A breathable cycling jacket

Fed up with the poor breathability of my breathable Montane cycling jacket, I set about finding a waterproof cycling jacket made from a material that really is both waterproof and fully breathable. After some investigation, I opted for the Quito jacket from Páramo Directional Clothing Systems. It's fashioned by former street ladies in South America, from a material called Nikwax Analogy Light fabric.

Páramo Quito breathable cycling jacket

Páramo Quito waterproof breathable cycling jacket

The classic waterproof breathable fabric is of course Gore-Tex. Analogy fabric is not like Gore-Tex. As I understand it, Gore-Tex is made with 'high tech fabrics' bonded either side of a microporous Teflon membrane with holes so small that rain can't leak through, but the pores are large enough to allow moisture vapour from sweat to escape. It relies on the fact that molecules in water vapour are much smaller than those in drops of rain. Or something like that.

My personal experience of Gore-Tex is that the breathability works to a degree. It's better than a simple nylon waterproof fabric that is not breathable at all. But after a while it stops working and becomes neither waterproof nor breathable. At that stage there is little to be done, other than to buy a new garment.

Páramo Quito jacket

Fully breathable fabric

The Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric on the Páramo has a pump liner layer that mimics the way in which furry mammals stay dry and comfortable, pumping water away from the body. At least that is what the makers say. They also say you can fill it with pin holes and it stays just as waterproof. The material feels completely different to Gore-Tex, or my current Montane jacket, which is, I think, made from a fabric called eVent. The Quito jacket is soft and silent, compared to the crinkly feel of the others.

I can't say I really understand the technical differences between Gore-Tex type fabrics and Nikwax Analogy, but I can actually blow through Analogy from the inside to the outside. I can't do that with my Gore-Tex and Montane jackets. And the Páramo Quito jacket is much more comfortable to cycle in. I leave it on when cycling up hills where I would normally take off the Montane, even when it's cold, to prevent overheating. It stays very comfortable all the way up, and at the end of wet weather rides the inside of the jacket is still bone dry.

Impression so far: the Páramo Quito jacket really is waterproof and breathable, perfect for cycling. Another plus, according to the Guardian newspaper, is that Páramo products are manufactured in an ethical factory run by nuns in Bogotá, supporting the local community.

21 comments on “A breathable cycling jacket”

  1. Mary wrote:

    Many thank for putting this on Patrick, for a long time now, I have simply given up on the so called 'breathability' of cycling jackets.

    I think I might save up and try one of these myself. I also love the colour, so often when I find a cycle jacket I would buy, I dont bother, as I can only get it in black.

  2. Patrick wrote:

    Hi Mary. They said in the shop (and it also says so on the aftercare page on the Páramo website) that you need to restore the jacket's water-repellency from time to time by washing with non-detergent, biodegradable liquid soap. The rainwater drops should always run off in beads. It does require a bit of looking after, but if it's done right it should last for a long time and always stay breathable (so I'm told). I've met a few people who swear by these products, and they have good reviews. Time will tell. It's raining cats and dogs here today, but I'm staying in!

  3. Kevin Kirby wrote:

    Patrick, how's it going with the new jacket? The recent weather must have tested it thoroughly. Do let us know how you are getting on with it.

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Páramo Quito jacket update: I'm very pleased with it, although it's only six weeks of winter use so far. It seems fully breathable. The only bit of dampness inside is where my rucksack rests on my back (in winter I usually cycle with one, carrying spare clothes and the tools that normally go in the little saddle bag where the rear light now is). Without the rucksack, nothing – still dry at the top of long hills.

    It's hard to say whether the jacket is waterproof. It is after a couple of hours in the rain and snow but after a full day, I don't know. It's a little heavier when it's wet. I might get a better idea at Easter after hill walking in Snowdonia for a week.

    Winter isn't the best time of year to evaluate a breathable cycling jacket. It really needs to be tested in warmer weather with only one further layer of clothing worn underneath. A feature I like is the underarm zips that let you access the pockets of a fleece etc as well as providing dry ventilation. I also like how it isn't too cycling-specific. It can be worn going out in normal clothes without looking daft, and the hood is great when it's pouring down.

