Cambridge Raincoat Company [Review]

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At the risk of reading too much into too little, I should like to begin this raincoat review with a deep and meaningful observation that you might find a tad sanctimonious, even for me. The marketing imagery presented by this raincoat company out of Cambridge UK, does not emphasise walking from the subway to the office in the heart of the city, or conversely carrying fresh milk from your own cow to your kitchen, but riding a bike. I’m not amazed that this cycling raincoat resembles nothing you will ever see in the peloton. I’m amazed that the Cambridge Raincoat Company have identified cyclists as such an important market segment for rainwear. I had long suspected walking was becoming a fair-weather mode and evidently, I was correct. Advertising reflects life, and these days it is mostly us cyclists who push on in all weather, and who therefore most need our raincoats.

386573_10151334639289752_1438677133_nOne reason for buying this raincoat was to test my theory that 9 out 10 people were not in the top class for every subject at school (as I was, except for English—ironically), and that of the remaining 10 percent, most become dumb from watching TV (as I could not have, since I don’t watch the darned shit). This new raincoat has given weight to those numbers. If one in one hundred people who see me riding my bike in this raincoat recognise it as a reasonable thing to be wearing, the other 99 look like these puppies. Many are still wondering if that dignified gentleman they saw on his bike didn’t escape from the loonie bin, if what I was wearing was legal to wear on a bike, and if they weren’t meant to chew me. Until I am beaten to death or ran over for thumbing my nose at cultural norms, I will goad my intelectual inferiors. This raincoat is perfect for that.

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I wonder if I would look so out of place though, wearing this raincoat on a bike in Cambridge, UK (sorry Harvard, we’re not talking about your plagiarised Cambridge). While I imagine old Raleighs and raincoats are as common in Cambridge as wooden rowboats or buildings from Hogwarts, I note that Sally Guyer developed these particular raincoats because she was dissatisfied with what else was on offer. Could she really not find another traditional raincoat, in all of England? Well of course she could, obviously, and I imagine many people in Cambridge own a similar raincoat and wear it while riding. The gap in the market was for a raincoat made from this incredible fabric.

cambridge-raincoatWhen I bought the coat, there was a link on Sally’s site to the fabric manufacturer. I can’t see the link now, and wouldn’t blame her for pulling it down. Her competitors would be all over this stuff, like fried chicken joints if they found this. To touch, scrunch and pelt with rain drops, it really just feels like your favourite old jeans. Rain drops make no sound upon impact. I’m especially fond of the bold satin lining, that as I write causes flashbacks to the night I was wed and took my dear Primrose under the sheets after 4 long hours of abstinence prior.

Couple this coat with your favourite gloves, soft shell trousers from Rapha, and a waxed cotton rain hat like the one I’ve been wearing, and you will be asking other folk on the bike path, “How’s the weather now? Better?”

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So, Sally, if you’re not going to tell your competitors the name of this fabric, you should at least start expanding your range. I would like some trousers, please. Or at least make me a hat. The brown of the waxed cotton just looks so taudry, compared to something you might provide in matching red.

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Swapping my MC Hammer pants and gore-tex hiking coat for this raincoat has been one of those milestones in my life of cycling, to rival buying a roadster from these guys, or packing my Brompton now when I go on work trips, or buying a box bike. In the same way that the tattooed lady started with one little butterfly on her buttocks, we eccentrics become eccentric in stages. We start with the upright style bike, then progress to commuting in regular clothes rather than lycra, and end up wearing red raincoats that are visible from the space shuttle and cause bus loads of schools kids to riot.

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I freely admit, I would not look so smug in this raincoat if it let rain in, or trapped 100% of my perspiration. This leads to those pointy questions you’re dying for me to answer, on the subject of raincoat performance. As anyone who enjoys a bit of a workout while bike commuting can attest, we do arrive sweaty no matter how much the label on our spray jackets insist our sweat will be wicked from our skin. In the end we must accept getting a damp back from our own perspiration. What is intolerable, is the ingress of cold trickles.

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Most rainwear attacks that old devil Cold Trickle with taped seams and sealed zips, the later cut from the same giant length of sealed zipper, that I guess must come from some city in China where all the people are employed making zippers. Evidently Sally has no trade links with that city, as her coats just have buttons. That a fastening device dating back 5000 years to Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan could be as good as modern zippers, is as remarkable really as bicycles being faster than cars in the city. But there you have it: low tech still works. And there you have the technical review of the Cambridge Raincoat you were looking for but couldn’t find on the Washing Machine Post.

I am disappointed with one thing. I wish this new raincoat of mine had clips or garters of some sort to keep the front panels in place on my thighs. The makers of Rainlegs recognised that it is usually only a gentleman’s thighs that need protection, not the lower legs or backs of his trousers. And though this would be a gimmick, I wouldn’t mind if the coat came with a bag that I might pack the coat into when it is wet, to protect the range of new products from Apple that I choose to carry about in my pannier. In the meantime I’m scrunching it into a Rapha feed bag, mixing my first love of bike racing with my new love of cycle chic, in a way that seems more sinful than your average threesome. Yes, then gloves, shoe guards and trousers from this rain resistant fabric that feels just like cotton, would be appreciated too. Sally: I haven’t stopped spending!

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But let me remind you in closing why I bought this raincoat, and that was, to cause a reaction. Better than any T-shirt with words on, this rain coat says, “drive around me, not through me, because I am god,” the subtext to that being, “I will send rat plagues to strip the flesh from your bones, if you pass too close.” But none of that of would fit on a T-shirt.  You buy this coat for the same reason you might buy contemporary art, to differentiate yourself from the 99% who weren’t in the top classes, or who have made themselves dumb by watching TV.

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore. My favourite bikes are a titanium racing bike I use for racing, a Velorbis retro commuter for riding to cafes and work, a single speed ultra light Brompton that I take with me when I travel on planes, a 29er hard tail mountain bike that I get lost on in remote places, an old track bike that scares me, a 1984 Colnago Super with all original campagnolo components that is plugged into a virtual realm that I train in, and a Dutch-made Bakfiets, that could easily replace half of the bikes I just mentioned.
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