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The Showers Pass Elite 2.1 is in the round the lightest, most waterproof and windproof triple-layer jacket the company makes. It has legions of adoring fans, and now I see why. It's as close to perfect a jacket as I've ever worn, for going far, fast and hard in the most awful of weather.
I've owned and reviewed many jackets over the last 30 years. From £20 commuter cheapies up to £400 tech'd-out mountain bike range-toppers that wouldn't be out of place on an alpine expedition. At the rarified end of the price spectrum they are all great. They all do the job, keeping you dry, warm and comfortable. Your particular optics may skew your opinion to favouring or bemoaning one particular area – weight, fit, breathability, features, ruggedness, and so on – but it's rare that a jacket, even one costing a very solid three figures, ticks every box, in full. Well, I'd never worn one.
The Elite 2.1 fit is what Showers Pass calls 'trim', meaning 2-3in of 'wearing ease' around the body. I'm 6ft and 75kg, with arms 2in longer than I am tall – i.e. long bordering 'monkey'. This combination means few products are long enough in the arm for my body length or shoulder width – or if they are, they are then too loose around the chest.
In the reviewed size medium, the Elite 2.1 cuffs end perfectly, right at the base of my wrist with arms extended, more than enough to go over the cuffs of winter gloves. When standing with arms hanging down there's a small amount of fabric bunching under the arms, and a slight tightness across the shoulders (I inherited my Olympian grandfather's physique but alas not his athletic prowess). But once on the bike, leant forwards, arms slightly bent on the hoods, everything settles into place as if tailor-made. (It's not me in the pics, that's Adam; we're the same weight but he's a couple of inches taller.)
The hem of the Elite 2.1 sits perfectly a palm's width below the navel, with the tail forming a wee shelter out over the bum, far enough to ensure rain running off the back doesn't reach the bibs. There's no dropped flap, so if you're not running mudguards you will see some splatter there. A design trade-off for weight, packed size, cost and flappiness – and if I were being super-picky, the only thing I might want, should I find myself out in heavy rain having forgotten an ass-saver. But that's not Showers Pass's fault, and doesn't detract in any way from the overall package.
If you really want to cinch things around the waist/bum there are two elasticated cords in the hem that can properly snug things down, single-handed.
As befits an extreme-weather jacket, the collar is something special too. It stands high, coming above the chin, touching the earlobes and base of the skull.
There's an elasticated cinch cord on the right collar that can be pulled single-handed to tighten things right down, and then be released again one-handed. The whole collar inside is lined with a lovely soft brushed micro-chamois.
Around the outside of the collar just above the shoulder seam there are three large round furry Velcro dots, to secure the optional £28 hood. The hood has three matching rectangular Velcro patches, allowing a fair bit of play to get it sitting just right. Further securing the hood is a Velcro tab that covers the rearmost dot on the jacket, keeping the hood solidly in place once fitted.
I can't imagine why you'd buy the Elite 2.1 and not the hood as well. It's designed to be worn under a helmet next to the head, and features two elasticated cinch cords – one around the face and another around the back of the skull. With practice, both can be operated single-handed with gloves on, and really snug the hood down.
There's enough cut in the hood to allow your head to turn without restriction. The hood brim is generous and stiff, and the Velcro flaps across the front of the hood can be wrapped over the face to cover your mouth completely if the weather is really that awful. I spent some time riding head-on into a near-horizontal blizzard specifically to test the hood's features, and can report that the only way the experience could have been improved was with ski goggles instead of large cycling glasses.
The hood removes easily, folds up and stashes in the generous rear zipped pocket, which lies horizontally across the hem. The pocket measures 40cm wide and between 13 and 20cm deep, with a properly-waterproof taped-seam zip. The zip has a garage and long zip pull – as indeed do all the zips on the Elite 2.1. No cut corners or skimping here.
The only other pocket is on the left breast, measuring 18 by 21 to 30cm. The waterproof zip measures 14cm, easily swallowing the largest of phones. This pocket can't be considered totally closed though, as there's a cable port for a headphone or possibly charging cable to pass through. Having the phone in a chest pocket close to hand and ear for calls and photos was a real plus, the generous zip pull easily worked up or down through three layers of my go-to Dissent 133 gloves.
Visibility-wise there's a strip of 3M retro-reflective tape across each forearm and across the back, along with reflective Showers Pass logos on the left breast and rear pockets, and on the hood tab at the back of the neck.
If you're not keen on black, it's also available in orange, red or blue – and there's a women's version too.
All of the above features are beautifully executed, using premium materials and construction techniques. If that were all Showers Pass had done the Elite 2.1 would be a great jacket, and would sell very well I'm sure. But that's not all, and the features – while all individually great – are not the reason I consider the Elite 2.1 to be the best cycling jacket I've ever worn.
