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Struggling to know what to wear to stay warm and protected from the wind this autumn? The brand new Sportful R&D Strato Top takes the layering principle and combines a thermal long sleeve jersey and windproof gilet into one top that removes any clothing indecision. Out on the road it provides superb comfort, warmth and breathability. Aside from wet weather, it's possibly the only top you'll need this autumn and winter.
Some of the most interesting and useful innovations in the cycling world the past few years have been made by clothing manufacturers. Italian company Sportful uses the R&D range it introduced a couple of seasons ago to showcase its most advanced clothing. Sportful is on a continual quest for innovation in the field of clothing, both fabrics, fit and function, and it's not afraid to break a few conventions along the way. The new Strato is a bold interpretation of a classic layering approach that has served many cyclists well over the years.
Strato is Italian for layers and is an indication of what Sportful has set out to create. Basically, it has taken a long sleeve thermal jersey using TDT XP material and integrated a windproof gilet using its own Wind Wick LT fabric on the front but leaving most of the back panel exposed. The result is a really good balance of protection, insulation and breathability. There are reflective details and three rear pockets.
Wearing a gilet over a long sleeve jersey has long been a popular approach, and provided the inspiration for the Strato. Interestingly, where much of Sportful's clothing range stems from the demands of the pro racers it sponsors, the Strato was driven by Sportful employees who got creative with a pair of scissors and a sewing kit to create the first prototype. The idea proved a winner in testing and it was duly put into production.
Does it work? Yes is the simple answer. The Strato provides an exceptional level of insulation and it's been getting plenty of use over the past month as the temperature has cooled. It's a very cosy top. The material is soft against the skin and there's a nice length to the arms to ensure the sleeves don't ride up the wrists, and generous height collar for snuggling down into. Sportful gives an 8-18 degree window of operating temperature, which I would tend to agree with based on my riding. Of course, the base layer you wear and the pace of your ride will also contribute to how cold and warm it can be for the Strato to work for you.
The integrated gilet stops the wind from chilling your core, and by leaving the majority of the back panel exposed excess heat can escape without building up. Of course, the one obvious thing you can't do is remove the gilet if it warms up during a ride. The material used on the front isn't 100% windproof, it actually lets a small amount of air pass through, thus ensuring good breathability when it does warm up.
There are also two zipped vents on the front that make a noticeable impact if you do warm up. On the subject of warming up, I never found it reached an uncomfortable level, and could easily ride into high double-digit temps when the sun warmed up the air halfway into a ride.
But is it better than a regular gilet and thermal top? I found it more comfortable for a start. There's a neat double hem at the front, with an underlying elastic band to cinch it in place and the gilet material loops over to provide a soft leading edge. It's also much quieter than most gilets, which can often flap noisily in the wind. That was never the case with the Strato, it's all pleasantly quiet.
At £120, it's largely going to be cheaper than buying a separate thermal top and gilet as well, so it's reasonably good value for money. Of course, you can't remove the gilet if it warms up during a ride, but come on this is the UK: how much is it really going to warm up on a ride? In my case, never enough to want to remove a gilet. Opening the main zipper largely provides enough cooling effect anyway.
Layering for the autumn and winter conditions can be extremely difficult in the UK as there's so much variation in the weather. I was a bit sceptical of the Strato at first, though I was impressed with the execution of the idea. After wearing it for most of a month I've been won over, and it really has been my go-to top when it's cool and dry.
The only possible criticism against the Strato is that it isn't really designed for wet weather, and if you want a truly all-round one-top-does-it-all, one of Sportful's Fiandre tops or any number of the Gabba clones might be a better investment. Personally, I've never found those style tops quite warm enough when it is cool and breezy, and that's an area where the Strato has a real advantage.
If you want a really nicely designed single top with some good details that keeps you warm and protected from the wind the Strato is definitely worth a look. It won't be for everyone, but for those with a limited cycling wardrobe who want to remove clothing indecision before a ride, the Strato covers most cool-weather cycling conditions really rather well.
Warm, windproof and comfortable thermal top is ideal for cool temperature cycling
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful R&D Strato Top
Size tested: small, red
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?
This is the next generation of cool to cold weather protection straight from our R & D Lab. Wind protection where you need it most with built-in adjustability combined with excellent breathability.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
TDT XP under layer with brushed inner construction.
Over layer with Wind Wick LT on chest and shoulders for breathable wind protection
2 hidden front zips for extra ventilation for high-intensity rides
3 rear pockets
Full front YKK Vislon zip
It's probably cheaper than buying a separate thermal top and gilet
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Has been through a regular washing machine cycle just fine
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For riding in cold, dry and windy conditions the Strato performs well. The windproof front panel keeps your cool warm against the wind while the unprotected thermal arms prevents excessive build up of heat
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit, comfortable next to the skin, warm when it's cold and keeps the cold wind and avoids overheating
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
You obviously can't remove the outer layer like you can with a gilet, but I never found that an issue during my test conditions and the two zipped vents provide adequate cooling
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
For a simple and indecision free clothing choice for autumn and winter cycling, the new Strato is a really good pick. Warm, windproof and very comfortable, it's an enjoyable top to ride in.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.