Gore Bike Wear ALP-X Jacket and Shorts Review

by Brian Mullin on May 8, 2010

I have gotten six months of good testing of the Gore Bike Wear ALP-X jacket and shorts, in varying weather conditions, and they have kept me warm, dry and comfortable. They have been a dependable and constant companion, and have been durable, useful and extremely functional. The attention to details, along with their innovations and features makes this set of GORE-TEX apparel a winning combination.

ALP-X
GORE-TEX is manufactured from expanded PTFE (puffed Teflon, properly called ePTFE) membrane layered with woven shell fabric to stop liquid moisture from the outside world and pass moisture vapor from the inside. By expanding the PTFE material into a thin sheet, tiny pores are formed, providing breathability. Water droplets (rain) are large in comparison to the PTFE pores so they get stopped from passing through to the inside, while water vapor (sweat) is smaller than the pores and can pass through to the outside. PTFE is hydrophobic, that is it repels liquid water, while letting water vapor pass through. PTFE, in its natural state, is readily contaminated with oils from our body and other environmental substances. The oil contamination eliminates the hydrophobic quality and the fabrics leak. To solve this, a protective inner layer made of an oleophobic (oil-hating) substance covers the PTFE membrane to protect it from contamination.

The ALP-X set is made from GORE-TEX Paclite Shell material, which is very lightweight, extremely breathable and obviously is waterproof per the always excellent GORE-TEX standards. The Paclite shell is comprised of a nylon face fabric, followed by the hydrophobic GORE-TEX membrane, and then a protective layer of an oleophobic substance and carbon. All seams and stitching are taped to prevent any leaking. I tested the ALP-X jacket and shorts, along with a helmet cover and hood, and all were made with the Paclite material.

Be Prepared, better safe than sorry
I have been noticing that when I go out for a mountain bike ride, that if I decide not to take something, I will surely need it. I think that by saving a few ounces and some mild back discomfort that I can gain the upper hand by having a lighter pack. I am always second guessing the weather to see if it might rain or storm, and instead of bringing my rain gear, I will bring my water resistant wind breaker. Not only that, I will go out when a storm is obviously brewing to tempt fate with the lightning. I have had more than enough close encounters of the lightning kind already in my biking and ski mountaineering adventures.

So the day I decide to leave my rain jacket in the truck I get stuck in a monstrous downpour, I mean it was coming down in torrents. Besides it raining cats and dogs, the wind kicked up, and it was raining sideways! I was huddled down in heavy trees with my wind breaker on, my pack on my head for coverage and hugging a tree for a rain and wind break. With the lightning blasting all around me, I was slowly getting wet, and I started to get mildly hypothermic, meaning I was cold and miserable. The rainstorm let up (not the lightning of course) and I gingerly made my way back to the truck. The trails were totally drenched, with huge long puddles on the singletrack, and needless to say I had to walk the rock sections since it was very sketchy for riding and it all made for slow going. I was extremely glad to get back to the truck! I met the family at a local restaurant and my wife had gotten me a nice cold ice tea to drink (the usual), I switched to a warm cup of coffee instead.

Moral of the story, bring everything you will need, better to be over prepared and safe, than sorry.

Impressions
I have gotten the system in some decent rain storms, and have been snowed, rained and graupeled, sometimes on the same ride. I was always able to stay nice and dry underneath the jacket and shorts, and in addition they breathed quite well for rain gear. The jacket and shorts were comfortable, lightweight, durable, with enough useful and functional features, while still retaining some simplification. They are so light and packable, that it’s easy to bring them along no matter what the current weather is like, which is a good thing since you won’t be caught with your guard down in a storm. The jacket offered adequate length and roominess, but fit snug enough that it wasn’t flopping around in the wind nor on a ride. The shorts worked really well, and didn’t adverse effect my pedaling, other than making a swish sound as my knees came up from a pedal stroke.

The jacket has a couple of interesting features, one is the drop down tail on the rear of the jacket. Just simply unsnap the tail, and it keeps water rolling right off your back past your saddle, keeping your derriere drier. The addition of a small bit of elastic so that the tail snugs up against your butt is a very nice, although it looks like a baby diaper! I found that it tended to catch on the back of your seat during any sort of technical maneuvering, which you might not be doing during a heavy rainstorm? The rear of the jacket is cut with a slight droop, and offers a fair amount of coverage, so it’s slightly redundant if using the ALP-X shorts, but is quite nice when wearing normal gear.

I liked how far the collar came up, so during cold weather or heavy rains you could bundle up, and no rain would sneak in, and drip down my neck. Other features for the jacket are reflective piping, a front and rear pocket and some nice wrist and hem closures. Instead of having pit zips for ventilation, it uses an innovative mesh vent that runs behind the front flaps that cover the zipper. Simply ‘flip the flaps out flat’, and there is a 1 inch wide mesh than runs the full length of the jacket right next to the zipper.

 

You can even stuff the jacket into its large zippered mesh rear pocket, to form a small bundle. The front of the jacket has a full length zipper that has an overlapping flap to prevent any water egress.

The shorts are well designed, with a lot of small hidden features, including a thicker seat pad, an elastic portion on the rear for some stretching room, a rear zippered pocket, innovative leg closures to keep them snug and reflective piping. The shorts were meant to be pulled on when the inclement weather starts, and were easy enough to do so, but were still snug. Like the jacket, you can even stuff the shorts into its zippered rear pocket. The stretchy material on the rear is shaped like a horseshoe, and makes the shorts comfortable, unfortunately the material has torn on me in a couple of spots, although it hasn’t leaked as yet? I really liked the shorts. I can’t count how many times I have had a decent rain jacket with me, but I always would get soaked to the bones in my shorts.

