Assos ClimaJet Breaker

There’s been a creeping trend in the PRO peloton over the last couple of seasons that mystifies me as much as the enduring attraction for Brittney Spears. PRO teams have been wearing baggy wind breakers and vests featuring solid colors with the team’s sponsor logos silkscreened (silkscreened?!) in white on the nylon tent fabric.

I cut my teeth watching Spring Classics that when contested in rain would show the colors of the peloton muted beneath a layer of clear PVC. For all that the average rain cape isn’t—breathable, well fitting, long lasting, sophisticated in construction—it always had a certain elegant function to me. Teams were unmistakable in their rain capes, but the foggy window look that the rain cape provided told you that conditions weren’t just cold, they were seriously rainy. After all, PROs don’t put a rain cape on for drizzle. If a PRO has a rain cape on, Noah is framing a boat.

Aside from looking strictly amateur (they could just as easily say “Billy’s Carburetors” as “Rock Racing”) the number of dark blue and black vests in the peloton at some races can make it downright difficult to tell the riders apart. Not really that big a deal in the grand scheme, though.

Of course, there’s another point to consider: The average rain cape is as comfortable as a Hefty trash bag, as flexible as granite and as wet inside as it is on the outside. It does at least offer the improvement of shielding you from the wind while making sure that if you’re going to be wet, at least you’re warm.

My first rain cape featured a zipper that rusted immediately following its first use in appropriately inclement conditions. Thereafter, each time I donned garment, a red dust flew into the air. Eventually, the creases that formed in the PVC cracked, increasing the garment’s breathability, if dramatically cutting its weatherproof functionality. The experience was kinda like noticing all the afternoon light streaming into your kitchen after the outside wall collapses.

The sensible thing to do in rainy conditions is to ride a bicycle with fenders. It’s like eating your vegetables, separating your lights from your darks in the laundry or changing your car’s oil every 3000 miles. But we’re cyclists and if you’re reading this now, your connection to the sport isn’t about sensibility, its about emotion. Admit it: You like to go fast, but you don’t want to look like a teeny-bopper while you do it.

That’s where the Assos ClimaJet Breaker comes in. Now, we have some disclosure to get out of the way. The typical PVC rain cape runs somewhere between $20 and $40. The Assos ClimaJet Breaker is the world’s only rain cape that costs more than a good French dinner. It does, however, last considerably longer. I’ve never gotten more than two seasons of use out of a PVC rain cape, but after more than a year of use of the ClimaJet Breaker it displays exactly zero signs of wear. I might as well have just opened the packaging; I could hang this in a shop’s inventory.

A stay-fresh appearance has some appeal, but it’s not really a deal-closer among selling points. That a see-through fabric can be so supple is, however, a real shocker. It’s as if Assos discovered see-through steel. That suppleness gives the piece two key qualities. First, it’s the only rain cape I’ve come across that’s as easy to pack in a jersey pocket as a vest. Second, using a soft material allows it to more closely follow your form and because it was cut by Assos, rather than Joe’s Burlap Sack Outlet, the fit is practically bespoke.

Allow me a little aside: I’ve met a great many riders who graduated from the entry-level clothing we typically purchase as newbie cyclists to club clothing made by any of the myriad custom producers and among the tallest of them I hear (and see) a consistent fault. The long-sleeve items consistently feature sleeves that are too short. It’s as if they were the jersey (or jacket) answer to knickers. If you are among those who’ve had this problem, I can tell you you’ll never end up with wrist tan at the end of a long day spent on the hoods. If the sleeves of this—or any other—Assos garment don’t reach your wrists it can only mean one thing: You’re a giraffe.

(I’m using their photo of the ClimaJet Breaker on a model because he looks the part more than I do and this thing isn’t easy to shoot. Casper is more easily caught on film.)

And that’s the thing about Assos. We all gasp at the price, but in every other regard, the clothing is nearly without peer. It is a correct reponse to any clothing issue you’ve ever had—not the only correct response, mind you, but one that can never go wrong, like showing up to a dinner party with a bottle of Pinot and a bottle of Chardonnay. Assos garments never fit properly until you’re in the saddle and then they fit perfectly. The materials often seem like underkill until you’re out riding and you discover an hour into your pedaling that you couldn’t be more comfortable.

