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.
Castelli's Gabba jersey, now on its third generation made a massive impact on the pro cycling scene and on dedicated enthusiasts in what is to be fair quite a niche marketplace, a short sleeve jersey designed for inclement weather conditions.
The 3 Season is ashmei's take on this and while I can't quite decide if I need it in my cycling wardrobe I certainly want it.
The key time I've found the ashmei 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.
Heading off to ride the Dirty Reiver in Northumberland the temperature was minus two degrees while later in the event things nudged up to about fourteen in the sun. Paired with a short sleeve summer baselayer I neither felt over cold or uncomfortably warm.
The material itself is unbelievably thin so the fact that it manages to be so warm is very impressive.
The 3 Season is also water repellent. Drizzle and very light showers will just bead off in a rather impressive fashion although if things do get heavier then you will get wet. Thanks to that fleece backed material though you don't get cold especially if you keep moving.
The material has a lot of elasticity, more than just a simple Lycra jersey which creates a very close fit for those who like to go for that pro look. The cut of the 3 Season is very slim, cut for a pure cyclist's body, so if you carry any level of muscle mass you're going to need to size up.
I was fine with this medium size around the chest and waist but the sleeves were cut close around the bicep, somewhere I'm not massively blessed.
If you really study the 3 Season you'll see just how many separate panels go into making this jersey, tiny little sections here and there to give the garment its shape and close fit. It's these little details that start to ramp up the price.
The ashmei 3 Season actually feels a bit uncomfortable when you are off of the bike, so don't be discouraged if you try it on in the living room. When you climb aboard everything slips into place and it just feels right.
The short front resists bunching while the rear comes with an impressive drop to protect your lower back and rear end from the wind and road spray.
The ashmei is quite a bit lighter than the Gabba thanks to laser cutting a lot of the panels to do away with seams around the hem and sleeves. You don't need silicone grippers or elastic to keep the jersey in place as the material does it on its own.
At the rear you'll find three pockets that are a massive 185mm deep so no matter how low you crouch in the drops you aren't going to be losing anything. Ashmei haven't gone for a headphone socket through the jersey but they've gone for a rather neat solution of a little clip on the outside of the collar to direct the cable. Some may not agree with listening to music on the go but I like to listen to my tunes and this clip was a welcome addition although you do need to thread the cables through before you put the jersey on.
While we're on the subject of little details I'll mention that strip of dots up the rear. They don't look reflective to the naked eye but they are, providing a really cool visibility feature without looking like a full on 'can you see me' jersey in daylight.
So then, value. I can hear the air being sucked in through gritted teeth.
In the grand scheme of things £220 is insane for a cycling top but on the flipside there is a market out there. Castelli have been knocking out the Gabba for years at a pretty high price and the new David Miller Rocka based on it is a cool £300.
Is the ashmei worth more than a third more than the Gabba 3? That's a tough one. The 3 Season is going to be made in smaller numbers and it's got all of those little additions to take into account, most importantly though it makes you feel a little bit special, a little bit pro when you zip it up.
I couldn't afford it but if I could I'd buy it.
Brilliantly made race jersey for variable conditions but it comes at a massive – but justifiable – price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ashmei 3 Season Jersey
Size tested: Medium
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?
"The Trollstigen mountain road is a fitting backdrop for us to tell you about our most dramatic race-fit Jersey to date – 'The 3 Season'. It was at this very scenic spot that the 3 Season Jersey made its debut – powering through this breath-taking stretch of Nordic road like a hot knife through butter. Make no mistake, this is a serious piece of kit which will sit up and beg you to get out and boss 60 mile rides with nine per cent inclines and 11 hairpin bends, before breakfast.
What makes this such a high-performance piece? For starters, it boasts incredible levels of water and wind resistance from such a super light-weight, breathable ultra-stretch fabric. Then there is the design streamlining which has reduced weight and bulk wherever possible. For example, the jersey's seams have been replaced with precision laser cut raw edges to optimise the aerodynamic fit. Yet there is no compromise on comfort. The jersey's inner is thermo brushed, so it can be worn comfortably next to the skin, or over a baselayer if it is a little cooler.
Elliot, Head of ashmei Product Development, says: 'When conceptualising this piece, we wanted to achieve the protection of a jacket, the warmth of a midlayer and the breathability, comfort and fit of a jersey. And it really performs. On a morning ride, no other jersey makes me feel more like a Pro, or Superman.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Race fit, water and wind-resistant fabric
Thermo brushed for additional warmth
Precision laser cut hem, cuff and pocket openings
Signature, reflective ashmei front and rear stripe for high visibility
Reflective hem binding with silicon gripper
Alcantara zip guard
Microfibre ultra stretch woven brushed fabric
Non laminated to optimise breathability
47% stretch offering superb compressive aero fit
Lightweight, high performance – 206g
Durable Water Repellent outer finish, PWC-free
Water-resistant YKK® AquaGuard zip
Sun protection factor – UPF 50+
Definitely one for the slim guys who don't carry much muscle mass around the chest and arm areas.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
ashmei are very specific about the washing instructions to protect the material and coatings but it isn't overly difficult. Avoid fabric softeners etc.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's hard to knock in terms of performance
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Its versatility in all weather conditions
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's impressively expensive
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I would if I could afford it
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The 3 Season jersey is very good at what it does and I especially like the race cut and the way it feels when it's on. It is a massive £70 more expensive than Castelli's Gabba 3 though. That's a lot for what is a rather niche product but the attention to detail here goes to an extra level.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.