IF YOU’VE ever wondered what it’s like to bring a tank to a gun fight then check out the RainMen Passion range from Czech company Kalas Sportswear.
The UK has endures some pretty dire weather over the winter, spring and what is usually supposed to be summer. If the mercury hasn’t been hovering around the zero point, then it has been chucking it down and windy. Or, all three if you live up north like us.
Kalas, who were founded back in 1990 and have been expanding into more markets in order to increase their profile, describe their RainMem Passion road jersey as being“ideal for cycling in harsh weather conditions” and that the “wind-resistant and water-proof membrane is highly breathable and offers maximum protection for a cyclist challenging the hostile weather”.
So the fact that we had daft-named storms battering our shores at the start of the year, as well as during the start of autumn, makes for some pretty ideal testing conditions – and we use that word ‘ideal’ in a very evil and sadistic sense, which roughly translated meant that I went out in all weathers. Like, literally all weathers. I am not even joking.
First impressions count for a lot and when the jersey arrived, I thought it was a bit on the bulky side. After all, I love my Gabba jersey and raved in a recent review about Le Col’s Thermal Jersey. They’re both solid, foul weather jerseys that actually feel slim.
Here’s the thing, though. The RainMen Passion jersey from Kalas is equally as slender but packs an extra punch – like a featherweight boxer who has been holding something back in reserve to take victory just before the bell.
Hidden on the reverse of the wind and water-proof outer membrane shell is some very fine fleece-type material. Really, you’d struggle to notice it was there if I hadn’t just pointed it out.
Sadly, I can’t baffle you with the usual technical babble about the material and whatnot, as we didn’t get sent any promotional material other than the jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers and a pair of niffy Pro Arco bibshorts, which I’ll post a review at a later date.
Luckily, that saves me from boring you and, instead, reveal just how well it performed during one of the recent storms that resulted in parts of West Lancashire looking much like the set of the Kevin Costner’s 1995 American post-apocalyptic film Waterworld.
It’s worth me pointing out that my mate Trev was the person responsible for getting us this kit to review. He has been doing a bit of work with promoting Kalas in the UK. Also, there is another Merseyside connection in the form of Mark McNally, whose new Belgian squad Wanty-Groupe Gobert have Kalas Sportswear as their official kit sponsor for 2016.
When the kit first arrived, Trev emailed me a warning – of sorts – saying ‘just wear a thin base layer on underneath or you’ll be sweating’. Outside, it was freezing cold, raining for like the millionth day and the branches on the trees outside looked as though they were performing some sort of weird techno dance. In other words, it was damn grim.
Never has someone been so right. Wearing just my summer merino wool base layer underneath the RainMem Passion jersey, I ventured out into the bleak wilderness that is West Lancs. Sure, I was only doing a relatively ‘easy’ 40-miles to the café and back, but in storm conditions the miles count for double – or so I have been told.
With other thermal or foul weather jerseys, there is inevitably a trade-off. Thinner membranes are great at repelling light downpours, but struggle when the rain gets heavier. They’re also not the warmest when the temperature drops. Most cyclists counteract this by just simply wearing a robust base layer underneath.
Let’s face it, we’ve all stood there minutes before we’re due to head out on the bike in the winter, repeatedly looking out the window, then back at all the different base layers and jerseys lying on the bed as we desperately weight up all the variations like it was some sort of complex puzzle that could only be solved by the likes of Stephen Hawkings.
Thankfully, that conundrum is no more – hurrah – thanks to the RainMem jersey from Kalas. It really is the Swiss Army knife of winter jerseys. Rain? No problem – it beads off the outer membrane brilliant. Cold? Someone call the fire-brigade because it’s got a whole lot hotter thanks of the micro fleece lining. Wind? Even the big bad wolf would have a job on his hands with this jersey.
It’s the same story with the arm and leg warmers, which are also manufactured from a wind and water-proof membrane material.
Again, first impressions are that they’re far too thick – like something a scuba diver would wear exploring the ocean. In actual-fact, they’re quite thin but do a remarkable job of keeping the cold, wind and rain out – just like the jersey – thanks to the micro fleece-type layer underneath.
Other arm warmers that I have used in the past have been fairly cheap. Normally, just a bog-standard material that is fine at keeping the cold at bay during relatively fair weather conditions, but fail miserably at keeping the rain out or when the temperature plummets.
Not so with these bad boys. They’re like the bullet-proof vests of arm and leg warmers. If they were a movie character, they’d be the love-child of Robocop and John McClane from Die Hard. And the fit and silicone grips are pretty awesome, too.
Moving back to the jersey, it comes with some pretty nice features – such as the key holder in the right-rear pocket, which I am not ashamed to admit that I first thought was to hang the jersey on the washing line.
Also, the arms are also a close aero-style fit – something like what you’d normally find on a summer jersey, but has been put to good effect on the RainMem. Like with most foul weather jerseys, there is an elongated back – or ‘bum flap’ if you’re a bit silly like me – on the rear that helps to keep your backside dry and the jersey also benefits from a silicone waistband, which prevents it from riding up.
Negatives are few and far between. For example, the collar could be a little bit longer and made from a thinner or slightly more flexible material. At present, it’s the same sort as the rest of the jersey but still does an adequate job at keeping the wind out.
Another feature that could be improved are the rear pockets. Again, they’re made from the same thick material as the outer-shell, which seems strange when they’re only job is to keep you keys or mobile safe.
On that note, the rear pockets could be greatly improved if they were a bit deeper or had a zip to keep valuables from jumping out. Yes, I understand that these jerseys are made for the pros who don’t have to worry too much about losing some loose change or a set of keys, but making such small alterations would greatly improve the jersey’s appeal to the general consumers.
Trival changes aside, you cannot really fault the products from Kalas. Especially when you consider that everything is fully-customisable and they have a low minimum order quantity of just five items.
For instance, they can be any five pieces of kit – so you could order a single short-sleeved jersey, a long-sleeved jersey, pair of bib-shorts, winter jacket and a RainMen Jersey.
Not to mention that all their products are manufactured in the Czech Republic using Italian fabrics and ink from Switzerland. Factor in the short turnaround time of four weeks from when an order is placed and you’re onto a winner.
In the Italian Job, Michael Caine’s famous line was ‘you’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’ when his accomplices were a bit overzealous with the explosives. Kalas have been equally as overenthusiastic – blowing the bloody doors off winter. Who needs summer when you’ve got kit like the RainMen?