The Elite 2.1 really stands out because of its ventilation capability. The reality of any aerobic activity outdoors is that sooner or later you're going to sweat, and you need to evaporate that liquid to both cool your body down and not let it pool in your clothing, lest you freeze once you stop moving. But how to manage the necessary airflow, around the entire body, without compromising waterproofness? This is the question Showers Pass has answered, and its execution is as genius as it is simple.
Starting at the sleeve cuffs there are simple Velcro-tab closures. No zips or elastic here. And the cuff edge is quite stiff too – when you undo the Velcro tabs by pulling single-handed on them, they stand proud like a wee basking shark's mouth, ready to gulp in air as your hands rest on the bar. They are stiff enough that if you lie the jacket on a flat surface, the arm cuffs form an 'O'.
The Velcro tabs are long, as is the matching patch on the sleeve that they mesh with – you can really get a tight fit if you want to lock out wind and rain.
The second way to get air into the jacket is through the two side vents, with 24cm-long waterproof zips that open from the top down. These let in prodigious amounts of air, yet never, ever feel flappy or draggy, which seems like a contradiction.
Of course you can always undo the main zip, which is perfectly easy, up or down, single-handed.
Where all this air heads to – from the sleeve, the sides or chest – is around your shoulders and sides, and out the back of the Elite 2.1 through the huge, permanently-open flap across the shoulders.
On the inside of the flap there's a triangular mesh measuring 40cm wide by 16cm high – the mesh there not to keep anything out, but rather to support the lower back section of the jacket to keep its shape. On the outside the flap fabric comes down 6cm below the edge of the internal mesh, meaning there's zero chance of any water getting up underneath it. Attached at the centre of the rear flap is a loop to secure a light, but I can't see how this works at all, as unlike a sewn-in band of fabric that would hold a light vertical, the loop lets lights hang down – and therefore point downward – under their own weight. That said, I've never seen anyone attach a light to a jacket...
I've owned several non-cycling jackets with this sort of shoulder vent over the years, generally made of materials that don't breathe as well as the triple-layer Elite fabric that Showers Pass uses here. Certainly none of them were engineered to maximise through-flow of air the way Showers Pass has here. The effect of opening the cuffs and side vents at the same time is akin to standing in front of a portable aircon unit or fan in a hot office or shop. We've all done it – you hold your shirt just so to catch the breeze, and the momentary respite and sensation of chilled air evaporating your sweat is delicious. That's what the Elite 2.1 does, and it does it without any billowing, rustling or sensation you're wearing a windsock or parachute.
Any jacket can be unzipped, sure – but if there isn't a large hole at the back matching the one you just opened, the air is either going nowhere, or it's slowing you down as it fights its way out best it can.
The ability to fine-tune just how much airflow you want, and over which part of your body – arms, sides, chest – is the Elite 2.1's secret sauce, and is why (according to Showers Pass) pro cycling teams, kayakers, cross-country skiers and indeed everyday cyclists love it.
Over two months of deep winter riding, in occasionally atrocious weather ranging from 15°C sunshine to below-zero heavy snow, the Elite 2.1 felt dry, fitting, and enabled the continuous management of temperature and moisture. One occasion in particular stands out as the absolute acid test for what a jacket can do.
Starting out in 5°C, we headed into the hills. After a few hours ranging up and down the snowline on estate tracks, we headed up the new Duntanlich Mine Road – an evil, evil gravel grovel just off the A9 south of Pitlochry, with long stretches in excess of 20 per cent gradient, some 25 per cent. In the sheltered sections there was no wind, clear sun and the Garmin was saying 15°C – all this while working at or close to 100 per cent max heart rate, faltering between lactic acid overload, lung failure, arm burnout and maintaining traction both front and rear. Yes, an unrelenting VO2-Max test on gravel.
Through this anaerobic hell with all zips and cuffs open the Elite 2.1 never felt too hot, even over the top of a 180gsm merino baselayer and a thick merino jersey – arms, back and sides all radiating and evaporating away nicely. I was left alone with my thoughts, regretting a winter of sloth, unable to blame this relentless misery on anything other than my own failings.
The gradient mercifully eased around the 500m altitude mark, as we began to crest the ridge looking over Strathtay, 10 minutes of soft pedalling giving welcome respite. But any feeling of relief was tempered by the view ahead through the mature pines, to an area of road where recent felling had left a lost-tooth gap in the protective tree belt. Looking at the way the distant treetops were thrashing about, I paused for a minute to unpack and install the hood from the rear pocket.
Just as we emerged into the open space a front rolled in, lashing us with borderline-unrideable 40-50mph sidewinds and matching horizontal sleet. The temperature plummeted from 15 down to 5°C along with the wind. A harsher test of a cycling jacket I cannot imagine, going from maximal-effort warm, still sunshine into rolling-gradient howling wet gale within minutes. But again, the Elite 2.1 did its magic. I could scarcely believe that my upper body didn't feel cold, and my face was pretty much fully protected from the maelstrom. The sleet balled up on my arms, forming thousands of droplets that could be shaken free, or brushed off if of a more frozen nature. After about five minutes of this pummelling we re-entered shelter and sped along at a good lick, I was feeling good with no hint of chill, opening up the cuffs and front zip a little as the work rate increased.
