“A short sleeve jersey during the winter?” I tutted with a slight glimmer of outrage. “You’ve got to be mad, it’s 3 degrees out there!” - I don’t deal well with the cold. My kit consists of a thick winter base layer, a long sleeve jersey, a winter specific jacket and just for good measure, a windproof shell - so you can imagine my dismay when I was told I had to ride in the Castelli Gabba 2 Short Sleeve Jersey in such harrowing temperatures.
Looking back, I remember when the Gabba first came onto the scene. It was the Milan - San Remo of 2013, and ominus, unidentified jerseys scattered the peloton. Truly a strange sight to behold considering how strict professional’s sponsorship and clothing commitments are, so it made a good talking point amongst broadcasters.
I thought that if a rider was going to go outside of their contract just to wear a jersey for a race, it must be something special. Soon enough, it came to light it was the Gabba, and cyclist’s far and wide took to bike shops to chomp at the bit.
Having ridden with one of the original Gabba's, it was immediately noticeable just how far the fabric and construction of the new Gabba 2 had excelled in such a short period of time. Everything from its soft-to-the-touch, luxurious inner to the more durable flatlock stitching, provided me with a wealth of comfort over both short tempo rides and longer recovery spins.
According to Castelli, the 92% Polyester and 8% Elastane of the Windstopper X-Fast fabric plays on both the former’s moisture wicking abilities and the latter's continued fit. This is definitely evident on colder rides where I usually feel the chill after the mid-ride refuel (cafe stop), but thanks to the polyester drawing sweat away from my skin and transferring it to the outer layer of the fabric, I’m pretty warm for the entire duration.
If you’re a regular wearer of Castelli, then you know the Italian brand’s array of kit is designed for those slim Italian folk regularly powering up the Cipressa, so I recommend going one size up. Yes, it is snug, but not tight enough to show off those Christmas dinner induced love handles.
This fabric also stops any road spray from penetrating the outer layer, forcing it to bead up and slowly evaporate - quite impressive for such a comfortable product. One thing to take note of is that although this works well on the front, it doesn’t work so well on the back. Because you’re riding into the wind, the water droplets are dispersed, so start to dissipate quicker - on the rear, most of the water evaporates, but some water droplets drip into the jersey pockets. More on this later on.
Even though it’s classed as a short sleeve jersey, the Gabba’s sleeves are slightly longer than usual. An incremental change, but one I’m grateful for. This 90% Polyester and 10% Elastane sleeve construction differs from the main body, providing greater elasticity and fit when you’re chopping and changing positions, whilst the reduction in Polyester keeps your arms suitably warm and sweat free.
Small changes make all the difference, and although it may not seem like a lot, the full-length YKK zipper came into effect when taking on long, arduous climbs. For one, it’s incredibly durable when you’re hastily unzipping/rezipping as the temperatures change, and secondly, it never got stuck in amongst the wind flap that sits neatly over the zip line.
I know what you’re thinking, “A zip flap? Why is that such a big feature?” - and I’ll tell you why. When you’re wearing minimal layers, like you will do with the Gabba 2, any gap in fabric where the wind can penetrate immediately becomes noticeable over longer distances. This wind flap offers that extra bit of protection you yearn for in harsh headwinds.
Off the bike, the drop tail doesn’t exactly epitomise style, and it’s sometimes a total nightmare when it gets stuck on the rear of your saddle when you’re swinging your leg over the top tube. However, this is a small price to pay for what it offers in functionality, and now that I ride with one, I wouldn’t ride without it.
The elasticated hem of the tail sits plush against your rear, giving an extra layer of warmth on those truly bone-chilling days, and when the roads are wet and greasy, you’ll notice the difference immediately.
Rear pockets are a given in cycling jerseys nowadays, so there shouldn’t be much to talk about here - but there are actually some great features to increase your ride comfort. The bottom of these pockets feature the same mesh found on the collar, allowing hot air and moisture to escape. This ensures your spare tube(s), gels and phone are kept dry - perfect for when, as mentioned earlier, water droplets drip into the jersey.
The mesh doesn’t perform too well in the wet, though. When it’s rained the day before and road spray is in abundance, grit and grime gets up inside the pockets through the mesh. Not too much of a problem if you ride with a phone protector like the Bellroy All-Conditions Wallet, and definitely not enough of a problem to sway me from purchasing again, either.
The Silicone lined, elasticated strips around the hems of the Gabba 2 are the perfect, final touch to the ensemble. No matter whether I was down on the drops, sprinting out the saddle or just grinding up a climb, everything stayed in place without feeling too restrictive. I do partly put this down to the anatomical fit and carefully engineered paneling, but also the elasticated hems and silicone grippers.
Finished with a flourish; a small, detailed Norwegian flag is emblazoned within the ‘a’ of every Gabba - homage to the legend that created it, Gabriel Rasch. A tip of the hat to the work and development that actually went into the Gabba.
With a wealth of conditions under my belt, I deem this jersey the most irritating bit of kit on the market - no way at all related to its features, but solely that when you twin it with a pair of NanoFlex arm warmers, it renders an entire wardrobe of long sleeve jerseys and jackets obsolete. True, it is more expensive than other jerseys, but you really do get what you pay for - and seeing as we're reducing it down from £140 to £90 for a very limited time, this truly is a steal.