Before I begin, I’m asking for this for Father’s day. Just because. The evolution of the cycling jersey is a wonderful thing to read about and Andy’s worked hard on that. I’m fascinated by cycling kit generally, if you hadn’t guessed. Glossy pics of cycling jerseys on the coffee table? I’d take that over that Madonna book any day. It can sit alongside my Europe’s best climbs (which I still yearn to do).
Anyhow, the new Prendas Reef jersey dropped through my letterbox on Wednesday during the mini heatwave. And then today, as if by magic, it rained. By God it rained. The thing about rain is that it’s not just wet, it depresses the temperature, and boy was that the case today. The ride into work was cool and a bit damp, but essentially ok. The ride home was horrible. I didn’t even realise how cold my hands were until I tried to take my gloves off (I’d chosen the wrong ones today). So today was a good opportunity to test some foul weather gear, a really good opportunity indeed.
The Reef jersey is made for Prendas by Santini. The description on Prendas’ website references the venerable Gabba. Such comparisons are hard to ignore when you’re dealing with foul weather gear. Regular readers will know that I rate the Gabba, but not as highly as I rate Parentini’s Mossa. But the thing about foul weather gear is that some are designed for fouler weather than others and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to figure out which is which. So when faced with descriptions of “foul weather”, comparisons are inevitable. This isn’t a Mossa because the Mossa is waterproof. The Mossa is also a little warmer overall and probably better suited to the century ride in the rain. So we will talk no more of the Mossa, it’s a different beast in my view, though a short sleeve version is available. So, if comparisons need to be drawn, then the Gabba it will be. Remember that the Gabba was ubiquitous in the pro peloton. But do note that the Reef jersey is being used as well, first by the Belkin team (then Jumbo Lotto). Now it’s being used by the Drops Racing Team which is sponsored by Prendas.
For some reason, when testing Prendas kit, I seem to have been a little unfair in what I ask it to do. It’s not deliberate, just a case of circumstance. So, when I tested them, I ended up wearing the spring weight gloves in the cold driving rain. Ditto the socks. I wore the sleek jersey without a base layer to see how low it would go (very was the answer). They all did what Prendas claimed of them and that little more. And, today, with no idea how the day would pan out, I thought I’d better stick a base layer underneath this Reef jersey because, like all such garments, you should wear one. The base layer I pulled on was the Assos Foil summer vest thingy that came with my Rally jersey. That meant that the arms of the Reef were sans base layer. I also pulled on the dbh rain defence arm warmers and set off into the world.
Anyway, the Reef jersey is made from a Tempo fabric described as being “a breathable and water-repellent membrane, it’s perfect for when you are training or racing hard and don’t want to resort to a full waterproof.” It’s not really described as being commuter wear, or even for a Sunday club run. It’s a tempo piece, if you slow down too much then you will lose some heat, so keep your speed up, work with it. Let’s see if it fulfils the brief.
It’s a striking thing. It shares the same design aesthetic as the Prendas Sleek Jersey that I reviewed very positively back in February. On this occasion only one colour is available but, given this is foul weather gear, it’s a good colour choice. If you don’t like fluro, tough. I like what Prendas have done here. It’s bold and a bit different. You can see the drop tail here as well, pretty standard fare for kit of this type. It’s a nice elongated affair and, should you ride without mudguards, will keep your bottom dry. If you’re not a fan of the drop tail then you can easily fold it up inside and the lines of the jersey remain the same. The waist section is fully elasticated and has rubber grippers all the way round. It’s quite a long piece so does provide additional protection in the belly area. The zip is excellent quality with a nice big tag to grab onto when wearing gloves. On each side of the zip is a small rubberised strip which seals off the zip section when done all the way up. Water won’t get through there easily and it provides for additional windproofing.
The side section is made from a slightly stretchier material than the main membrane and provides for a bit more breathability in that area (though the garment is pretty breathable in the first place). There are only a few front facing seams, the arms being an entirely new section of fabric. They aren’t sealed so, eventually, water will find a way in at those points. But a lot of water will be needed. Ideally, cost being the prohibitive issue, I’d imagine that someone will eventually find a way of cutting one whole section of fabric to make the entire front end of a jersey such as this. The issue is that it’s a pretty wasteful process. There will also be a knock on effect on fit. So, for the time being, seams it is. They’re kept to a minimum as I say. They’re all very closely and tightly stitched so minimise the chance of water getting in.
There are three pockets at the back. There’s no additional waterproof one but that’s pretty much the story across most of the foul weather range of clothing that I’ve written about and while there is no drainage at the bottom of the pockets I didn’t find that any water made its way in. The pockets aren’t the deepest but, in practice, they swallowed my Samsung Galaxy S6, Wallet, Keys and Tools with no fuss (top tip, keep your phone in a sandwich bag, even when it’s not raining). There are a lack of reflectives but given that this is the short sleeve version I can’t really see it being a winter night piece. The fluro more than makes up for it in the day.
