iJ.intermediate front

There are times when I notice that what I feel for Assos is also what I feel for my son Philip. Yes, there’s the incandescent affection that can cause me to smile at the simple utterance of his, or their, name. But there’s also cross-eyed frustration that comes when you simply want your kid to stop moving. Not only have I said through gritted teeth to my son, “Would you please sit still!” (It wasn’t a question), I’ve noticed that the same thought has occurred to me with regard to Assos’ ongoing reinvention of its product line.

Case in point: They are redesigning the SS.13 jersey right now. It’s the single greatest short-sleeve jersey I’ve ever worn and the reasons why are too numerous to list in a review of a different product. I’m bringing it up because I’d like to shout from rooftops just how great that jersey is, but because it’s being redone, they’d like me to skip it. Just to be clear: They don’t want me to review the finest short sleeve jersey on the market.

These people are depriving me of an opportunity to do what I do best: geek out.

I had a similar reaction to the announcement that Assos would discontinue the intermediate EVO. It wasn’t the depression I experienced when I realized that the latest season of Archer had come to an end, but it still merited a small-scale WTF. After all, most manufacturers make long-sleeve garments where the sleeves are just as heavy as the torso, when usually, the sleeves don’t need to be quite so heavy. Rarely has a garment so light been so warm.

(This next portion requires a brief channeling of John Belushi.)

But noooooo! They couldn’t leave it be. They introduce the iJ.intermediate_s7, and if I’m going to complain about anything else Assos does it’s point to their arcane naming nomenclature and call it out for being just as strange as standing in line for the next Star Trek movie and hearing two pimple-faced teens telling knock-knock jokes in Klingon. Not that I’d know anything about that.

iJ.intermediate side

When I talk with people at Assos, I’m not always sure just how to talk to them. By that I mean that I’m patently unwilling to say, “I really love the eye-jay-dot-intermediate-underscore-ess-seven.” Won’t do it. I just say the eye-jay-intermediate. I’m not sure how they feel about that, but for me it feels like one of those rare occasions when I get to protect that final, hidden, scrap of dignity that allows me to continue believing I’m some variety of adult.

But they’re Swiss and when you make trains run like atomic clocks and timepieces (anything that beautiful is not a watch) more handsome than Fabian Cancellara, I suppose you have earned the right to invent whatever naming convention you want. Drat.

When I first spied this piece on the Assos web site I was concerned by just how black it was, even in the red edition. Fortunately, the back is far more red than the front. I have genuine concerns about visibility for cyclists and wearing black doesn’t really help. Pair black bibs with a black jersey and you’ve created a big dark spot that’s easy for drivers to miss. But how often do drivers see the front of a rider’s torso? I’m guessing not much, which is why I’m okay with the black front of the torso. The back, which is mostly red, is what counts.

iJ.intermediate back

Were you to ask me what could have been improved about the intermediate EVO, I’d tell you that the sleeves were just a hair long and it would be nice if the front of the torso breathed just a bit, as opposed to not at all. They were minor points that within the grand scheme of the garment really didn’t even rise to the level of irritant. That sprig of parsley delivered on your steak.

It’s points like those where the superiority of the iJ.intermediate is most obvious. The piece is light in feel, weighing only slightly more than a long-sleeve base layer; the hem, cuffs and pockets are the points where its bulk is most noticeable. It seems too light to offer the warmth that it does on a 50-degree day; paired with a short-sleeve base layer, I was perfectly comfortable. The sleeve length? About 2cm shorter than the intermediate EVO, which turns out is perfect for my arms.

Also different from the intermediate EVO is the cut of the pockets. Not a big deal, but the two side pockets are cut at a slight angle now, easing access. Pocket capacity seems to have improved, which is saying something because the pocket capacity of an Assos jersey is greater than any other similar jersey I own. Think watermelon in hip pocket. They also moved the fourth, zippered pocket from the right side to the center and increased its capacity, making it big enough to hold a phone, but not a phablet (don’t get me started).

I tried wearing the intermediate EVO one day and the iJ.intermediate the following day, under similar weather (something easy to do ’round these parts), and while I can say the intermediate EVO kept my torso warmer, the difference in warmth from my arms to my torso—not that my arms were actually cold, mind you—was noticeable until I started riding with a firm tempo. The iJ.intermediate was different in how the garment felt more uniform in its temperature control. I can’t say that my arms were actually warmer, but they didn’t seem cooler than my torso, which felt like an improvement as I rode.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not the skinny racer I once was. Poorly cut jerseys will make my 160-lb. physique look, well, rather John-Belushi-ish. (I’m not sure why I’ve just referred to Belushi again in the same review. I think this the final reference to him.) So part of my definition of good cut includes the requirement that wearing the item makes me look faster, not fatter. I’ve yet to encounter a clothing company to do this as well, or as thoroughly, as Assos does. So while I could go Commander Data on you and rattle off their marketing prattle about how they use advanced patterning this and hyper whatever that, what it comes down to is Assos understands the body of a cyclist better than anyone else. I believe that the way I believe in the love of my parents.

I’m aware that, technically, Assos considers this piece a jacket, but to all native-English-speaking cyclists, this is a long-sleeve jersey. Having said that, I can say I’ve worn a lot of long-sleeve jerseys and none combine the breathability, warmth, fit and good looks of the iJ.intermediate. We can discuss the finer points of the look of the piece (I know someone is rolling his eyes right now), but I’ve not encountered another long sleeve jersey that comes close to the technical achievement of this. This is how they can charge $370. Jaws are clattering to the ground around the world as people read that number, but when I consider that number against what other top-notch companies are charging for their best long-sleeve jersey, this strikes me as fair. Pricier than lunch at the French Laundry, but still fair.