Almost all rain capes feature a long hem that, thanks to the stiffish PVC, ends up trailing behind you like tail on a kite. The ClimaJet Breaker is both different and not. It’s different in that it does feature a long hem, but the previously mentioned suppleness of the fabric means that if you don’t have a caboose like a watermelon, it can protect said caboose from rooster-tailing spray with one little downward tug.

The zipper is small and fine, helping the garment retain its terrific fit, now matter what position you’re in. It is, however, small enough to be a challenge to try to zip up on the fly after pulling it from your pocket. I don’t know too many riders who actually put jackets or vests on while rolling any more, so maybe that’s not much of an issue.

The standard joke about rain capes is how, despite side vent panels, you end up as wet inside as it is outside. While true, that inside moisture can be 20 or more degrees warmer than what’s falling, and that difference is key to comfort. Under hard riding moisture will build up some inside the ClimaJet Breaker even though it has side mesh panels, but it is far more breathable than versions made from PVC. At moderate efforts it breathes well enough to end up no more damp inside than a standard vest. Amazingly, in dry conditions—say it stops raining and the sun comes out—the fabric contains an active membrane that expands in the presence of water and contracts to open pores in dry conditions. On a sunny day it is roughly as breathable as a standard wind breaker, and that’s significant because it makes this rain cape more than just a rain cape.

And that’s not something you’ll ever say about a PVC rain cape.

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    1. Author

      Matt: I figured someone would accuse me of shilling for Assos. Let me ask the question: How should a review of an Assos product read? I believe what I wrote. It’s a very expensive piece, but I think it’s because it’s so well thought-out. At the end of the day, people are either going to be willing to spend that money or not. My take is that if you have the money to play with, it’s worth it. I think Voler stuff is a great value, but you won’t find me writing this way about their work.

      Here’s a challenge: Buy one and if you can find a way in which I’m wrong, I’ll delete the post.

      Richard: Yours is an existential dilemma. Not many guys get upset at a fall-off in rain. I’m sure you’ll get your chances to wear it though.

  1. Sophrosune

    Good review, Padraig. Not to worry, you won’t be deleting this post any time soon. It is odd that no other manufacturers are creating good rain capes. Now that we have Nanopants, which are essentially made from a cotton that repel liquid, why is it that no one can make an inexpensive and breathable rain cape that keeps you dry?

  2. Lachlan

    Its true – stay with the ecstatic where ecstatic is due reviewing Padraig.

    Kit design is the same as bike design – great ones are really worth shouting about. And lots of bike kit is decidedly average to poor… Assos and a couple of others are great exceptions… Price be damned : O )

  3. Souleur

    good review Padraig. So you liked the Assos ClimaJet Breaker, I appreciate your opinion, and not bothered by the rave review. In fact, I may have considered it odd if you had found faults in the Assos product. I really have never heard that much about an Assos goodie being bad, except most that look at the pricetag w/shock-awe. They are expensive if you looking only at price, but there is more to consider.

    Assos is on top of the cycling food chain when it comes to cycling specific goods IMHO. They are uncompromising and design specific for me, a cyclist. They don’t take interest in deer hunting or demolition derby’s, however, they take great interest in 6 day racing and derny’s. I like that. Being swiss made, they are also smartly made. That all comes with a cost, but given the consideration, quality, craftsmanship, dedication to me a cyclist, wear/tear…they are a worthy product. I personally love the Assos products I have used.

    1. Author

      Sophrosune: Thanks for the vote of confidence. You bring up an interesting point regarding breathability. I think the big challenge here is the difference in how much our upper bodies perspire vs. how much our lower bodies perspire while we ride. What constitutes breathable for our legs won’t cut the mustard for our torsos. It’s a big hurdle.

      Lachlan and Souleur: I think until the recent introduction of a few products like Giordana’s FormaRed line, we’d been living in a world of Ford and GM (or Citroen) and Assos was Aston Martin. It was hard for most folks to imagine how much better a car could be. It still is for some.

