Choosing what to wear in summer and winter is fairly easy. In summer as little as possible; in winter everything you own. But autumn and spring, those transitional seasons of unpredictable, changeable and often wet weather, are far more challenging. The last few years have seen the development of a new style of jersey that makes deciding what to wear at this time of year far less tricky.
Ever since a particularly cold and snowy edition of Milan-San Remo in 2013, Castelli’s Gabba jacket has become the de facto choice for cyclists wanting a top layer that can cope with unpredictable weather, the sort that is common through the spring. While ideal for the changeable conditions of spring, the Gabba, and its many imitators, is ideal for winter and autumn too, making it a very good three-season jersey.
Defined by its figure-hugging fit (because it’s designed for racers who don’t want the bulk of a traditional hardshell waterproof jacket) with a windproof and water-resistant Gore Windstopper fabric, the Gabba paved the way for a new breed of cycling jersey that could cope with a wide range of conditions, keeping you protected from the rain and insulated against the cold, but breathable enough to cope when the temperature rises.
The Gabba was created when professional racer Gabriel Rasch had the idea for a waterproof racing jersey that could be paired with Castelli’s Nanoflex Arm Warmers (arm warmers with a special water resistant treatment). It proved so popular that other teams, not sponsored by Castelli, were clearly seen wearing the jacket during that snowy edition of Milan-San Remo, and social media almost went into meltdown.
It’s fair to say the Gabba has gone on to define a whole new category of clothing, and there are now many imitators and alternative versions. They’re classed as jerseys, rather than jackets because they offer the fit and comfort of a jersey, but some of the protection that you would have previously only got from a jacket.
Here is a look at some of the alternatives including, of course, the Gabba.
We have to start with the Gabba, the one that started the craze. It’s now in its third generation and is available with short, long or removable sleeves. A Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric with a water-repellant finish is used in its construction, with Nano Flex fabric used under the arms. It aims to be lightweight and breathable, and able to protect you from the wind and rain. There’s a storm flap to cover part of your bum and silicone gripper tape in the waist band to stop it all riding up and three pockets with a drain mesh at the bottom. Originally only available in black, it’s now available in a raft of bright colours. Compared to the Gabba 2, the Gabba 3 is more aero, and the drop tail and pockets have been tweaked.
The Pactimo Storm+ Hybrid Jacket is a quality jersey-cum-jacket that works well in milder temperatures and might make for a useful garment if you travel.
The outer material feels like Lycra but is soft and fleece-like on the inside. It's made of a thermal fabric with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish for water resistance. It's designed to be used between 5°C and 15°C and it's at its best when it's likely to be wet, so fairly specific, but I found that when paired with a baselayer it could be used in cooler temperatures too for a bit more range, as long as it was a thin one. For milder weather it's a really useful garment.
Breathability is really good, and the water resistance is excellent. Water beads up on the surface and the wind pushes it away, not giving it an opportunity to sit on the fabric. Although there aren't taped seams at the zip and seams it did a cracking job of keeping me dry and left me super-impressed. I was convinced I would still need a proper rain jacket with me, but unless you were expecting prolonged downpours then it isn't.
You can buy a lot of softshell tops these days, most of which claim to be weather resistant, and good across a range of temperatures. I'll wager you can't buy many better than this Kalf Club Men's Softshell Jersey, though. It really does do an excellent job and I can highly recommend it.
The eVent membrane within the jersey is charged with stopping the wind, keeping the external moisture (ie rain) out, and letting the internal moisture (ie sweat) through. A lot of the time those all seem like mutually exclusive goals, so it's always a wonder to me that membrane fabrics work at all, let alone so well. I've had good experiences of eVent membrane fabrics in the past and this is no exception: the Kalf Club jersey is really impressive in its ability to regulate moisture and temperature.
Lusso's Version 2 Repel Corsa Short Sleeve Jersey is is ideal for the spring or autumn months thanks to both its resistance to the elements and its being impressively breathable and comfortable when the temperature starts to rise. It's well priced compared to most of its direct competition too... Gabba 3 anyone?
Lusso says this new version uses a new and improved Windtex fabric, and it offers excellent levels of windproofing and, more importantly, water ingress.
Even in heavy rain the fabric continued to keep the rain out. It gets to a point where it is no longer beading on the surface, but it doesn't get through. It's breathable too and you avoid that boil in the bag syndrome until at least the mid-teens centigrade.
Two hundred and twenty pounds is an unbelievable amount to spend on a cycling top but can the new ashmei 3 Season Jersey justify its colossal price tag? It has a bloody good go with impressive material choice, cut and attention to detail.
The key time the Ashmei 3 Season works is early spring where the conditions can be warm in the sunshine but as the afternoon turns into evening and the temperature drops you need something more than a standard short sleeved jersey.
The 3 Season is very breathable up to the high teens centigrade so you can whack out a decent pace without overwhelming it while on the flipside it's warm enough when the figures drop into single figures thanks to the fabric being very finely fleece lined to trap body heat.
This is Yorkshire value-for-money brand Planet X's take on the idea of a long-sleeved rain jersey that can be easily turned into a short-sleever by unzipping the sleeves. And they've made a pertty good fist of it, especially considering the extremely reasonable price. It provides very good rain protection for faster rides. The fit is good, with a long tail, but the weight is more than some rivals.
Santini uses a Windstopper Laminated 178 fabric, a shiny, smooth-feeling material that stops wind and light rain from leaking through, and it’s designed to cope with a 10-20°C temperature range. It’s designed to be versatile, it can be paired with matching arm warmers, and it does cope admirably in the rain, the water beading along the surface. Overheating worries are dealt with by mesh panels under the arms and a regular lycra fabric, rather than Windstopper, is used for the rear panels to aid breathability.
Belgium company Bioracer uses its own Tempest fabric to make a jersey that is designed for a temperature range between 5°C and 18°C, and in the company’s own words, “bridges the gap between aerodynamics and thermal insulation”. The Tempest fabric has a special treatment applied during the weaving process that forms a water repellant barrier, and because it’s woven, and not a surface treatment, it’s long lasting. It’s also breathable and fast-drying. Bioracer produces a lot of club kit and this one can be customised to match your club or team colours and design.
Endura’s FS260-Pro SL Classics jersey has been tested and developed by the Movistar team it sponsors, providing valuable feedback from some of the toughest races and most demanding athletes. It’s a short sleeve jersey intended to be used with arm warmers, so you can adapt to warm temperatures and avoid overheating. The jersey is constructed from a softshell fabric with a thermal Roubaix underarm panel, which Endura claims is lightweight, waterproof, windproof and highly breathable. The fit, as you’d expect, is cut for a racer, so it's a close fit. There’s a dropped tail, three pockets and a soft lined inner collar.
The Mossa 2 is an Italian designed and manufactured race-fit waterproof and windproof jersey. Parentini uses a Windtex Storm Shield laminate fabric to make the jersey, and it is breathable and wind resistant. The updated Mossa 2 provides a slightly more relaxed fit than the previous Mossa jersey, but it’s still a close fit, there is no excess fabric to flap in the wind. Features include two rear pockets, a high collar, reflective logos and an elasticated waistband.
You’ll notice that the Gabba, and other similar jerseys, are made from Gore’s Windstopper fabric. This is Gore's own version, in a three-layer fabric that in some conditions eliminates the need for a layer underneath. It's is made for riding hard in cool conditions. The Windstopper material does a lot to keep you warm but it also breathes really well. The fit is good too, with stretch just where you need it, though our wasp-waisted tester have done with a slightly more tapered waist. The price is very high compared with similar designs.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.