Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM
Waterproof Jacket Review

Race Face's Simple Conspiracy Jacket

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Jan 10, 2019

K.I.S.S

Once I leave the rarefied Gore-Tex Active atmosphere of 7Mesh and Arcteryx or the preferred permeability of my first-gen Mission Workshop jacket, it gets a lot harder to say positive things about rainwear. Some may claim it's a matter of not being into chewing chuck after tasting tenderloin, but as a counterpoint, I can appreciate a Deore clutch derailleur after riding XTR.

Often with less expensive rain gear, the delicate dance of breathability, weatherproofing, flexibility, and durability becomes more mosh pit than tango. This makes for severe saturation inside my coat when it's warm and rainy. That said, newer generic 3-ply, seam sealed, waterproof options like the 200 USD Race Face Conspiracy is constructed from are getting pretty impressive, especially once pricing is taken into consideration.

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

The elasticized Conspiracy hood lacks any adjustments but fits excellently over my Kali Viva bucket lid and Leatt DBX 3.0 and always stayed in place even on the road.

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

The hood is just one great example of how Race Face nailed the design of the Conspiracy. Simple construction relying on attention to detail instead of superflous adjustments and features.

Having purchased in quantity from overseas factories I can fully appreciate the biggest mistake I think most jacket designers make. It costs relatively little to add features so they stack jackets full of adjustors, velcro* tabs, and zippers in order to justify the price. I love BOA adjusters on my shoes and helmets but that doesn't mean I need one on my hood.

With this new jacket, Race Face conspires against that norm by delivering an impressively breathable, especially stretchy, waterproof product with a grand total of two zippers and zero velcro. The two zippers are the main full-front zip and one internal chest pocket that's perfect for a couple of cards.

*I HATE velcro on cycling clothes

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

Instead of choosing between failure-prone zips and no pit-venting the Conspiracy has lattice vents.

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

The gilled underarm venting is particularly effective for standing climbs or an otherwise open riding position.

In the absence of an adjustable hood, arm cuffs, waist, and venting, Race Face has used a truly stretchy waterproof fabric and combined it with elasticized cuffs and waist. The hood fits better over a range of lids than any other I've used - including all the adjustable ones - and forgoes the weight, complexity, and cost of being removable. I use it often enough that I'm not in the camp of people who'd rather the Conspiracy came without one.

I wish all jackets had the gilled underarm venting that Race Face is using. On the one hand armpit zips are a common failure point and on the other hand I wonder how much more breathable even a Gore Active shell could be with an exhaust system.

Steal This Feature

Speaking of features worth stealing, I hope every outerwear company starts rubberizing their elbows the way Race Face has with the Conspiracy. If any jacket makers are listening - R&D* the sh*t out of this feature!

It's not that big a deal to seal up a torn elbow with some Tenacious tape and a bit of Freesole but no one loves tearing open the elbows of their new waterproof-breathable the first time they crash. The only thing that I don't love about the rubberized elbow overlays is that Race Face didn't do the same thing on the knees of the Agent pants.

*Ripoff and Duplicate

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

Rubber elbow patches are bonded over the jacket. They don't notably affect flexibility but should prolong the life of the Conspiracy.

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

Despite showing some scuffs from a couple of crashes and lots of trips through the wash the patches are holding up, and on, great.

Even with the lack of zippers, the Conspiracy isn't a notably light or packable jacket. I have no problem stuffing it into the outer pocket of my Airborne-9 but for the pack-less I don't think it's going to tuck nicely into a bum-bag or jersey pocket.

The nylon face fabric, while being very flexible, has been chosen with an eye to survivability so combined with the rubberized elbows and a solid seam-taping job, reminiscent of the Agent pants I reviewed, I expect this to be a product that will last multiple seasons.

The Conspiracy

This jacket is an orangey-red when dry and then when water hits it darkens up to more closely match the reinforced elbows. The Conspiracy is also available in black. If I was the designer I'd forgo the two colourways (K.I.S.S.) in favour of black with reflective details and additional sizes. Race Face currently makes small, medium, large, XL, and XXL jackets and, as is often the case thanks to my Fatness goals, I'm smack in the middle of M & L in terms of fit.

I'd love to see that, one colour, size run stretched to small, medium, medium-large, large, large-tall, XL, XL-tall, and XXL. It's still fewer SKUs of Conspiracy than the Burnaby brand is currently producing.

