Parentini Mossa: slaying the Gabba

I’ve always been a big fan of the roundel. Although I lack any artistic capability I like design and I’ve always liked the circular representation of a national flag. Bradley Wiggins sported the UK RAF roundel on his Rapha designed kit and it adds a distinctive bit of design flair. The Parentini Mossa has a roundel on the sleeve in the colours of the Italian flag as used by their Air Force. It has the added benefit that, in roundel form, I can pretend that it’s actually representing the Welsh flag as well.

It’s inevitable that a lot of this review will be a comparison. The Mossa is , on the face of it, a competitor of the Castelli Gabba and the Gabba is a yardstick. It is the thing against which all other foul weather gear is measured. It was introduced a number of years ago to the Castelli supplied members of the pro peloton and proved to be an instant success. Indeed such was that success that other non Castelli riders started to adopt it as well. Of course, they couldn’t wear Castelli, or at least appear to be wearing the brand, due to their own sponsorship commitments so out came the black marker pens. There’s a great photo of Johan Van Summeren in his branded Gabba riding alongside BMC’s Philipe Gilbert in his blacked out version. Black marker pens. In the  high tech world of pro cycling a low tech approach to staying comfortable. Who knows, they may even have had to buy it themselves.

A very large number of the pro peloton in the 2013 San Remo were wearing the Gabba. And not without good reason, the conditions were absolutely foul. The Gabba was something new, and, at the time, something fairly unique. Where riders would once turn to a normal jersey/gilet/rainjacket combo the Gabba did away with all of that. It was a single garment, short or long sleeve, suited to riding in the worst weather conditions. And, quite quickly, it trickled down into the consciousness of the amateur riders who also began to use it as their go to kit in poor conditions. Castelli went to great lengths to sell the dream, even marketing a “pro” version in a  box with a marker pen for those who wanted to be like the pro peloton. There was a long sleeve version and, if conditions were a little warmer, a short sleeve one. Partner the short sleeve with a set of nano flex arm warmers and you had a pretty versatile combination. Alternatively, there was a convertible version where you could zip off the arms and convert it to short sleeved one.
Soon the Gabba was ubiquitous. Not only in the pro peloton, but in the amateur one as well. It was used for wet sportives, club runs. I used mine for commuting, mountain biking and once for Cyclocross. It appeared to be all things to all men. The indispensable king of wet and foul weather cycling clothing. Reviewed brilliantly all over the web and in print media with very few dissenters overall. And, even where dissent crept in, an acknowledgement that it was still a very good piece of kit indeed.

 

And it is. As long as you understand what it is and why it works. Castelli rate their products on a 5 “dot” scale. They claim that the Gabba is 100% windproof but only 80% waterproof and breathable. Insulation is rated at 40%. In practice the truth is probably a little different. It will stave off even heavy rain for a decent length of time. It will absolutely keep the wind off. When the water eventually gets in it remains windproof and the moisture within (be that your own sweat or what’s seeped through) is an effective insulator. I’m surprised that Castelli rate it as a mere 40% for insulation. It’s definitely better than that. Though, perhaps, they are being honest about its thermal properties overall. Once you’re wet you stay warm. Until you stop at the Cafe for cake and take it off. Then you hang it on the back of your chair. Sink the latte, eat the coffee cake. Put it back on. Nasty. A good friend of mine had some experience of this the other day. She hung it on the back of a chair to dry off when she got home. A few hours later, it’s still wet and there’s a puddle on the floor. Stick it in the airing cupboard and it dries out a little quicker. The truth is that most of this is as Castelli intended but the lore of the Gabba seems to have distorted the truth of its shortcomings. In the cold light of day it’s not the second coming that it never really claimed to be……….

Enter the Mossa. It’s a very different animal altogether though, superficially, it appears to be the same. It has the same minimal approach, similar race fit, similar rear reflectives, no fleecy insulation and some fleece in the collar. Imitation and flattery? Or something else? There are a number of Mossa variants, moreso than the Gabba. The Mossa makes up a large part of Parentini’s winter range.  This review is of the long sleeve jacket version. There’s a short sleeve version of the same jacket. There’s also a more substantial winter version called the Mossa.2. I may be able to add a review of that in due course. There’s also a jersey range with a slightly different base construction.

