Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Long-Term Review: Vulpine Women's Rain Trousers and Jacket

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
When we think of rain gear for cycling, we tend to imagine technical, slippery garments designed for the very specific purpose of keeping dry in wet conditions. These garments do the job. And we can't wait to peel them off once the rain ends. But what of those of us who live and ride in climes where rain never really "ends" as such? where precipitation is the norm, and not a special occasion? Are we to resign ourselves to permanent clamminess under plasticky shells? Are we to shiver under the oppressive weight of soggy tweeds? 

"Heavens forbid," says British apparel manufacturer Vulpine. "We've made some Epic Cotton (™!) rainwear for this very predicament. And it even looks stylish off the bike." 

"Oh Vulpine. You with your quirky social media presence and your heady claims. I'll believe it when I try it for myself." 

And that is how a parcel landed on my doorstep last Autumn containing items from the new Vulpine women's range (read about the men's in this earlier post as well as here): a pair of women's Cotton Rain Trousers and an Original Rain Jacket. Admittedly I took my sweet time testing these garments. Autumn turned to Winter and Winter to Spring, and before I knew it summer was around the corner. Of course, this being Northern Ireland, it has rained continually. 

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
After months of wear, I remain unsure of how to describe the Vulpine Rain Jacket. It is flattering and comfortable, it's kept me dry in the rain, and has all sorts of cycling-specific features that I'll list in a bit. But beyond that there is just something about it - can jackets have auras? - that makes for an overall effect beyond the sum of its parts. On the bike or off, I don't mind saying this jacket feels fricking lovely.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
The cotton fabric has a soft texture to it that is pleasant to the touch. The "Epic" treatment (read about it here) really does make it water-repellant and resistant (as defined by keeping me dry for up to 4 hours in a downpour; haven't tried longer). Available in the military green shown here (which is more like a soft sage) or indigo, this jacket is designed for both dry and wet weather, and rated for temperatures 8-18°C. The fit feels true to size, I am a UK size 10 (US size 4) and the Small fits me well.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
The tailoring I would describe as military meets biker, relying on a combination of darting and drawcords to give the jacket structure.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
At the same time there is a drapeyness that softens the look, the flowy quality of the fabric an interesting contrast to the square shoulders and crisp standup collar.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
Large zipper pockets with magnet-closure flaps have somehow been achieved without adding bulk to the waistline. A slew of additional interior and sleeve-side pockets offer more storage opportunities, again without compromising the flattering silhouette.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
A removable hi-viz "splash guard" flap with reflective detailing can be released or stowed away (I never use it, but for those who like this sort of thing - it is indeed highly visible: "Like a baboon's bottom!" according to the delighted remark of a cycling companion).

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
A subtly placed vent over the shoulder blades provides ventilation. And extra length in the rear and in the sleeves provides good coverage even in a drop bar position, without looking out of place off the bike. Neither do the subtle reflective bits at the shoulders and sleeve cuffs look overly cycling-specific.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
On the bike, the best thing about the jacket is that it does not pull or constrain in any way - the cut allows for excellent freedom of movement while appearing sleek and tailored. In cool weather the jacket regulates temperature adequately even on spirited rides, though I would not wear it in temps above 75°F.

Over the months I've tested it, I have found the Vulpine Women's Original Rain Jacket surprisingly versatile. I have worn it on commutes, on long photo expeditions and on road rides, as well as off the bike altogether. I have worn it with cycling clothes, with casual clothes, even with dresses and high heels. In cool temperatures, I find the weight and breathability to be well suited for both casual and sporty cycling, regardless of whether it's raining or not. The one major drawback as far as versatility, is that the jacket is too bulky to stow away in a jersey pocket or even in a small handlebar/saddle bag, which limits its usefulness in a roadcycling context.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
While the Vulpine Original Rain Jacket has many useful features to recommend it, in truth my fondness for it has just as much to do with its overall je ne sais quoi. It is one of the more interesting articles of clothing I have worn in some time. It looks lovely, feels lovely, and has become a wardrobe staple.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
Alas, I cannot say the same for the Rain Trousers (available in the indigo shown here and in sahara - a light khaki). Ever on the lookout for a good pair of cycling-friendly trousers, I wanted to like these things, but they are just not for me. The fabric seems to be the same as that of the jacket, but somehow feels stiffer in use. As far as fit, perhaps the problem is my large behind, which makes these trousers sit all wrong - unflatteringly baggy around the abdomen and hips, but tight across the butt.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
The high-waisted tapered leg design doesn't do me any favours either, giving my figure a dated, lumpy look. I can picture these trousers looking good on girls with willowy, boyish figures, creating curves where they do not already exist. But big-bottomed girls, beware!...