If the outerwear team at Race Face wanted to strap on a red suit and long white beard for next year, a higher-end, middle-sized (M-L) Conspiracy LTD jacket made with Polartec Neo-Shell would definitely fulfill one of my Christmas wishes.

Race Face Conspiracy Jacket AndrewM

I'm trapped between the medium & large in terms of an ideal fit. The good news for anyone ordering a Conspiracy sight unseen is that's what I expected based on the fit chart.

As it hangs now, for 200 USD I think the high-stretch factor, waterproofing, and breathability of the Conspiracy represents an excellent value. Race Face's published numbers for waterproof-membrane are 10,000mm; 15,000g/m2 but don't forget the gills when comparing it to other garments on paper.

It has great features without trying to justify its cost by being over-featured, and it's survived enough washes at this point that, as with the Agent Winter pants, I'm feeling very comfortable with the quality of the manufacturing. I think the rubberized elbow pads are a must-grab feature for other manufacturers and the hood volume is dialed.

In the market for a new outer layer and trying to split the difference between a garbage bag and four C-notes? The Conspiracy is worthy of consideration.

There's more information at your local Race Face dealer or on the website.

Trending on NSMB

Comments

legbacon
+1 Andrew Major
legbacon  - Jan. 10, 2019, 7:22 a.m.

I picked up this https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5050-728/Tonquin-GORE-TEX-Rain-Jacket last year when it was on sale for $180.  I can roll it up in a plastic bag and fit it in my SWAT bib pockets or strap it to my top tube.  I don't normally set out in the rain, but the few times I was caught it did it's job well.  I got a fetching shade of blue that makes me look like I know what I'm doing.

Reply

JBV
+2 Brad Sedola Andrew Major
James Vasilyev  - Jan. 10, 2019, 8:17 a.m.

great review.  those magical Agent pants still magical?  they are sold out everywhere and RF said they didn't make a tonne of them for the season.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 8:34 a.m.

Thanks! I still wear them almost every ride where there’s moisture on the ground and I’m currently on the look out for some good stretch slacks for dry but not too hot fall/spring rides so I think they’re still beauties. 

Last I checked the couple guys I know who picked them up still loved them as well.

I have managed to wet them out riding off-road a few times now but they were ‘you shoulda seen the other guy’ moments. Like Ned’s in a storm riding down with my hood up rides.

As with the Conspiracy I can’t help wondering how much more a NeoShell version would cost.

Reply

brad-sedola
+1 Andrew Major
Brad Sedola  - Jan. 10, 2019, 9:25 a.m.

With the unknown return date of these pants, I had to break down and order something while in the midst of this wet season. I shopped the lower mainland over the holidays for a size-large-anything-waterproof and came up dry (pun intended). Crazy to think one could buy a proper set of pants for winter riding in the winter.

I ended up ordering a set of Showers Pass Refuge pants online.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Brad Sedola
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 9:51 a.m.

Refuge is definitely a better hard-person commuter pant, do you mountain bike in them as well? 

I LOVE Showers Pass waterproof socks but all their rain gear I’ve tried on I’d call too bulky for mountain biking. Could just be I haven’t come across their whole catalogue.

Had a buddy complaining the other day that he couldn’t find good commuter pants anywhere. Specifically looking for Gore Bike Wear C3 Active (man if those pants had the cut and features of the Agent they could just take my money) and all he could find where cheap non-breathable pants that aren’t even that cheap.

From a retail perspective it’s crazy to me. I mean, New Years Resolutions are still a thing - surely there’s plenty of folks looking to spend on rain gear so they can have a chance of hitting their 2x rides to work a week goal?

Reply

brad-sedola
+1 Andrew Major
Brad Sedola  - Jan. 10, 2019, 10:17 a.m.

My hope is to do my regular group rides in them. Obviously with mail order I am sort of rolling the dice on fit. I'm trying to solve an aging problem of my toes going numb on our rides this time of year. I've got winter shoes, water proof socks, booties even, but the pants need to be long enough to stay down over my boot cuffs and narrow enough to not get hung up in the drive train. As soon as my feet are wet, my toes are numb. Once thawed they ache for days. I'm pretty sure this is more of a fight against aging versus a simple staying dry whilst riding sort of thing.

As for commuting, it's a 85km round trip. I gave up on that road bike ridiculousness years ago.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 11:44 a.m.