Let’s start here. The Mossa is breathable, 100% waterproof and windproof. It’s made of a material called Windtex manufactured by Vagotex in Italy. This particular variant is the Windtex Storm Shield fabric, a stretchy membrane which allows moisture to escape but doesn’t allow any in. But, hang on a second, there’s no taped seams. Surely it cannot be 100% waterproof? That’s a fair point and one which Parentini address in their literature. In their view taped seams means a stiffer section of fabric which sits away from the skin and cannot carry out its transportation duties. The fabric here is lined with a water repellent treatment and Parentini claim that no water will find its way in. I have to say, I once wore a Gore Xenon with taped seams and it never sat right. The Rapha Pro Team Soft-shell had taped seams as well and I found it less water resistant than the Gabba. So the absence of taped seams on a jacket of this type is no big issue to me. I can see its place in the less form fitting rain jackets, but I understand what Parentini were trying to achieve.

The Mossa is designed to operate at its optimum performance level when the rider is wearing a base layer. It uses the moisture that you produce to heat you up. The transportation of moisture away from the membrane happens at a slower pace than in other products (such as Windstopper) and, as such, thermal regulation is achieved on a more consistent basis. You can, where conditions permit, wear it without a base layer but it would have to be relatively warm to consider doing that.

Parentini supplied me with a jacket and base layer to sample and review. Bear that in mind. I didn’t pay for it. I’ve been very positive about kit that I’ve paid for with my own money, indeed that was one of the reasons for starting to write a blog in the first place. So, in writing this review, I want to be transparent and honest in relation to those points. They’ve asked me to be brutally honest and write whatever I want. And, I have assured them, that I will. So, that’s out of the way…….

The sample supplied to me is an orange jacket in large. The jacket also comes in a fluro yellow, black or blue. If I’d have chosen a version it would have been the orange one. It’s a great colour for being seen. It’s a size smaller than I would have bought in any Castelli gear. Indeed, it’s actually my normal size in everyday clothing. It’s nice to be able to buy something Italian in something that doesn’t scream fatty on the label to you every time you put it on. It’s designed to be tight but the fabric is around 4 times more elastic than other windstopper type materials. It fits. Just about. But that’s pretty much the point. You don’t want it to be baggy because that just creates pockets of air that will leave you cold and fail to transport moisture away from the skin. If you buy the Mossa in the wrong size it’s simply not going to work as well as intended. But the size chart is pretty much spot on and doesn’t require you to guess quite as much as with other manufacturers.

I’ve partnered it with a long sleeved (Parentini) pesante carbon base layer. When the base layer arrived it was the most amazing thing. As I removed it from the packaging it looked like it would fit my youngest child. He’s 3. It really was very tiny indeed. But it fitted perfectly. I’ve honestly never seen stretch like it. And once it was on it was just a lovely thing to feel next to the skin. It’s interesting. I have a Helly Hansen lifa base layer. It’s form fitting. I like it and it works but I can’t help thinking it’s a bit limiting in terms of movement. It’s a bit tight on the shoulders and on the inside of the elbow. I’m never wholly comfortable in it but it works well enough. Yet this base layer from Parentini which would fit on the chest of the Helly Hansen fits me perfectly. In fact I’d go as far to say that it fits me better than any base layer I’ve ever tried on. It’s made of a material called Dryarn which wicks moisture quickly away from the skin. It has perforated underarms which assist with those particularly sweaty bits. That’s important because, as noted above, the Mossa require your own moisture to work at its optimum levels. It’s also very thin and, when combined with the Mossa over the top, doesn’t give you the feeling of being constricted in any way.

