There’s something exciting coming from Assos. It’s not exactly a secret. It’s called the Liberty Clima jacket and, well, Gabba. Or something. What it actually is, when it’s coming, what it’s made of, how much it will be, that’s all under wraps. But BMC are using it in the early season classics. It’s exciting.
In this world of Gabba like things Assos have gone their own way. There are the windproofs, the jackets, but not the full on foul weather thingy. Was that conscious? Or just, perhaps, a little left behind. Nevertheless it looks to be rectified soon. I doubt that will see an end to the Sturmprinz, or, crucially, the Habu, but the arrival of the Liberty might affect their sales a little. We’ll see. Personally, for the Assos fan, and I am resolutely fine with being called one, you cannot have too much Assos.
It’s taken a little while for me to get round to this and I thought it better to get this one done before doing my final Assos winter/spring piece (the Tiburu jacket) as I find I’m not using this one as much now (because it’s warming up) but the other is getting used more often than not (even on today’s 10 degree ride). That said, this week sees the UK seemingly on a return to winter with post Easter snow showers and some really chilly convective stuff in the forecast.
So, what exactly is the Habu. Continuing my dissection of Assos’ naming strategy it’s either a) something meaningless b) a venomous asian snake or c) an acronym meaning ‘highest and best use.’ And while the colour I’m reviewing is sometimes referred to as Python green I’m still going with either a) or c).
In some ways the Habu jacket is an anachronism. That’s quite hard to write. And, in itself, an untruth. It’s not that it lacks technical or advance features, far from it, it’s just that, since being launched some 6 or so years ago, others have moved on. And that’s a weird statement too. What we have here is a super advanced piece of engineering. So can something with so much technical R&D still cut it today, especially when others are arguably more versatile? And, even if it can, is there still a place for it?
Assos state that this is an early winter windstopper jacket. But it’s not necessarily a full in windstopper insulator, as we’d see in the (admittedly aimed at winter) Castelli Espresso jacket. But it does fall in line with other manufacturers 5-15 degress windstopper ranges. Where it differs is that the windstopper parts (the black bits) don’t offer any insulation per se, they are unlined, unfleeced, lacking any Roubaix. In practice that doesn’t make any real difference as, layer this right, and you’re looking at something very versatile. Crucially, where others are heavier affairs the Habu is very light. Bordering on long sleeve jersey light.
Mine is an XL. Where the Bonka comes in two fits the Habu does not. I could probably get away with a smaller size, the Habu coming in somewhere between a Mille and Cento fit in the Bonka. It’s available in a number of different colours including the all black Profblack version.
The material is a mix of the proprietary namely 607.RXQ, 726.Stratagon Light, 220.Stabilizer. But, what that boils down to is, windproof front and sleeves and a waffly roubaix type fabric everywhere else. The 220 takes care of the pockets. There’s a DWR type water repellent treatment as well. And, I have to say, it’s easily one of the most effective treatments I’ve come across. I simply can’t wet out the fabric parts, but, of course, that treatment will eventually wear off. Like Castelli’s Alpha jersey this isn’t really intended for wet weather but if you come across some it will perform beyond expectation.
The back is pretty standard stuff. This isn’t a full on shell, so we have the jersey back here. There are three pockets, one central strengthening part, and two individual pockets with a reflective trim. Having tested a lot of gear over the years I’m coming round to the view that the ‘half shell’ approach that Assos adopt is, on balance, a better one. More breathability and very little sacrifice of warmth.
The zips are real quality items and easy to deal with even when wearing gloves. The back pockets are deep enough for all that winter gear and, as you’d imagine, construction if first class. There’s not a massive amount of reflective stuff but what there is, is effective. The waffle material is super soft and super comfortable.
And can see the waffle effect going on. Does it keep things warmer? Well, it’s difficult to test, but, subject to what I say a little later, it works very well.
There’s reflective material on the front zip as well and that helps you be seen and breaks up the pattern as well. There’s a baffle behind the zip which prevents any ingress of cold air. You can see that the black windstopper material has a white backing with a line pattern. That provides some insulating channels but it is otherwise unlined. The arms are similarly treated.
The white section on the inside of the rear adds structure to the back and keeps everything in shape.
And the back of the sleeves is insulating rather than windstopping.
Let’s start with cost. This isn’t cheap and retails in the region of £230. With discounts it’s often available around the £170 mark. And that is, of course, an issue. If we accept that it’s possible to find ‘one jacket to rule them all’ then needing a Bonka, Habu, Tiburu and Intermediate is a frightening proposition. But there we are. The thing is, I’m not sure that there is necessarily one jacket to rule them all and, as such, if you can swallow the cost, is what you are paying for any good? Don’t forget, you’re paying for quality, warranty and crash protection. If you crash, Assos will try and fix it for free. I’ve had experience with that, they fixed my Mille shorts when I was taken out in a CX race. While I couldn’t say they were good as new, they were repaired to the level that I’d have to show you where the repair was.
Well, I said I’d deal with warmth and versatility and in that respect the Habu is amongst the most versatile there is. In some ways it’s really a hardcore Intermediate S7 jersey, adding windproofing to the sleeves and slightly more heft to the rear. Wear it with a light base layer and you can easily ride in temps that start off chilly and head to the teens. Put something really heavyweight under there and you can ride at temps approaching zero with ease. I’d not wear it if I had to be out for hours in sub zero temps, but it will do.
It’s decently waterproof as well. Water cannot settle on the black parts which is not something you can say for all windstopper fabrics. Because it cannot settle, it doesn’t get cold where the water sits. It will eventually get through the green parts but that’s to be expected.
Above all, it feels like a very special bit of kit. So while others may have moved on in terms of other approaches, Assos’ high tech one still has plenty to offer. Combine that with being a great looking jacket, available in a range of colours, and likely to outlast most of the bikes we ride, and it’s a pretty great option.