The latest addition to Sportful’s R&D range, the Strato, first caught our eye at Eurobike, simply because we hadn’t quite seen a piece of cycling apparel like it. Four months later and we’ve had the chance to wear the Strato through a variety of weather conditions and it’s become an autumn staple. Sure, this is a fairly niche piece of kit, but it works a treat.
Most regular cyclists will own a long sleeve jersey and gilet, but the Strato goes a step further and combines the two, with a wind resistant fabric used on the front, shoulders and lower back. This is where it gets smart. We’ve previously reviewed similar jerseys with a windproof front (the Kalf Transition short sleeve jersey is one example), but the Strato differs in how it combines this with a conventional polyester fabric.
- Price: £120
- Sizes: XS-XXXL
- Size tested: M
- Colours: black; red/black; grey/black
- Website: Sportful
First think of the Strato as a regular long sleeve jersey. Sportful have then stitched the windproof front on top, but only at the hem, full-length zip and neck, effectively allowing the top layer to ‘float’ independently of the base polyester jersey. This is the really important bit as it allows the polyester fabric to breath as normal, while still boosting protection in cool conditions.
“The thought process behind this construction is to keep the thermal fabric dry and subsequently the rider comfortable, avoiding sweat-drenched chills," says Sportful’s UK rep, Paul Whitfield, the man behind the idea.
And it works a treat. The Strato has become one of my go-to jerseys for fast riding in conditions between around seven degrees and 15 degrees, depending on the base layer worn underneath. I’ve used the Strato with a summer short sleeve base layer at the top end of that range, and with a double base layer combo (mesh and long sleeve) when it’s been decidedly chillier.
Ride hard and the fleece-lined polyester fabric is able to transport moisture away from the body far more efficiently than a conventional windproof jersey. That’s the real benefit of the Strato – even if you’re working hard, you’re unlikely to soak your base layer and catch a chill when the pace drops or you hit a descent.
“The Strato is designed with autumn/mild winter days in mind, for riders who ride at a higher intensity - a departure from the steady, slow winter miles of old," adds Whitfield.
The outer fabric is best described as wind resistant rather than windproof – that fact that a little air is able to permeate the layer also helps to keep you dry underneath – but it is effective at keeping out most of a cold wind. If things begin to get a little warm, there are two zipped vents on the front of the jersey and they allow enough air in to provide a noticeable cooling sensation.
But why not just use a regular jersey and gilet? That’s a combination which will continue to provide a useful combination of weather protection, breathability and versatility - I haven’t consigned my gilet stash to the bin – but what the Strato tries to do is overcome the shortcomings of that getup.
Breathability is part of that – the Strato is ideal for riders who like to push the pace but still want some wind protection – and pocket access is another key aspect of the design. The Strato’s windproof fabric continues round the back of the jersey to provide three well-sized rear pockets, so there’s no scrambling around underneath a gilet to access food and the like – something that can be particularly difficult when wearing gloves. There’s no zipped pocket, though, which is a shame.
To be honest, most times when I go out wearing a gilet in autumn (summer is a different matter, but that’s not where the Strato is pitched), I rarely take it off unless I’m heading out particularly early and know it’s going to warm up. Instead, I wear a gilet when it’s not quite warm enough for just a jersey but not cold enough for a full windproof or softshell. The Strato fits that gap very well.
Finally, the fit is typical of Sportful kit. It’s a close cut which works well on the bike – there’s no undue bunching at the front, while the sleeves are a good length and the collar sits comfortably around the neck. Unlike some gilets, the integrated nature of the Strato means it doesn’t flap in the wind. The attention to detail is good, too, with a double hem which sits comfortably at the front, and a thick, silicone-lined elastic band at the back to hold everything in place.
Sportful’s R&D Strato jersey is one of those items of clothing which does the job it’s exactly designed to do. If you're questioning the need for it, then it's best not thinking of the Strato as a replacement for a gilet and jersey, but a super-breathable yet wind-resistant piece in its own right. This is a really smart piece of kit ideal for the UK’s cool conditions. If you value breathability then the Strato is the kind of jersey which works hard to keep your body at a constant temperature throughout a ride.
- Superb breathability for riding hard in cool conditions
- Easy access to pockets
- Zipped vents for additional cooling
- No zipped pocket
- Best suited to dry days