And what of the fit of the Mossa. Well, as stated, race fit. Very much so. Have a look at the model on the home page. You’ll see that there’s no bagginess at all. And that’s particularly the case in relation to the sleeves. I’ve been doing a bit of swimming recently and have developed a few more muscles. My top half is a bit more muscular than in the past but it fits well because of its elasticity. The bottom half of my torso is still showing some post Christmas excess but it still fits very well overall. I’m fairly confident that, providing you choose the correct size, it will fit very well on most body types such is its elasticity. It comes up quite short at the front but that’s a deliberate design as well. There’s absolutely no bulging out when sitting on the bike. I hate that. There are so many jackets that appear to fit well but then bulge out when you adopt race position. The Mossa does not do that at all. The term second skin is overused but particularly applicable here. But it never feels constricting or tight, just, well, right. It really does feel like a storm shield.

The rest is pretty standard fare really. A nice fleece lined collar. A really excellent zip which you can easily move with even heavy gloves. There’s not a storm “flap” over the zip but the material either side of the zip is slightly raised and elongated and fits over the zip when in use. So, in practice, it’s as good as the storm flap on the Castelli Gabba or Alpha. There are three deep pockets on the rear and, as you can see in the photos below, a good decent set of reflective bits of material. There’s an elongated tail which will prevent road spray from entering places where you really don’t want it to enter.

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Front
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Rear with light source

There’s no separate waterproof pocket because, well, the pockets themselves are and that is a slight issue. Perhaps my only real negative issue with the Mossa overall. There are no drain holes. If the water gets into the pocket it will stay in so it’s probably best to put your accessories in something such as a sandwich bag. In practice this is generally a good idea anyway. Moisture can have as much an effect on your iPhone as dropping it in the toilet. And, in practice, when in the race position, it’s unusual for even torrential rain to run down your back and into the pocket. The elastic fit means that the pockets are effectively closed when sitting on the bike so it’s really not much of a problem anyway. The overall quality is excellent. It feels premium and hard wearing. The seams are closely stitched and the quality of the stitching is excellent. There are no hard edges or anything else which might rub uncomfortably against the skin.

The cuffs are nice as well. They’re a nice snug fit and feel very soft next to the skin. They’re not made from the same material, it seems, as the main jacket but are clearly coated with the same water repellent treatment. In practical use they are not quite as waterproof as the main jacket but water runs off them very effectively. The whole overall effect is one of real lightness. I’d recommend a lightweight pair of gloves to partner the jacket with to maintain this overall feel. When I did this test I used some Dura De Feet gloves and the cuff fitted neatly underneath the cuffs of the Mossa with little fuss.

So, does it work?

Before I moved out into the real world I started with a simple test. I put on the jacket and base layer and stuck my arm in the sink which I’d filled with cold water. Bent my arm and let it rest there for a few minutes. Then I repeated with the other arm. After a few minutes immersion I took the jacket off and surveyed the base layer for any sign of water ingress. There was none. That’s particularly impressive and shows that the membrane and waterproof coating are doing their job properly. It also demonstrates that the seams are performing extremely well. When the arm is bent and submerged the seams are being stretched slightly due to articulation. This means that the lack of any ingress during that period of immersion is a good test of how the jacket might perform in real world conditions. But it’s not a complete test. I’ve been down this road before. Some jackets appear good in isolated home test but perform poorly out on the road. The only test worth considering is a ride in the rain. Let’s get out there. So, far I’ve been able to test it on one ride in variable conditions and another in bright but cool conditions. The temperatures on both rides varied between 7 and 10 degrees. I haven’t yet tested it in a monsoon. I am sure there will be one along soon and I will update the review accordingly.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cycled in the wet. It’s not a pleasant experience. I don’t know who first encapsulated the quote “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” but, in most cases, that’s entirely true. If you choose to be out in the nasty stuff then choosing what you wear will make your experience immeasurably better. I’ve tried lots of stuff in the wet and my experiences are elsewhere on this blog. I’ve never really found that there’s one piece of kit that can work in all conditions. The best rain jacket I’ve found is the Madison Apex. The best versatile jersey is the Castelli Alpha. DHB are producing kit at such reasonable prices that you can just have several pieces of stuff which will work but a degree of planning is needed before you go out.

