As someone who doesn't watch anywhere near as much cycling racing as I should, I will always find ways to watch the filthiest and most putrid races of the year at least once. There is something so satisfying about watching those you admire most on the days when you know they'd rather be on the couch, beside you. My love of these gloomy, wet and arctic races also brought a mysterious black jacket to my attention. One that would leave me equally intrigued and excited every time I laid eyes on it.
For many years the Castelli Gabba jersey was something that the pros could hold onto as their own. A garment which was only reserved for the hardest of cyclists, on the very hardest of days. It was also a jacket that justified breaking from team clothing arrangements and was the item most desired by the pro peloton. In a nod to the widespread use of this jacket, Castelli previously sold a 'PRO' version, which comes with a black permanent marker so you can hide the logos, and keep your sponsors satisfied.
Recently we've managed to slide our arms into one of these fabled jackets and to put it quite simply, I can no longer remember life without it. I have told all and sundry about this particular item of clothing and I really do feel like my hype is more than justified. As the weather is turning for us in the southern hemisphere, we've already managed to get plenty of long and miserable miles in with our new favourite accessory snugly on our backs. I'm sure most people have been through that familiar pre-ride routine of putting on far too many layers just to keep some semblance of warmth for the day’s journey. This is great early on, but if the sun pokes through at any point during the day or you start to warm up, you create your own damp microclimate inside your jacket which ends up defeating the purpose of all those layers. This is probably my favourite feature of this jacket, the neoprene fabric manages to keep you warm with its wind blocking properties, but also succeeds in repelling water for many hours to come. Despite its ability to help the upper body keep a toasty temperature, there is enough ventilation for the warm air to escape and it breathes remarkably well. There's really no need to squeeze into every layer you own anymore and this jacket will render half your wardrobe redundant.
We've tested this jacket down to 0 degrees with a simple summer base layer and jersey underneath and whilst it's not tropical, you won't be frozen to the core. One problem that has arisen through this jacket's brilliance is the obvious flaws in some of the other products we'd used to accompany it. All of a sudden my gloves, which had been good for last year’s winter were not going to cut it, nor were my previously capable booties. This jacket has been a revelation in my cycling wardrobe and also halved the time it takes to get dressed on a cold, rainy day. The fit is undoubtedly 'pro', with a slender fit through the torso and long arms. It's like a warm hug every time you zip it up, but it never hinders your performance and manages to disappear once you're in a riding position. Exactly how all good cycling garments should be.
Another nice touch revolves around the tail that covers your backside, which we all know can cop a beating on wet days. There's small reflective piping around the edges of the rear panels, knowing full well you'd be more than keen to get out on the very darkest of days. Every detail on this jacket is there for a reason and the needs of the professional peloton have created a jacket from which we, the enthusiasts, can reap the rewards.
If you're scanning the racks for a jacket to last for seasons to come, put this at the top of your list of candidates IMMEDIATELY. Beware of the consequences though, we've been actively chasing wet weather in this jacket, simply because we can.