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.

Winter Ride Around Canby, Oregon

For the past several years, I have been drawn south to Canby from my Portland home base for winter cycling.

The Willamette River bends in a sharp s-curve at Canby before heading north toward its confluence with the mighty Columbia River.  Its beauty calls to me.  Fall colors, winter which promises spring, and the mesmerizing quiet of the ride offer a compelling contrast to cycling in Portland.

Today, I followed this little town’s cycling loop, rather accidentally.  I’ve ridden here a lot, and have ventured east of town up onto the plateau that sits above the river, and boasts the best of Oregon farm country – hazelnut groves, vegetable crops, and horses, cattle, sheep, and llamas a-plenty.  The basic route depicted above is a totally flat 11 mile loop.  It’s easy to add side trips to your journey, as there’s lots to explore around this sweet little town.

I’ve recently converted my 1980’s custom Meral 650b bicycle to more upright style handlebars.  On today’s ride one of my goals was to evaluate the bike’s ergonomics with the new Velo-Orange Tourist handlebars.

I wasn’t sure how to think about the brake levers for this bike – I wanted to stay true to its French heritage, and resisted purchasing new brake levers for the upright bar.  I finally settled on these black vintage Mafac levers.  I also removed 3 cm of bar material from each bar end of the V-O tourist bars.  I have found that modern upright style bars are generally too wide and long, and without cutting them down can give your bike an out of balance appearance, not to mention being uncomfortable.

To keep the bars free for additional hand positions I opted for stem mounted shifters.  These SunTour ratcheting shifters performed just fine, but I did have to adjust the position of the rear derailleur on down-shifts, whereas upshifts were near perfect.  I may replace these with some stem mounted Simplex Retrofriction shifters once I have a mounting option identified.

Oregon City Falls

The City of Canby sits along the Willamette River, upstream from the falls and locks at the historic town of Oregon City.  Today, the river was swift moving.  Maybe, I was too.

My 1980’s Meral is built with Reynolds 531 tubing, with a fully chromed fork (and with chromed main tubes underneath the dark lavender paint). That, plus converting the bike to 650b has made it one of my most treasured bicycles.  Happy riding in 2019!

Sunday Ride

My old friend, Katie, is fond of opining that the downfall of our society occurred when stores began to stay open on Sundays.  From there, she says, it’s been a downhill slide.  She might be right.

My childhood Sundays were a mixed bag:  enforced church attendance (faking an illness having been exhausted as an excuse years earlier), my mother’s dutiful Sunday dinner executed with earnestness if lacking in passion and culinary talent, and then the blessed release of the children out into the wild. My Dad would daze himself on TV football, and my Mom retreated for her quiet time.  There was no business to conduct, and there were no tasks to complete other than the usual chores required to run a household and small farm, and these were kept to a minimum on Sundays. God’s day of rest.

With God and parents at rest, my older brother and younger sister were my playmates on Sunday afternoons.  But, as we approached our teenage years, more and more often we chose our own separate pursuits on Sundays.  And that’s when I began what has become a lifelong tradition: a Sunday bike ride.

I don’t quite remember the bike I rode in the mid-1960’s (this was before getting my green sparkle Spyder with banana seat), but I do remember that it had an internal hub. I suspect that it was something like the 1968 Sears Econo model depicted above, but was probably the smaller child’s version.  It was a diamond frame, with upright bars, and definitely sported a battery powered headlamp.  It was challenging to ride, because it had no low gears, and while I understood the basics of derailleur shifting back then, I was confounded by what could possibly be going on inside the internal hub.  My father would attempt to explain that there were gears inside, and something called a planet.  I would stare endlessly at the tiny chain emerging from inside the hub and imagined that it housed a miniature derailleur on the inside.  I could not figure it out.

But that did not stop me from riding that bike.  The countryside around our home was hilly, but along the base of the hills was the Applegate River Valley of Southern Oregon.  The road running through the valley was in no way designed to accommodate a 10 year old on a bicycle.  There are blind curves, no shoulders, and narrow lanes.  That’s another thing that’s changed since then:  today’s parents would never allow their unaccompanied 10 year old to ride these roads.  It was a different time, where the pace was slower and neighbors watched over each other’s kids, at least to some degree.

To prepare for my ride, I would pack up snacks, water, and tools (like a good Girl Scout) into my bike’s front wire basket.  My adventures took me off road, sometimes walking my bike up the steep dirt logging roads in the area.  I cycled past streams, irrigation canals, and small creeks.  Upon return, my basket almost always carried something I hadn’t started with:  a wounded bird, a small turtle, a beautiful stone.

When I lived in Newport, Oregon in the late 1970’s, my Sunday ride was the trip up Yaquina Bay.  That ride was mostly flat, along the Yaquina River estuary, an important waterway and resource for the Siletz tribe who lived in the area, before they were forced out by white invaders in the mid 1800’s. When I visit Newport, I usually plan a ride up Yaquina Bay Road.  Every time I ride this road I am greeted with Nature’s enduring beauty, and I try to imagine this bay as it was hundreds of years ago.

Today’s Sunday ride took me out to Oak’s Bottom where I was treated to a Bald Eagle flying overhead.  On the way through the wetlands I saw Great Blue Herons, Northern Flickers, and a rarely observed Green Heron, among the other wintering birds.  While I didn’t add anything to my “basket”, I brought home instead the images and memories of today’s ride with its bright, low end-of-the-year sunlight, and bone-chilling wind.  A perfect way to end this year and begin anew.