Monday, December 20, 2010

Pre-Review: REI Novara Verita Bike Jacket

I'm a long time lover of the O2 Rainshield jacket. It's cheap ($40), it's light, and it breaths as well as any fancy jacket I've tried. In the spring, the O2 lives in my daily bag. Paired with RainMates/Rain Legs, the O2 is a great rain solution. In the summer, the O2 lives in my overnighter kit. It's a great wind breaker and exterior shell for chilly descents and unexpected cold events.

The only drawback of the O2 is it's fragility. The longest I've made one work is almost 2 years. Usually the cuffs fray and blow apart then tears work their way up the sleeves. But more than once, I've snagged the jacket and ripped it on the body somewhere. It's repairable, sort of, with clear packing tape, but eventually, the O2 just rips up and falls apart. The $40-ness of the O2 makes this almost acceptable. But that's still kind of lame.

In any case I've never really thought of replacing the O2. I'm mostly suspicious of the idea of a fabric that keeps water out but still breaths. The more expensive the fabric is, the more suspicious I become. I've had Gortex jackets and other fancy jackets. For years I used a Marmit Precip, which was good for keeping the water out, but just totally sweated me out on the inside. The only high-zoot magic super tech fabric I really believe is Schoeller. But it's not really waterproof.

The Verita uses eVent fabric. I've never owned an eVent item before. But 3 people I trust, have given it the thumbs up, so I'm hopeful.

Three things happened to get me into a Verita.
1. Alex bought one and raved a bit about it. "Raved" may be over stating it, but he liked it and he hit all the keywords when explaining why he liked it.

2. Liza finally replaced her ancient Marmot Precip shell. She got an REI eVent jacket and she really likes it. She is not one for hype, so when she started talking about how well it breathed and how well it kept her dry, I was interested.

3. The PR people at REI provide me with a Verita to review. I'd have a hard time spending $190 on this jacket. I know there's a very high likelihood that I will fall/wreck/etc and rip it. That would not stand if I spent nearly $200 on a rain jacket. And I can't do that "just bring it back" thing for items I mess up.

So, I'll be running this jacket through the John ringer and looking for how it stands up to abuse and how it keeps out the rain and cold and how it packs down and how it lets me breath and how it generally replaces a $40 throw away jacket. I'll also follow the care directions dutifully (basically: wash the jacket obsessively) to make sure I'm holding up my end of the bargain.

So far, so good. The fit is dialed in, nice and snug/cut well for riding. The details are nice. This is clearly a well-made, well thought-out jacket by people that cycle.

I like the reflective piping and bits everywhere. The orange is called "nuclear orange" and is too orange for me. I like more chilled out/muted colors. I get the visibility thing and for a rain jacket, it gets a pass. But I'd rather have a less orange orange. Because I like orange.

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates -- likely embedded in other posts as I use the jacket in my normal cycling routines. When I talk about this jacket in subsequent posts, I'll mark the posts with the Verita label.  But I'll also do a wrap up in a year or so.

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