  5. Garry Lee wrote:

    I just noticed this post now. I've had a Paramo jacket for years and there's nothing as breathable/waterproof as it on the market. One downside is that it's bulky. The material is also very durable. Mine still looks new. I've also have Goretex, Triple Point Ceramic and Ventile jackets. If you get a good Goretex (some of them leak) it can be pretty good, The Triple Point Ceramic is excellent and has so far lasted 14 years and still sheds water, and the Ventile is very durable, but takes days to dry after you wash it and in torrential rain will eventually get a bit wet inside after hours of rain.

  6. Mary wrote:

    Patrick, any more update on your jacket? (Easter been and gone now). :)

    Considering one of these for myself, but reading reviews still.

    Do you think this jacket will be too warm in summer? (I need something for a ride to Norfolk).

  7. Patrick wrote:

    Mary, so far it's been perfect. Not too warm for me, and its breathability is truly outstanding. I imagine it's a bit warmer than a Goretex jacket as it has at least one extra lining but it also has lots of vents. The only thing I can't really vouch for is how waterproof it is over the whole of a wet and windy day, although I've no reason to think it isn't. I'll be relying on it in Denmark in a couple of weeks.

  8. Ian wrote:

    Patrick
    Read your Quito files with interest, particularly as I am looking for a new cycling jacket.

    Bit of a specific question: Do you find the jacket comfortable around the back on the neck when you have the hood rolled up? I'd be delighted if you were able to tell me that the Quito ( unlike the Adventure Light Smock) does not 'sit' on the nape of your neck collecting sweat as you cycle.

    Thanks in advance

    Ian

  9. Patrick wrote:

    The hood is quite loose. It will go over a helmet. Páramo material is silky rather than crisp like Gore-Tex and there's no roll-up, so the hood just flops behind. Not a problem. Incidentally, I can now confirm the jacket is waterproof. I'm not much of a reviewer – all I can say is: the Quito is a superb jacket for cycling in bad weather and is totally breathable – very comfortable and no dampness on the inside, even when it's raining.

  10. Ian wrote:

    Thanks for your observations Patrick. I prefer 'real life' comments to those found in Magazine type reviews. Now I just have to choose the colour – such a chore!

    Thanks again

    Ian

  11. Patrick wrote:

    Mine is orange like the one pictured above (aka: butternut, yellow mustard) for visibility when cycling. The green (fir) is nice too though. I chose the large size to wear over a fleece in cold weather.

    Another point about the hood: when cycling into a strong headwind with the hood up but no helmet (probably with helmet too), the hood doesn't blow off. I fold the front of the hood back one turn. The hood is a great feature in my opinion.

  12. Ian wrote:

    I bought one! Early impressions are very favourable indeed. I particularly like the cut of the Quito; streamlined and very cycling friendly. The hood is well thought out and adjustable. There is a velcro fastener on the back on the hood but I've yet to figure out how to use it. I assume its to secure the hood down.

    I opted for the Butternut colour too, primarily for visibility although the fir green is very attractive and for Birding I'd be sorely tempted to have one.

    This time of year is probably not ideal for commenting upon the Quito's breathability so I'll probably post again when the weather prompts. So, that should be when the school holidays commence then :)

  13. Patrick wrote:

    Great stuff! Let us know how the Quito performs after you've used it for a while.

    I think the velcro strap is for passing through the little loop that is used for hanging the jacket up. This gathers the hood together – sort of.

  14. Chris [other] wrote:

    Thinking about one of these for cycling. I can vouch for the durability of paramo kit having used an alta jacket for walking since 1999. It still looks new and last October kept me bone dry and comfortable during a 6 hour walk in torrential rain and wind on Ingleborough. Very impressive. I wash it and reproof about once a year so if the Quito lasts as long it's going to cost about £15 a year!

