The Alé K-Tornado: A good jacket for bad weather

I realise that for most of the northern hemisphere, it’s still summer. But not here. The sunshine in Ireland has faded quicker than Richie Porte at a grand tour, and by the looks of things it won’t be too long until I’m digging out the winter kit bag.

A little wind, a little drizzle, the occasional ray of sun – that’s the Irish summer. There have been a few rides recently where the changeable elements called for something more than a jersey. And as luck would have it, I had Alé’s K-Tornado jacket waiting to be tested.

They say jacket, I say long-sleeve jersey. Alé suggests a temperature range of 6º to 12º Celsius (that’s 43º to 54º in old money). But depending on how you layer I’d say it functions well outside of that range. I’ve been using it with a base layer and short bibs to great effect in a variety of conditions.

It does a great job of keeping you warm and dry without the old boil-in-the-bag feel that used to come with a lot of wet-weather options. Can anything really be waterproof and breathable? Ignoring the marketing jargon, common sense would say no. But having said that, this jacket makes for a pretty good compromise. Alé says that their proprietary waterproof fabric features “billions of microscopic pores that allow sweat to quickly evaporate.” Sooner or later, the rain will get in, but I’ve tried running a tap over the sleeve and the water beads right off. At the same time, it’s a world away from a plastic rain cape in terms of general comfort, and I’m happy to pull it on even when it’s clear outside.

The zipper is waterproof and the stretchy material will keep out everything but very heavy rain. The long cuffs cover more on top without bunching up below your palms, thanks to an asymmetric cut. That leaves you both covered and comfortable, and while this next observation has nothing to do with functionality, I also think they look cool. A flap covers the pockets to help keep them dry, and the bottom of the jacket extends nice and low so you can cover your behind from tyre spray. There are also some nice reflective strips for added visibility.

Alé have been around for a long time, often making product for other brands. You’ll come across plenty of their stuff in Italy, but they’re no so well known internationally. They should be. Both the materials and the finish feels top-notch, and the cut will appeal to anyone who like a racy fit. Definitely worth considering when the weather eventually turns on you.


Showers Pass will take whatever Mother Nature is Giving

 

Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

If you are attracted to the idea of spending a wet winter bicycle commuting in comfort and safety, the affordable Showers Pass Club Pro Jacket, a heavier-duty shell fit for layering on the bike, could be a great cornerstone of your regular getup. Yet if you are looking for an on-off stowable jacket for conditions that evolve over the course of a recreational ride, you might want to look elsewhere in the lineup.

The Club Pro shell is of a classic design, made of a waterproof fabric that drops lower in the back and sleeves cut for a better fit on the bike. It also features zipper-clad vents at the armpits, ventable pockets on the torso and a large horizontal vent above the shoulder blades. A drawstring closure at the waist, Velcro wrist cuffs and a soft fabric neck keep things cozy.

This particular model also features a color so shockingly fluorescent that this tester swore the pigment must have come from another dimension. Showers Pass offers this jacket in a spectrum of hues, all with reflective features.

The fundamental design challenge for a jacket like this is to balance rain protection with ventilation. A garbage bag provides great rain protection, for example, yet will quickly become a horrible swamp during physical exertion.

Rain was a non-issue while wearing the Club Pro during a 14-mile jaunt across a rainy Portland, Oregon. Moisture accumulation within the jacket itself was also not a problem, no doubt thanks in part to the large back vent.

Reflective tape right above the back vent. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Toward the end of the trip, with things getting a little toasty, the other vents were easy to unzip while wearing heavy gloves and provided plenty of cooling without water intrusion. It’s notable to me that the pit vents are short and shielded by the arm, compared to rain shells designed for other outdoor pursuits that tend to have very long vents running along much of the torso.

I’m no stranger to rainy-day cycling, having ridden hundreds of cumulative miles in the pouring winter wet while much of the cycling public was cultivating its love/hate relationship with the turbo trainer. It is absolutely possible to ride in total comfort with the right gear, which hinges most of all on the right rain shell.

To me, this shell is best for very cold and wet commutes, rather than high-intensity recreational rides. The fit is rather generous in the torso, making it easy to layer up with a bulky fleece and other items that are unlikely to come off during an early-morning ride.

The material of the shell itself is burly, making this a garment that does not pack as well as other options. Yet for something that will stay on over the course of a ride, it’s not a bad thing to have something that seems likely to withstand a lot of abuse.

Those looking for something packable still have options from Showers Pass, including the lightweight Spring Classic Jacket. Yet at just over $100, compared to $289 for the Spring Classic, the Club Pro is a solid and relatively affordable option in a shell likely to last several years.

As for the color — with the sun low in the sky in the winter months, assuming the sun is out at all, you are wise to have a little extra visibility. But if radioactive yellow isn’t your thing, you’ve got options.

View from the back. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly
And it was all yellow. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly