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Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ

8
£175.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Not the super-warm top Castelli says it is, but a great outer layer when you don't quite need a jacket
Weight: 
365g

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Bang at the top of its range of jerseys (and priced accordingly), Castelli's Alpha Wind Jersey FZ (full zip) is designed to allow you to extend the pleasure of being able to ride in just a thermal jersey to about 10 degrees colder. It has an unusual double-front design and works really well when used over a suitable baselayer, giving adjustable protection to your torso where you need it. A baselayer is key, though – without it I found that my arms got cold.

As well as being chock-full of tech fabrics and the sort of quality detailing that, frankly, you'd expect at this sort of price, the unique selling point of the Alpha Wind Jersey (unique, that is, if we're not counting a couple of other Castelli jackets with a similar construction) is the double front.

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There are two separate layers across the front of the torso, each with its own zip. The outer, like most of the rest of the jersey, is made from a lightweight Windstopper 150, a water-resistant, windproof fabric from Gore. It's thinner and less insulating than the Windstopper X-Light Plus used in a Castelli Gabba, so to keep your core warm there's an inner layer made of Prosecco Stratus. On cold days you'd have both layers zipped up, but the idea is that if you're running too warm you can lower the zip on the outer to let some heat out while retaining the protection of the inner.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Open

The double layer only covers the front, with the rest of the jersey more conventional in design. The back is made of a material called Nanowarm, fleeced on the inside with a nanotechnology rain protection panel on the outside. This panel is highly breathable, as your back doesn't generally need as much wind protection. A single layer of Windstopper 150 fabric is used for the arms.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Back

Just like the Gabba, when it's cold the Alpha Wind is much more comfortable with a baselayer. Castelli says it's suitable for use between 8 and 15°C, which more or less matches my experience. Towards the upper end I was okay without a baselayer, but anywhere from about 11°C downwards I definitely needed one. I have other winter jerseys I can wear in colder conditions without needing a baselayer, so I think Castelli has missed the mark with its claims of this being a thermal top you can wear in colder conditions than other winter jerseys.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Collar

The shoulders and sleeves are where I found a baselayer was most needed. Lacking a fleecy inner surface, the Windstopper 150 doesn't feel especially cosy against the skin, especially if you're chilly. Stick a decent baselayer underneath and it's very comfortable, offering an effective barrier to the wind.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Badge

There's reasonable water-resistance too, thanks to a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating. I wore it for an hour in steady rain, after which my core was pretty dry thanks to the extra layer on the front, although the rain had made its way through the single-layer sleeves and wetted the baselayer I was wearing underneath.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Shoulder

Let's compare the Alpha to the long-sleeve Gabba, then, as they're priced similarly. I found the double-layer front section on the Alpha warmer than that on a Gabba, whereas the sleeves here offer less protection. I have both in a large size, and the cut is quite different. The Gabba was conceived by racers and has a real racer's cut with zero flapping around at speed. It's not restrictively tight but it sits closely and aerodynamically against the skin. The Alpha is fitted, but noticeably less close to the skin and more accommodating of a variety of body shapes. It feels less speed-focused than a Gabba.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ onBike

While the Gabba would be my preferred choice for racing, I really like some of the details here. The collar is just lovely; made in two sections of soft and cosy fabric, it does a great job of keeping the chilly air outside without ever feeling constrictive. It's about the most comfortable I've found on a winter jersey. The sleeves are a good length, too, with very comfortable stretchy cuffs – no draughts here.

>> Check out our guide to winter cycling jerseys here

Around the back there are the regulation three pockets, plus a cute little key pocket with a stretchy flap across the top instead of a zip. Below the pockets, the dropped rear section of the jersey is really stretchy with a large silicone Castelli logo print on the inside. It clings to your hips, doing a cracking job of keeping the bottom of the jersey in place, even with the pockets loaded. Oddly, there are no reflectives at all. Generally Castelli does a decent job with well-placed reflectives so this is a surprising omission.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Back Pocket

There's a further pocket at the front, with a water-resistant zip. It's big enough for a phone or for a couple of gels, and is a bit easier to reach than the ones around the back.

Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ Side

This, then, is a really well-made jersey for riding in the cooler months. The double-front design is a novel idea. Sure, you could achieve a similar flexibility with a gilet, but here it's all in one garment. It's not really a racer's top, as it's more generously cut and with less of a focus on aerodynamics. It's also not really a super-warm thermal jersey, which is how I'd have interpreted Castelli's claims for it. Don't write it off, though. Suitably layered-up for the prevailing conditions, it's a real pleasure to wear. It is Castelli's most expensive jersey, and if you're spending that sort of money, you'll be expecting a lot. It doesn't disappoint – the detailing is as good as any jersey I've used and the Windstopper fabric offers great protection for something fairly lightweight.

Verdict

Not the super-warm top Castelli says it is, but a great outer layer when you don't quite need a jacket

road.cc test report

Make and model: Castelli Alpha Wind Jersey FZ

Size tested: Large, Blue Stone/White black

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?