      Nick: It’s a loaner. Everything I receive is accepted with the full expectation it will go back. I can’t afford to purchase everything I review; that’s the big limiter. My living quarters is another limiter. Finally, if I only reviewed items based on what I could afford from my slush fund, I’d be quickly hobbled into reviewing nothing but tubes and energy bars.

      If your concern is the same as Matt’s—that the good review was essentially purchased—what should concern you more than the value of the garment is the fact that they advertise. They pay me each month for the spot on the site. I sold them the spot because RKP’s administration is strictly a one-man operation but in doing so, I confess that I did cross what was once a sacrosanct division of church and state. Advertising and editorial ought to have a firewall between them. That’s not possible so far in this operation.

      If my goal were to make as much money as possible writing whatever someone asked me to write, I would be working for the big electric utility here in SoCal, SCE. I’ve done lots of contract work for them and while they are good people, the work was work. I do this because it’s something I believe in. The advertiser relationships I have are with companies I believe in. I want to see them succeed and if RKP gives them a bit more exposure to people who might appreciate what they do, then I don’t think any harm was done. That they’ve gotten positive editorial says more about how much in common we see the world than how easily I am bought.

  4. Nick

    Padraig – thanks for the reply. Just wondering how you cam e accross the chance to review it.

    How much time have you spent using it?

    1. Author

      Nick: As it happens, I’m fortunate to have built a relationship with the folks at Assos. They are serious riders and our first meeting at Interbike in ’08 was like a get together of old friends. They were already readers of mine at BKW.

      How much time have I used the ClimaJet Breaker? Probably only about 30 hours total. It’s been each rainy ride since we’d gotten enough rain here to wash the oil off the streets to make it safe-ish to ride in the rain. Looks like I’ll get a few more chances this weekend. I’m hoping it doesn’t rain on me at the Gran Fondo Colnago, but I won’t be bothered if it does. The camera, however, is another story.

      Alex: Imagine the good fortune of being a PRO rider signed to a team and then finding out all your clothing will be Assos. I’d feel like I just hit the lottery.

  5. Alex

    Good review Padraig. Like most riders I appreciate Assos stuff and your review is spot on. I have a couple of ProTour kits (stuff the riders would ride in races but didn´t then passed along and ended in the hands of mere mortals like me). They´re from different teams and different (top) manufacturers, but both have Assos chamois stitched in the place of the “original” one that was ripped off. Just like stickered frames, wheels and bike stuff, but these no one would be able to spot (I guess lol). That speaks a lot about Assos quality IMHO. Teams sponsored by Assos are certainly happy with the goods they´re given!

    1. Author

      JZA: The Castelli rain cape is good, but isn’t cut as well; I don’t know if it is as breathable as the Assos in dry conditions. However, it definitely is not the “exact same garment.” Showers Pass isn’t too good at returning phone calls, so I really don’t know a thing about their products. If I were like some of the other magazines and wrote reviews based on press releases, then yes, I could offer a review of those products alongside the Assos. An in-depth review takes time, and a willingness on the part of the manufacturer to let you actually use the product. And while you might have preferred a buyer’s guide, that isn’t what I was doing.

  6. Trev

    Padriag: I think by now you should know to just ignore implications like Matts. I think if there is one thing many of us return for is your honesty.

    And to accuse you on an Assos product no less?!?!?! C’mon.

    1. Author

      Trev: Thanks for the vote of confidence. I feel a need to respond; it’s kind of like defending against trademark infringement—you can’t just do it some times.

      You know, I’ll confess know, I was skeptical going in. I’m at a point where I just don’t like rain capes, much as I love the look. To render a verdict that one is comfortable was a bit of a surprise.

  7. Lachlan

    jza… gotta laugh, you sound like my grandad who insisted that a matsui brand stereo was “exactly the same thing” as the more expensive sony and technics ones in the same store.

    Each to their own and I’m sure those are reasonable rain jackets, but same ‘features’ list does not equal same product – the differences in clothing, almost more so than in bikes, are massively changed by some of the smallest details of material, fit and overall performance.

