Nothing ruins a ride like rain. That is, until you ride in the rain and realize, hey, this isn’t so bad! Sure, you have to pay a little more attention to your tires to prevent yourself from skidding into a ditch, but with the right equipment wet rides offer sights, sounds, and smells you would miss otherwise. While there are a lot of options out there to keep you dry, Bontrager sent over three of their latest options for us to tempt the skies – the Convertible Windshell, Packable Stormshell, and the mountain bike oriented Rhythm Stormshell Jacket.
So far our season has offered plenty of wet weather testing, see how they all fared after the break!
Combined, the three jackets couldn’t be more different in their intended uses – one is for big mountain off road epics, one is a completely waterproof packable shell, and the last is a vest that doubles as a wind proof/water resistant jacket.
Perhaps the most surprising in the test was the Packable Stormshell. After using a jacket like this you will wonder how you ever got along without it. Bontrager sells a few different packable jackets from the $69.99 Sport Packable Wind Jacket to the premium $219.99 eVent Packable Stormshell, but for half the price at $109.99 the Packable Stormshell is a winner.
The Small jacket tested here offered a nice slim fit with elastic cuffs and hem that didn’t turn into a sail when riding into a stiff wind. It offers a no-nonsense design with one rear side pocket that doubles as a stow sack, and a drop tail to keep your backside dry. Fully taped seams ensure that the water stays out, even at full speed.
Both sleeves are equipped with large pull tabs that make it easy to take the jacket on or off while riding even with gloves, and help to make sure the sleeves don’t turn inside out. The Stormshell isn’t quite as breathable as the high end eVent model with 8,000 g/m2/24 hr verses 13,000 g/m2/24hr breathability and double the waterproofing for the eVent, but for all but the longest, most drenched rides it is perfectly adequate. On everything except extremely humid summer rain storms, breathability was enough to keep comfortable and mostly dry on the inside.
In the early Spring we have a lot of cold, wet days, and the Stormshell was just roomy enough to layer up underneath to keep warm. After probably no less than 100 stuffs into the pocket, removing, wearing, splashing, and abusing the jacket it has proven to be nicely durable.
On rides that start off dry but threaten to be a washout, the Stormshell fits neatly into a jersey pocket in its stowed form and as mentioned is easily unfurled while riding. If you need to take off the jacket while still riding, it can be tucked into a jersey pocket without packing it back up. Finally at 165g, it’s hardly an inconvenience if you bring it along and you’re graced with dry weather all the way home.
The Packable Stormshell is offered in Hi Vis Yellow for those opposed to black, though the black at least offers reflective accents, and both are sold in XS-XXL. Bontrager isn’t the only company to make packable jackets, but with the Packable Stormshell they have made quite a good one. If you don’t have a jacket of this type, it’s almost guaranteed to change your perception of “rideable” weather.
Next up is Bontrager’s top of the line mountain bike rain jacket, the Rhythm Stormshell. A lot of thought has gone into making wet weather mountain biking as comfortable as possible, especially with the chest vents. While many rain jackets offer pit zips for additional ventilation, they’re not ideal when you’re hunched over on a mountain bike wearing a hydration pack. The zippered chest vents pucker a bit when zipped up and not riding, but out on the trail they make a lot of sense when unzipped.
Built with a relaxed fit, shock corded waist with a 2″ drop tail, 3 pockets, and velcro wrist closures, the Rhythm has many of the feature you’d expect from high end threads.
Compared with the Stormshell on the left, the Profila Stormshell 2.5 layer fabric on the right looks similar but there is no mistaking the increased protection from the elements. Boasting 10,000mm Waterproof/10,000g/m2/24hr breathability and fully taped seams and waterproof YKK zippers the Rhythm is a fortress against the elements.
The Jacket also features a helmet compatible, mesh lined hood with a shock cord to keep it tight. When using the hood without a helmet like before or after a ride you have to pull the draw string very tight, but it does work.
When not in use, the hood is a bit bulky since there is no way to stow or remove it. If that bothers you, it’s about the only flaw in an otherwise stellar piece of gear.
Not only does the jacket work flawlessly in heavy downpours, it also makes for a great winter shell with the right layering underneath. On the day of the ride pictured above, the snow was very heavy and wet which weighed down the trees blocking our path. If I wasn’t wearing some sort of waterproof layer I would have been soaked halfway through the ride.
Make no mistake, at $219.99, the Rhythm Stormshell is an expensive piece of kit. However, it works extremely well and if your riding involves a lot of rain you know how important a great rain jacket can be.
Finally, the Bontrager Convertible Windshell is a fairly ubiquitous design, but is still a nice jacket none the less. With a base layer wind vest, the jacket has sleeves that zipper on to create a wind shell that is water resistant. This is the jacket you want for chilly days where full waterproofing isn’t necessary, but the chill in the air requires extra layers. The jacket will still shrug off light shower, just don’t expect to stay dry for long in a downpour.
Compared to the other jackets in the test, the cut of the Windshell isn’t as sleek, offering more wind noise with the sleeves installed, but the vest portion actually fits very well. Bontrager mentions to consider sizing up if you prefer a roomier fit, but while I would agree on the Packable Stormshell, the Windshell seems to run a little big.
Like many of the other designs the back of the vest is mesh which is then covered by the sleeve portion with a big vent in the back for ventilation. In addition to the three pockets on the front, there is a side access pocket in the rear that works very well to stash the sleeves if you take them off mid ride.
Even though the design might not be ground breaking, there is no denying the versatility of a piece like the Convertible Windshell. At $99.99, the price is reasonable enough and offers full YKK zippers, reflective accents, and DWR coating. Compared to other convertible jackets I have used the Bontrager may be slightly more water resistant, but other that there really isn’t anything that jumps out at you. It’s simply a solid piece that works as advertised. Like the Packable Stormshell, the Windshell is also available in Hi Vis Yellow, and in XS-XXL.
If you’re considering jackets because you ride in the rain and cold, you owe it to yourself to check out Bontrager’s warmers and Race Thermal Bibs as well. We’ve reviewed the warmers before, but the Thermal shorts are great in the rain as they keep you warm even when wet. They are definitely not waterproof, but I’ve found that as long as my core, arms, and head are warm, the Thermal bibs are plenty to keep the lower half warm, especially with knee warmers. Not to mention that even if they weren’t thermal, the cut, fabric, grippers, and chamois on the shorts are brilliant. At $119.99, these shorts may be just the ticket for the upcoming cross season – you know, if you aren’t repping a team.