Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Assos ClimaJet

I quote SETH when I say, I think I may have stumbled upon the Taj Mahal of cycling pieces: the Assos ClimaJet rain cape. Great cycling clothing is measured by the comfort it delivers in uncomfortable circumstances and the Assos ClimaJet delivers in wind and rain, and even when the temp falls into that ambiguous range between layers.

The Assos Service Life
Like you, my cycling wardrobe consists of my regular pieces and then my collectables. My collectables go back as far as 50 years but they only see the light of day when I am moving or re-organizing. My regular pieces, however, see duty year-round and some date back as far as 17 years and are my nuevo-vintage collection. The common denominator to my "neuvo-vintage" pieces is that they are all Assos. There are two statements that accurately describe the Assos brand:

1. It's VERY expensive.
2. It's damn nice stuff, both in fit and durability.

When the topic of Assos comes up, people tend to focus solely on price. What I don't hear in Assos discussions is how durable the stuff is. I have some winter gear from 1990, which remains in heavy rotation in the cold months, and shorts from the 1994 era, which continue to provide comfort surpassing many of today's cycling clothing leaders. As a side note: clothing, like helmets and shoes, have fit characteristics that compliment some riders and not others, so the "great fit" may not be unanimous among cyclists.

I received the ClimaJet as a gift, and had I not, I would have never been introduced to the magic this jacket creates (dropping $275 on a rain jacket was not exactly in my seasonal budget). The technology supporting this jacket claims the material expands upon contact with water and closes the pores of the material blocking the rain, yet allowing air to circulate. Whether this claim is fact or marketing hype, the ClimaJet is the perfect solution when the wind is chilly, or the threat of rain looms, and it's the go-to when all other layers are to heavy or too light. The ClimaJet has evolved from the original Clima Micro jacket and, for the ClimaJet, Assos has made some refinements, toughening up the material to avoid rips, redesigning the zipper to increase durability and ease of closure and made modifications to the cut, thus streamlining the fit and reducing its overall foot print; great for when it comes off and goes into your pocket.

Rain and Wind
When the rain begins to fall, the jacket provides excellent coverage. If the showers are spotty and the rainfall is light to consistent, I tend to notice the cool effects of the rain on my face, legs or feet before I notice it on my core, proving that the jacket is going its job. When the cats and dogs begin to fly the jacket will let rain in, but at this point the barrier created traps the warmth and provides your core the protection it needs to keep you and your appendages moving.

Limiting this jacket to rain duty sells the jacket short: the Clima Jet is a technical piece, more technical than most of wind-proof jackets out there. It blocks wind with ease and keeps the front of your shoulders warm in a way that a vest simply fails to do. The slim cut allows for the ClimaJet to rest comfortably against your body eliminating the flapping effect common on most full cut, long-sleeve, rain and wind jackets. As your body begins to heat up, there is a small build-up of perspiration from the inside of the jacket, but far from the greenhouse effect you get with a PVC rain cape. If the ClimaJet were any color other than ghostly white you would be unable to detect the build-up. The jacket is vented on the sides and the location of the vents reduces the ingress of water while providing the necessary fresh air into the "micro-climate".

This past weekend the temps were cool and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I rode to the ride in the ClimaJet and peeled it off about 20 minutes into the ride, before the action became heated. When the ride finished, I pulled the ClimaJet from my pocket and donned it for the 20-minute ride home. The jacket was warm and kept my body temp regulated (neither too cold, nor too hot). It was the perfect accompaniment to the cool-down period that makes for my commute home.

Crazy Talk
$275 for a technical poncho is crazy talk. I was perfectly happy with the PVC rain cape I have had for years, tattered and torn and stained from years of service. This piece is highly technical, extremely durable, light, easily stuffed into a pocket, and downright comfy. I would highly recommend the ClimaJet to anyone who rides in the rain on a regular basis or experiences spring to the likes of Northern France or Belgium. For me, the only shortcoming of the jacket (pun intended) is the length in the back because I prefer the mud flap effect to keep the grit and water off my tail bone and, due to the slim cut, it becomes tough to stuff the rear pockets full of essentials. Bump your sizing by one if stuffing your pockets and the extra length are important. The added bulk at the shoulders and in the mid-section will be minimal and the added room at the waist will be appreciated.


Anonymous said...

You'd take the jacket over the vest?

Radio Freddy said...

The jacket will reach deeper into the cooler weather but I am sure the vest is great too.

josh said...

$275 FOR A RAINTCOAT !! :)

Radio Freddy said...

Crazy talk - no way around it.

strangelife said...

