Gore-Tex vs. eVent: Two Waterproof/Breathable Cycling Jackets Go Head-to-Head

Health, Writing

showers pass Elite 2-0

What I’m interested for this post is the waterproof/breathable (WP/BR) fabrics of two different jackets I own: Gore-Tex vs. eVent.

I’m actually not going to review the jackets, per se.  What I will do is save you all from the fatal mistake I’ve made, an honest mistake that has ruined one of these two jackets.

Pictured above is my Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket, $250 retail.  At the bottom you’ll find my Patagonia Super Alpine mountaineering jacket, $600 retail.  Very different market segments, I know.  The WP/BR laminate in the Patagonia is the high-end Gore-Tex Pro Shell, while that of the red, Showers Pass jacket is an unspecified, entry-level product from eVent.  So, not apples and apples.  I can’t offer up the definitive Gore-Tex vs. eVent head-to-head competition.

Or can I?

Both Gore-Tex and eVent fabrics are laminates, both using an active layer made of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). The best known PTFE product is Teflon. The PTFE used in WP/BR fabrics is manufactured by stretching a PTFE solid to be a very thin, microporous membrane. The micropores are what make the membrane at once breathable yet waterproof. The micropores are too small to let in liquid water, such as rain or melted snow, yet large enough to allow moisture vapor to pass through, such as perspiration evaporating from your skin or baselayers.

The PTFE membrane must be protected from contamination. Contaminants such as skin oils and dirt will permanently clog unprotected micropores.  Just how to protect the PTFE layer is where Gore-Tex and eVent part ways.

  • Gore-Tex covers the PTFE membrane with a protective film of polyurethane (PU) on the interior side of the jacket.
  • Rather than covering the whole PTFE membrane, eVent uses a proprietary method to somehow coat the interior of each micropore with an oil/dirt resistant chemical.

Wet System vs.  Dry System

Gore-Tex is the so-called “wet system”: it vents perspiration only after vapor has collected as liquid on the inner surface of the jacket. As liquid, the moisture necessarily seeps through the PU film by basic diffusion, from the area of higher pressure (inside the jacket) to the area of lower pressure (the outside air). This diffusion forces the liquid water through the PTFE layer. So for Gore-Tex, venting is a two-step process: body moisture (vapor) must first condense on the inner surface. Only then can it diffuse through the membrane.

On the other hand, eVent is the “dry system”: sweat vapor vents “directly” through the membrane. It need not collect as liquid, first.  In that sense, eVent is the “more breathable” of the two products.  The two-step process of Gore-Tex venting definitely takes more time.

The problem with eVent—and this is essentially why I’m writing this post—is that its micropores are still vulnerable to contamination by skin oils and dirt. Yes, the micropores are treated with an oil- and dirt-resistant chemical. But get it dirty enough– i.e., clog the pores really badly—and the PTFE loses its breathability. Permanently.

Thus, eVent garments require laundering way more often than you’d think. We’re talking cycling garments, so, “regularly” means laundering after heavy use.  Read: every, or every other, hard ride. If you ride through the winter, this means washing the jacket two or three times a week.

Washing it often isn’t a terrible hassle. But as everyone knows, washing machines are hard on clothes. So we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Care for this jacket properly, and shorten its lifespan. Or, launder it less, and risk clogging the micropores.

In my ignorance, I managed to do both types of damage. First, I simply didn’t know of the need for regular laundering. I treated my Showers Pass jacket like a jacket. I washed it about once every four weeks. Micropores? Pretty damn, well clogged. Breathability went to near zero. When I learned of my mistake, I began washing the jacket weekly. Just one Wisconsin cold season meant laundering the jacket probably twenty times. Some of the breathability returned (though, mostly not). All the washing totally destroyed the DWR coating on the jacket exterior. Now the jacket no longer sheds water. Rain and snow don’t get through to the inside, blocked by the PTFE layer. But they do saturate the outer fabric of the jacket, sapping warmth.

Conclusion

I love my Patagonia jacket, while my Showers Pass jacket makes me sad. The Showers Pass jacket no longer performs. I’m pretty angry that the care tag didn’t alert me to the need for special care. I only learned of it on the web, after the damage was done. I wonder what percentage of eVent users know they should wash an eVent jacket as if it’s a sweatshirt? I also wonder, if laundered as often as necessary, will an eVent jacket survive even a single season?

On the other hand, I’ll be wearing my Patagonia jacket for years to come. It seems completely unfazed by three winters of serious abuse. And Gore-Tex requires no special care. So I won’t be laundering it to death.

layers vert

Commuter Bikes and the Trek Soho Deluxe

Health

trek soho deluxe

My friend Tony asked if I’d have a look at this bike.  Tony lives in DC and commutes by bike, escorting his wonderful daughter to school every morning, all by DC bike share.  He’s become a bike-share-system savant — the hackles on his neck rise the closer he gets to the thirty-minute bike-share quota.  But his daughter is graduating to middle school this year, where there isn’t a convenient bike-share station to switch bikes.

