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.