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.
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 latest 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.
Café du Cycliste has offered the Josette for a number of years (we first reviewed it in 2013). It’s a short sleeve waterproof jersey made from an Italian fabric and it’s intended for those days, in the company’s own words, “when the weather simply won’t decide what to do next”. The jersey uses a membrane to provide insulation and protection from the weather, along with a DWR treatment on the outside. It has a performance cut, there are vents under the arms, rear pockets with flaps to keep the rain out, and a dropped tail.
Rapha’s attempt at a Gabba-style jersey was designed to meet the demands faced by Team Sky, able to deal with rain, wind and changeable conditions that can make it challenging to dress accordingly when racing. Rapha has made the Shadow by developing a single layer fabric that is treated at yarn level with a durable water repellent not once, but twice. The result, according to Rapha, is a material that provides excellent water repellency, wind resistance, and breathability. The cut of the jersey is streamlined.
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 year the company has launched a new three-layer Windstopper material that it reckons is ideal for temperatures between 10°C and 20°C and eliminates the need for an additional layer in uncertain conditions. It’s been designed to be able to cope with early morning cold temperatures without an extra layer but then cope as the temperature increases during the day, so you don’t have to carry any excess clothing that you might peel away as the weather improves. This is Gore's own version; we expect to see jerseys in this fabric from other companies such as Löffler, Maloja, Odlo, Santini and Etxe Ondo soon.
The price above is for the black version. You can also get it in blue for £70.
[This article was last updated on August 21, 2017]
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.