The Mossa is a truly versatile piece. Its raison d’être is its waterproofing. You choose it if it’s raining or if the threat of rain is ever present. But you don’t have to wear it in the rain. It just works particularly well in those conditions. You can wear it, Parentini say, in sub zero temperatures up to 15 degrees. As stated earlier, at the very top end of temperatures, its better that you ditch the base layer or, at least, go with a very lightweight or short sleeve one, as the jacket may be a little hot overall.

On both test runs I cycled at a decent pace, faster than a commute, slower than a club ride. The ride was undulating and with decent climbs and descents. I wore the (supplied) base layer and a pair of bib knickers on my bottom half. I cannot possibly vouch, at the time of writing, for performance in sub zero conditions. We haven’t had any and, looking at the forecasting models, it looks like we won’t have some for some time yet. In properly sub zero conditions, which I generally experience early in the mornings on my commute, I would probably choose the Mossa.2 because of its increased warmth. But that would only be the case if I knew that the home commute would be similarly cold. If the diurnal temps were extreme (a sub zero ride in and a middle temp ride home) then I’d opt for the Mossa. That’s particularly the case if there is any threat of rain. Remember that this review is about my experience. As I’ve got older I’ve run a little colder. In years gone by I could easily have seen me using the Mossa at zero. Now? Probably around 4-5 degrees C and above.

How does it perform? It does what it says on the tin. It keeps rain out. It breathes. It keeps you warm and, crucially, temperate. It’s very breathable indeed, not once did I feel that overly warm feeling that you can get with some jackets. It’s not witchcraft. Parentini worked very hard to identify the best possible material with which to construct the Mossa. But the material is only one part of it. The combination of that material with the general overall fit is what makes the Mossa a particularly effective piece of kit. It’s properly waterproof, even in driving rain. There will, inevitably, be some moisture inside. And that moisture is important because it’s allowing the Mossa to carry out its thermal regulating duties. When I removed the jacket and checked the base layer at the end of the ride the moisture was in the places that I’d expect to see it, chest, back, and a bit on the arms. That was the case in relation to both the wet and dry rides. That means that the transfer system is being unaffected by the presence of moisture on the outside of the jacket. Indeed, the rain just runs of it, never soaks in, never gets anything other than slightly moist.

The Mossa was excellent in keeping me temperate. A true Goldilocks jacket. Whether I was descending or ascending, riding tempo or small recovery, I just felt exactly the same. Whenever I found myself in a cross or head wind I couldn’t feel any penetration at all. Whenever it rained nothing found its way in. The neck gets a particular shout out here. It’s very snug but not uncomfortably so. It maximises protection and makes sure that water can’t make its way in. It’s quite high as well which really assists in that shield like protection.  In the conditions in which it’s intended to be worn it worked perfectly. I felt dry, sufficiently warm and, above all, protected from the elements.

So, the all important question. The price. It’s sold in the UK at more or less the same price EU wide. Around 200 euros. At the time of writing that’s more or less £160. Indeed the UK RRP is slightly less at £155.  In the UK if you want get hold of one it’s a case of contacting the manufacturer at sales@zettadistribution.com in order to find your local dealer. I’ll try and post the dealer list at the bottom of this blog in due course. Parentini are not a mail order company. They don’t want to build a big internet presence. They believe in their dealer network. That’s very nice to see nowadays. That’s a decent outlay for a jacket. But it’s certainly in the ball park of what you’d expect to pay for the alternatives. And, in my view, those alternatives are not nearly so versatile.

Incidentally, I should add, there are a number of other things that are special about the Mossa, or, more properly, how Parentini market it. It can be personalised for any club rider. So you can order it in your club colours and customise in other ways such as the addition of a zipped pocket. That’s a pretty good USP as well.

Would I buy one with my own money? Absolutely. Indeed, I’m not quite sure I really need my (excellent) rain jacket anymore. This feels better, feels more temperate, more protected, and more useful. In the world of wet weather gear you need to make a choice. Do you opt for the best thing since sliced bread? Or do you make the intelligent left field choice? Skewed perception. The truth is that the Mossa is everything that everyone always claimed the Gabba to be. That the Gabba was never those things is not the Gabba’s fault. That the Mossa is is a testament to Parentini’s efforts to make something very special. While I’m not intending to go out in Storm Frank to test the absolutely worst the British weather has to offer, simply because it looks bloody dangerous, it won’t be long before the next low pressure system swings our way. Commuter bike out, mudguards on, Mossa donned. Once more unto the breach………….