Castelli says: "We love the feel of riding in a thermal jersey in the right conditions: you're cozy and warm, have total freedom of movement, stay drier than with a jacket, and have no extra fabric flapping in the wind. With the Alpha Wind Jersey we've extended that feeling to about 10 degrees colder and given you the Alpha ventilation system that prevents overheating better than ever. We've given this jersey a Nano Warm back for total breathability yet with nanotechnology rain protection, and flat wrists and waist lifted straight from the Alpha Jacket."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Lightweight double-layer wind jersey with shower protection

Windstopper 150 front and sleeves

Prosecco stratus fabric liner with 2nd front zip

Asymmetrical external YKK Vislon zipper to prevent bunching

Articulated collar that fits better whether standing or sitting

Front zippered pocket

Raw edge waist lies flat

back in Nano warm

Castelli silicone text griper on hem

3 open rear pockets plus rear zippered pocket

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10

At this price it should be beautifully made, and the Alpha Wind doesn't disappoint.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

When paired with a suitable baselayer, it offers excellent protection from the wind and moderate cold and damp.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

Nothing to suggest that it won't last.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
8/10

Very decent weight for the protection it offers.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
7/10

Superb detailing around the neck, waist and cuffs makes it a pretty snug place to be, but the unlined Windstopper 150 material on the arms meant my arms got cold easily without a baselayer.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

It's a very expensive jersey, but top-end gear from the Italian brands generally is. The double-front design is (as far as I know) unique to Castelli. I wouldn't pay this much for a jersey, but it's certainly a match for other winter jerseys at the top end of the market.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

I liked the double front design and the flexibility this gives you, although you could achieve almost the same effect with a gilet over a single-fronted jersey. I felt the lack of lining on the sleeves was a weak point, though, as you need a baselayer anyway.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Novel double-front arrangement, very high quality detailing, lovely comfortable collar and cuffs.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Cold arms if I didn't use a baselayer below about 12 degrees. Lack of reflectives is unusual for Castelli and a bit of an omission for winter wear.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Not at rrp.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

I was a little conflicted, as I felt that it wasn't quite what Castelli said it was. But it's beautifully made and – when used with a suitable baselayer – a top choice for winter riding.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 190cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack  My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS

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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking

Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels.  His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding. 

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5 comments

Avatar
ChainedToTheWheel | 6 years ago
0 likes

I'm a bit late to the party with the comment, but it is just coming into the colder weather where I am so the Alpha jersey is getting a run. While the review is correct in that the unlined sleeves can feel cold below certain temperatures (unlike the Alpha jacket, which has lined sleeves I believe?), I don't find the material uncomfortable against my skin, far from it. If anything a Gabba feels weirder than the Alpha sleeves and I don't hear people continually whinging about that. While cold wind won't get *through* the sleeves, you'll certainly feel the cold material against bare arms.

 

I am currently wearing it combined with a L/S merino baselayer for my commute, which in the morning is hovering around 1degC at the moment, and will progressively get colder. Even at commuter poodling speed I am perfectly warm and comfortable with no hint of chill. On last weekend's training ride I wore it with a S/S mesh baselayer and arm warmers; I was toasty at the start of the ride when it was about 2C, then as it heated up later in the morning I removed the arm warmers and enjoyed the cool feeling against my arms while my core stayed warm.

 

My two gripes?

- I wouldn't mind if the zip on the inner flap was a bit sturdier. While I haven't had any problems with mine, I wonder if for longevity a beefier zip would be such a bad thing.

- No reflectives on the back. Come on Castelli, that's just a dopey omission! If you can put a scorpion on the back you could have put on some reflective material or piping.

Avatar
Helidoc | 8 years ago
1 like

This has been my go to winter top since last year.  The wind and rain protection is excellent, as is the breathability, which is much better than Gabba.  I have never felt cold in the body, although the arms, being unlined with a ventilation strip can feel "fresh" at around 5 degrees or if very windy.  One of the real benefits of it is the ability to layer, despite being quite close fitting.  I usually wear a SS merino base layer, but if it gets colder, go LS, and colder still it fits a SS baselayer with a Rapha LS jersey as a midlayer.  I have never felt cold enough to need a LS baselayer and a mid-layer.  Gabba is so fitted you can't fit a mid-layer without feeling like a "sausage".  The "Alpha" ventilation is very effective as a get a lovely cooling sensation around the shoulders.  Match the layers and its all the protection for autumn through to spring, without flapping or bulk.

Avatar
bendertherobot | 8 years ago
0 likes

It has excellent water resistance, if you accept that, eventually some water will get in. It's way more water resistant than the Gabba, which will let go after about 20 minutes. And, the amount of water that makes its way in is no greater in my experience than the amount of sweat that forms on a base layer wearing a rain jacket. In fact probably less so. I wore mine in two pretty foul 1 hour commutes last week and was pretty dry when I got home. Wiped the main body down with a towel, chucked it in the airing cupboard, it was dry in an hour. 

I also find, with a suitable base layer, it's good to 5 degrees and even less. In fact the only reason for the Alpha jacket is when you start out at around 0. It's expensive to buy now because its Autumn. Always buy in the sales. Mine was £90.

Avatar
Goyt | 8 years ago
0 likes

Three layers on the front and still recommended at 15c? That sounds overly warm.  

Comparisons to the Sportful Alpha Wind Jersey would have been welcome to. 

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wycombewheeler replied to Goyt | 8 years ago
0 likes

Goyt wrote:

Three layers on the front and still recommended at 15c? That sounds overly warm.  

Comparisons to the Sportful Alpha Wind Jersey would have been welcome to. 

thats just Castelli, their  thermo classica long sleeved (roubaix) jersey  is recomended for 15-24C, at those temps I'll be in short sleeves only. Maybe if you live in southern Italy they might be accurate, but generally in the uk subtract at least 10

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