Picked up a Clima Micro jacket, an earlier version of the the Jet, from Ochsner a few weeks back on closeout. Lucky deal for me. I can attest that it is a seriously great technical piece.

gewilli said...

my '95 vintage bib shorts are still in regular rotation on the commute...

those old school pads, void of the technical humpy bumpy stuff, really were/are quite effective...

The jacket definitely sounds pretty sweet! One of the most comprehensive and well written product reviews i've come across in a while!

Radio Freddy said...

gewilli - Thanks for reading and your comment. The Assos stuff is, for the most part, amazing gear that simply has to be worn to be understood.

Ari said...

Assos is the only company that offers a cap that is like a dome and not a half circle. The cap fits deep into your head has the right bill and the rear end of the cap is mesh. If you decide to run the cap backwards ala Floyd you will get the airconditioning effect of the mesh. All other caps are not as well designed. Assos also has some of the hottest models in the cycling industry. With all respect to lady readers.

Anonymous said...

hello all,

not sure if anyone will read this a few months on, but i had to comment. although i love assos stuff and have lots of it, the clima micro (or whatever it was called back then) i bought in '97 is one of the worst pieces of cycling clothing i've ever owned. for a while, it was great, tho' i used it more often for running in light rain (it's seriously light!). but i wore it fall 2006 on a rainy six day ride Berlin-Weimar & back and the thing was collecting water on the INSIDE and filling up like a balloon at the cuffs! i couldn't believe it. now some might say 9 years later that's ok, but it was hardly used, being a bit of an emergency piece, & machine washed at the most 5 times (it went beige/brown in the wash, a problem discovered by others as well). as long as the weather stays dry, it's fine. but it's going in the garbage, as weather here doesn't stay fine. i'd be interested in a longterm test. the german Tour mag. just ran a test of wind/rain jackets & the Sugoi version of this jacket (the active/expandable rubbery stuff) was totally panned, ended at the bottom of the list. i do hope nobody experiences what i did, but i'm sticking to low tech. sorry 'bout the length of this comment but i was totally shocked by this assos product. your blog is great btw: thanks from all the anon. readers like myself.
alex in berlin

Radio Freddy said...

Alex - Thank you for leaving a comment. I am familiar with your ClimaJet troubles, although the troubles you describe were with the generation one, Assos rain jacket. In my follow-up research I did read about the very issues you are describing. I can say that almost any material will trap water from the inside if the user perspires heavily enough. It is the nature of the material. One thing you may try is when washing your Assos jacket give it a second rinse cycle to remove any build up of detergent from the micro pores which help the material breath. This is common with many technical shells too. I would not try to convince you that the issues you have experienced were addressed by Assos; the piece is far too expensive to risk a second time. But I can say that mine has been great and it is the general consensus among my fellow cyclists who use the ClimaJet.

Thanks for reading! - RF

Anonymous said...

The Clima Jet is a nice piece as is the vest and most of their other tops are super. But I do take exception to your comments about Assos shorts, at least the newest generation. Since 2002 I have had about six bibs and knickers fail because of lycra degradation, even with as little as 1500 miles. This in spite of careful/obsessive attention to the Assos care instructions. Bottom line: Assos needs to find a better balance of comfort and durability.

Anonymous said...

@radio freddy,
it wasn't perspiration gathering in the jacket i have (see october 12 above): it was RAIN. LOTS of it! coming through the fabric and not getting out again. that's my beef. i sweat so much that all of my clothing gets damp inside, but this was something else. it's rare that a U.S. sports publication researches in-depth on anything, particularly how/where/why products are tested, manufactured, sold, how well they really perform over years, we don't all get free PRO stuff, perhaps many mags are afraid of upsetting the advertisers. but sometimes i'd like to see a bit more courage. sometimes it really makes me wonder . . . happy holidays! from
alex in berlin

Radio Freddy said...

Anon - I am surprised by your Assos durability issues. I have a pair of the F2 shorts that have 5 seasons in them and only now they are showing signs of wear. The wear you describe. I would recommend talking to the shop where you bought them. I happen to know for a fact the Assos believes in standing behind their products.

Alex - Thanks for coming back. Although I have never worked in the publishing side of the cycling world, I would say there is a healthy fear of biting the hand that feeds. That's where the blogosphere comes into play. No one is paying to advertise here. The only wrinkle in BKW is that we do not waste time discussing products that do not impress us. So, I guess there is bias everywhere.

Wishing you a healthy and happy new year. - RF

B said...

I still have a pair of Assos Cinto shorts in rotation they are still my standard reference shorts. The Cintos are from the 80's during the funny bike team time trial era they were baned by the UCI for their belt and stem mount.