Update: 4th January 2015. Another Welsh winter day. Another day of downpours, surface water flooding and high river levels. The quest for a sunny day goes on. 40 miles in the Mossa today, damp on the way in and some pretty nasty heavy stuff on the way home. The temperatures were depressed whenever there was serious rainfall so about 6-7 degrees most of the time. As expected I remained absolutely warm and comfortable. Not toasty in the way that a thick winter jacket makes you feel. That would be the wrong way to describe it. It was temperate. And that’s a very important consideration in the choice of a garment such as this. Indeed, once I’d finished the 20 mile home trip I thought that I could happily put another 50 miles in. But there are kids to feed and chores to be done. Off came the Mossa and I looked at where the damp patches were and they were where expected, the places where I generally sweat a little more. A bit on the chest, bit on the lower back, a little on the arms and shoulders. That dampness is fine, and to be expected. It’s contributing to keeping me warm. There was no soaking through, no dripping wet, just excellent overall protection. If I had one suggestion on design to make it would be to lose the black stripe on the left arm. Because it’s achieved by putting a separate piece of material in there, there are two additional seams on that arm rather than the almost “all round” protection of the right arm. The seams are forward facing so there is a slight risk that, in truly awful conditions, there could be some seam ingress at those points. It will be minor, if it happens, but if I were to offer a suggestion for the next model I might suggest sublimating the strip and sticking to a single piece of material here. Anyway, after 30 minutes in the airing cupboard it’s ready to go again tomorrow…..

Update: 22nd January 2016. As it turned back a little warmer (and returned to damp again) I got back into the Mossa from the Mossa.2. It’s just a lovely thing. Seems to keep you “just right” in terms of temperature and, as always, you just feel protected. I’m going to have to add the short sleeve version to the wardrobe at some point. I can see it/them getting a lot of use!

Update: 4th February 2016. It keeps raining. And the Mossa keeps getting used. And it’s still brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Parentini website

List of UK dealers

The Castelli Alpha Jersey

ALPHA 1

This isn’t the Paris Roubaix. It’s your Sunday morning club run in cool and/or damp conditions. It’s your commute on your CX. It’s your late season charity ride which you hoped would be sunny when you signed up. It’s about finding something to keep you warm and dry.

Look, there are options. Buy a Gabba, ape the pros on the Paris Roubaix. Get a Gabba, get a bit wet, stay warm, ride fast. Buy a rain jacket, wear it over a long sleeve jersey, stay dry, and warm, and possibly a bit moist. Buy a gilet, protect your core, watch out for soggy arms, find somewhere to stash it if the sun come out.

There are options. A good cycling wardrobe should have plenty of options and in writing this review I’m not going to pretend that there are single pieces of kit that every cyclist MUST own. Buy what works, wear something for how it makes you feel. All options are open.

A little over a year ago someone started a thread on bike radar about the Castelli Alpha. That thread was about the jacket and jersey. They were new at the time, an unknown quantity. I didn’t start the thread, it’s up to 483 posts now and almost 30,000 views. But boy did I contribute to it. I guess I was one of the first people to buy the jersey, I felt I could contribute. In the end I guess I became a little bit evangelical about it. It wasn’t all about the Alpha, other jerseys and jackets are available. But it was the go to thread for people to discover what this new piece from Castelli was all about.

In my head there is a mainstream triumvirate of premium cycling manufacturers. They are Rapha, Assos and Castelli. There are others, some with as much history, some with as much technical know how, but arguably none with quite so much cachet or, if you like, brand visibility.

