It’s that time of year again when deciding what to wear before a ride can take nearly as long as the ride itself. Baselayers, short or long sleeve jerseys, gilet, arm warmers… yes, choosing what to wear at this time of year is no easy task. Then on top of that you have to consider the waterproof. Unless it’s really foul you’re unlikely to need a waterproof the whole time, and many waterproofs are too bulky to fit inside a pocket between showers. It seems emigrating to Barbados would be far simpler than this faffing.
But tickets to Barbados don’t come cheap, so a high quality but compact waterproof is an essential purchase. Rapha’s Stowaway jacket manages to offer all the pros of a fully-fledged waterproof, but it still squashes easily into a jersey pocket. Made from 2.5 Ply Polyamide material which is a tough yet remarkably waterproof multi-layer fabric, it’s thin and nicely soft to the touch. As waterproofing is this jackets speciality, all the seams are taped to guarantee prevention of moisture seeping through, and double-taped on the shoulders.
There’ll be no water coming through the waterproofed zip either. We don’t often get excited about zips but this one has a really nice action: very smooth and direct… The top section of which diverts of to the left side so you don’t get the annoying zip/chin interface you sometimes get, and the collar sits high up the neck. Inside a stretch of softer fabric provides a super soft feel, ideal on gloomy days.
All good features, but what makes the Stowaway stand out are some of the more unique touches. Our favourite have to be the lyrca cuffs. We’re not fans of Velcro cuffs, although they do allow more adjustability they nearly always let in a draft – this problem is completely avoided with the lyrca, but on the downside it can get a touch sweaty in the arms if it’s even remotely warm outside. A baselayer sorts this, and to be honest if the conditions are such that you’ve resorted to wearing the Stowaway, it’s not a problem.
Comfort is excellent as the fit is just right. The dropped tail is hugely exaggerated, and the front rides high when walking around (or is that poncing around…), but on the bike it provides perfect coverage. The length of the tail makes getting to jersey pockets on the move tricky, so Rapha have cunningly designed a large flap lets you get at your energy gels. They also thought about safety, twin reflective strips on the arms and one on the tail make sure you stand out in the traffic or country lanes. And for those who might use it for commuting, both shoulders have two strips of very hardwearing material so you won’t wear holes in the fine material. And for storage of small paraphernalia, a small zipped pocket on the front.
Despite all this, the jacket easily squashes into a small ball and can easily be stuffed into your jersey pocket. It’s an ideal accompaniment for riding during this time of the year, and despite the high price, it’s packed with features that all add a lot of functionality and comfort. It’s ideal for indecisive people (like us), and we now never leave home without it. It’s performance in a range of conditions is stunning, and in torrential rain it effortlessly shakes it all of. It can be worn for longer durations when there’s lots of short frequent showers, but it can tend to get a little warm. But a quick stop to shove it on a pocket and problem solved.