Rethinking the Jersey

Rethinking the Jersey

I give a lot less thought to jerseys as technical apparel than I do bib shorts. My list of needs/irritants is stunningly short. A jersey needs to fit, which is to say that it should follow the contours of my torso in such a way that it achieves form-following fit without making me look like I’m a middle-aged guy in a woman’s leotard, which, if we’re honest, isn’t all that hard to accomplish.

So fit is foremost, jah? How you pattern the jersey and what materials you choose to use is where the real creativity comes in. I’ve donned amazing jerseys only to put a couple of gels in the pockets and find out that those stretchy materials that gave it the amazing fit also caused it to sag like trampoline loaded with kids.

But even if you nail fit, there are still ways to screw up. Pocket capacity and access are also important. I have a pretty nice wool jersey that I wear on cool days when I do short rides. Why? Because the pockets are deeper than the Marianas Trench and to access them you need to be a former employee of Cirque du Soleil. I chose not to review it instead of ripping the pockets apart, but it’s good enough that as long as I don’t need pockets….

On the other side, I’ve worn jerseys that had pockets so tiny they held no more than two gels per pocket. My phone protruded from the middle pocket. Again, short rides only.

And living in sunny Cal-ee-for-nigh-aye, it’s the rare day that I really start to care about just how well a jersey wicks. There are two to three weeks each years when I pull open a drawer and think, “Okay, gonna be a hot one, where’s that thin one?” It’s a question I’d ask daily for four to five months per year if I lived in Austin.

I don’t live in Austin. For that reason.

But there’s my buddy Robin, who does. The Assos Campionissimo Jersey is perfect for him. Assos integrated the base layer into the jersey itself to make sure that as it wicks moisture off your torso and arms, the sweat is transported to the surface of the jersey as directly as possible. You’ve probably had the experience where you’ve pulled a jersey off that was relatively dry only to realize your base layer was soaked. That’s a thing of the past with the Campionissimo.

And then there’s the cut of this jersey. But before I discuss the Campionissimo, I need to reference Assos’ old standard bearer, the SS.13. This was their primo jersey, a jersey of such exquisite proportions that it could have made Michelin’s Bibendum look like a Tour contender. They discontinued that jersey long before the Campionissimo was ready and I have to admit, I was irritated. Who discontinues the best jersey on the planet? Nevermind. I’m not going to sell you on it now.

Everything that I liked about the SS.13 in terms of fit and materials, the Campionissimo has topped. It has a simpler appearance, and while I’m not crazy about the black front, the white back makes sense from both a cooling and visibility standpoint. That simpler appearance should help the brand with those who have thought their designs too strange in appearance. The single-color asymmetry is still rather Euro in its sensibility, but in a more understated way than with some previous designs. The cut is form-fitting and probably not for the modest. Modesty aside, if the SS.13 could make Bib look like Nibali, then this jersey will make you look like Fabian Cancellara. Part of the look owes to a simple design that gives the back a large uninterrupted panel with a modified Raglan sleeve design that keeps the jersey fit snug through the shoulders and neck, even when you’re in the drops.

The only jerseys I’ve ever worn that felt as breathable also felt like they were composed of materials that wouldn’t survive more than two or three trips through a washing machine, even a front-loader. The Campionissimo is paradoxical in that it is crazy breathable and yet it also is composed of materials stout enough to last for years to come.

The hand of the fabrics used in this jersey speak of quality, the way a fine woolen suit will be light and breathable and yet last a decade or more. Assos type.002 fabric makes up most of the jersey on the outside, but they use skinFoil, the same material used in their base layers, on the inside. It is skinFoil that gives the jersey an ultra-soft feel against your skin and helps transport the moisture away from your body.

It’s been a mild spring here in Santa Rosa, so much so that I haven’t worn this jersey nearly as much as I’d like. I don’t bother pulling it out unless the temperature is at least 80 degrees, preferably closer to 90. It’s the sort of jersey I want in reserve for those days where to choose anything else would be torture. But those doggy days are here and I can say that were I living in Memphis or Austin, I’d want at least two or three of these.

Three pockets grace the back and the material the back is cut from, though stretchy, doesn’t sag when the pockets get stuffed with food. A fourth, zippered, security pocket gives you a place for a credit card, Jackson or key fob.

When people learned the Campionissimo bibs were $459, there were cries of outrage, charges of usury and general decline in critical thinking. I’m pleased to report that the Campionissimo is only $249. When I think about what you get when you buy the $100 to $125 custom team jersey, spending two to two and a half times that for a jersey that will last at least five times as long strikes me as a bargain.

Final thought: Just do laundry when you get in from the ride.


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  1. Winky

    If it is hot and one wears a base layer for its “wicking” capabilities, what exactly then does the outer layer do? Why not just build the base layer with pockets and dispense with the outer layer altogether. I know people swear by an extra layer in the heat, but I just don’t get it.

  2. Aar

    I love the fit and function of Assos jerseys. Until they truly make their jerseys visible I will remain a bibs and accessories Assos customer. A solid white upper panel is a step in the right direction but black pockets, really?! The upper panel is barely visible on a rider in the drops. True visibility needs to exist on riders in all positions. Further, white is not truly visible. While I will never buy a chartreuse jersey, there are plenty of other high visibility colors available for the back panel and pocket areas of cycling jerseys.

  3. Michael

    i’m late to this discussion. I also love the fit and function of Assos jerseys. As Aar wrote, I’m also a bibs customer only until they go back to doing solid brighter colors. Luckily I stocked up on a bunch of their older style white jerseys. Those and the Q36.5 jerseys I’ve bought will keep me covered until Assos returns to a more elegant and simple solid design that also moves away from the ridiculous use of black in cycling tops.

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