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
In theory, the adjustable waist and ankles of the Rain Trousers are useful features. However, for me they only exaggerate the unflattering fit mentioned earlier.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
Ditto with the enormous front pockets, which tend to bunch up inside the front of the trouser legs.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
The front pockets and the waistband at the rear flare out uncomfortably when I am on the bike, and while they don't constrain leg movements I can at times feel a pulling sensation suggesting an awkward fit. 

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
But fit issues aside, there are other aspects of these trousers I am less than enthusiastic about. Firstly, while they are just as water-resistant as the Rain Jacket, they somehow don't feel quite as effective at temperature regulation, despite their 4-20°C rating. Perhaps it's the lack of vents or the fact that, unlike the jacket, they sit directly against the skin. But my legs get hot and clammy when cycling vigorously, even in cool weather. The fabric feels a bit too stiff for pedaling comfort as well. Maybe others will have a different reaction, but I cannot imagine wearing these trousers for anything but casual commuter spins.

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
To balance out the critical comments with some positive ones, the Vulpine Rain Trousers did get something important right that other manufacturers can't seem to manage: They feature a nice roomy gusset at the crotch and no seams that dig into sensitive areas on the saddle regardless of position on the bike. The reflective bits at the cuffs are also nice, and I daresay these trousers look a bit more flattering as capris with the cuffs turned up. 

Vulpine Women's Rainwear
As far as durability, I cannot fault either the jacket or trousers after several months of use. Aside from their impressive water-resistant properties, both garments have proven to be stain-resistant and even scuff-resistant. The jacket in particular I've been wearing quite a lot, and it hardly shows signs of use. 

Vulpine designs their clothing to transcend the on/off the bike distinction, as well as to bridge the gap between sport and transport. These in of themselves are tricky endeavours. Add water-resistant properties and women-specific fit to the mix, and they're really asking for trouble! In light of this, to come up with a garment as cool and versatile as the Women's Original Rain Jacket is commendable. And I hope my blunt feedback about the Rain Trousers will not discourage Vulpine from continuing to offer their brave and unique designs. 

Complete picture set of the jacket and trousers here

35 comments:

  1. Good rainwear is hard to find and hold on to it when you do! I have Hilltrek's Ventile Cotton Analogy smock, which is brilliant for the rain and aerobic activity combined, as well as their breeches. The smock is a fantastic fit and allows complete range of motion, but like with your pants, the fit of the breeches is non-functional (I have size 36, with a 34 waist). It as though they thought I'd be standing around in the things rather than moving and bending at the waist and knees! They are working on making a pair more like climbing pants to allow for full range of motion, so I hope that works out well.

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  2. I know what you mean about the fit and maybe that rear pocket is not the best idea, but let me tell you I have seen worse looking rain pants! At least I can see wearing these to work and keeping them on through the day, which is more than I can say for my current pair.

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    1. Don't get me wrong - I hate the feel, fit and look of typical rain pants, so in that sense to find a pair that I'm willing to wear at all is an improvement. However the Vulpines are expensive trousers that are meant to be functional, stylish and versatile above and beyond just being rain pants. And in that sense I think there is room for improvement.

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    2. I have never considered wearing cycling specific trousers, I've just found some conventional ones which are comfy when on my bike; rain resistant does seem a good idea but I wouldn't buy those you tried - it has nothing to do with your figure, I am quite thin but somehow I doubt they would flatter any body type. The jacket is nice however and the colour you model is great as it will be fine with any other colour of slacks or skirt.

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  3. The pull cord looks like it is half way up your back, well above the waist. Is that part of the design, or does it ride up when you lean over? - Cate

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    1. Part of the design. I think it's meant to sit below the chest, around the start of the ribcage, empire-waistlike. The placement is unusual, but works nicely. You can see in the last photo that the jacket doesn't give me a "hanging gut" look when I lean over as many cycling jackets tend to do.

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  4. Okay, I count at least 3 bikes and one of them I don't recognize!

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    1. What, this old thing? Just a 1935 Claud Butler vacationing at Camp Velouria.

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  5. I'm guessing here: Raleigh Lenton?

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  6. You are such a tease. Show us the Claud. She's as gorgeous as the model astride her.

    Shall I presume the jacket was photographed before or after being worn? Is it possible a rain jacket could look like that after being used without fenders? I've noticed everything I wear in California stays much cleaner than what I use here in Chicago, maybe Ireland is just a clean place. Or maybe the coating used on the cotton is magic.

