Every time a new company launches without a women’s line, I grouch at and shame them via social media or, sometimes, just inwardly in my head when there’s no other outlet. I did the same to new-ish fancy bike apparel company Search and State when they launched a few years ago, and aside from their regretful reply “sorry, no women’s line yet, but we are working on it,” the exchange seemed pretty much par for the course. The surprise game changer came a year or so later when SAS reached out to me to tell me that they’d finally launched a women’s line. I was pleasantly surprised that after all that time they’d remembered our conversation, so of course I simply had to review their new stuff.
Today I took the S1-J (what DOES it stand for? Not a clue) out for a spin on a gloomy late summer/early fall day. The very second I stepped out of the door it started to rain, which is both not surprising on an island way out here on the edge of the Pacific, but also quite the opportunity to test this “all-weather” jacket. I was planning to ride up a mountain, then back down, which always means I’m going to get warm and damp on the way up, then freezing cold, soaked, and completely dirty on the way down. And I had asked SAS for a white jacket, because the other option was black and I don’t like wearing black on the road. Welp, time to get the jacket dirty then.
I was pretty impressed with the water-shedding abilities of the piece, and it breathed decently well though after a half hour I did have to take the jacket off before I overheated on the steep part of the climb. That’s pretty normal for this particular ride and I’m kind of happy about it as it means the jacket is nice and warm (the weather, while gloomy, is still Alaska Warm right now so riding without a jacket is within the realm of normal). Once I crested the top climb the familiar chill hit me – climbing this mountain is decently steep the whole way up and as soon as you hit the flat part on the top, you start getting cold immediately. I put the jacket on and didn’t have any issues standing around taking pictures for a while even after working up a solid sweat on the way up. I’ve had times where I’ve had to dive straight back down with no time to relax to keep from getting way too chilled, so it was a nice change to be able to just hang out and enjoy the view.
Riding down was a messy affair. Luckily I’d remembered my rear fender but sadly for me and my new jacket, not my front one. The soil here is mostly volcanic ash and pulverized rock, and it’s extremely abrasive and, well, just plain dirty. When it rains pretty much everything turns Kodiak Grey and the front of my jacket was no exception (and neither was my face). I was pretty impressed that all the water just bounced right off the fabric and I didn’t get wet at all through the jacket. So, points for weather-proofing! I did notice when I got home that the zipper had a hard time dealing with the grit, to the point that I thought it prudent to rinse the dirt out before zipping it up. As I rinsed it, I had a hard time getting the water to stay in the sink because it would just launch right off the fabric onto the floor. More points for waterproofness!
The front of my jacket was a total mess but I opted to not wash it right away, both to preserve the waterproofing and to see how the fabric dealt with the mess. Some fabrics stay really clean because dirt just falls off once it dries, but that didn’t happen with this one. It’s still dirty, though I’m betting the dirt will come out easily in the wash. Still, I’ll probably not opt to wear this one on another messy day, but on a rainy day off of the island I’ll definitely reach for it. The black version may have been more prudent given that I live in a place with a lot of dirt.
Fit was really good, though I had to go two sizes up from regular for a fit I liked. In cycling clothing I usually go up one size because I don’t like skin-tight, but that was still too tight in SAS world. Some riders might like their cycling apparel that tight, but I like a little room to move, know what I’m saying? Two sizes up fit great everywhere but the forearms, which were weirdly still a little snug. For small-armed lasses that might be fine. For climber-armed midget Amazons (Amazons are supposed to be tall. I am not) like me, a little more room in the arms would be great and if that were the case, I’d wear my standard one size up.
I loved the rear pocket which was nice and big for once, and easy to access. What gives with those cycling jackets with pockets barely big enough for a stick of gum, anyway? You will undoubtedly find the Riri zippers on both the front of the jacket and the back pocket to be unusual departures from the seemingly-standard YKK, and a bit bulkier than we are used to seeing on performance pieces. Time will tell as to how much I end up liking that, but so far so good aside from the way grit can get into the bigger teeth of the zipper.
Generally I’m very pleased with this offering. I love high quality cycling clothing and this certainly fits the bill. Nice work, Search and State.