I'm planning to ride throught the winter for the first time this year. As part of my clothing plan, I'd like to get a jacket for cold/wind/rain protection. I live in Tennessee, which I would describe as "wet cold". More often than snow, we will get cold, rain almost snow, which seems colder than if it would just get colder and snow. I will use it for conditions from cool rain to cold weather (dry or wet). Although we can get single digit temps, more often it will be around 20 fahrenheit and up.
My ideal jacket would be Goretex (or equivalent water resistant, breathable fabric), yellow for high visability, with pit zips, a drop tail, a back vent, and women's specific fit.
I know many of you won't know about the women's fit, but any jackets you would recommend are welcome. I realize I won't get all my wishes, but I'm trying to fill as many as possible.
If anyone if familiar with any of the following jackets, give me your opinion:
Burley Rock Point Rain Jacket
Pearl Izumi Channel Jacket
Gill Freedom Jacket
Showers Pass Century Jacket Elite
REI Randonee Jacket
The most comfortable cold/wet weather stuff I've ever found is from JL rowing(www.jlrowing.com). They absolutely withstand water, keep you warm, let your body sweat and breathe without getting slimy (my peeve with gortex), and the women's ones actually fit.
Yes they are rowing clothes, not biking clothes, so I guess this is a plug from a devoted JL fan. There's stuff I've worn consistently for the past 9 years (rowing, running, and biking) and it's doing fine (although the white is not as white as it used to be). Main difference - no pockets on the back and they usually have longer sleeves than cycling clothes (handy when you decide on fingerless gloves for the day it pours on the way home) and the drop panel in the back is a bit longer.
As for meeting your wishes, their 'splash jacket' meets everything - comes in yellow, has drop tail in back (all of their tops do), comfortable women's fit, and good ventilation (not pit zips specifically but is vented). $85 and worth it.
I've found it's impossible to stay dry, I still sweat when it rains, so I go for comfortable and NOT STICKY. In the winter (warmer here in Seattle than for you), I prefer combinations of longsleeve coolmax type shirts with warmer vests or jackets depending on the weather. Actually, even through the summer I'll carry this type of jacket or a fleece something-or-other with me in case it gets cold.
I have a Pearl Izumi Channel that I use for commuting in Seattle. It works best for me when the temperature is in the low 40's and below. Otherwise it gets a bit too warm because there are no zips or vents. The jacket never leaks, even when I did 33 miles on the rainiest day ever recorded in Seattle. It is great in freezing weather with an long sleeve jersey. Don't know about women's fit. The zipper pulls are kind of fragile, I broke the top one after a short time.
In warmer weather I wear an ancient Early Winters goretex jacket with a tail flap and pit zips. It breaths well but doesn't really keep me dry. It does block the wind so I don't get cold.
I really like the Randonee Jacket. It was on sale a couple of weeks ago. It is bright orange/yellow, it has a drop tail, with an even longer tail velcroed under the pocket. It feels totally windproof, and it fits well (I got a Women's small, FWIW). The sleeves are nice and long, and there are huge pit zips under the arms, which I think will help keep your temp. under control.
I just tried out the jacket in a hailstorm last Saturday, and in a very stiff wind on Sunday, and it was really comfortable.
That was one of my top two. I decided on the Burley Rock Point Jacket, because it has a back vent, and because I couldn't make the Randonee Jacket fit quite right. The small would have been just right, but not enough room to layer, and the medium's arms were so long (I have short arms), that they hung way past my hands.
My mother is going to give me a jacket for my birthday in November, so I won't get to see the Burley in person until then. I'll let you know how it turns out!