Waterproof, textile riding jackets and pants are convenient. Rather than having to don a rainsuit, you can just keep going when the sunshine liquefies. Two approaches are generally used to make a textile garment fend off water. In pricier ones the shell is often a breathable, abrasion- and water-resistant fabric lined with a breathable, waterproof membrane. The less expensive approach is to use a similar shell fabric and treat it with a waterproof coating, leaving out the expensive membrane. You lose some breathability, but the cost ends up a third or less than that of a comparable membrane-lined jacket.
Joe Rocket’s sporty and stylish waist-length Atomic 4.0 jacket uses a Rock Tex 600 shell coated with polyurethane, which gives it a softer feel than other coatings. Rock Tex (“Rocket” Tex, get it?) is a proprietary polyester developed by Joe Rocket from footwear and luggage fabric that it says has better heat and abrasion resistance than Cordura nylon. The trim cut of the Atomic 4.0 holds the removable CE-approved armor in the shoulders and elbows close to your body. Adjustments on the waist, sleeves and zippered cuffs allow you to snug the jacket up even more. In back, there’s an unobtrusive removable spine pad, which can be upgraded to a CE-approved pad.
Thanks to the invention of the waterproof zipper, it’s possible to make an inexpensive waterproof jacket with lots of vents. The Atomic 4.0 has a pair flanking the main zipper, another pair on the back and one on each bicep. When it’s warm, open them all up and the jacket stays reasonably cool as long as you’re moving, up to about 80 degrees. In cooler temps, close the vents and install the insulated full-sleeve liner and suddenly the coated shell becomes a dry-weather asset too, as the lightweight jacket is plenty warm enough for temps down into the low 50s.
Handwarmer pockets with waterproof zippers on the outside and one inside pocket provide some storage. The Atomic’s snap collar on my size large was a little tight on my 17-inch neck, but that helps keep the water out, and it doesn’t flap when I ride with it unsnapped. I really like the fit and style of this jacket, and the reflective stripes on the shoulders and back help get you noticed at night. Combine them with the hi-vis neon on the version I tested and your conspicuity is assured day or night.
Backing up the main zipper is a second waterproof zippered storm flap you can leave unzipped in warm, dry weather for more airflow. Lacking any substantial rain in weeks, I had to shower-test the jacket’s waterproofing. It kept me dry except for a small amount of water that entered the sleeves through the two external zippers provided for removing the shoulder armor, and somehow got past the coated Rock Tex backing the armor pockets. The shower test can be kind of extreme, but it does seem like these non-waterproof zippers (or some other kind of closure for removing the armor) should be waterproof or on the inside. For some, the slight leakage in the sleeves will be a fair tradeoff for the ease with which you can remove the armor for washing or wearing the jacket off the bike, not to mention its low cost and other features. Overall it offers a lot of protection, versatility and style for the money.
The Joe Rocket Atomic 4.0 jacket comes in all-black or black with red, blue, gray or the Hi-Vis Neon shown, in men’s sizes S-5XL for $159.99-$179.99.
For more information: See your dealer, visit joerocket.com or call (208) 932-0303.
(This Gearlab item was published in the January 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)