me sodden, beads of water rolled off the outside of the jacket. Back home, the mud and road-grime coated jacket got chucked in the wash with the rest of my riding gear and was ready to go again.
As a result, I simply love this jacket. It is because I love it, the biggest flaw hurts so much. In their quest for light weight, Gore-Tex are very clear that the jacket is not designed to be as robust as others in their range. They recommend that you do not use a pack, as it will gradually abrade the fabric. It is also extremely sensitive to the kind of nicks that are inevitable when riding off-road. I have already put a small hole in the arm, thanks to a wayward bramble. Of equal importance to some, will be the choice of black fabric, making it not particularly visible on the road, despite reflective logos. This review is not the place for the pros and cons of wearing hi-vis clothing on the bike, but if you have a penchant for fluoro, this is not the jacket for you.
If your budget can stretch to a highly specific item of clothing – one which offers great protection and superb breathability, at the price of off-road practicality, then I whole heartedly recommend the jacket. If, you are looking for a single waterproof to cover the gamut of commuting to off-road jaunts, there are more suitable options on the market.
Sign up as a Singletrack Member and you can leave comments on stories, use the classified ads, and post in our forums, do quizzes and more.
Join us, join in, it’s free, and fun.