So I've suddenly developed a circulation issue this year - I think it's from carrying my daughter on my shoulders a lot - which manifests itself as a bit of numbness in my feet and hands that I've never had before. 

The only time it's really aggravated is on wet cold days on the bike. It's made me hugely grumpy about metal brake levers (hence my Dear Santa ask for plastic levers) and suddenly I find myself able to justify the cost of top-end brakes because lever blades are one place carbon makes a huge difference. 

As for my feet, I found that running waterproof socks inside waterproof boots aggravated my issues. I think it's because the socks just can't clear moisture through the boots. So I've been alternating between combining my waterproof socks with an underlayer of a wicking sock (Swiftwick socks branded by Cane Creek) and a wool sock and then a very breathable shoe (Shimano ME7), running a thick wool sock with a wicking sock underneath in a mid-weight winter boot (Bontrager JFW), and running the first combination with a flat pedal shoe. 

The flat pedal experience is SO MUCH better in the cold in terms of comfort that it's reinforced my belief that at the end of the day the pedal/cleat/shoe heat sink is by far my #1 issue (way more than waterproofing). I've picked up some insulating tape but I've also thought about using a sealant between my footbed and the last of the shoe. 

I'll hopefully be submitting a couple pieces this year on experiments to try and make cold-wet riding more fun because it's been a challenge. 

Definitely, hope your balance of kit works for you!

Reply

shoreboy
+1 Andrew Major
Shoreboy  - Jan. 10, 2019, 3:19 p.m.

Refuge pants are an awesome commuter pant.  They are very thin material, but completely waterproof in the year that I have ridden in them to and from work.  Id be very scared of trail riding in them, as they are so think I fear they would rip easily.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 10:28 p.m.

Very interesting; I need to look more in-depth at Showers Pass' newer products. Thanks.

Reply

craw
+1 Andrew Major
Cr4w  - Jan. 10, 2019, 8:21 a.m.

I would love this jacket in a vest version. There's been lots of time lately where my jacket was overkill but a little core protection for wind/warmth would have been nice. So far I can only find light duty road stuff or fleece/down vests. Does anyone make a proper 3-ply hardshell vest?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 8:29 a.m.

A Conspiracy vest would be very awesome! 

The only good stock H20 proof vest on the market that I’ve come across is Mission Workshop and even for Made In Canada I just can’t swallow the sticker shock - I still use my “custom” GoreTex Vest all the time and it’s still a brilliant piece of kit.

Reply

grimwood
+1 Andrew Major
grimwood  - Jan. 10, 2019, 1:51 p.m.

My mother in law got me a Salomon cross country ski vest years ago. I was pretty skeptical, but it’s awesome and gets used all the time. The wind proof front and fleece rear works really well for biking. If it’s really wet or raining, I’ll go for the jacket. But otherwise, this is what I use almost all winter.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - Jan. 10, 2019, 9:54 a.m.

Nice review, nice jacket... once I destroy my cheap MEC jacket, I'll definitely be looking at this.  My biggest gripe with MTB jackets has always been how rough I am with them... and I hate spending $300+ on a jacket that might only last me half a wet season.  And yes it's usually the elbows or seems... was even considering wearing elbow pads on the outside of my jacket this year but the "Joey" factor was far too high haha.  This one seems to help solve those issues - stretchy, elbow patches and gills vs zippers, plus the price isn't too steep.  Nice jacket RF.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 11:04 a.m.

When the sleeves go on your cheap jacket buck them off and try the riding with a waterproof vest. It's a silly sounding concept until you try it. Any day that's a drizzle or just wet on the ground I'm out in my Agent pants but just rocking my vest with a long sleeve jersey underneath. It's so awesome that I've over-Evangelized-it to the point that I think friends won't try it because they think I'm just trying to get everyone to destroy their jackets (or "take my vest! try it! try it!" is just too crazy to comprehend). 

Mine is just an older Gore Bike Wear Active jacket that didn't fit great. I didn't regularly wear it as a jacket but it gets as much use as any layer I have these days. 

.

That said - yeah, RF knocked this one out of the park. I will be very surprised especially if we don't see a lot more gills (so many jacket warranties happen because of delaminating pit-zips, but no pit venting isn't a great answer either) and rubberized contact points for plenty of brands in the next season or two. And I mean, if you're doing R&D anyways might as well grab that dialed hood shape/size too!

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 10, 2019, 1:41 p.m.