    Many people seem to have an issue with assos/rapha price levels when it comes to this kinda thing, but compared to the normal clothing world the differences are small! (think H&M or Walmart vs Paul Smith or Prada etc)

  8. Henry

    Assos deserves the excellent reputation they have built over the years and I’m not surprised by the glowing review. I’d like to try the new Assos S5 shorts but my vintage Assos Campianissiomo bibs refuse to die. The top of the line Castelli bibs I bought at the same time where great while they lasted but fell apart years ago.

    Great cycling apparel – but embarrassingly bad marketing. That guy in the photo looks like a mannequin doing the robot and this Assos exclusive Country Club campaign:
    Sad. The product line deserves better.

    1. Author

      Henry: I got 10 years out of pair of their bibs. I hope yours go double that. I can see your point about their advertising; it’s not how an American company would do things. For me, the look of their ads is a little bit Euro disco and I find that oddly appealing. There’s something about the sterility of the settings and robotic poses that does speak to the quality of their work. I like looking at their ads in the same sort of way I enjoyed looking at Disney artists’ drawings of what the world of the future was supposed to look like back in the 1970s. Stanley Kubrick could have directed Assos’ TV ads and I can assure you I would sit through them captivated.

  9. Henry

    Well, I might be wrong about their ad creative. It seems to have struck a chord with you. For me I don’t have a problem with the modern clinical precision of the look. Very high tech Swiss. It works well in their product packaging.

    But in print and on the web It misses the mark in two areas for me: 1. the models -no passion, no sweat -wooden, rather then active and athletic and 2. the striving to position the brand as a “lux” lifestyle product a la Prada.

    From the product, it’s obvious to me this is a company fanatical in it’s quest for innovation and dedicated to engineering the best possible product. I’m not getting that from the ads. They look like a spread out of Vogue.

  10. Robot

    I agree the ads are VERY cold. Rapha, at the same price point, shows me a better, more stylish version of my own lifestyle. This says nothing at all about the products, just the marketing.

  11. Dodger

    I like Assos kit as much as the next guy, especially if someone else is picking up the tab. I’ve got a few bibs and a jacket that are among my favorites. That said, I got a Showers Pass (Elite 2.0) jacket this winter. It is extremely well thought through and the craftsmanship is as good as any. Add the “Made in USA” factor and it’s a winner.

    I first learned about their stuff a couple of years ago but it’s been decidedly on the pricey side. After looking for months I never saw it on sale. When an online retailer sent me a 20% off coupon and I saw they carried Showers Pass I bit the bullet.

    Pros: Breathable, well-constructed (cuffs, pit zips, etc.), great cut, waterproof (beyond water resistant, made in Portland) and windproof

    Cons: Not compact when rolled up, would be nice if it met EN 1150 reflectivity regs for Europe

    The Elite is their most waterproof and breathable jacket. If you want to give up a little and instead go for ventilation and packability then the Double Century — at 1/2 the price of the ClimaJet — might be the way to go.

    The Swiss connection for Assos is cool and their reputation is well deserved, but I’m trying to spend my discretionary dollars closer to home.

  12. Henry

    Rapha’s photography and imagery is brilliant. Makes you want to go out and attack the nearest col. The prose can get a little over the top. We may have to retire the words epic and suffering from the lexicon thanks to Rapha. But all in all, great marketing that mines the mythology and culture of cycling.

    1. Author

      Henry: Fair points all regarding the Assos advertising. I’m not really sure why I like it. I just know that I do. To the degree that their ads don’t work for you, thanks for articulating your views. I know they are watching and what you say could resonate with them. Or not. I guess we’ll find out.

      Rapha’s photography and style are great fun. Love that stuff better than I love the clothing, which is precisely the opposite experience I have with Assos. As you say, it doesn’t really evoke a passion for riding, but seeing the clothing immediately does. Brendan Quirk of Competitive Cyclist had this to say on the word “epic.” As prone as I am to use it from time to time for industrial grade rides, he’s right.

      Robot: Their marketing and my appreciation of it also says something about what I wish my life was.

