This one’s been a staple in the Castelli winter range for a while now. The go to winter jacket. Castelli say this of it: “Everything Castelli does is somehow designed to make you faster. Think of this as your go-fast-in-July jacket. We didn’t make it aero, so it’s not going to help you win the club training rides in January. What we did is include every creature comfort to help you get in as much training as you can stand over the winter.”
You may have noticed that I occasionally disagree with what manufacturers say about their product. And I’ve certainly been critical of Castelli’s claims before, but mostly in their favour. And, shock, I think I might disagree with them to an extent here. Get the correct size, and I’ll come back to that, and there’s no reason why you can’t be aero in this. All while being super warm and having those creature comforts that they claim.
It’s a bright young thing. I confess my Samsung S7 was turned to pro and vivid but it’s still a pretty realistic impression of its sheer redness. If red isn’t your thing (we Welsh are pretty fond of it) then there’s blue, black or mirage. Castelli seem awfully fond of mirage now. I have to say I have no idea what mirage is though it does seem to be teal, whatever that is. With Castelli teal does appear to be the new black.
Anyhow, the Espresso is pure softshell and always has been. Pure, heavyweight fleece lined softshell. It’s windstopper as well and is supplied, in common with most of Castelli’s products, by Gore. It’s the X-Fast fabric which is said to be water resistant and windproof. Both claims are, by some margin, satisfied. I’ve noted previously that all windstopper fabrics will be water resistant to an extent. The Espresso shuns rain very effectively indeed. It’s not sealed, of course, so water will find it’s own way in the end. The softshell element extends all the way round the jacket. This doesn’t take the approach of Assos’ Bonka which trades its rear for a lighter and more breathable panel.
What’s not awfully obvious in all the press shots is the shoulder articulation. The sleeves are not joined at the shoulder or underarm instead converging inside the jacket and achieving a potentially greater level of articulation and breathability. It also helps it look, well a bit Star Trek, and that, in my book, is no bad thing. Indeed, it’s interesting that Castelli might pitch itself as Kirk where Assos’ venerable Airjack 851 was clearly inspired by that other space franchise and not the light side. You might see a touch of the Zapp Brannigan as well, I couldn’t possibly comment. It’s a really nice touch and it works very effectively to vent what is otherwise a wraparound. There’s pocket on the chest as well for, well, more valuable items I guess. There’s no shortage of storage here.
The shoulders aren’t the only vent. The side of the chest region has a zipped vent on each side which is lined. If you do get a bit hot it’s easy to create a bit more airflow. The zip is on the small side so achieving this with big gloves might not be all that easy. It’s an effective old school solution. If it’s raining it does provide a bigger target of course.
The collar is a lovely thing. It’s high enough without being too high. The zipper here IS operable with thick gloves. It’s fleece lined and the rear section is, in common with many Castelli jackets now, articulated to allow for an even better fit. Castelli seem to get the collar sections better than most other manufacturers. It’s an important area in my view.
The cuffs are the same as those seen on the innovative Potenza jersey using the crosswrap design. I’m a fan of these. They’re sufficiently insulating without creating that moistness that really thick sleeve endings can cause in full on winter jackets. You can see the fleeciness of the interior in the photos above as well.
The back has three big pockets with enough capacity for all those winter things. There’s a reflective strip round the bottom (and round the front) and the piping on the shoulders is also reflective. The rear hem is an elastic band gripper. Everything fits nicely. There’s no fourth valuables pocket here, that role being taken instead by the zipped chest pocket.
The neck area has a mesh section at the top most part. It’s a nice addition and makes sure that it keeps moisture away from your neck here which can cause a chilling effect.
Sizing? It’s interesting. I used to own the Espresso Due 2 and that was the only Castelli product (until the Potenza) that I took in a large rather than an XL (39.5″ chest). And that carries forward to the new one as well. The Espresso is a looser fit than the rest of the range so, if you can, size down for a racy fit that will also be pretty aero.
In use the Espresso is one of the warmest jackets out there. It’s not Assos Bonka warm, but, it tends to be a warmer jacket straight out of the house where the Assos takes a few miles to warm up. It’s good for Castelli’s intended 0-10 degrees C and definitely not above. It’s far too warm for that. It’s good for below zero as well with the right choice of base layer. It’s not as breathable as others because of that wrap around shell but that’s not too important as it’s brilliant at heat retention and this is all about winter riding. I’d be interested to see an Espresso with the rear approach of the Bonka, Castelli Alpha jersey or some of the Sportful Fiandre range (don’t forget that Sportful are the same group of companies).
In terms of rain, it’s not intended as a foul weather piece a la the Paretini Mossa.2 but will get you through the heaviest of showers with little or no ingress. It’s still not an all day persistent rain piece, for that you’re still better off with a shell rather than a windstopper.
It’s fabulously well put together but then you’d expect that for the price. RRP is £225. Well under the Assos but not quite as warm or breathable. At the moment, as we approach the end of winter prices have tumbled somewhat and the best of them appear to be at Sigma Sport who have most of the colours in most of the sizes at a reasonable £157.50. You may even be able to find a 10% code floating round the net to get that closer to £140. It’s something that should last you many years so it’s a sound investment overall. It’s pretty hard to fault the Espresso. The only thing we can fault is that our British winters might not be cold enough to truly exploit the protection that such garments offer.