Long sleeves are as inevitable a part of my cycling life as chamois cream. I may not need them for every single ride, but more often than not, my arms are covered.
That may seem an odd statement for a cyclist living in Southern California. While it is true that I have gone soft since leaving New England, the actual facts of my circumstance might not fit with the typical perception of Lalaland as being sunny and 73. I live just a few miles from the beach in an area known as the South Bay. The Alaskan Current coming down the coast boasts water chilly enough for most surfers to require wet suits year round. All of my rides start by 7:00 am, when the night chill still lingers in the air.
I ride in arm warmers or sleeves for all but about 10 weeks per year. No lie.
My preference is for long, thick arm warmers. I’ve got a few different reasons for this. They are guaranteed to keep out the cold and can be removed if the day really warms that much. They have a form-following fit unlike many a windbreaker, and that pays two dividends—it cuts down on noise and allows others in the pack to see past me more clearly. Anything that can contribute to pack safety I’m all about.
The intermediateEVO jacket was sent to me for a photo shoot and like the gloves I reviewed last spring, I tried it out because, well, because my curiosity wouldn’t allow me not to. On paper it seemed a little strange. The sleeves seemed awfully lightweight, and the windstop fabric in the chest seemed overkill. It seemed like a frame with a 50cm top tube and a 60cm seat tube.
Then I wore it one morning when the temperature had yet to nick 60 degrees and wouldn’t hit 70 until long after I was off the bike. I don’t care whether you call it a jacket or a jersey; it’s kind of the two-headed love child of a jacket daddy and long sleeve jersey mama. Combined with a light base layer (sleeveless in my usage) I was good to the low 50s.
I got home amazed. While my arms were a touch cool on the rollout, once I warmed up its temperature control was so near miraculous, I checked for the thermostat after I took the jacket off later. I’ve done a few different descents in the Intermediate EVO and been amazed at its ability to keep me warm enough.
The windblock material is Assos’ airBlock 799, which is essentially a lighter weight version of the airBlock 851 which is used in the popular elementOne jacket. It’s heavy enough to keep the wind from coming through without being bulky. In short, I’ve never worn a jacket that was this light and still kept me as warm.
Assos suggests the piece is appropriate for temperatures from 48 degrees to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. I usually think these recommendations need to be skewed a bit according to the region you’re in, but I think their guidelines are pretty spot on. I’m still comfortable in this thing up to about 68 degrees, but you start getting pretty sweaty if its any warmer than that.
Of course, one of the big reasons you consider Assos clothing is the fit. Honestly, why other companies (no names mentioned, but basically it’s all of them) haven’t done more to emulate if not actually copy their fit boggles my mind. You can tell an Assos jersey or jacket the moment you put it on because it feels, um, wrong. There’s a tightness across the chest that I suspect is nothing like heart trouble, but it still seems like someone made a mistake. However, as soon as you get on the bike, bend over and put your hands on the bar, the chest loosens up and the shoulders lose their slack in the most elegant way.
How is it that as good as some other clothing is, none fits this well? This reminds me of my first skinsuit, by Assos, which I purchased by just pure, dumb luck. The chest was so tight vertically, it literally pulled my torso down into an aerodynamic tuck. In 20 years I have yet to run across another skinsuit that fit as well. What gives?
And it wouldn’t be Assos if there weren’t other inimitable touches, such as the reflective piping that follows the seaming of the sleeves. And if you’ve ever stuffed your pockets so tight that the contents started to squeeze out, you’ll appreciate how Assos cuts pockets with a pocket; that is, there’s a bit of room in the bottom of the pocket because the outer layer of material is left a little slack at the bottom but snugger at the top. A zippered key pocket will ensure that you can always get back in the door.
Then there’s the price. With a suggested retail of $270, plenty of riders won’t look twice at it. Their loss. The quality of materials, workmanship and fit make this one of those pieces that I suspect could get use six months of the year from many riders.
Perhaps the neatest trick of all is the fact that this jacket/jersey doesn’t rely on the assistance of sponsor logos to look snazzy.