      Dodger: Years ago I decided that all jackets and vests should fit in one of two categories: packable or not. If a jacket or vest is allegedly packable, it needs to be light weight enough that I can peel it off in motion and stuff it in my center rear pocket. If I can’t do that, if it has too much bulk to accomplish that, then it needs to go whole hog and be heavy enough to warrant having on for the whole of the day, heavy enough that I will know better than to try to take it off. In our cycling lives, when moving at 25 mph we deserve that kind of clarity from manufacturers.

      As to buying American, I think it’s pretty limiting to only buy American products. There are some wonderful products out there, from frames, to components to wheels, to embro and clothing that isn’t American. California wines might be my fave, but it’s a big world and it’s fun to try stuff from across the pond.

  13. sophrosune

    Hey Padraig, After mentioning “nanopants” in my previous comment and wondering if they can make cotton (a very breathable material) water repellant why don’t they use it for cycling rain capes, I saw this

    Cycling apparel is such a subjective thing, especially bib shorts. You have to consider people’s income level, body type and level of participation in the sport. But after years of drooling over Assos stuff, I am thinking of getting some bibs this year. Which one would you recommend? Are the more expensives one that much better than the cheaper ones?

    1. Author

      Sophrosune: I’m sorry to say that I haven’t ridden that many different pairs of Assaos bibs. The different sets were always their top of the line for that model year. Each time they were better than the previous ones. I’ve loomed the line over pretty seriously at the show. I’ll always recommend their best stuff first, but if that’s out of someone’s price range I just suggest something that is affordable. Their worst effort is much better than many companies’ best efforts.

  14. Lachlan

    +1 for Assos marketing, specifically the print ad photography, being strangely lame… almost suggests they are not cyclists, which is not the case!

    Function wise they are neck and neck with Rapha (sometimes better, sometimes worse) in my experience, just with less panache. Both are far above the other brands I have tried. Particularly for shorts… @sophrosune: dont save on shorts man! : o ) there are a million ways in daily life to save the extra cash needed for a good pair of bibs, and they are so, so much better than cheap ones its not even funny.

  15. Santini fan

    Re. Sophrosune: I would like to afford some Assos kit but have to note SMS Santini – even their cheaper products – are as worthy of consideration. Plush kit like Assos is a big call in some sense because as soon as you buy top shelf you invariably feel a tug to wear it everyday and thus are sucked into the web of ‘latest and greatest’ cycle products; though if I was as fortunate as Padraig to have a pair or Assos bibs rolling for 10 years without crashing, tearing or wearing holes in them I would be perfectly happy to consider splashing out at a higher average pricepoint. The reality is any respectable roadie has perhaps 5-7 pairs of bibs in active duty, and if they were all Assos, well this would equate to the same price as a perfectly good rain/crit bike, not to mention they would make all your other bibs feel like shit in comparison. Re. the Climajet cape review: I have no doubt it is the ‘ducks nuts’ of plastic raincoats and thus warrants a review and I agree about the halcyon days of pros in transparent plastic capes, etc, but really, anyone who wants to shell out the price of that jacket has got to be an idiot: a nice-fitting semi-transparent 100% waterproof jacket can easily be found online for approximately $20 in almost any currency. Non-fools could have a new rain cape every race season for thirteen consecutive years for the retail price of one Assos cape. That aside, I don’t understand the ‘CEO’s-only’ pricing of the competitive cycling industry these days; this used to be a sport for kind hearted and hard working hard bastards so ‘IMHO’ something is rotten in the state of ‘Assos’. Cheers, Matt

    1. Author

      Santini Fan: Having owned three or four of those plastic, $20 rain capes is precisely why I reviewed the ClimaJet. The difference is huge, differences I enumerated in the review. Santini does make some good stuff, but finding it live, in-person so you can try it on can be very difficult. I can’t speak for you readers, but I do all I can to try clothing on before I purchase it, and I’m disinclined to purchase something if I’m not pretty positive about the fit.

  16. Henry

    Santini fan, CEO pricing was always the case for high end cycling goods. The average working stiff in the late 40’s could never afford the Rolls Royce price tag of a top of the line Herse or Singer. Now we have craigslist and eBay, Asian factories and the internet so a much wider range of kit is available at affordable prices.