It’s hard to know where to start with Assos. They practically invented lycra cycling gear. They came up with the first lycra cycling shorts with a  chamois insert in 1976. This was space age. Over the years their frankly often baffling R&D and naming conventions have seen some truly advanced and wondrous products. Their bib shorts are, for my posterior, the best that there is. Admittedly, kitting yourself out in the top level winter jacket and bib tights from Assos will cost you the price of the average cyclescheme bike voucher. But who wouldn’t aspire to at least try their truly bonkers Bonka jacket? And if you want maximum comfort their top level bibshorts will let you gently house your gentleman’s sausage in its own bespoke “kuku penthouse with golden gate technology.” The Swiss, not famed for their humour. Assos produced truly brilliant kit at a price. Alan Sugar wears Assos. Their treatment of women in advertising material is debatable. You pay your money…………

In the time before Sky Rapha was a high end, lifestyle brand with a real focus on classicality. Their marketing was skewed to the aspirational and the gentleman gladiatorial cyclist. Sky’s arrival unlocked the “cheaper” end of the market, though this only really extended to “replica kit.” It was kit of high quality but hardly bargain basement. Whilst Rapha may have had plans to move towards the more pro orientated part of the market that move gained increased impetus with the need to kit out Team Sky. It forced Rapha to develop truly technical solutions to a range of riding conditions such as heat, cold and wet. Their Pro Team Range reflects this need and was produced in tandem with comprehensive real world team feedback. The materials they use are ultra modern and bespoke. There are waterproofs and windstoppers. Each of them works as well as its branded Gore Tex counterpart. I’ve no idea whether that bespoke material costs more than licensing a Gore Tex equivalent or whether its simply Rapha doing their own thing but it works. You pay your money………….

And then there is Castelli, a true Italian great; established over a hundred years ago; clothing supplier to the greats of the Grand Tours, Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault. Such wondrous company, the stuff of legend. A brand with a scorpion as a logo.

For all that esteemed history Castelli is a bit different to the other two. Yes, you have the high end bonkers technical stuff, who can forget the radiation jacket? Look at today’s 7x Air Elemento. Out there R&D dealing with real world problems. Arguably, at the very top of the range their R&D matches Assos, even if their naming conventions do not. But there are cheaper, less overtly over engineered efforts at the lower end of the range. I won’t say bottom end. This isn’t Lidl. Indeed, Castelli’s lowest end sits fairly level with the very best from a brand such as DHB in terms of pricing. Aspirational and achievable perhaps? You can choose two.

In my DHB review I said that there’s nothing difficult about making a jacket. I stand by that. Once you come up with a basic method you can then over engineer it and make it a better one, it’s not difficult. An Assos Bonka jacket is just a soft-shell really, though the description of the fabrics printed on the inner zip tab pretends otherwise.

The same goes for long sleeve jerseys, just sew some good quality materials together. But there’s a trend now towards the jersey/jacket, a new hybrid form. It’s not new, Gore produce a jersey variant of their Xenon windstopper jacket. It’s a nice piece with windstopper material on the front and most of the arms. It’s truly comfortable and very lightweight. DHB produced the windslam jersey. A “lighter” soft-shell in form. It was very reasonably priced and superb bit of kit. A slightly heavier approach to the jersey/jacket but we are talking a few grammes overall. We have options for the days when a jersey isn’t enough but a winter jacket would be too much.

Castelli’s Alpha jersey is not a space age approach to the jersey or jacket, not really.  The majority of it is made from Windstopper 150. It’s a stretchy mid weight material that is utterly windproof, as you’d expect, but also provides a degree of water resistance. A degree. Yeah, we’ll come to that later. Some manufacturers err on the side of caution, and others…….

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It’s all windstopper at the font and sleeves. Ignore the black half of the sleeves, that’s just contrast. It’s still all windstopper. Note that the zip has a storm cover from top to bottom, that’s an excellent touch in the absence of a waterproof zip. That big black band at the bottom is a giant elasticated section. Below is a photo from inside. As you can see it has a giant grippy castelli logo to make sure it stays in position. Nice touch. It works very well.

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The rear is a roubaix type soft fabric, you can see how nice and fleecy it is n the picture below. It’s very warm and is coated with a water repellent coating in the same way as Castelli’s nano range. Remember that water will always run off a windstopper fabric to some extent. The addition of this repellent to the non windstopper rear helps an otherwise water retaining fabric do its job of keeping you warm and relatively dry.