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    1. Photos after being worn. I wear it on bikes with and without fenders. The coating is non-absorbent, so if the jacket gets spattered I just give it a wipe.

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  7. Awkward question to ask over the Internet, but would you mind providing your chest measurement to assess fitting? It seems like everyone has a different idea of what each size means (the Vulpine website says the small jacket fits a US size 8, for example, whereas you say US size 4), and it can be hard to determine how much ease they are building into their chest measurement. I have been in search of a good, stylish biking rain jacket for months, as I would love to replace my plastic-y technical jacket. Thank you!

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    1. I'm 34A, but there is room to spare there, so you could be a B and possibly even a C and it should be okay.

      Regarding their sizing chart, thanks for reminding me as I meant to point this out to Vulpine. US women's sizes changed at some point in the 70s or 80s, but some UK and EU size charts still go by the older version. Today's US women's sizes translate into UK sizes roughly like this:

      US 0 = UK 6
      US 2 = UK 8
      US 4 = UK 10
      US 6 = UK 12
      US 8 = UK 14

      Hope this helps.

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  8. I've been reading this blog for a few years now. Didn't take me long to realize that cool bikes, new old, common and exotic, just gravitate toward Velouria and have this insatiable urge to be photographed in her presence. What is the source of this mysterious velomagnetism?

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  9. The jacket looks lovely, nice of Vulpine to make some lady wear. Wow, I really like the jacket, will check their website. I love the colour, the fit, the style.
    As for the pants, perhaps the colour is slightly at fault, it is just eye popping. The fit is totally 80's so just think of them as retro. Although I have no love for 80's fashion myself...
    More importantly, women cyclists tend to have strong thighs and bums, so a cycling pant ought to reflect that. So Vulpine ought to sit down and redesign them with actual women cyclists in mind. Lithe willowy women would probably fit into the men's version nicely. Maybe lose the front pockets and weird waistband button thing.
    I would like to see details of the gusseted crotch. Many companies claim to have cycling pants with gusseted crotches but are always so coy about showing it, even sans model. I have experimented with making my own, and the lack of seams in that area is wonderful. I also found that wool pants are great in the rain for commutable distances. They wick the moisture, stay warm. You might smell like a wet sheep at the cafe, but oh well. I live in the pacific northwest and you can imagine. People are either in technical gear, or wet smelly wool. I'd love a nice waterproof/resistant rain pant that is a functional pant, but will pass on these.

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  10. I've worn my Vulpine Original Rain Jacket quite often over the past year and a half since the photo shoot and initial review (http://lovelybike.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/the-trend-for-hybrid-cycling-clothes.html), and have some follow-up comments for those of you who are interested.

    I wear it almost regularly on short daily urban commutes and some longer rides throughout the spring and autumn seasons in New England. I do find it too warm in the humid summers and too snug for enough layers underneath in the very cold winters here.
    My first time wearing this on a ride was on a very grey and wet Vermont populaire with steady moderate rain, but the material remained quite water repellent and comfortable throughout the ride.
    I admit to not wearing this in heavy downpours and opt for the much less comfortable, and extremely less stylish, traditional waterproof gear. I will put aside my doubts and give the Epic Cotton a test soon since I end up more moist on the inside with my current configuration anyway.
    I find my jacket well tailored and nicely fitted on and off the bicycle with enough space for a wool jersey and even a base layer, if necessary. I agree with Velouria that it has a slight "military" style to it, and need to admit that I'm an absolute fool for any kind of vintage army/navy surplus garments and gear, as well as modern resemblances.

    To critique: I have discovered that after frequent use and several washes the reflective material has become a bit faded in spots. It still seems to work well overall and remains highly reflective, but is definitely showing some wear.
    The light loop, unfortunately, was the first thing to fail. The elastic material quickly stretched out after only a few uses and is no longer practical to keep a rear light well positioned. And, suspiciously, a zipper pull broke, the one on the arm pocket, with hardly any use, but I have fashioned a make-shift toggle and survive to tell this tale.
    My only other comment would be about the weak rear flap magnets, I would prefer a small snap since the reflective splashguard flap tends to unfold itself whenever I take the jacket off or put it on. I've even resorted to using a small safety pin to fasten it in place when I know it will not be needed. I actually do not mind the magnets on the side pockets though since they also are zippered for security.
    A small inside pocket or two could be nice though.
    Overall I am still thoroughly impressed that this fashionable cotton (Epic!) jacket performs so well and highly recommend it.
    A question to Vulpine though, does the Epic Cotton water repellent performance fade over time? Is it treated with a coating that loses effectiveness? And if so, can it be reapplied or do you have any recommendations?
    I've used Nikwax Tech Wash on other garments with satisfactory results, but welcome any advice before trying it on this particular item.