Island Life, you're likely aware of this but I'll mention it for anyone reading: it's widely known that all the major manufacturers will stand behind their product in the case of a warrantable defect, but what many people don't know is that they'll also repair damage for free or for very low cost. So, if your Arc'teryx/North Face/Patagonia/7Mesh jacket gets torn while riding, rest assured that while you'll be without it for a few weeks, you CAN get it repaired.

Check out Patagonia's site, wornwear.com, for more about their cutting edge program designed to encourage re-use and repairs of their products.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - Jan. 10, 2019, 1:56 p.m.

For non-branded service and faster turnaround DCH Sewing & Repair has reasonable job rates for gear worth repairing.

Relative repairability - and willingness to repair - aside, I’d love to see what the big money players you list could bring to mountain bike specific high-wear and common-failure points on jackets.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 11, 2019, 11:40 a.m.

I haven't used them yet but I have a challenging repair to take to them - a delaminated zipper cover section along a pocket on the side of my 12 yr old Mammut ski pants which are in otherwise good shape. 

To the question you ask, I just had one of those flash-through moments where thoughts and experiences collide at a fast rate. While the needs of all mountain bikers have certain similarities, I think you need a Venn diagram anytime you include the typical north shore rider. Sticking with the jacket example: like many/most, we need waterproofness and breathability (let's assume similar climate to keep this simple). And yes, everyone has durability concerns and wear points, but the possibility of falling here  is higher than most other places outside the sea2sky...so as a jacket manufacturer, durability is important but so is bulk, weight, and cost. 

The flash-through moment comes when I compare this situation to bikes & components of 10 years ago, when mainstream bike companies finally started bringing to bear their true engineering and manufacturing capabilities to products that addressed our needs here on the shore without ignoring the needs of riders elsewhere. In other words, capability and technology came together in ways we hadn't seen before, and now you could buy a strong handlebar that held up to abuse here without being too heavy to spec on a bike intended for somewhere else. Back then, there were products that worked here, but they were mostly ignored elsewhere except in small pockets of technically advanced riding and trailbuilding.

Not a perfect comparison, but the jacket you describe would be perfect here but considered unnecessarily overbuilt in lots of other areas*. Yes, you can wreck at high speed anywhere, but those crashes are rarer in other places, whereas we're always one bar-twist-with-front-wheel-in-a-hole away from an OTB into an elbow-shredding rock garden.

*bike parks excepted

Good review, Andrew. And nice looking jacket, RF. Kudos for trying something different with the gills in the armpits - not unlike what they've done with the Agent waterproof shorts and jackets with vents on the back.

Reply

paulc
+2 Brad Sedola Andrew Major
paulc  - Jan. 11, 2019, 9:37 p.m.

The Arcteryx Norvan jacket uses a similar armpit vent but the RF one looks even more effective. The main problem I have with the Norvan is the hood doesn't fit over a helmet. I have the 7Mesh Guardian jacket and as good as Gore Active is I'd love some better venting. I think the ultimate riding jacket for me would be if 7Mesh offered an optional over the helmet hood for the Revelation. Then you could choose between no hood, under-helmet or over-helmet.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Brad Sedola
Andrew Major  - Jan. 12, 2019, 1:22 a.m.

On a mountain bike jacket a hood that doesn’t fit over my helmet is exactly like a tow package on a Yaris. Might as well cut it out ‘cause I ain’t going to use it. 

I’d love to see what Arcteryx could do in cycling.

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Jan. 12, 2019, 1:12 a.m.

Regarding my post, I meant true premium ideas like variable face fabrics zonally optimized for wear/stretch/breathability,  hybrid materials, and maybe self-healing fabrics. Stuff that would truly differentiate and create value in a premium product. 

Going back to the Conspiracy, I think it’s fair to say any company could beef up a waterproof jacket for bike park usage. The rubberized elbows are a pretty smart, light, flexible idea that may help preserve the investment and I don’t really see them as a deterrent in terms of weight or flexibility. There are lots of lightweight cycling jackets of the market but if something’s a “mountain bike” jacket I think that assumes it will be crashed in.

Reply

qduffy
0
qduffy  - Jan. 12, 2019, 10:58 a.m.

I've had my jacket for several weeks already and I love it. The waterproofing is holding up well, and I've been using it for commuting (bright orange, keeps me dry) and even skiing because it's been kind of a wet year so far and all my other jackets are more like sponges than waterproof clothing.

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.