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Castelli's new Elemento 7x(Air) is an innovative jacket for cold, dry winter weather.
What you can't miss about this jacket are the ridged 'Windshear inserts' of the 7x(Air) fabric, used for about 50% of the panels.
'What are Windshear inserts?' you ask. Well, the outer layer of the fabric used here is windproof and, while breathable, it's not THAT breathable. That's always the tradeoff with windproof fabrics. So what Castelli have done here is stitched it into rippled panels. All the little stitching holes add up to make the fabric much more breathable in those areas. Castelli say that it's seven times more air permeable than the Windstopper fabrics that they use, hence the 7x(Air) name. See, it all makes sense.
Castelli also reckon that the pockets of air formed within the ridges provide extra insulation without adding to the weight. Plus, the fabric is very stretchy so you can get a close fit to stop excess air getting in and cooling you down.
It's pretty clever, and what you end up with is a jacket that's warm enough for winter use but also noticeably more breathable than a normal windproof. Castelli make other jackets vaguely similar to the Elemento but without the 7x(Air) fabric, the closest relation probably being the Espresso Due. The Elemento isn't quite as warm as the Espresso, but it is significantly more breathable so you can wear it in slightly milder conditions or when you're doing a more intense ride.
I've been wearing the Elemento a lot over the past few weeks and I'd say that it's suitable for when the temperature is somewhere between 2°C and 10°C – a bit lower if you don't tend to feel the cold.
While the 7x(Air) Windshear inserts are definitely the big selling point here, the Elemento is by no means a one trick pony; it has high-quality features throughout. Wrist zips allow you to get a good seal around your gloves, for example, and you can open them up for extra cooling. That's a really effective way to reduce your temperature if you start to overheat. The zip on the left side of the chest is for a pocket but it's mesh lined so you can use it as a vent too, rather than opening the front zip.
You get three more pockets in the lower back along with a zipped fourth one for storing your valuables. There are a couple of small, reflective tabs back there too.
The tall collar stops cold air getting in up top and there's a flip-up panel at the back of the neck to add a little extra warmth. The only small amount of wear on this jacket after several weeks of use is where the elasticated waistband has rubbed a little on a label of a pair of Castelli tights that I've been been wearing. It's virtually nothing.
The flipside to all the breathability provided by those needle holes is that water can get through them. The fabric's DWR (durable water repellent) finish helps shed light rain but this is certainly a jacket for cold, clear days rather than damp ones.
The price (yes, we always mention the price) is clearly high, but there's a lot of innovation on display here and that doesn't come cheap.
Innovative breathable jacket for cold, dry winter weather.
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Make and model: Castelli Elemento 7X Air Jacket
Size tested: Large, Black, 2 sent
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Here's Castelli's write-up...
"The Elemento 7x(AIR) Jacket was made for cold weather riding, keeping you warm and dry. The revolutionary 7x(AIR) fabric is 7 times more air permeable than our Windstopper fabrics so we build this jacket with 100% protection front and back. The 7x(AIR) fabric is so breathable that we've only covered about 50% of the jacket with this fabric, creating venting zones throughout the jacket.
"The extreme stretch of the fabric means that we could cut it slim. This actually makes it warmer since there's less un- wanted air flowing on the inside of the garment. Pockets are external, so they're easy to access in every condition.
We built this into a jacket that's designed for those five- hour winter training rides where you're planning your July conquests. But it works equally well for the one-hour lunchtime ride that you manage to sneak into your busy day, since it only needs a base layer underneath and it's ready to go.
"There must be a downside, right? We definitely wouldn't take this out on a rain day since rain will come through the quilting stitching, though the fabric is DWR treated and will shed light spray.
"A new standard in balancing stretch, breathability and warmth Castelli-exclusive fabric with WindShear inserts
- Fleece lined for warmth Flip-up
- Thermoflex collar
- Zippered chest pocket
- Wrist zips for extra ventilation and easy closure around gloves
- 3 External rear pockets plus zippered key pocket
- Close-to-body aero fit
- Jacquard elastic at waist
- Reflective tabs"
It's a clever design that's well put together.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It does exactly what it's supposed to – provide warmth with a good level of breathability.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lots: the breathability, the warmth, the fit. I like the looks too, although I can imagine some people won't.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price is high, although the amount of innovation and the work involved here help explain that.
Did you enjoy using the product? Certainly.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, it really is a bit special.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The exceptional performance outweighs the high price, for me, which is why I'm going for such a high overall mark.
Age: 43 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.