In plumping for five stars, a road.cc house rule is that the reviewer must demonstrate not only outstanding technical, fit, construction and performance capabilities, the garment must also be exceptionally well priced compared to the logical competition. My comparator here is the awesome (and awesomely pricey) £400 7Mesh Revelation Jacket which Jim awarded five stars to a few years back. I purchased exactly this jacket (discounted, ssshhh don't tell the wife) and have ridden it for two years, through all manner of Highland dreich – so I can directly compare performance.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the Revelation – it is indeed an awesome jacket. The Revelation rolls up pretty small and weighs only 300g hood included. In comparison, the Elite 2.1 is about 50 per cent bulkier when rolled tight, and weighs 490g hood included. The Revelation doesn't feature a back vent, nor cinch cord at the collar, but it is made of the super-thin and light Gore-Tex Pro fabric.
The main choice between the two would be: 'do you need to pack the jacket away on your body?' In the case of the Revelation, it's designed to go into a mountain bike beltpack during a ride – not something you could do with the Elite 2.1 and have room for anything else. So if you were needing every spare cc of capacity then a jacket like the Revelation might justify the doubling in price. But you could just buy a slightly larger bag too. Certainly, performance-wise I can't pick between the two, and the Elite 2.1 is nearly half the price, hood included.
Another comparison is the Resolute Bay Reflective Cycling Jacket which George really liked. There are a few shortcomings with the Resolute Bay, which is designed more for commuting/everyday wear: the cut is less trim, the chest pocket isn't large enough for modern phones, the drop at the back isn't long, the cuffs don't look as open and the side vents are higher and smaller. These points don't make the Resolute Bay jacket bad per se, the Showers Pass team have simply prioritised other features.
For £199, or £227 with the hood, in one of five colours, the Elite 2.1 is a fabulous choice for riding long days in awful weather, through a range of temperatures. The technical features to allow adjustment are all do-able one-handed on the bike, meaning every time you put it on you'll be glad you invested the money.
Pretty much the last word in extreme-weather cycling protection, that lets you control your temperature perfectly
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Showers Pass Elite 2.1 jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's the ultimate jacket for riding in appalling conditions, which is then flexible enough to accommodate warmer, nicer days too.
Showers Pass says: "The Gold Standard. Our bestselling Elite 2.1 cycling jacket uses Elite™ 3-Layer rip stop fabrics, body-mapped to maximize breathability and waterproof/windproof protection. When temperatures rise, our jacket rises to the occasion with 7 venting options to keep you cool (2 pit vents, 2 cuff vents, two way zipper and back vent). 3M™ Reflective™ trim keeps you visible from all angles. A large back pocket and chest pocket with audio port provides plenty of storage space for keys, flat repair kit and energy bars. Long sleeves provide full wrist coverage and accommodate reach while on the bicycle.
"This jacket was designed with long distance randonneurs and roadies in mind, but has become a favorite training jacket of professional cyclists such as the Katusha Pro Russian Cycling team, every day commuters, Kayakers, and Cross-country Skiers. This jacket has a trim fit and is designed to be worn over a trim fitting base layer or jersey."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Showers Pass lists:
New AquaGuard Vislon water resistant front zipper with Storm Flap
Fully seam taped for wind and waterproofness
Extra Long core vents prevent overheating
Core Vents and large back vent for flow thru ventilation
Chest pocket with audio port and large back pocket
Exclusive airflow–regulating gusseted cuffs
360 degrees of 3M reflective trim for maximum visibility
Soft Micro–Chamois collar
Cinch Cord at collar and hem
Hood compatible via hook and loop attachment points at collar
Built to very high standards, this will last you a very long time.
Amazing. Super. Perfect. Can't fault it.
Early days, but everything is built tough to last.
As covered in the review, it's fabulous.
Fitted me like a glove, especially the long arms.
Sizing is spot on.
For what it does, 490g is perfectly acceptable.
It fits like a glove and doesn't flap at all.
For the asking price compared to the competition, feature for feature, it wins every time.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washes well in 30-degree water, dirt brushes off.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Outstanding. It keeps you at exactly the temperature you want, regardless of effort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The cuffs. I love having sweat-free arms.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Really well. You can spend a lot more for a jacket with half the features. Yes, lighter/more compact jackets exist – but they either cost a lot more, or compromise on features or protection.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
If there's something that could be improved in the Elite 2.1 I can't think of it. It's that good, and coupled with the price, and featureset, it's an absolute cracker.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is: Velocite Selene
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Dutch bike pootling.