A Jersey for Noah

A Jersey for Noah

As a product reviewer, it’s rare that you encounter a single circumstance that can tell you everything you need to know about a product in order to write a complete, or at least competent, review. The more specialized the piece of gear, the harder it can be to try to find the circumstance that sufficiently taxes the item’s features to tell you whether or not it works, or is at least justified in its price and reputation.

This becomes all the more acute when you work for a print publication with a nearly six month lead time. Try writing a thermal jacket buyer’s guide in August.

But then there are those days that are so complete in their challenge you get to the end with no unanswered questions. Sure, you may not have the answer to life, the universe and everything (which happens to be 42, but that’s another matter), but there are days where as you put the bike away you realized whether or not you’ll wear those shoes again, buy new tires, look for a new rain jacket.

IMG_1873

I’ve been hearing from colleagues and readers just how good Castelli’s Gabba 2 Jerseys are, and I finally got the long-sleeve Gabba 2 to review recently.

Castelli designed this piece for conditions that deliver both cold and wet, which has traditionally been a serious weak spot in clothing lines, doubly so for custom team kit. The backbone of the Gabba 2 is Windstopper X-Lite fabric, a windproof and nearly waterproof but still breathable membrane sandwiched inside layers of polyester. The outer layer gets a water-resistant finish that cause moisture to bead up and run off, much like Castelli’s popular Nanoflex material, which was used in the arm pits of the Gabba 2, for added stretch while maintaining water resistance.

Initially, I took the Gabba out on a coolish-damp day. Mid-50s rising into the low 60s, and a bit of mist, but no actual rain. On the one five-minute hill I hit I warmed up sufficiently to unzip the two chest ventilation zips and they allowed me to cool off without taking a full chest of rain. Those zips are pretty ideally placed—easy to reach but far enough apart to sit in the draft of your arms so that even if you’re riding through a downpour, opening those on a warm-ish day won’t be “hey watch this” stupid.

IMG_1876

When the forecast firmed up for the Chileno Valley Grasshopper—low 50s, rain, wind to take the paint off a barn—I realized that due to the event’s length and lack of sag stops (there was only one refueling stop, a bit past the midpoint), I needed something that would keep me warm, dryish and give me ready access to food. At 80 miles and with 8k feet of climbing I’d be gnoshing every 20 minutes or so. I needed to be able to get to pockets easily. To make sure I’d be warm enough, beneath the Gabba I wore a long-sleeve base layer meant for spring conditions. Castelli says the Gabba is good from 43 up to 59 degrees (F). I’d say that’s spot-on, depending just how you layer below it. It’s possible to wear it in warmer conditions if you’re going easy, or if it’s raining, of course both.

I can say with comfortable conviction that from a weather and conditions standpoint, that was the worst race I’ve ever done. It rained for at least half the day, though it seemed like more. The wind was so brutal that there were times the rain was blowing sideways. The temperature never rose above 52.

When I got back to my car at the end of the day, I pulled my gloves off then wiped my hands on a towel before unzipping the Gabba and feeling the base layer. I wanted to see just how damp I was inside the jersey, in part because there had come a point in the day where even the outer layer of fabric on the Gabba became saturated with water. I was impressed to note that while the base layer was damp, it wasn’t wet. The moisture in it was warm, indicating it was only perspiration.

IMG_1877

Castelli is to be either credited or faulted with the rise of the pro fit, that is, the skin-tight fit of many jerseys and even jackets we see today. It wasn’t that many years ago even short sleeves would flutter in the wind. With the Gabba, Castelli’s fit expertise comes to the fore. This thing is form-following, but not skinsuit tight. And it’s definitely cut for being worn on the bike. Stand up and the chest is tight and the sleeves are too short, but climb on your bike and put your hands on the hoods and this thing practically disappears. This is the single-best fitting long-sleeve garment in my closet. Why Assos hasn’t mounted a vigorous response to this piece I can’t fathom.

If there’s one thing Castelli kills at, it’s style. Hell, this thing made me look good. Castelli gets how to use color and the sorts of colors to use. I had trouble choosing between the red, yellow, green and blue. You can keep the black.

I wear a medium in the Gabba, a size larger than I wear in most other lines, save Assos. If you’re a medium in brands like Capo and Voler, then you’ll want to go up a size.

So well-considered is this piece that the mesh used in the chest zips is also used at the bottom of the pockets. As hard as it rained on the course, there wasn’t so much water that it needed to flow out the bottom of the pocket, in part because the pockets lie flat as you ride. And while snug, they were deep enough that I was able to carry enough food for the whole day. Another handy touch? The drop tail like you get with many rain jackets, only this was is actually big enough to accommodate the whole of my tuchus, and stays put, in part thanks to the gripper at the hem. There’s a storm flap over the zipper, not to mention the collar is cut high. To be better sealed against the elements, you’d have to be John Travolta in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.”

As happens so often in my apparel review we reach the discussion of the investment. The Gabba is $200, more if you go for the convertible version in which you can remove the long sleeves. That’s three short-sleeve jerseys from some makers, so yeah, that’s a fair bit of coin, but I suspect no one who buys one will ever think they chose poorly. I’ve worn a great many garments meant to keep me comfortable in the wind and rain and I can say with certainty that nothing I’ve ever worn has been as effective as the Gabba.

Final thought: If you can’t finish the day in this, you can’t finish the day.

, , , , ,

23 comments

  1. Andrew

    Fantastic piece of kit. I’ve worn mine every day while I’m here in Seattle getting rained on. 43 is way too high though- I wear mine all the time at below freezing, and it’s very comfortable.

