New Showers Pass Refuge Jacket vs. Ancient Sugoi

Sugoi Jacket – 2008 WDYR, Photo credit A. Graves

For winter cycling, I’ve used a Sugoi jacket for the last twenty years or so.  The above photo shows me and the jacket aboard the Jack Taylor on the Worst Day of the Year Ride in 2008, a fun Portland winter cycling tradition that I’ve participated in over the years.  At this point the jacket was nearly 10 years old, but as you can see it looks new.

The Sugoi has it all:  full length pit zips, a lightweight liner, a cut-away cycling design with a shorter front and lowered rear, non-rotated sleeves (more comfortable when off the bike), fully waterproof and breathable with plenty of reflective material front and rear, and a soft interior collar.  My only complaint with the Sugoi has been the lack of exterior pockets in the front.  I’ve washed the jacket in Tec-Wash and rejuvenated its waterproof shell with NikWax over the years, with good results.  However, now the jacket doesn’t really come clean as it used to, and much of the Velcro is loosing its mojo.  With some reluctance I began searching for a replacement.  Unfortunately, Sugoi no longer makes anything close to this model.

Medium Sugoi on top of Extra Large Refuge – virtually identical in size.

I own several Showers Pass jackets, which have become the gold standard for cycling outerwear.  Being 100% waterproof and breathable, and extremely well-made, Showers Pass jackets also withstand the test of time. However, I haven’t tried any of their winter cycling jackets until now when I decided to purchase the “Refuge” model, which is billed as multi-purpose:  suitable for hiking, skiing, trekking as well as cycling. I knew that the jacket would be sized oddly, as are all of their women’s models, so I ordered the “extra large” size, which as you can see from the above photo is only slightly larger than the Sugoi size medium I’ve been using all these years.  That turned out to be okay, since the Refuge does not have any internal lining and is just a shell designed to allow layering underneath.

Like all Showers Pass jackets, this model’s quality of construction far exceeds most other cycling jackets.  You can find technical info at the Shower’s Pass website, but suffice it to say that there’s nothing to complain about in terms of quality control.  The front of the jacket has lots of reflective material.

The jacket has many nice features.  You can cinch it down at the hem, there’s some decent reflectivity on the rear (but not as much as in the front) and there are two large front internal pockets, as well as an internal chest pocket.  The jacket is not designed to be cycling specific so it doesn’t have a cutaway front and lower rear.  Instead, it sits about mid-hip (slightly longer than a regular cycling jacket), and features a magnetic rear flap which can be dropped down for those extra rainy endeavors.  The design of the rear flap is ill-conceived for cycling, but may be advantageous to hikers needing to rest on wet surfaces.  In my experience these flaps can snag on saddles with saddle bag loops, and the magnets can get stuck on your saddle rails.

For my test rides on this jacket I hauled out the 1978 Peugeot PR 65, which I’ve set up with an upright riding position.  I ventured out on a 45 degree miserable Portland winter morning, and the jacket performed just as expected.  The jacket did bunch up a bit at the front of my thighs, but this didn’t cause any problems.  I did not engage the rear flap, and did feel a bit of cold air coming up on the jacket’s backside.  Synching down the hem helped, however, and I stayed warm on my rides.  While out on the Peugeot, I didn’t get any compliments on the jacket.  However, there were many admirers of the Peugeot – both pedestrians and cyclists alike.  It’s a nice bike!

I also tried out the detachable hood, something I’ve never worn while cycling.  I usually don ear protection under my helmet for cold, wet rides.  The detachable hood is cutaway on the sides so as not to interfere with peripheral vision, but in practice felt like a wind sock, so I immediately removed it. Fortunately, in my Peugeot’s Carradice bag was an old French beret that works well underneath a helmet, and was the perfect complement to the vintage Peugeot.  It kept my ears and head warm, and kind of made me smile.

WDYR 2006 – Sugoi in center

In conclusion, I’ll say that the Showers Pass Refuge jacket is a perfect all-around jacket, but not a cycling jacket per se.  I’ll probably enjoy using it on rides where I plan to also do some hiking and birding. I am going to continue using the Sugoi jacket until and if I ever find the perfect replacement, even though it is a bit ragged.  I hope that eventually I’ll find its replacement, but the Shower’s Pass Refuge jacket is not it.

12 thoughts on “New Showers Pass Refuge Jacket vs. Ancient Sugoi

  1. That is a very nice mixte. I’ve owned a couple, the most recent a very nice Nishiki, but both were too small, though tall seatposts and stem quills let me ride them. I sold them on.

    It’s too bad they’re no longer made. There has been a recent and lengthy thread on the Rivendell list about mixtes and drop frames, and it’s clear taht there is at least a niche market for mixtes built of quality tubing and assembled with quality parts.

    I’ll keep any eye out for the Showers Pass Refugee jacket. I’ve often looked for a shell layer to wear on cold (sub 30*F) mornings, and it’s a fine line between too light and too heavy.

    A couple of years ago I was looking for a short distance (+/< 10 miles 1-way) shell or outer layer layer to wear at temperatures from the upper teens to the upper 40s over various wool layers, and stumbled on a Leatt cycling jacket at a local bike shop. It's top-of-hip length, so a wee bit longer than most cycling jackets, has a hood with rather neat magnet that is meant to cling to a stick-on magnet (supplied) to be attached to your helmet, this to keep it out of your eyes while riding; but I don't wear a helmet, so the magnet generally sticks to another in the collar that keeps the hood tidily folded up. The Leatt is made of a mid weight nylon shell with very light synthetic lining that addes considerable extra warmth over a bare single layer, and has just 1 iPhone pocket on the top left chest near zipper. I had a tailor add pit zips, and this makes it about 200% more versatile, for this reason: I often use it to ride to church in the early-ish morning, when temps may well be 20*F or below, and then to return some 3 hours later when temps may well be as much as 30*F higher — Albuquerque, New Mexico high desert, with vast nighttime and daytime temperature differentials. Near 20*F, pit zips and neck tightly sealed allowed comfortable riding over an Ibex wool vest and a mid-weight wool base layer, and 3 hours later, opening pit zips and plaquet keeps one comfortable in the upper 40s. The Leatt's hood worn over a winter cycling cap with ear flaps is just right at 20*F: the hood adds ear and face warmth, while the hat's brim shoves the hood aside so you can see when you turn to look over your shoulder. Leave the hood down and use just the cap on the ~30 *F higher return.

    The sole defect (after adding the pit zips) is the lack of rear or side or additional chest pockets.

    • Hi Patrick, I hadn’t heard of the Leatt brand before. Seems like a versatile jacket thanks to your tailor! One thing I do like about the Refuge jacket are the external hand warmer pockets. Oddly, though the vents are placed directly on top of these and so would seem to reduce their effectiveness.

  2. I live in a much dryer world than Portland. My jackets are all single layer wind proof hiking style jackets. Plenty of pockets. I’m so tall that it takes me a while to find the right ones at my all time favorite shopping store. Goodwill. I have a beautiful Columbia wind proof jacket which is my all time favorite. It fits me very well. Has a hood for the times I need my ears and neck warmed. For bicycling I don’t use the hood but resort to a thiner bomber hat that just barely fits under my helmet. But it is getting older. I have a green Mossimo Supply Co jacket I use now which is less wind proof but does the job with proper layering. Green comes from Goodwill also. Both jackets are XXL size. I have larger saddlebags on all my bikes to carry the layers as they come off or go on. As we all know proper clothes make bicycling the pleasure it is. I don’t deal with rain here because it does not rain that much and if it does I stay home or go walking with my umbrella. My Columbia is rain proof but I chose to spare the bike and myself. If I lived in Portland I would have to adapt to riding in the rain.

  3. Hi Nola,

    It’s the worst when you find something so superior thoughtlessly discontinued by the company, in the charge of “progress!”, with nothing else out there even remotely coming close in comparison.

    If you are interested in another Sugoi jacket, you may want to set some eBay alerts. Also, if you are part of any vintage bike forums, it doesn’t hurt to put a public service announcement out asking if anyone has one tucked away in their closet. Sometimes, people do but they just didn’t think to sell it or were going to but hadn’t gotten around to it. Who knows, you may be able to get a “new” Sugoi!

    On another note, I have owned a red, merino long sleeve Sugoi jersey (looks like this: for probably a decade now. It is absolutely one of my go-to’s for moderately cold weather riding. It has a ton going for it and I hope it never wears out. I’ve also worn it enough that more than one person has told me that the word “Sugoi” in Japanese means, “Awesome!” which I do find humorous, especially since the brand logo is so large on my jersey. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a jersey that says “Awesome!” in English, largely, but somehow, in Japanese, it’s OK in my book.

    • One thing that I learned too late is that, in the bike industry at least, if you find something you like, buy two. Next year the model will be “upgraded” in a very disappointing way. I too have an older Sugoi jersey that finally just fell apart, but it was the most comfortable one I had and I wore into into disintegration!

  4. Fortunately I too live in an area that sees little rain , particularly this year. I dont have any bikes that have fenders so usually I sit it out if there is rain unless it is just a sprinkle. My future plans however are that I ride the Oregon Coast (north to South of course) So I will be on the hunt for a good rain coat as well as pants. Years ago when I lived on a sailboat I used my foul weather gear and it worked but a bit awkward to cycle in.

    • I hope you get a chance to ride the coast with the wind at your back. I haven’t done that journey since I was in my 20’s. It’s a challenging journey but well worth it.

  5. I had a basic model Showers Pass rain shell a few years ago that I bought at Bike Gallery that I loved. It fit me well, didn’t flap in the wind much and it seemed to breath pretty well through the vent system. Sounds great right? Well, I was doing a wet ride (200k brevet) and when the sun came out and I put the shell in it’s stuff sack. Finished the ride and forgot to unpack the shell. Long story short, when I unpacked it some weeks later all of the coating inside the shell flaked off. My fault I know for putting it away wet but it destroyed the shell but I was both surprised, and bummed! Get them wet all you want but dry them out after!!!

  6. Hi: I found an older generation Sugoi (much like yours) from a thrift seller for $ 35.00. Normally I am a size medium, but I found the Sugoi is a very (over) generous cut and size and small works well for me. Only thing worn with age are: the elastics around the waist have very little stretch left. Otherwise, you are 100% correct, much, much better than what’s available today! Can’t seem to find any info on product care (washing drying.) Thanks for a great article!

Leave a Reply to Nola WilkenCancel reply