    Thanks again, Velouria and Vulpine!

    -VorpalChortle
    (Although there are some who call me... Steve.)

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, especially as I would never use the light loop, splashguard and keychain thingie enough for a longevity stress-test.

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    2. …Forgot to add: According to Vulpine's literature, the water repellent coating is applied to the thread and should last through the garment's lifespan:

      "Epic Cotton™, a fabric created by applying a microscopic silicon coating to cotton thread, which is then woven. This technique ensures remarkable resilience to wear and washing and will last the lifetime of the garment…."

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  11. OH, I totally forgot to mention, that since you have bought and used your Vulpine pants already, don't be shy about modifying them. I have removed the front pockets from some pants because they got in the way of pedalling, and did not need them. Somehow, you close up the pocket opening (heavy duty stitches), remove the inner pocket lining and tada! I do like high waisted for cycling as it keeps the lower back covered, but you could fiddle with the waistband. Or if it's too wide in the waist, take it in a bit with some little seams, or at the major seams. Another thing about women(cyclists and athletes in particular) with large thighs/bums is that we sometimes have to buy larger pants, but the waist is too big. Take the waist in, lots of blogs and tutorials online.

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    1. I can make my own alterations, but with this particular design it wouldn't work. It's not a matter of the waist/hip ratio being off, but of the rear panel's inherent construction. Would be easier to start from scratch IMO.

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  12. These are pants designed to be worn over ones regular trousers or in place of them? I need rain paints which fit over my regular clothes when there's a cloudburst on the way to work. These look quite tight!

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    1. They are meant to be worn like normal trousers, over underwear - the idea being that they *are* regular clothes.

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    2. Ah, so the jacket goes over regular clothes and the pants are regular clothes. Thanks for clearing that up.

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    3. Regular clothes jackets are outerwear, which go over other regular clothes. Regular clothes trousers are worn against the skin. Same deal with these.

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  13. Have you tried a cycling cape and leg coverings (e.g RainLegs)? Seems like the combination would be clunky-looking (and probably hot), but might keep things dry. I prefer jacket-and-pants, but can't seem to keep from blowing out knees within a week or so of obtaining new trousers. At least there's duct tape...

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    1. I have tried rain capes (see here and here), but they are not my thing. Have not tried Rain Legs, but to be honest seems like too much hassle compared to just wearing a skirt, nylons and boots to begin with.

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  14. What are your thoughts on cost... worth it?

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    1. From the POV of whether I'd buy for myself at full retail? Jacket yes, trousers no. And it would be nicer still to have an option of same jacket, minus the light loop, splashguard and keychain attachment thingie (but keep the nifty sleeve pocket), for a price reduction that reflects that.

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    2. I looked up the price of the jacket...Wow!

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  15. I like the look of the jacket as it satisfies 3 of the criteria that I look for, ie it's waterproof, light and looks good, and having looked at one of your old posts that you linked to, the menswear from Vulpine looks every bit as good.

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  16. So helpful to see someone else struggle with bum trouser fit! Anything meant as 'athletic/cycle wear' for the bottom half never fits me, it's a bit infuriating. I live in the Land of Rain (Vancouver, Canada) so am always on the lookout for cycle rainwear. Though I do most of my cycling with a four-year-old in a rear seat who hates biking in the rain ('It's in my eeeeeeyes Mummy!') so I don't know, maybe we need a full tent covering us both.

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  17. I had the same experience with the Vulpine trousers and jacket. I do hope they will alter the trousers, as I love the idea of water resistant daily wear (especially for autumn, I think the fabric will be to stiff and warm for spring-summer).

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    1. Don't know whether you've seen, but they offer summer trousers now that are not only made of a lighter weight fabric, but are completely different in shape - as well as less expensive.

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  18. growing up in Vancouver, Canada, I was raised with the idea that you can never, ever expect to escape the rain, and should just welcome it. Clothing that can shield you completely is a myth, and it's just better to get stuff that dries quickly or at least stays warm when it's wet. The khaki Vulpine trousers remind me of a slightly more bike-friendly version of the Filson Tin Cloth pants, which I've been wearing a little more frequently lately for inclement weather. They do get a little damp on rainy days, but after ten minutes in doors, the sensation of being wet, is just a faded memory. An interesting aspect of the Tin Cloth is that you aren't supposed to wash them, just wipe them off with a damp cloth if they get dirt on them. It causes them to age nicely as they go on various adventures, which is a nice bonus over plastic clothing, which just gets frayed and torn over time.

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