  15. Jack wrote:

    I've just gently washed my Mountain Hardwear Quark and it has started to disintegrate! I'm very disappointed but I guess the lack of weight equates to lack of durability. Up to now I considered it excellent for cycling: waterproof, breathable and very lightweight, and used it in typhoons during a 4 month cycling trip in SE Asia.

  16. Ian wrote:

    Just an update re the Quito jacket: I've just returned mine to Paramo for repair as the wrist cuff straps need restitching.
    Whilst I have been reasonably happy with my Quito it could easily be so much better for cycling in. Elasticated and more substantial material around the wrist-area would help. A more 'defined' shoulder cut would diminish billowing and cut down on the jacket's tendency to move around the shoulders a lot. I think this would also improve ventilation around the shoulder/neck/nape area. The 'pit zips' et. al. are great and really aid ventilation. Lastly, I appreciate the jacket's quietness; not a crisp packet crunch to be heard!

  17. Patrick wrote:

    Thanks for the update Ian. True, the wrist cuffs are a bit flimsy, especially the edge stitching. Another minor niggle is that the side vents don't unzip quite far enough down to put my hands comfortably in my fleece pockets. But I'm happy with the cut.

  18. Neil wrote:

    Hi Patrick,

    I just wanted to say thanks for posting your comments. Thanks also to everyone else with theirs. Very helpful. I got the Aspira Smock a year or so ago. The problem with Paramo is they are so amazing that you end up having to resist the urge to rave about them to all your mates as they roll their eyes in despair... 😉 I really think the have cracked it in terms of concept in a fundamental way. It just works so well.

    I was sufficiently impressed with the Aspira that I decided I would try to see if one of their jackets could work for road cycling. I've been procrastinating on this for ages and meanwhile when the weather is a little iffy but still mild I am not getting out on the bike. The Aspira would be too hot for cycling as I don't tend to cycle in the winter months (yet). The only other jacket I have is a ten year old North Face Goretex that's got bits falling off, is barely breathable (feels like a sauna in there), way too heavy, too stiff.

    Well, last night I found a discount on a Quito in Butternut, Large at;

    http://hillandhike.co.uk/product/paramo_quito_jacket_large_butternut/

    It should be here tomorrow. If anyone wants feedback on this or the Aspira, I'll see if I can oblige.

    Incidentally the Aspira was from here;

    http://www.aspirafund.co.uk/

    I had originally looked at the Velez smocks but found the arms way too short in the appropriate size. Then tried on the Aspira and realised it was what i was looking for but hated the colour choices. I think I then went trawling through google searches and came across the Aspira-fund site.

  19. Ian wrote:

    You'll certainly not be disappointed with the Quito's arm length. I have long arms ( think Gibbon!) and it fits me well.

    Finding the Quito rather too warm for summer I was considering a Paramo windproof. Like this one http://www.themountainfactor.com/shop/product.php?xProd=17592&xSec=2632

    Jury is out for me re. advantages of either a smock or jacket. Perhaps others might care to cast their vote accordingly.

  20. Hilary wrote:

    After reading Patrick and Mary's comments on Paramo gear I've been on the look out for a Paramo jacket for ages. Whenever we visit London Dennis is dragged round the Paramo shop and waits patiently why I try on a variety of styles and sizes and then leave empty handed. The trouble is I've got an extensive collection of supposedly waterproof, breathable jackets and it really doesn't rain that much here so its hard to justify the expenditure. I've been following Paramo Seconds on Ebay for ages and have now finally got what I've been looking for – a Paramo Quito in the right size and a nice bright yellow. Of course after some torrential rain recently the forecast is now dry for the forseeable future! So for the first time ever I'm now hoping for rain so I can try it out properly! 😀

  21. Ian wrote:

    Has anyone tried the Quito trousers yet? They are not cheap but offer some rather nifty zips that might be very useful for whipping them on or off in a hurry, so to speak! I've not seen a pair yet but I was attracted by the zips and the adjustable ankles. Here's a link. Quito Trousers

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