    As far as $20 plastic rain capes go. Plastic garbage bags are a lot cheaper and pretty much function as well. There might be some cheaper alternatives then Assos that can keep you dry without suffocating you but the cheap rain cape is really not a viable alternative.

  17. souleur

    @Santini: I respect what your saying and can appreciate it. Nonetheless, I must say I differ in respect to what you observe in Assos. I don’t own alot of Assos, but have enjoyed what little I have, and it performs perfectly, without glitches, fit is right on. I also love Etxe-Ondo as well. Giordana is nice and I look forward to trying their high end goodies soon. In terms of santini, nalini, pearl izumi et al, they are ok IMHO, after a ride, they are not bad, but my tailend isn’t perfect either (except w/microsensor Pi).

    And all that aside, i respect one fact that is really hard for me to miss. I love a company that is 100% dedicated to cycling, my passion and something I love. Other brands tend to branch out, mix R&D, have running shoes/nordic wear, blaa bla bla. Fine, but that isn’t specific to cycling, and Assos does primarily have attention to cycling details. I don’t know about a corporate culture there? I never read that into it, other than you would need the bonus of a wall street banker to regularly buy Assos, so costly, yes. But our discipline is worthy. And I have not seen one wear Assos that wasn’t dedicated, you must.

  18. Natextr

    Great review! I couldn’t agree more about this piece of equipment.

    My Clima-Jet was purchased in June of 2006, two weeks before the etape. It served me well as a wind break on the decent of the Lautaret. I also used it last August at Leadville. Yes, I used the same amazing jacket on a 60 degree sunny day to keep the chill off and as a serious rain piece at 38 degrees. I have probably 60 rides in the piece over the last four years and it still looks new.

    Full disclosure, I did purchase the amazing Assos Luftschutz jacket (in black-because all the pros are doing it…) last spring before another trip to Europe. While not a rain piece, it was exceptional as a wind break descending Ventoux in the La Ventoux sportive. If the Clima-jet is packable, the Luftschutz is miniscule by comparison. Though not a rain jacket, it does well enough with road spray and general wetness, just not a deluge.

    Finally, with respect to Assos pricing vs. what you get. I work in a shop and we have sold just about every brand under the sun (including Castelli, Giordana, craft, Adidas (nee Mavic), PI and Descente). I have owned bibs from every company listed and some that I didn’t. The Assos are made better, fit my body better and hold-up better than the rest. I have a pair of FI13s that are more than six years old and while the Lycra is starting to fail (I machine wash my clothes) the pad is still comfortable. I have had other shorts fail in as little as six washings. Give me three pairs of Assos bibs and keep your 5-7 pairs of shorts. I always have a clean pair even on weeks where I ride five days in a row.

    Everything they make is designed for the serious cyclist (with the possible exception of the DB pillows) and works. Period. Also, don’t forget that Assos is on the cutting edge of applied material technology and much of the cost of the gear goes directly to finding the next big thing (sublimation of clothing and Lycra shorts are two innovations that the “CEO” pricing helped fund) that everybody tries to copy. Finally, name a serious bicycle clothing manufacturer that doesn’t have a $250-$300+ short these days. They can’t hold a candle to Assos’s quality and heritage.

  19. Bud

    This is late to the party, but I can second the Assos Clima. I had mine for 9 seasons, when it finally started to tear. Always stayed waterproof. Only downside is that at 6’7″, I’m the giraffe Padraig’s referring to. It was a tad short in the sleeves, about 2″ above the wrist bone while on the hoods. For this reason I’m replacing it with Rapha’s rain jacket in XL. I have their Stowaway and the sleeve length is perfect. Somebody said the guy designing for Rapha is on the tall side. All this expensive stuff is well worth it since it lasts quite awhile and performs well too. Not to mention it looks great.

  20. Bikelink

    So…it just went on sale for 1/2 price ($135 instead of $270). Still wondering though if it will replace both my pvc jacket (yes) but if it will be breathable in dry conditions to wear instead of a simple wind jacket. Anyhow, thought I’d share the above sale with you fine folks (and no I have nothing to do with Assos or competitive cyclist, other than once having purchased a pair of Assos bibs from them (which fit great)).

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