On Sunday at Brown County, the weather forecast was challenging. It was around 60, damp, and calling for rain. I was comfortable with my choice of clothing for pre-rain conditions with my windstopper singlet and arm warmers, and I was comfortable with my Goretex Oxygen jacket for rain. But I’ve ridden in rain before…if you ride long enough, you get soaked through, your chamois gets soaked through, your skin gets soaked through. I was a bit worried…riding in the coming mud and rain, on a mountain bike, would be a new experience for me. I didn’t have rainpants with.
Brendan offered me a set of Gore’s Goretex Alp-X 2.0 GT 3/4 overpants. In the interests of full-disclosure, my first reaction was along these lines: whah? Why 3/4 pants? What good could they possibly do? Your feet and calves get soaked and muddy, but your knees stay dry? It didn’t really make sense. But hey, it was better than getting fully soaked, so I said sure. Besides, they were amazingly light and compact, and easy to stuff in my hydration pack, so I brought them with.
My initial thoughts were questioning the utility of the pants. But when it started dumping, I threw the pants on. My Gore Oxygen jacket fit perfectly over them, and provided a nice, waterproof barrier from head to…well…mid-calf. The Oxygen jacket’s cut was great: in front, it was cut high enough to not get in the way when in ‘attack’ position, and the back was cut long enough to keep me completely covered and dry from the water and mud being thrown up by my rear tire. Here’s the front:
Given the paucity of pictures I took, there are none of the back. Look at the Oxygen review to see what it looks like.
Here the pants/jacket combo is, post-race:
So what about 3/4 pants?
These are unlined, Goretex only pants. No chamois. Loose enough (mountain bike ‘baggy’) fit to go over either mountain bike baggies or bibshorts like I had on.
With temps hovering around the upper 50s/lower 60s, variable wind, and downpours, the 3/4 length was perfect from a temperature-management perspective. My lower body was perfectly temperature regulated.
What about moisture? I was riding hard, and sweating…in a downpour. Nonetheless, when the ride was over (why did the rain stop only when the ride was over?) I popped off the 3/4 pants and, much to my amazement, my legs were dry. My bib shorts and chamois were as if I had been on a hard ride…not as if I had been in a hard ride in the soaking rain. I was comfortable the whole ride. My skin didn’t get clammy or raisin-y. Frankly, I was blown away by how well the outfit did at moving moisture away from my skin.
Also, one of my concerns was that I would have fabric bunching…in my crotch (gestures towards crotch). I was wearing bib shorts, and I was worried that wearing these pants over bibs would create extra fabric or fabric bunching in the crotchal-region that would be uncomfortable. It wasn’t an issue at all. The pants fit neatly over my bibs, didn’t bunch, didn’t create any friction, and didn’t create any problems. Even when my saddle was packed with mud, it was downpouring rain, and I was sweating profusely, the fabric didn’t bunch and didn’t cause any chafing. The cut of the pants was perfect. (Of note, I was wearing a Large; I think a Medium might fit me better. Nonetheless, even wearing a size up, I had no bunching/chafing problems).
You may have noted I haven’t commented on the 3/4 length yet…because I was originally tenuous about the length as noted above Here’s my now-informed thoughts on that:
I liked it. I was overcome by liking it. In the temps I was in, full pants would have been too hot. Moreover, riding in the mud and with mud packing the cranks, bb, and seatstays, pants would have gotten in the way. The 3/4 pants were the perfect length to keep me dry, keep me a comfortable temp, and stay out-of-the-way of the mud. Moreover, they kept mud out of the ‘moving parts’ of your knee. If you’ve never been on a ride and had mud get packed into a moving joint like your knee, consider yourself lucky. It’ll rub you raw. Again, the pants performed admirably in that regard.
If it was hot (80+), the 3/4 pants might be too warm. If it was cold (sub-40), the would probably not be warm enough. In that range, however, they’re great.
Let me acknowledge reality: a lot of people believe that they cannot afford nice kit…that they can’t have the right gear for different conditions. I saw dudes riding in cotton t-shirts. Sure, they were hypothermic and soaked, but they were riding. But here’s the deal: this Gore stuff works. And it’s truly “buy once” gear. If you get a set of the 3/4 pants, they have a lifetime warranty. If they ever stop being waterproof…if they ever stop working, Gore will replace them. So are they an investment? Yes. They’re an investment. You spend the money once, and then you’ll have them. Forever.
I was skeptical. They exceeded expectations. I would have been miserable without them. They were pure magic for the conditions I was riding in.