The second of our test kits for November is from Castelli (offerings from DeMarchi and MOA complete this month’s triumvirate).
Changeable conditions (we’ve had frosts, sleet, and temperatures as high as the mid-teens on the south coast) have made this a welcome delivery, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it performs.
First out of the box is the soft shell, Espresso Due jacket, in a flamboyant shade of red. Made from Gore’s Windstopper x-fast 2 fabric, this is a stretchy and warm top layer intended for deep winter.
Our experience of this windproof and water-resistant fabric has been good. It’s cut here in a close fitting, anatomic fit, giving the piece a fighting chance of attaining ‘go to’ status this winter. A few details were immediately notable, among them the MP3 pocket at the inside front of the jacket with its neat cable port and elasticated loop at the neck to keep cables tidy.
Helping to regulate body temperature as you warm up are zippered chest vents, which, when open, reveal a white mesh fabric, as do the wrist zips when pulled over gloves. An early fit revealed the ‘small’ size suited my fairly skinny frame. The Lycra-like Themoflex material around the wrists and at the neck has so-far provided an effective seal from the wind.
Castelli recommend the Espresso Due jacket for a temperature band from zero to 12 degrees centigrade. Our early rides have been conducted in temperatures towards to the top of that range, worn only with Castelli’s Uno:Uno plasma base layer: a simply constructed, polyester garment with a special weave intended to increase the amount of air next to the skin. Seams have been positioned for comfort and early signs are that the neck band, cut slightly higher than usual for warmth, will be effective.
Three classic pockets sit on the rear panel of the Espresso Due, and, while disturbing the lines of this well-tailored garment has caused a twinge of regret, we hope the elasticated band around the hem will keep it from riding up on longer test rides.
The Castelli Due jacket is available in black, red, or white, and in six sizes from S to 3XL. It costs £230.
Next from the box is the Sorpasso bibtight, removing a further excuse for not riding in cold conditions. It offers another helping of Thermoflex fabric, both in standard form and also in “core due” issue to keep knees and the rear of your quads and bum warm, while providing sufficient stretch. The hollow core polyester material is soft and warm against skin and should encourage riding when the temperature really drops. The medium size has proved suitable for my height (5’10”) and the Giro++ fabric straps stretch nicely to keep everything snug without constricting movement.
The Progetto X2 seatpad/chamois has a continuously variable foam pad with 12mm under the sit bones and slims down to 3mm at the edges.
A strip of grippy material around the ankle should keep things neat and tidy at the socks and permit the wearer to choose their own side of the perennial ‘over or under’ debate, vis-a-vis shoe covers. Vertical reflective strips adorn the ankle at the rear to increase visibility, and neatly align with those on the Diluvio shoe covers; a simple, but pleasing touch.
The Sorpasso bibtight is available in black and in six sizes from S to 3XL. It costs £150.
Covering the hands and feet (or more accurately, shoes), are the Japanese neoprene pairing of Diluvio gloves and shoe covers. The latter fitted easily enough (a rare occurrence with shoe covers) and without the usual fumbling due to the extra stretch from the high quality neoprene. The seams are taped and it’s secured with a zip and velcro cover at the rear. Early signs are that the reassuringly tall cuff will keep us dry above the ankle. The Diluvio shoe cover is available in black, and in five sizes from S to 2XL. It costs £35.
For the glove, we are less certain about the use of neoprene. We don’t doubt the quality of construction or materials; indeed these are very comfortable, with grippy palms and long cuffs to tuck under jacket sleeves. Quite how our hands will feel sitting in their own sweat for a long winter ride is another matter – when the temperature drops we are hoping to be the ones laughing though. The Diluvio glove is available in black and in six sizes from XS to XXL. It costs £45.
We also have the Chiro Due glove which on paper looks like a great autumn and early winter friend. Constructed with Windstopper x-fast fabric, the slightly fleecey lining coupled with the flexibility of a Pittards leather palm should prove an excellent pairing. The Chiro Due glove is available in black and in six size from XS to XXL. It costs £55.
Finally, a tiny bundle at the bottom of the box contained the miniscule Sottile jacket; a very modern version of the transparent rain cape. Hoping to avoid the ‘boil-in-the-bag’ effect with some versions of this cycling staple, Castelli have deployed a stretchy nylon and polyester blend to create what they claim wil be a breathable, wind resistant, rain protection cover for emergency use (a 10,000mm rating should keep you dry for a few hours on a bike, in anything other than the harshest conditions). Pit zips will allow for more breathability. A further neat and pleasing detail is the zipper at the rear of the Sottile jacket allowing access to the jersey pockets for a bar or gel without having to hoik up the rear of the jacket.
The Castelli Sottile jacket is available in grey or transparent, and in six sizes from S to 3XL. It costs £70.
The season is certainly playing its part by providing suitable test conditions so check back soon for a full review.