By Vernon Felton
Race Face Chute: $189.00
If you hail from the Pacific Northwest, you either ride in the rain or you get really good at Scrabble. It began drizzling when I got home in October from our Bible of Bike Tests sessions in Fruita, it's pissing rain right now and it will be doing some variation on Noah's great flood up until the fourth of July.
In short, "wet" is the prevailing condition in this upper lefthand corner of the continent. Race Face hails from Vancouver, which is, if anything, even sloppier than where I live in Western Washington. It goes without saying, then, that the company would know a fair bit about designing a jacket that'll enable you to pedal off into the kind of weather that would break mountain bikers in more benevolent climes.
The Race Face Chute is constructed from a three-ply, water-resistant fabric that is laminated to a waterproof, breathable membrane and backed by lightweight mesh. The seams are all nicely sealed, which keeps water from infiltrating at the weak points.
The Chute is equipped with an integrated hood that can be cinched down (via a bungee in the back) when not in use. Speaking of cinching, you can also adjust the waist via pull cords.
For a rain jacket that is fairly substantial (i.e., rugged), the Chute has a fairly soft hand--it conforms nicely to your body and is pretty comfortable on long rides. A lot of the tougher jackets out there feel bulky or inflexible, but that's far from the case with the Chute. The Chute's collar features a lined chin-guard and a "zipper garage" that prevent the jacket from chafing your throat. Nice.
The Chute is said to be breathable and while it performs decently on that front, the key to staying dry on long climbs is to take advantage of the ample pit zips, which keep your core from reaching "boil over" temps.
I like that the Chute sports large pull tabs on all of its zippers, which allow you to make adjustments on the fly, when your hands are swathed in giant, water-logged gloves that afford you all of the dexterity of an inebriated lobster. You never need to remove your gloves to operate the Chute's zips. It's a seemingly trivial detail, but a huge plus when the weather is icy.
On the whole, I was impressed with the Chute. The waterproofing was not as bullet proof as the treatments applied to a few of the other jackets I've been testing of late--it completely fended off five hours worth of steady rains before becoming saturated--but even after the jacket began absorbing water, it still managed to keep me warm and, mind you, this was in near-freezing temperatures.
The Chute distinguishes itself as a jacket that is both comfortable and burly--two traits that don't always go hand in hand. Some rain jackets give up the ghost after a few crashes, but the Chute is built to withstand the kind of abuse the North Shore doles out, which is something I definitely appreciated.