So far, so good. It’s a lightweight soft-shell jersey jacket hybrid. But here’s the thing which makes it different. The inner insulation layer.

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And that’s it. It’s like a tiny gilet really. Save that it has only a front. It’s made from a waffly heat trapping fabric. You zip it up. Then you zip the main zip up. A double insulation layer at the front. You should also be wearing your choice of base layer as well. It doesn’t look like much does it? It’s not even fleece lined. Just a waffle fabric. It doesn’t extend round your back. There’s no additional lining in the sleeves. A zipped up, sewn in extra bit of material. Oh.

30,000 views on bike radar. You don’t get that for a mis-step, well not unless you fudge some engine emissions. You don’t even get that for a discussion about the venerable Gabba. You only get that when someone has come up with something a bit special. Here’s the thing, it all works and it works brilliantly. The addition of that extra layer at the front keeps your core warm. You can feel the trapped heat and it radiates around you in truly cold conditions. But it regulates very well according to how cold it is. I suspect witchcraft is at play somewhere. You can wear this easily down to 5 degrees. You can wear it at 10 and be comfortable. You can even wear it at 15. You might like to ditch the long sleeve base layer and you might want to wear it with the inner zip open. It’s actually quite nice against the skin, you can wear it without a base layer if you really want to.

If you’re on a nice Autumn hilly circuit and you find yourself overheating then unzip your front. Leave your inner core exposed but the inner part zipped up to keep you temperate. Once you reach the peak zip up and descend. You can do all of these things. I’ll be honest, I don’t do it that often. It seems to work well for me in a range of conditions. It’s not as warm as a true soft-shell at zero but it was never really designed for that. Depending on how you hot or cold you run (I’d class myself in the middle here) you could actually use this as a winter jacket. Plenty on bike radar who claim to run “hot” use this through 3 seasons. There are summer days when it might be called on.

The fit is race. No, really really race. That elastic band waist is weird when you put it on. In fact, when I bought this first, I sent it back. It felt odd. You do need to size up. Indeed you might feel like sizing up on your already sized up Castelli. I stuck with my normal XL. It’s a form fit but once you’re on the bike it all makes sense. There are some excellent touches such as the raised and articulated fleece lined collar, one of the most comfortable things on my neck that I’ve ever worn. It’s effectively two pieces of material working together. The black piece is similar to what they make thermal beanie hats out of. Very soft and warm.

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The rear has the standard three pockets and a tiny flap sealed one on the right hand pocket. You might be able to make that out on the photo. It’s to the right of the scorpion.

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The rear pockets are fairly voluminous. They are very easy to access and all held together by a single piece of elastic trim. This proved fragile on a previous jersey I had so some care needs to be taken not to snag it, particularly with big winter gloves, but this one is holding up very well.

There is zero reflective material here. That’s a pretty big omission in my view. DHB managed this very well on the Aeron range by incorporating reflective material into the pocket retaining elastic strip. Cheap and easy and something Castelli need to think about. This is a global brand not just for nice bright October days around Lake Garda. It’s so easy to fix, so cheap to install. Adding something won’t spoil the looks. Castelli, sort it out.

And now, onto the rain……….oh the sweet, persistent, torrents of rain. I didn’t buy this jersey for the rain. I bought the Apex jacket for that. I never planned on wearing this when it was truly horrible, it’s just that some days work out that way. Two of them very recently were a true test of character and clothing.

Castelli made the Gabba for those conditions. I’ve owned one and I liked it. It worked as it was expected to, that is to say that it holds rain out, then gives up and works like a wet suit. Great for commuting (assuming you have a radiator to dry it on), great on the Paris-Roubaix, great on the Sunday morning club run. That’s IF you don’t stop for cake. If you do your left with a very soggy garment hanging on the back of your chair. That’s fine while you eat cake. Not fine when you leave again. I like the Gabba, but I accept its limitations. It is not the magical panacea that it’s sometimes made out to be.

