Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Matt Wikstrom
April 22, 2015
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
Assos is one of cycling’s premium brands with an extensive catalogue of clothing for every season of the year. CTech editor Matt Wikstrom spent the last month of the Australian summer testing the performance of some of Assos’s warm weather clothing for this review.
For those unfamiliar with Assos, it is a Swiss brand devoted to cycling apparel. Established by Tony Maier in 1976, the company can claim numerous firsts within the industry, the most notable being the introduction of Lycra for cycling shorts. Since then, the company has been devoted to improving and refining the design of its clothing.
Assos doesn’t prepare a new range of clothing each year. Instead, the company curates a perpetual catalogue that is refined and overhauled as the company sees fit. One such overhaul came at the end of 2013 when Assos replaced its entire range of shorts. The new series, dubbed S7 (series 7), replaced S5 shorts after a five-year term in the catalogue.
Understanding Assos’s product nomenclature is a challenge, but once armed with a list of terms, it is easier to decipher. In essence, each name provides a precise shorthand description of the product. Thus the “_S7” suffix is applied to all series 7 garments while the “SS” prefix designates a short sleeve jersey and “T” bibshorts.
Every piece of clothing in Assos’s catalogue is assigned to one of four seasons and temperatures ranging -5°C to 40°C. At the same time, the brand is a strong advocate of layering so Assos’s designers give some consideration to the function of the garment on its own as well as in combination with other layers.
In this review, I take a look at some of Assos’s summer clothing: two jerseys (SS.Uno_S7 and SS.cento_S7), two bibshorts (T.neoPro_S7 and T.cento_S7), gloves (summerGlove_S1) and some socks (equipeSocks_G1 and yankeeSocks_G1), all courtesy of Assos’s Australian distributor, Echelon Sports.
Assos developed the SS.Uno_S7 jersey to be lighter, better fitting and more breathable than the previous Uno jersey. Many of the improvements can be attributed to the new Type.vX121 fabric. With a weave that reduces bulk and improves the fabric’s drying rate, Type.vX121 ensures that the sweat generated on a hot day never weighs down the jersey.
Holding the jersey up to the light reveals a honeycomb-like pattern throughout the fabric that helps Type.vX121 achieve its characteristics. The only variation in this pattern is found under the arms where a coarser mesh with a slotted pattern is used to encourage extra airflow.
The SS.Uno_S7 jersey has a full-length zipper and three rear pockets. An extra zippered compartment sits on top of the right pocket that is designed for a music player with an internal port for headphones. An elastic band with silicone dots is incorporated into the waistband of the jersey below the pockets, providing extra grip and hold where it is most needed.
The fit of the jersey is race-oriented, which means a close fit. Standing around, the jersey feels a little awkward in places—for example, it barely reaches the waist—but once on the bike, the jersey clicks into place, as promised by Assos.
I was comfortable in the SS.Uno-S7 on warm days but there was little to distinguish the performance of this jersey from other summer weight jerseys on the market. I continue to appreciate Assos’s design principles and there is the promise that the material will withstand at least a few seasons of use, but to me that’s still not quite enough to justify the high price of this garment.
The SS.Uno_S7 jersey is available in seven sizes (XS-TIR) and five colours (black, white, yellow, red, and blue) with a retail price of $195.
The SS.cento_S7 is built for long rides with an emphasis on breathability, moisture control and a relaxed fit. The latter means riders with a little extra girth won’t find this jersey as tight as Assos’s other summer jerseys. Indeed, the small jersey supplied for review offered the same kind of fit as a medium SS.Uno_S7.
Assos uses a fabric called Type 145 for the front of the SS.Cento_S7 jersey. The texture is much smoother than the Type.vX121 described above, and the design of the mesh is much more subtle, reminding me of crepe fabric. According to Assos, Type 145 behaves differently according to temperature, wicking moisture away when the rider is hot and holding onto it as the rider cools down.
In contrast, the back of the jersey is made from a light mesh and the armpits are lined with what appears to be the same slotted mesh as the SS.Uno_S7 jersey. The result is the promise of more airflow in these regions.
Assos keeps the graphics clean and simple for the SS.cento_S7 jersey, making use of Assos’s familiar black-and-white striped motif to decorate the sleeves. The jersey is finished with a full-length zipper at the front and three pockets at the rear. An extra zippered compartment has been added to the top of the centre pocket so that essential items (like car keys) can be separated from the rest of your stash.
I couldn’t find much to separate the performance of the SS.cento_S7 from the SS.Uno_S7. It proved to be a capable performer on hot days that was light and comfortable to wear, but without any alpine passes to challenge the temperature sensitivity of the jersey, I couldn’t appreciate the extra benefits on offer.
The SS.cento_S7 jersey retails for $265 and is available in seven sizes (XS-TIR) corresponding to chest sizes 90-118+cm.
When Assos set about overhauling its bib short range in 2013, the T.neoPro_S7 was introduced as the base model, an everyday bibshort best suited to short rides. It is also the bibshort the company recommends for riders that are new to Assos clothing.
Rather than economise on materials, Assos utilises simpler construction methods to keep the retail price for the T.neoPro_S7 bibshorts as low as possible. Thus, while these shorts are made from the same hard-wearing fabrics, elastic padding and “memory foam” that defines Assos shorts, they lack the refinements found in the brand’s more expensive offerings (such as the kukuPenthouse, see below).
That isn’t to say that the T.neoPro_S7 bibshorts are lacking in features. These shorts use the same elastic Y-shaped braces and “goldenGate” construction as Assos’s more expensive shorts.
To explain: “goldenGate” refers to the way the padding is sewn into the shorts. Rather than sewing all the way around the perimeter of the padding to hold it in place, the midsection (between the legs) is left unsecured. In this way, the insert has more freedom to move around to match the contours of the body, plus it eliminates the risk of irritation that can occur with a stitched seam.
As for the braces, two lengths of elastic rise from the waist and travel over the shoulders before meeting at the shoulder blades where they attach to a single Lycra panel that falls to the rear of the shorts. It’s a design that Assos has found to be sturdier than conventional braces.
The result is a pair of shorts that offers a sure and comfortable fit. The length of the legs is generous with broad elastic grippers backed with dashes of silicone that are more comfortable than those used by S5 shorts. The elastic braces felt tight while I was standing around, but once on the bike, they were much less noticeable and never uncomfortable.
In many ways, the T.neoPro_S7 bibs closely resemble the more expensive T.equipe_S7 shorts. There is the same low waistline (that makes it easy to lower the front of the shorts when nature calls) and firm elastic hold on the muscles that Assos promises reduces fatigue by limiting vibrations. However, the fit isn’t quite as refined and the padding is only suited to short (1-2 hours) daily rides. As such, I’d recommend spending a little more ($290) on the T.equipe_S7 bibs.
The T.neoPro_S7 bibs are available in seven sizes (XS-TIR) and one colour (black) with a retail price of $230.
Like the SS.cento_S7 jersey, the T.cento_S7 bibshorts have been designed for long hours in the saddle. To this end, they offer less compression and are less restrictive around the waist when compared to the rest of Assos’s range of S7 shorts. In addition, special attention was given to the padding and the creation of the “kuKuPenthouse” to accommodate the rider’s staff and jewels to ensure ongoing comfort.
Rather than rely on a single material to serve all parts of the padding, several different materials are sewn together to form the padded insert. The majority of the insert is served by Assos’s lined and perforated foam however a lighter material is used for “anatomical side flaps” to reduce the risk of chaffing on the sides of the saddle. An even lighter material is used to anchor the rear of the insert to the seams of the shorts instead of sewing it to the fabric and creating another seam. Finally, there is the kuKuPenthouse, a kind of pouch that is created at the front by removing a large hole from the padding and replacing it with a very light material.
There is more to the kuKuPenthouse than just a large hole in the padding. Assos uses a light, stretchy mesh at the front of the shorts to construct a codpiece that essentially eliminates compression. At the same time, the mesh encourages extra airflow to the area.
It is the kuKuPenthouse that really distinguishes the T.cento_S7 shorts from the T.equipe_S7 and T.neoPro_S7. It makes for a noticeable absence of compression at the front of the shorts, which translates to a level of comfort that I’ve never experienced with any other pair of shorts. It really is penthouse accommodation for a member that is normally consigned to the basement.
The quality of the legs and braces was very similar to that described above for the T.neoPro_S7. I was supplied with a size small for this review (compared to medium T.neoPro_S7) in recognition of the relaxed fit, and the two different sizes compared well. The difference in sizing means the T.cento_S7 will accommodate stockier builds and/or extra winter weight.
Finally, the padding of the T.cento_S7 is very dense and well suited to long rides. Interestingly, it is only marginally thicker than the padding of the T.neoPro_S7 (10mm versus 9mm), demonstrating that there is more to the quality of padding than simply its thickness.
T.cento_S7 bibs are available in seven sizes (XS-TIR) and one colour (black) with a retail price of $395.
Assos uses a 70/30 blend of nylon and elastane for its summer socks. The equipeSocks_G1 feature the équipeCampionissimo-Werksmannschaft design, a bold armour-like pattern, while yankeeSocks_G1 eschew decorations in favour of colour and a simple band.
Both socks extend about four inches above the ankles. The yankeeSocks_G1 employs a light weave over the top of the foot that immediately feels cooler to wear but the positioning of Assos’s logo gave me pause: with the “A” on the front of one sock and on the back of the other, I didn’t know which one to put on my left foot. I decided to let the luck of the sock drawer decide the matter for me.
After a month of regular use, both socks showed no signs of wear or pilling when washed. With Assos’s reputation for creating long-wearing fabrics, I expect these socks to continue looking great for a few summers.
Both socks retail for $33 and are available in three sizes: 0, I and II, corresponding to European shoe sizes 35-38, 39-42, and 43-46, respectively. There is a choice of two colours for equipeSocks_G1 (black or white) and five colours for yankeeSocks_G1 (black, white, red, yellow, and blue).
To complete their summer kit, Assos has a new summer glove, summerGlove_S7. In re-designing the glove, Assos improved the padding in the palm and relaxed the fit compared to its previous summer glove. Mesh panels line the palm and in between the fingers while a patch of absorbent material covers the thumb.
I selected the medium size based on Assos’s sizing chart and they were a good fit for my hand. Without an adjustable wristband, I had to squeeze my hands into the gloves, but once they were on, the fit was close and sure. The palm padding was effective without any bunching of material and the sweat patch offered plenty of absorbency. After almost a month of use, the only issue was that the gloves suffered noticeable pilling when washed.
Overall, the summerGlove_S7 proved to be effective without dazzling me with its features. The asking price is high for a pair of gloves but is in line with the pricing of other Assos clothing. Available in six sizes (XS-XLG) and three colours (black, white, red) at a price of $75/pair.
Assos’s summer clothing is sound—even impressive, in some instances—but most readers will hesitate because of its pricing. Assos has never apologised for its pricing, and if they ever did, it would probably undermine the brand’s prestige.
One major point in Assos’s favour is that its clothing is very hard wearing. Another is the company’s devotion to innovation and refinement. In this regard, the T.cento_S7 is a fine example of how Assos strives and succeeds at improving upon the function of a garment.
Finally, it is worth noting that Assos designs every garment to serve a very precise purpose so there’s no point in browsing through the catalogue with an eye on price or fashion. Indeed, function trumps all, regardless of cost.