In that I’ve struck what may be the fairest comparison of all. People who take an interest in fine dining understand that a meal at the French laundry is an extravagance, not something you do on a whim. The iJ.intermediate is a rare piece of gear and comparing it to most other long sleeve jerseys is like comparing the French Laundry to Red Lobster.

(John Belushi was not harmed in the making of this review.)

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  1. TV_VT

    Shorter sleeves? Guess I’m not in the market for this one. The Intermediate Evo otoh fits me really well.

  2. Patrick

    Well, enjoy your scallops with troll sauce at Red Lobster, Grego.

    I bought the last-gen Evo on sale a few falls ago, and it was still too expensive. I lamented its high price, great fit, and perfect warmth exactly zero times while I was out riding and enjoying some chilly fall weather.

  3. Peter Lütken

    I have to say I struggle with taking Assos seriously, what with their insane naming scheme, ad copy that is completely illegible and not to mention those ads they’ve been running in Peloton lately, with the girl in latex pants, high heels fit for a stripper ..and a piece from the SS13 jersey collection. Might be the uptight PC punk in me who struggles with this, but seriously? WTF? Can they do everything just because they’re almost Italian?
    Actually.. Fat Cyclist has already done a great story about this (which says a lot, this was the first Fatty-post I actually bothered reading from top to bottom)

    Actual Assos ad copy:
    “It’s the ASSOS celebration of the year 2013! ladyEllisse was created and designed as a tribute to our female customers and to please the eyes of the entire ASSOS community. Number 13 has a special place in the ASSOS world: it’s level 13, symbolizing the manga.Yio state of mind, the perfect ride, ASSOS nirvana.”

    My interpretation:
    “It’s the Assos celebration of 2013! This jersey was designed so all male cyclists can drool over a skinny chick in leatherette pants. Yadayadayada number 13 yada yada special place yada yada”

    Tl;dr version of what should probably have been a blog post of my own: ridiculous advertising, awesome product, I had to check the Assos website to see if that pant from the Peloton ad was an actual cycling product or not

  4. John

    I own very large quantities of Assos clothing. Like 10 Bibs, 6 jackets, 4-5 tights, 1/2doz base layers, and 4 or 5 jerseys, plus gloves/arm/leg/knee warmers and hats. Never have I thought that any Assos product is overpriced once I’ve used it a few times. Their stuff is expensive for a reason, cause it’s good. And well made. And fits well. And works well.
    I don’t give a toss where or how they advertise. Their clothing is second to none.
    And the Zehgos? Best lens I have ever put on my face. Ever. Nothing else comes even remotely close to the quality of the optics on those glasses. Worth every penny.
    And for the record, before flames begin, there is not a brand of short on the market that I have not tried over the last 15 years. Nor is there a brand of high-end sports eye wear I have never owned. Seriously. I buy a lot of clothing. Assos is the best. Rapha a distant second.

  5. Paul

    I have a lot of pairs of Assos bibs, and many other Assos accessories and I’ve been happy to pay the Assos premium for all of them. They work, they are comfortable and they fit (I’m tall and skinny) – I never have to worry about them. However, sexy as it is, I can’t see myself shelling out for this jersey.

    It’s an awful lot of money, which I’ll pay for a good quality cold weather jacket (I live in NY and I ride year round – cold means in the 20s) but I find long sleeve intermediate jerseys are somewhat limited in usefulness – they work in a narrow temperature range and if you heat up, tough! This is a big problem for long spring rides that start early morning (when it’s cold) and finish in the middle of the day (when it’s warmer). Short sleeve + arm warmers offer a lot more flexibility.

    For less than half the money, check out the Castelli Gabba – I have the short sleeve version, and tied with arm warmers it covers a big temperature range. There is also a long sleeve and a removable sleeve version, but I’ve found short sleeves + arm warmers to offer the best flexibility. As for fit, the L is a snug fit on me, bit plenty long enough – not far off the fit of Assos kit.

  6. Dave O

    Am I the only one here who lives where heat and sun are more of an adversary than a little nip in the air?

    Reviews of jerseys in 50-60 degree weather cover maybe 2 months of the year down south where the furnace is the beast, where 94+ degree days for months on end is the norm and going through 3 water bottles for a 40 mile ride is kinda “just what we do”. Review jerseys and tell me how they keep you from burning up or help evaporate sweat to help you keep your core temps down, that’s a review I will read.

    1. Author

      Dave O: I’ll have reviews of short sleeve jerseys coming in the near future. I respect that this review may not have been too helpful to you, but I’ve got friends in New England that can make use of a garment like this for maybe five or six months of the year. It’s hard to write for the entire U.S. about clothing because of the variations in the climate. Stick with us; we’ll get you some content you can use.

  7. Ross

    Another good review, thanks. Leaves me with the dilema of this or the IJ.Tiburu… thinking being that the Tiburu with a windproof base layer (Gore / Craft etc) is the equivalent of the Intermediate with a regular base layer….

    But which way to go?

    1. Author

      Ross: I always do what I can to position the windproof layer as the outermost layer. The more layers between you and the windproof layer, the better, because it helps capture more warm air and is less likely to turn your torso into a drippy mess.

  8. Ross

    Good point Padraig. Windblock aside, any thoughts on which is a better long sleeve jersey, as I know it’s a category you were unsatisfied with prior to the Tiburu, and now there’s the Intermediate too…. Thanks, appreciate your opinion. (Have you looked at a Castelli Trasparente Due by the way?)

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