  2. Kimball

    Love my Gabba 2 as well and agree with previous comment that it can be comfortable well below 43 degrees with proper base layer(s). I opted for the convertible version and if I had a do over would have just gotten the long sleeve as the convertible is a bit restrictive at the upper arms and shoulders where the short sleeves are overlapped by the zip off long sleeves. One other comment is that the DWR finish on the top layer that causes water to bead up and fly off disappeared rather quickly and I have been unsuccessful in fully restoring it after trying both wash-in and spray on finish restorers. Still, the inner membrane layer does its job and in spite of the perception of water soaking in on the top layer, very little actually gets through. I’m 6′-2″, 170 pounds and wear medium in Rapha jerseys, but needed to go to XL in the Gabba.

    1. Doug

      Kimball, put the top in the dryer for 15 mins and it will reactivate the fabric fibres and keep the water out. I’ve done this over the past 2 years with my Gabba vest and nanoflex leg/arm warmers – works a treat. Hopefully the fabric hasn’t been damaged with the finish restorers you used.

    2. TC

      I have been crushing on the Gabba for almost 2 years and can only mail-order so the size is my hang-up. Thanks for the size info.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      We’ve tolerated your trolling for way too long. Every comment from your IP address is garden-variety troll; not a single positive comment to further the conversation, ever. Read this and take it to heart, because from here on out you’re in comment jail.
      http://rkp.wpengine.com/about/comment-faq/

    2. souleur

      rode to work this morning with shorts n jersey…54*, it was like spring has sprung. Wonderful!

  3. oldsacracer

    My Gabba is 4 years old, didn’t get to use it much during the drought, this year fixed that. Slightly more than 2000 miles since last November, most of it wet. Rapha wool sleeveless base layer, short fingers or no gloves, two pairs of shoes and booties (need to start the day in dry feet). Spot on review mate with regards to Assos’ conspicuous absence as well not being able to finish the day.
    Need to find a blue one as my old version is “run-me-over black”. P.S. does this stuff ever wear out?

  4. peter lin

    LIving in central MA, I love my Castelli jackets. I have the dew jacket, which is warmer and saves me from freezing. I haven’t tried the gabba, given the winter temperatures.

  5. Waldo

    I have the original long-sleeve Gabba (don’t remember how long I’ve owned it) in white and it still works great. As Padraig, I had to size up to large. Glad to see that Castelli is offering colors other than black, which was the case for a while. Wearing black in the rain is borderline asking for trouble.

  6. harris

    Does anyone other than Kimball have any perspective on jersey versus convertible? Thanks for the perspective, Kimball – I have the odd size as well.

  7. Bfeltovi

    I have the gabba2 jersey and Nanoflex armwarmers, which makes a great combination. I like the idea of the convertable/convertible version, but I’m always leery of attachment systems and parts that go missing.

    Any suggestions on which Castelli softshell jackets are worth checking out? I have a Rapha Pro Softshell that’s great for riding in really cold weather, but it seems like there’s a zone between that and the Gabba combo that needs filling.

    1. Jake

      I have the Alpha. Got it when I moved NE from SoCal last summer. I ordered both a Gabba 2 convertible and the Alpha and decided on the Alpha as it was more robust, warmer, and fit just as well. The fit is like a thick long sleeve jersey with a long tail. I have ridden into the low teens with just a short sleeve rapha wool baselayer and its absolutely perfect. Great waterproofing with a tall collar that does an admirable job at preventing the back drip. I’d say that around 50 though it starts to get too hot, even in the rain but I do tend to run colder than most.

      I’m 6’3″ and 185 an dan XL fits great.

  8. Kimball

    Another observation when comparing the long sleeve version to the convertible is that the convertible does not have the front, zip open vents that Padraig mentions. You need to use the main front zipper or stop to remove the sleeves (not something you always want to do during an event).
    Also the Castelli web site has fairly complete instructions for washing and restoring the DWR including putting it in the dryer and ironing which, interestingly, the instructions on the jersey do not recommend.

  9. Winky

    Looks to be a very good piece. But I’m a little confused where you say that the sleeves seem too short when standing, but the right length with your arms forward. For every other thing I’ve ever owned, the opposite has been true. OK when standing, but reach forward and the arms become too short. This has been a real issue for me, often finding it hard to get LS stuff that doesn’t leave a gap above my gloves (without buying something too flappy and large).


    1. Author
      Padraig

      That’s part of the genius of this piece. The back is cut with enough room to wrap around when your arms are forward, but the tight cut of the chest is what causes the sleeves to pull up when you’re standing. In short, anything that fits correctly when you’re standing upright isn’t destined to fit well once you’re on the bike.

  10. Dolan Halbrook

    I have the convertible version, but I think i’ve only every converted it once, so I probably would have been better off with the jersey. That said, I got a stinkin’ good deal on it (like, two digits… brand new) so I can’t complain; it’s been a fantastic bit of kit and I wear it all the time.

    I’m surprised you all consider it waterproof. Either I’ve somehow de-waterproofed mine, or we have different definitions. I stuff a gauzy Castelli rain shell (Sottile Due) in the middle pocket as my “rain solution” for anything but the mildest of sprinkles.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I’d wear this into the 60s, especially if it was starting cooler and warming through the day. But if the temperature was already near 70, and likely to warm some, even with rain, I’m not sure this would be my choice. It really depends on just how cold you tend to run. If your default on a cool, rainy day is hypothermia, then probably.

  11. Bart

    I bought the Castelli Gabba based on this review and it’s been a great addition to my gear. I now look forward to riding in cool rain and the fluro yellow color keep me feeling visible in overcast and darker conditions. Until I bought this I had a gap in my kit choices and this has filled in beautifully. Thanks for the introduction to this product!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *