I know what youre thinking, and youre right: £230 is a big old wedge of cash to spend on a bike jacket. But then the Castelli Espresso Due is a really high-quality piece of clothing with some excellent cold-weather features behind its cool looks.
The Espresso is made from Gore Windstopper X-Fast fabric. You probably know about Windstopper, and even if you don't, the clue is in the name. This fabric blocks out cold air completely so you can build up your warmth inside. This version has the added advantage of being very stretchy too.
Windstopper is highly water-resistant too. Rain beads up on the surface and rolls off. Unlike a waterproof, the Espressos seams arent sealed so theyll leak eventually, but I've used this jacket when it has rained on and off or a few minutes at a time and it hasnt let anything in, and it doesnt soak up the damp on those misty-morning rides.
The inner face is a deep fleece and it adds plenty of insulation. Castelli give this jacket a temperature range of 0-10C and Ill go with them on that... depending on what you wear underneath, obviously. I've had just a base layer under it on milder days, a base layer and jersey for colder ones and it performs equally well either way. If you do start to overheat, the fabric lets a lot of moist air escape and you get two long, zipped vents on the sides as well as the full-length front zip to adjust the climate inside.
There are vents around the back of the shoulders too and at the wrists. The wrist ones are zipped, providing a snug fit on your forearms without making it difficult to get the jacket on and off, but when you open them up during a ride they provide a surprising amount of cooling; they're really effective. Like the front zip, these are good quality ones from YKK and they lock in place wherever you set them.
As an illustration of the performance you get here, I went out on a group ride in this and immediately realised that I'd misjudged the weather; it was warmer than it looked out the kitchen window and I started to overheat. I couldn't go home and change so I just opened all the vents. I stayed comfortable for the whole ride, despite some big hills and some big efforts.
The Espresso comes in what you might call a performance cut close to the body without any excess to flap about in the breeze. Itll suit racing whippets well and even if youre not particularly skinny, that probably wont be a problem because of the amount of stretch you get in the fabric both lengthways and, especially, widthways. Thats one of the best things about this jacket: it fits snug without feeling limiting. I've heard people say that Castelli's sizing is small but I took a medium here I usually take a medium, sometimes a large and it fitted fine.
A few neat little details set the Espresso apart from the crowd. Around the back of the shoulders, for example, the arms are attached to the inner mesh liner rather than to the outer body. That gives them a certain amount of float, providing you with extra ease of movement when you reach forward to the handlebar. The arms are anatomically cut too so theres not much creasing around the elbow when youre in a bent-armed riding position.
You also get a soft, water-resistant Thermoflex extension on top of the collar. You can fold it inside if you like, then bring it out for a little extra coverage in really cold weather. Its a useful feature. And as well as the customary three pockets in the lower back, you get another in the chest thatll take a phone or an MP3 player an iPod Classic fits in there a treat and a port allows you to run the cable up the outside if you like.
Superb windproof and water-resistant jacket for the cold weather; a premium product at a premium-product price
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Make and model: Castelli Espresso Due Jacket
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?
Castelli's own take on it is this: "Designed for the rider looking for luxury and performance in a winter jacket with our highest level of attention to the little details. Like the shoulder articulation system that allows phenomenal fit in every riding position, or the MP3/phone pocket and the wrist zippers that make it easier to interface with your gloves, this jacket shows the cyclist-centered functionality that drives our product creation."
It uses high-quality materials and boasts some cool features. It's aimed at the sporty rider.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Windstopper X-Fast is a soft shell fabric that sheds rain and dries quickly. It's also stretchy and very breathable.
It's very well made.
Superb performance across a range of autumn/winter temperatures
The Windstopper fabric and the high quality of workmanship will stand the test of time.
It's not that I'm particularly bothered by the weight of training clothing, but less weight and bulk does make for increased comfort and ease of movement.
You couldn't make out much of a case for this being cheap, but when comparing prices bear in mind that this is a really stretchy Windstopper whereas many other windproof jackets don't stretch at all, and that can make a big difference to the fit and comfort.
The Gore Bike Wear Oxygen SO jacket we tested last year is considerably cheaper at 150 but it doesn't boast as many useful features or as much temperature regulation.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort across a range of temperatures.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price... and that's about all.
Did you enjoy using the product?
Very much so
Would you consider buying the product?
Would you recommend the product to a friend?
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If we were averaging the marks out, this should get an 8 overall, but it really is a class act and that's not the way we mark stuff
Overall rating: 9/10
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg 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: time trialling, commuting, 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.