We were threading through the Essex marshes on the way to Wallasea Marina and it was raining. The kind of rain that doesn't seem much to worry about until it has soaked you through to the skin, so fine that it seems to sneak through fibres. Ninja rain, great weather for ducks.
I was well prepared on the top half at least, because I had chosen this day of all days to test the Sportful Stelvio jacket. A ridiculously light yet soundly waterproof outer shell. That was at least some comfort.
We'd planned on a longer ride. In fact this was to be the longest ride of the year so far but the rain soon put a stop to that. The thought of cycling any distance when you're wet within a few yards of setting off might be some kind of challenge to some but it was all we could do to get further than the end of the road. The only thing that did keep us going was the thought it might stop soon. By the time we were out on the country lanes it had become clear that wasn't going to happen.
So we were on the way to a coffee stop when we were passed by a gentleman on a bike. He was riding a tourer, the old sort, built like a tank, panniers, a stack the size of Nelson's Column, drop handlebars turned up into bullhorns. He was a cheery fellow, full of the freedom of the road and the optimism of the ride. He made small talk as he passed, made a comment about the rain, of course.
It should be pointed out here that he wasn't really going very fast. We, however, were going slower, so he was a good 50 yards up the road when it happened. A pair of ducks, deep in the throes of courtship, rolled from the hedge straight in front of his wheels. A plume of feathers rose and one of the ducks, the female, flapped off in panic. The drake had taken the hit, and was in a bit of a state back in the undergrowth. The man stopped and turned round to investigate and we continued to look for the coffee shop.
That was closed. On our way back the man was still there and his expression said it before he did. "Killed it." He was crestfallen. "You come out here to get back to nature, to see the wildlife and then this. Must have run straight over his neck." The drake was quite dead. He had checked.
"It's not your fault," we assured him, recounting tales of suicide squirrels bouncing straight off our wheels but we were having little effect, this man would remember this ride for all the wrong reasons.
A grim marker to a grim day, but one that at least didn't involve me getting soaked through to the skin thanks to that Stelvio jacket. Its waterproofing powers really are quite remarkable given its weight (262g), perfect for jersey pocket packing when not in use. It had been cold but even during moments of exertion the extensive breathability ensured I didn't get soaked from the inside out. The bits of me which the jacket covered were the only dry parts of my body, the long sleeve length and elasticated cuffs ensuring my arms were sufficiently protected.
It's not entirely without its niggles. The lack of any pockets wouldn't usually be an issue if I could access my jersey but the Stelvio does not have a two-way zip so getting to the pockets meant unzipping it altogether. When it's raining, which it invariably will be when you're wearing it, an open jacket means you're going to get wet. The collar also is not quite silky enough to be fastened around the neck without some rubbing. You might not like the silver-grey colourway but there are reflective bits and a hi-vis yellow version is also available.
Minor gripes for a jacket that does precisely what you want a rain jacket to do though - keep you dry. I'd sacrifice any number of pockets and zip options for that, plus the lack of them keeps the weight down.
This is a great, no nonsense jacket built for rainy days. Great weather for it. That day wasn't great weather for ducks after all, or one duck in particular.