Of all the cycling garments made I need to be honest and say that long sleeve jerseys are my least favorite. They hold plenty of promise, at least in terms of concept. Don a single garment to be worn over a base layer, no messing with arm warmers. They never work out that way, though.
First, sizing rarely works out. When I find the right length in the torso, the arms are either too long or, more common, too short. I tend to go on the smaller side for a more form-following fit. Even so, the sleeves are often baggy and end up flapping in the wind—unlike a good pair of arm warmers. So many of the ones I see lack a full zip, so should the day heat up unexpectedly, you can’t ventilate enough to keep from roasting. Yet another knock.
And then there’s the material. Most of the long sleeve jerseys I’ve worn that feature a brushed finish inside don’t really begin to breathe until you’re moving faster than 20 mph. That probably works for actual PROs whose base mile speed is undoubtedly several miles per hour above my own. Using the same material both front and back ensures that it won’t breathe adequately. I need a long sleeve jersey that will breathe once I’m moving faster than 15 or 16 miles per hour. Finding the right garment that allows you to strike that balance is more challenging than finding a Texas governor not on the take.
Enter the Assos iJ.tiburu. The iJ desgination stands for insulated jacket, but this is much closer in weight to a long-sleeve jersey, hence the comparison. New for 2011 (it replaces the elementOne), the tiburu is a piece I’ve been seeking since my first New England fall in 1989. Yeah, that far back.
The fit is, well, it’s an Assos fit, as you can tell from the photo (and I’m using their photo because it’s damn cool and does a better job of showing the piece than any photo I might shoot would). The fit of the tiburu is based on the Uno summer jersey. I wear a medium in Assos jerseys and jackets. The hem comes to my waist, maybe a centimeter below. The sleeves reach to my wrists, exactly. And while the jersey isn’t tight, it gives a non-flap fit so it won’t attract attention in the peloton. That, right there, is my biggest beef with loose clothing. In the peloton a long sleeve jersey or jacket that’s a size or two too large, or was given some just-in-case extra room, flaps around like a flag in a tornado and is distracting both to the eye and ear. As sure a mark of a Fred as there is.
Another mark of the Fred is the skirt. That is, the jersey purchased two sizes too large and ends up covering the rider’s butt. Sure it makes getting into the rear pockets easy, but it makes hooking the hem of the jersey on the nose of the saddle easier than getting wet in the ocean. Here’s the challenge though: I’ve worn a great many fleecy garments that sag over time. Not years, I mean in the course of a single ride. A jersey or jacket that fits at the start of the ride becomes a skirt three hours later. Not cool. One of the tiburu’s greatest features can’t be recognized on the rack or even in the first hour of riding. I’m not sure what constitutes the rear stabilizer panel design, but what I can tell you is that between the hem grippers and that stabilizer panel, the back of the jersey moves neither up nor down, no matter how long you’re out.
Naturally, the tiburu has all the details you’d expect from Assos. Three pockets rear plus a fourth zippered security pocket, and thanks to the stabilizer panel design, they are in the same place every time you reach back. Full-zip front. Big zipper pull to ventilate on the fly. Heavy-ish, somewhat breathable fleece, a material called RX, is used on the front of the arms and chest while the backs of the arms and the back of the garment receive a more breathable material, RXQ. You can think of RXQ as a cross between traditional waffle weaves and fleece, the combination of which results in what is arguably the fastest-wicking fleece I’ve ever worn. I put my belief to the test the last time I washed it. Twelve hours after I pulled it from the washer, I checked the garment hanging on the drying rack. It was fully dry.
Quick-dry is an absolute necessity, not just to keep you comfortable on the road, but because this is a $350 piece of gear, you’re going to want it to dry quickly so you can wear it frequently. I don’t know many riders who’ll buy two or three of these and stay married. If you happen to see someone with the full complement of black, white and red colorways, I bet they’re single.
I went with the red pictured here. Assos understands red the way Ferrari and some lipsticks understand red. It’s one of those colors you can get wrong. But notice, if you will, that the designs on the sleeves are not just simple black and white patterns but mirror image, reverse designs; the white blocks on the left sleeve become the black blocks on the right sleeve. It gives the tiburu an attractively asymmetric design without looking chaotic. Very PRO.
There are nights when I sit up and pray that Assos will start offering fully custom clothing. This is yet another example why.