The collar is lined with fleece and it’s the only part of the jersey that is. It’s a really nice collar and isn’t constricting in any way. It’s also a good height.
Given the lack of any fleecy lining you will need to ensure that you create your own heat by riding quickly and by wearing the appropriate base layer. I averaged around 17 mph on a pretty grim commute on my “slow bike” and remained warm and comfortable in most areas. Most, the only cold area being the upper arm/shoulder where I’d picked the wrong base layer and the fabric was next to the skin rather than having an insulating layer. It’s fair to say that a summer base layer was also a poor choice. It would be much better partnered with the Prendas Black undervest for example. Or something from the Craft range (also at Prendas). Obviously you can play with this partnership as suits your ride, warmer base layers will add warmth and cooler ones will allow you to wear this into higher temps.
You might wonder why I draw attention to this fact, why not just re-test it and write about that, more positive, experience? There are a number of reasons. The first is that that is how it was. I made a poor choice and that must be noted, it’s the story of the ride. The second is that despite my poor choice the jersey still performed extremely well indeed. I repeated the test in cooler conditions the following morning with a more appropriate base layer and the difference in warmth was notable. So, get that base layer right and this will perform very well indeed. Get it wrong and you’ll just be slightly colder that’s all, still comfortable, but not as comfortable.
The temperature range of this would appear to be around 5 or 6 degrees up to about 12 or so. Obviously I’d recommend arm warmers, particularly such as the dhb rain defence ones. But, I think that there might be a little more versatility here. If you don’t particularly like being wet in the summer, say at 15 degrees or so on a training ride, then I think you might get away with using this with a vest like base layer (such as the one I used) or, possibly, even without one. Much depends on how hot you run, what type of riding you do and what feel you like next to the skin. So whilst the Reef may not feel as luxurious as a roubaix lined spring jersey it’s not uncomfortable in any way.
So, what’s it like in the really wet weather? Bear in mind that it’s not really for the really wet weather. It’s for the showers and the dampness, for riding fast. Yet I tested it in some truly nasty rain. Well, I took it off immediately following the rainy commute and you can see the results here.
If you stare VERY hard indeed you can just make out where the water is in the fabric. It’s not coming through, indeed, most of it is my sweat getting out. An hour in the airing cupboard and it was dry and ready to go again. Now, clearly, it wouldn’t be a great idea to go out for a full on wet 100 miler in this jersey. Eventually the fabric and seams would succumb and you’d find it very hard to dry out for as long as it continued raining. But Prendas don’t make that claim for it. Instead they describe it as being water resistant and windproof. And in that respect it succeeds. Indeed, given the nature of the membrane (i.e. a windproof one) describing it as a water resistant is always erring on the side of caution. In practice it’s more breathable than a rain jacket and far more aerodynamic.
The size guide appears spot on for this one. I’ve lost a bit of weight recently and am about 40.5-41 inches and took an XL (40-42). I think had I been slightly less in the chest front that I might well have got into the Large (38-40). It’s a fairly stretchy affair and cut generously (i.e not super slim) in the midriff so if you did want a racing snake fit and were at the bottom end of a range then you might get away with it. The arms are a good length and come to just above the elbow. Fit around the stomach was ever so slightly loose but with no flappiness.
RRP on this is £99.99 and you can buy it from Prendas here. That’s pretty good value for a garment of this type, particularly against the inevitable comparison. And that comparison isn’t awfully cheap at the moment.
Comparisons then. Well, you have to make them. And I was trying to figure out why this was actually a bit different to the Gabba despite the Gabba being referenced. I wasn’t trying to make them different, just that they felt a bit different and, for a while, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was specifically.
And then I realised that it was the weight, and that the weight backs up the description. This is actually a lightweight race/training jersey rather than a more laid back jacket like the Gabba. Though, of course, the distinction of jacket and jersey is often an awkward one. The XL Gabba (2) comes out at about 320g whereas the Prendas Reef comes out at 260g. That’s a considerable difference and confirms what I thought. It’s a little bit stripped down, a little bit quicker and a little bit racier. In some ways it has the feel of a rainjacket made into (more aero) jersey form. So it’s hard to say that it’s better than the Gabba, indeed I think we’ve become a little obsessed with needing to say that things are better than the Gabba. But it’s at least as good as the Gabba in some circumstances and, in those for which its brief is made, probably a little better. If you’re a quick rider who likes to get out there and get the job done in damp conditions then this is for you. It rewards that speed and will keep the rain out for a pretty decent length of time. It offers really good value compared to the competition and should be in its element for the next few months, perhaps even longer if we get another “summer” like last year. Though this particular marketplace is getting a little crowded this is a great little jersey that should be up there for your consideration, especially if you like to go fast.
Oh, and, Prendas. Ordered around lunch, despatched 30 minutes later, came the next day. I’m not convinced it’s being sent in the post anymore. Some type of teleportation I reckon. Spooky.
Oh, stop press, if you’re an ickle person and take a small, medium or large, you can even save £20 and get the Drops Team Version!