So Tony needs to buy a new bike.  His commuting needs neatly mark out the boundaries of the no-maintenance bicycle market — namely, internal gear hubs (IGH) and carbon belt-drives.  So it’s no surprise he’s put his finger on the Trek Soho Deluxe.

In researching this bike, I’ve done my usual eval, all the while not realizing the model has been discontinued.  So I’ve also done a quick and dirty search for “city bike,” “belt drive,” and “disc brakes.”  That’s turned up a decent list of some drool-worthy machines for 2014-15.

My evaluation of the discontinued Soho Deluxe is still relevant, though.  Not only are the components of bikes in this narrow market segment very similar.  There are probably a number of Soho Deluxe’s still in showrooms in every major city, and at closeout prices, to boot.  So I’ll just include that here, while adding the list of current-model bikes at the end.

MISC. NOTES Re. the TREK SOHO DELUXE

1) If you find a “new” model, it’ll likely be a great deal, with “closeout” pricing.  (The model was discontinued for 2014.)  But what year is the specimen you’ve found, 2012 or 2013?

Consider the following:

a) Normally a year or two sitting in a showroom makes no difference.  But with internal gearing, lubrication can leak out or settle in ways detrimental to the parts.  So if you find a 2012 Soho Deluxe, ask if the bike shop will re-lube the hub upon purchase.  Sheldon Brown discusses lubrication issues, here:  http://sheldonbrown.com/nexus-mech.html

b) Internal gearing has come a long way in recent years, and the different iterations of the Nexus 8-spd. hub are no exception.  I don’t have the specifics on whether or not the 2013 is significantly better than the 2012.  Might be something to research further.

c) Similarly, the newer Gates belt drives are reported to be much better than older versions.  I’m not sure what the timeline is, so that’s something to look into, as well.

2) No quick release rear wheel.

a) Much more difficult to change a flat on the fly.  Here’s a somewhat daunting tutorial.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCREx_q55mw

b) I’d recommend upgrading to a flat-resistant tire, at least on the rear.  (May as well do both.)  Ask dealer for if you can trade out the tires for some credit towards the purchase.  Kevlar is good (though more expensive).   I haven’t had a flat on Kevlar tires in 4 years, riding 300 days/year.

3) Test drive it:  how’s the lowest gear on your local terrain?

a) Find a decently steep hill.  My wife rides internal gearing, the Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub, and here on the modest yet significant hills of Madison, Wisconsin, her lowest gear is perfectly doable.

b) Note:  one mustn’t shift internal gearing under load.  That’s something the LBS might forget to tell you.  This is certainly not a deal-breaker.  It just takes some dexterity to let up the force when shifting.  Definitely don’t want to stand up pedaling when shifting an IGH.  Some user reviews claim the NuVinci N360 hub is the exception to this rule.  (See the Novara Gotham, below.)

4) Misc. questions:  Rack mounts, front and rear?

One reviewer called the Soho Deluxe a “thief magnet” because it has a “flashy appearance.”  I think it’s the opposite.  It’s got a low-key, even stealthy, paint job.  Plus, theoretically, it may be even less likely to be stolen, for the fact of the belt-drive.  Rational bike thieves avoid specialty bikes because pawn shops may balk at buying such easily identifiable items.

COMMUTER-BIKE ALTERNATIVES for 2014-15

The market for low-maintenance commuter bikes (belt drive, internal gearing) seems to be shrinking in the middle ($1000 – $1400), while growing at the lower end ($600-900) and higher end ($1500 – $2500).  Back in 2012-13 there were many more models in the middle price range.  I had to really hunt for these:

Raleigh Misceo 4.0 2013

Great closeout deals

— Alfine hub (an upgrade over the Nexus hub of the Soho Deluxe)

$1100 closeout

http://www.rei.com/product/848626/raleigh-misceo-trail-i11-bike-2013

Raleigh City Sport DLX

$1100

http://www.bicycling.com/gearfinderProductDetail?gfid=78254

Breezer Beltway 8

$1500

http://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/bikes-and-gear-features/best-urban-bike-breezer-beltway-infinity

Novara Gotham

$1400

http://www.rei.com/product/857590/novara-gotham-bike-2014

— NuVinci N360 hub

Scott SUB 10

$1300

http://www.rei.com/product/865741/scott-sub-speed-10-bike-2014

Focus Planet 2.0

$1400 (not widely avail. in US)

http://www.paragonsports.com/shop/en/Paragon/focus-bicycles-usa–inc-belt-drive