The Alpha was never designed to be a Gabba. It’s for those cool days or those sparkling winter mornings when the temps start to rise. It was never designed for rain so it shouldn’t really work that well. And, yet, mysteriously, it does work. It works very well in fact and, dare I say it, for my purposes better than a Gabba. Not as good as a rain jacket, clearly, but just better.

The truth is there is no mystery here, it’s entirely to be expected. The Gabba is made from a windstopper material, Gore X-lite plus to be exact, and it’s water resistant to the extent that it’s a windstopper fabric. It takes ages for water to find its way through. The real ingress happens where panels are sewn together and rain eventually makes its way through shoulders and arms and, on the original Gabba, through the zip.

The Alpha is windstopper as well, Gore 150 as we’ve noted. It feels very different to the Gabba, more jacket like and less like a wetsuit. And, in my experience, it seems to work better as a water resistant jacket. It will eventually let go in exactly the same way as the Gabba because it has no internal taped seams. But it seems to hold out much better against rain for longer periods. That includes the rear which really shouldn’t work at all as it’s just DWR coated fabric. Yet that seems to work as well. Mechanically you miss a lot of rain because of forward momentum but the back of the Alpha jersey seems to shrug off rain admirably. My recent biblical rain commutes saw a jacket which started off dry, then the arms and front beaded the rain up because of the repellent coating and finally the outside was damp and clearly wet. But the water never really got in. And I remained toasty warm inside. That’s important because when something is wet through your momentum will act as a chilling mechanism. That doesn’t happen with the Alpha. Indeed, after one particular monsoon I dried the jacket with a towel and put it in the airing cupboard. After half an hour it was utterly dry outside and in. Not that there was much, if anything, on the inside in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not recommending this as your rain jacket. I do think, if you want to ride in rain, something like the Apex is better. But if you’re out there and caught out the Alpha provides a huge degree of protection.

I’m a massive fan of the Alpha jersey. I consider it to be an indispensable addition to my wardrobe. It works best in red in my view but the “laurel” version is actually very nice in the flesh. The black version is the most slimming overall, of course, but it’s hard to recommend that as a true winter piece without someone addressing the lack of reflectives. I hope to deal with “being seen” in a piece shortly in that respect.

Price? Well, it’s not cheap. RRP is around £170. I didn’t pay that, indeed I paid a lot less than Wiggle’s current reduced price (£130). £170 is steep. It’s more expensive than most full soft-shell jackets. It’s clearly much more expensive than the DHB Aeron soft-shell which I favourably reviewed on here.

But that’s not really the point. The Alpha jersey has a niche and in that niche it leads the way. To get Alpha levels of performance you’re looking at a jersey and gilet combination and that will inevitably lead to some shortcomings (such as the sleeves lacking any form of wind proofing or water resistance). What the Alpha does so well is offer a single piece of clothing with great 3 (0r 4 given our climate) season versatility. It’s not yet perfect. They need to deal with the reflectives, but it’s otherwise one of the best pieces of clothing out there at the moment.

What about the Alpha jacket then? Should I buy that? Well, I’m a huge fan of that as well, but on that I would exercise some caution. Let’s talk about the difference first. It’s a full soft-shell so windstopper fabric replaces the rear roubaix of the jersey. The internal “gilet” is all round rather than only at the front. Finally, the sleeves are lined rather than being windstopper only. Net result? Warm at minus figures. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same overall. If you can get one at something other than RRP then it’s probably the warmest and most rain resistant winter jacket out there. Remember it’s much cheaper than the Bonka from Assos and can be found for less than the Rapha soft-shell. Amongst the triumvirate it’s a bargain. But here’s the thing. In true cold I want warmth, protection and breathability. You CAN have all three. I believe that the Aeron soft-shell gives me those and whilst I could make a case that the Alpha outperforms the Aeron it would be by tiny margins. Whether you feel that tiny margins justify a substantial difference in price is up to you.

But I’m unequivocal about the Alpha jersey. Get one now, while they’re reduced a bit. Or get one in April, when they’re reduced a lot. And stick it in the draw till it gets colder. Probably in July……………

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