On my last working day, I rode to work in a downpour. I don't mind rain while I am riding; in fact, secretly, I quite like it. If you've got decent gear, then you aren't going to get wet, and all you have to do is to take things a bit more steadily than normal, put your lights on, watch out for blind car drivers peering out through misted windscreens, and enjoy the pitter-patter of tiny raindrops on your visor. I said "if you've got decent gear", and that's a big 'if'.
Riders of a similar vintage to my own will remember when 'waterproof' as applied to motorcycle clothing was an in-joke. It wasn't, they knew it, we knew it, and we did the best we could with what we had. But nowadays, with modern materials and manufacturing techniques, it is possible to make bike gear that is completely waterproof. Not only that, but the kit is breathable, too. I suppose it has always been possible to make stuff waterproof; you just had to have enough thickness of PVC and heavy welds. But this was awful to wear - heavy, clammy, stiff, and if you walked about in it you got wetter from your own sweat than you ever would have done from a bit of rain. So GoreTex and its derivatives have been a blessing to bikers, allowing the manufacture of kit that is both 100% waterproof and a pleasure to wear at the same time.
When I returned to biking four years ago after a lay-off of ten years, I was lucky. My local dealer carried a range of Richa bike gear and they had what I needed: a waterproof textile suit with a thermal lining and CE-approved armour. It was January when I bought it, and warmth was a priority. The Richa Albatross suit (no longer made) delivered the goods. It was a bit bulky and heavy, but it was as warm as toast and never let a drop of water in, despite being ridden through some Biblical storms. I wore it almost every working day and came to rely on it. But all good things must come to an end, and recently the suit has been showing its age.
It started with a damp feeling to the rear end when sitting on a wet bike seat. I never actually got wet trousers, but the clammy feeling wasn't nice. The Cordura outer had also started 'wetting out', where the nylon absorbs water rather than shedding it, which doesn't affect the waterproofing but makes the suit weight a ton after a ride in the rain, and take a week to dry. I had done the standard thing and washed the suit first in Nikwax Techwash and then in TX Direct, but it only lasted a day or two. And then, a few nights ago, I rode to work in the rain. And after five miles my left leg was soaking. Time to shoot the dog.
I could have just replaced the trousers, although Richa's strange zipping arrangements meant I would have to stick with salopettes, which I wanted to get away from. So I decided to go for a new jacket and trousers combo, this time with a small amount of high-visibility material. Not a neon banana suit, but something subtle. The dealer didn't have a lot of stock. I ended up sticking with Richa (why not?) and bought a Vision Fluoro jacket and Monsoon trousers. They are slightly lighter-weight material than the Albatross kit, and may end up being less warm as a result, but they fit well and are comfy, and that means I am more likely to wear them for normal day-rides as well as the daily commute. The tickets added up to £230, we settled on a round £200, and off I went.
I have worn them once so far, and can report that they kept a light shower out, and were fairly warm - although the weather is hardly Arctic at the moment - so it's so far so good. The commute begins again tomorrow.
Here is the jacket (the trousers are black and unremarkable) - front: