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The Castelli Essenza Jersey is a good-looking summer jersey that works well on warm summer days. The polyester and wool mix material wicks effectively and breathability is good, and it really only loses out when the temperatures are north of 30°C – which is in line with Castelli's claims and doesn't happen that often in the UK.
I was able to test the Essenza across a wide range of weather conditions this summer – when conditions veered from insane heat to extreme downpours in the space of a few days.
I discovered that the Castelli was well suited to conditions in the middle of that, and that it was most comfortable in temperatures from 20-28°C or so – or exactly what you might expect on a typical summer's days in Britain. The jersey offered good wicking, breathability and ventilation, all of which helped on warmer rides.
This is down to the material used, which is a mixture of polyester and wool throughout. This mix means it doesn't operate at quite the same level as straight polyester when the mercury begins to rise, but for most of the weather you're likely to encounter in a regular British summer it is pretty much exactly what you want.
The material itself is more relaxed than others I have used and offers a comfortable fit around your body's regular contours. I wouldn't call the jersey's fit aero, but rather 'tailored', which fits in with Castelli's own description and is the kind of fit where people know you're serious – but that you're not on your way to your local time trial. I found this just what I was looking for during my regular summer rides, helping to cut through the air but not feeling you're totally constricted by a skin-tight aero fit.
The breathability is further helped by the full-length zip, which is very easy to operate thanks to the frankly massive metal zip pull. This is useful in many ways, as it's both incredibly easy to use and unlikely to break any time soon, but it is a little annoying, especially when you're riding on rougher surfaces. It's not that it's so heavy it hurts when it taps you on the chest, but it can get a little irritating.
The jersey's design is very simple, which I appreciate. Castelli went through a stage a few years ago where it was all massive logos and garish colours, but this comes in four fairly neutral colours – Bordeaux, light black (isn't that, er, grey?!), the desert green we tested and blue fog – with the only branding a small badge sewn on the chest and another on the back middle pocket. There is also a small reflective Italian flag on the lower back, which doesn't add much in terms of reflectivity but does look good.
The three rear pockets were big enough for everything I tend to carry in summer, and because this is Britain that includes a rain cape. The pockets were fine and kept everything in place well, but as with many modern summer jerseys, there's no zipped security pocket, which may or not be important to you.
The jersey stays in position thanks to a subtle gripper that worked very well, with no riding up even when the pockets were empty.
The jersey's £140 RRP makes it one of the dearer ones we've looked at recently but the Essenza isn't the most expensive in our review roster.
The MAAP Evade Pro Base Jersey 2.0 is even more expensive at £165 and Steve was wowed by its cut and fit – if not its salty price. It also has good eco credentials but isn't quite as light as the Castelli for summer riding.
Castelli has done a very good job with its Essenza jersey, especially for rides around 25°C. Yes, the over-large zip pull is a little annoying, but that wouldn't have a bearing on whether I choose to wear it or not. Breathability is good, the wicking is very effective and I appreciated the understated aesthetics too.
Good looks and effective wicking and breathability – a top choice for rides when it’s under 30°C
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Castelli Essenza Jersey
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Castelli says: This premium-level summer-weight wool blend jersey will make you a believer in performance wool and fine Italian tailoring.
Classic tailoring with natural fibers meets modern performance in the Essenza Jersey. The poly/wool fabric is as light as a modern synthetic fabric but with great moisture management and a natural look and texture. The logos are applied embroidered patches, the metal zipper pull is a quality detail, and even the internal elastic is colored to match the jersey fabric. It's a classic-looking performance jersey and a perfect match to the Premio short.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight 120g 53/47 polyester/wool mix
Embroidered patch logos
GIRO3 gripper elastic at waist
Metal Castelli zipper pull
3-pocket drop-tail design
Reflective Italian flag graphic at bottom of pocket
Seems well made with a nice polyester/wool blend used throughout and strong flat-lock stitching.
Loses a mark over around 28-30°C or so, but under that it is excellent, offering impressive wicking and ventilation during longer rides.
Not as stretchy as other materials, which combined with its low weight, might lend itself to tearing more easily, but it's not the most fragile I've come across by any means.
Very good fit – close enough to avoid any kind of aero penalty, but relaxed enough that you don't feel constricted.
A weight of 142g for a summer jersey is pretty good
For temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s this is excellent, below I would probably consider an underlayer and above that I would go for something more meshy.
No the most expensive we've looked at, but this certainly is far from an inexpensive jersey.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
All fine – I chucked it in at 30°C without any issues. The one slightly disconcerting thing is the occasional knocking of the zip pull against the washing machine door.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed well, allowing me to be comfortable on warmer summer days, although not quite as good when temperatures really began to rise.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The design – simple and elegant.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The zip pull – I can't see why it needs to be so big that you could hear it knocking against the washing machine door! It's not like it's a winter jersey where you might be wearing thick gloves…
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Velocio Men's Signature Jersey is £7 more expensive with a slightly more aero cut and green credentials too. The MAAP Evade Pro Base Jersey 2.0 is £25 more and again has good eco credentials, but isn't quite as light for summer riding.
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 overall score
A good jersey that offers impressive breathability and ventilation, and while the massive zip pull could be smaller, there's little else to criticise the Essenza for.
About the tester
I usually ride: CAAD13 My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between.
Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.