The helmet cover is pretty simple, and sort of fits on like a beret, and it has a single reflective piping on the rear. When installing on a mountain bike helmet, the visor will need to be removed so that it will fit. I really appreciated the functions it offered, since it kept me dry during rain storms, but didn’t let me overheat like a rain hood does. During some snow squalls and sideways rain storms, the hood would have been nice, but I certainly enjoyed the additional venting the cover provided. I did like how nice any piece of the system kept the cold wind from creeping in when the temp drops, so I sometimes used them as a wind breaker, even when it was not raining nor snowing. I used the hood during the ugliest weather, but found it a bit cumbersome and claustrophobic, although it did provide the maximum weather protection. The hood attaches to the collar with Velcro, and seals up the jacket tightly, so errant water dribbles down your neck.

 

Measured Weight Specs
Jacket (large): 305.8 grams/10.8 ounces
Shorts (medium): 179.9 grams/ 6.3 ounces
Helmet Cover: 56.9 grams/2 ounces
Hood: 68 grams/2.4 ounces

I did find that my normal gloves got soaked on rides, so I purchased a pair of chemical gloves ($5), which have worked quite well and keep my hands dry. If it got cold enough on a wet ride, some hand warmers inserted into the gloves worked perfectly. I haven’t quite figured out what to do to keep my shoes and/or feet dry? I spend a lot of time hike a biking, and I tend to destroy the usual shoes covers quickly.

To keep the gear working properly, regular washing and drying needs to be done, which means a warm wash and a low dry. Tumble drying the garment or ironing on a low setting reinvigorates the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment on its surface, so water will continue to bead. The DWR is crucial to the best performance of any membrane-based waterproof system.

The Gore-Tex Snow Dance

Bottomline
As a set I really liked how comfortable the Gore Bike Wear ALP-X jacket and shorts were. They are lightweight, extremely packable, breathable and waterproof. The addition of the Helmet Cover adds to the complete ensemble. The set could be worn for inclement weather, in which they kept you warm and dry, or just as wind breakers. The jacket and pants have plenty of features that are functional, and very bike specific, and the material and build quality are outstanding. The only issue I had was the elastic material on the shorts had a few small tears. I had a few minor quibbles, such as a lack of an included hood, and the long term durability on the shoulders from pack abrasion.

The packability means “Don’t leave home without them!”. Fit, form and functional are the apt descriptions for this product set.

Strengths
– Lightweight
– Packable
– Tall collar
– Cycling specific
– Multi-condition use

Weaknesses
– Shorts elastic fragile
– Needs tougher material on shoulders
– Expensive
– Lack of Hood

Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

 

Update: The 2010 version of the jacket has some additional features that mine test unit doesn’t include. Those features are their Performance material (more durable) being added to the shoulders and the outside of the arms, and an integrated hood that hides in the collar. I cannot vouch for any of these features, since I have neither used nor tested them.

ALP-X Jacket Specs
* MSRP: $269.99
* Sizes: S – XXL
* GORE-TEX® Paclite® Shell
* GORE-TEX® stretch inserts on arms for maximum comfort
* Slim fit
* Ergonomic 3D fit
* Raglan cut
* “High collar, ergonomically shaped”
* Adjustable collar with easy-to-operate cord stopper for one-handed use
* Velcro fastening for separate hood
* Zip tags for easy handling
* Double flap to cover zip
* Napoleon pocket with zip
* Reflective logo on collar
* Reflective inserts on front pockets
* “Reflective piping on front, back and sleeves”
* Pre-shaped elbows
* Adjustable cuff
* Hem-width adjustable by easy-to-use covered cord stoppers and elastic draw-cord
* Press-stud fastening for cord on inside
* “Fold-away shirt tail, extra-long”

ALP-X PRO Shorts Specs
* MSRP: $149.99
* Sizes: S – XXL
* GORE-TEX® Paclite® Shell
* Slim fit
* Inseam length 13.78 inches
* Special fit for cyclist posture
* Adjustable elastic waistband with cord
* Wear-resistant seat reinforcement
* Hem-width adjustable by easy-to-use covered cord stoppers and elastic draw-cord
* Reflective piping on side seams
* Reflective logo on hem

Universal Hood Specs
* MSRP: $49.99
* attaches to all GORE-TEX® jackets from GORE BIKE WEAR™
* GORE-TEX® Paclite® Shell
* Adjustable hood (width and field of vision)
* Rain drain on peak
* 3x adjustable hood for maximum vision and comfort

Helmet Cover Specs
* MSRP: $49.99
* Sizes: M/54-58, L/60-64
* GORE-TEX® PACLITE® stretch
* Special fit
* Reflective print on back
* Reflective logo

Gore Bike Wear url: http://www.gorebikewear.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kochi May 8, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I also have an ALP-X Jacket and I really like it, no doubt.

However it's much too expensive. I'm pretty sure I'd not buy one a second time.

A much cheaper K-Way will almost do the same. Of course it's less functional, heavier and of course less breathable, but on the other side a plain K-Way is 4 times cheaper and will still keep me dry and warm.

just my 0.02cent,

kochi

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet May 8, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Yes, it is expensive. I have found that the long term longevity does somewhat make up for the price, I still have some Marmot and Patagucci gear that just never seems to die? K-Way is a bit more difficult to get the US? Thanks for the info!

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