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While readers in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the onset of warmer weather, riders in the southern hemisphere must contend with falling temperatures. In both instances, there is a need for versatile layers of clothing. In this review, CTech editor Matt Wikstrom takes a look at some clothing from Assos that is designed to contend with autumn and spring conditions.
Living in the southern hemisphere, the change of seasons from warm to cold ushers in a new racing calendar as the professionals return to the road in Europe. While the weather may not be at its best, my engagement with the sport is at its peak, and I’m motivated to ride. A cool, still autumn day where the sun gently strokes the face invites a long day in the saddle like no other.
But even on those glorious days, there is still a need to dress for the cooler conditions. And the most versatile garments are the ones custom-built from multiple layers that can be peeled away as the day warms or an effort is made, then put back on as the weather changes or the body cools. For autumn and spring, there is a need for warmers and an undershirt, and perhaps a light jacket or gilet.
Assos believes strongly in the value of layering, and have organised their entire range into four different climate modules to demonstrate how their garments have been designed to work together. They ignore the calendar and convention to apply their own nomenclature: clothing in the shaSha module is designed for summertime temperatures (20-40°C); the tiburu module contends with typical autumn/spring conditions (12-22°C); haBu is devoted to early winter temperatures (6-14°C); and for truly cold weather (-4-8°C), Assos provides the bonKa module.
While the nomenclature will mystify most, these modules highlight the precision, focus and pragmatism of Assos’s design team. Every one of their garments is designed for a specific purpose and paying attention to how Assos assembles the clothing in each of its climate modules serves to illustrate the intentions of the designers. After all, there is no material or garment that is so versatile that it can serve a wide range of weather conditions.
In this review, I take a look at clothing from Assos’s tiburu module: a long-sleeve jersey (iJ.intermediate_s7), bibshorts (T.tiburuShorts_s7), a gilet (iG.falkenZahn), an undershirt (SS.skinFoilSpring/Fall_evo7), warmers (armWarmers_s7 and kneeWarmer_s7) and gloves (tiburuGlove_evo7), all courtesy of Assos’s Australian distributor, Echelon Sports.
Assos describes the iJ.intermediate_s7 as a summer jersey with long sleeves and extra protection for the front panels. Constructed from a new fabric that Assos calls airBlock stratagonUltra, the front panels are not only weather-resistant, they also have a flexible barrier function that varies according to the temperature within: while cool, the barrier is impermeable, trapping heat, but once the body warms up, the fabric becomes permeable and releases heat via evaporation.
Another new fabric called Type.vX121 is used for the side and back panels of the intermediate jersey (see the blue panels in the photos below). Developed for the SS.Uno_s7 summer jersey, Type.vX121 is distinguished by its rapid drying rate so that the fabric always feels light on the skin. Type.vX121 is also used for the underside of the long sleeves (see the blue panels in the photos below), while the upper panel (white sleeve panels in the photos below) is made from another new fabric that has a fleecy underside and offers some insulation for the arms. All of the materials are remarkably stretchy and designed to hug the body.
The intermediate jersey has a full-length zipper at the front and three pockets at the rear (with an zippered compartment for the centre pocket). The hem of the jersey is fitted with elastic strips and silicone dots to help keep the jersey in place. Elastic is also used for the cuffs of the sleeves.
Sizing for the intermediate jersey was equivalent to the Uno summer jersey, providing a close, race-oriented fit for the torso. The sleeves also provided a close fit and the length was a good match for my long arms, though the cuffs were a little loose around my wrists. Overall, I was immediately comfortable in the intermediate jersey and appreciated the quality of the fit.
This was my first experience with a long sleeve jersey because I’ve always preferred the extra versatility of combining arm warmers with a short sleeve jersey and an undershirt or gilet. However, I did appreciate the time I saved when dressing with the intermediate jersey.
On cold mornings, everybody wants to feel warm as they roll out from their driveway. The front panels of the intermediate jersey were immediately effective but the Type.vX121 fabric was too light and permeable. The cold air flooded in and poured down my back and arms, but it didn’t last long. That’s the folly of riding in the cold and this jersey was built in anticipation of the heat that can be generated.
Indeed, once I was sweating, the fabrics started working as promised, releasing heat when I was hot and holding onto it as my body cooled. The effect was never instantaneous, so there was always a moment when I noticed I was wanting, but my needs were always addressed.
Ultimately, the intermediate jersey proved to be just as versatile as the combination of a short sleeve jersey with warmers and a vest or undershirt. Better yet, there was no need to fuss with the sleeves or zipper to adjust the level of insulation.
The iJ.intermediate_s7 jersey is available in six sizes (S, M, L, XL, XLG, TIR) and one colour (black) with a recommended retail of $330.
The iG.falkenZahn does not strictly belong to Assos’s tiburu climate module: instead, Assos recommends it for year-round use. Whether it is a sudden early-morning shower in summer, a windy afternoon in autumn, or to fortify your winter jersey, the falkenZahn is designed to work as the final layer for any ensemble.
The falkenZahn is constructed from six different fabrics and 13 components. Assos’s RXQ fabric predominates, which is created from a three-dimensional cuboidal weave that reduces the volume of the material while creating air channels through the fabric for insulation and breathability. On the outside RXQ feels a lot like lycra, however the underside comprises a chequered pattern of fleece that is warm and soft to the touch.
The front panels of the vest are perhaps the most complex. The lower third is made from a single panel of stiff lycra, while the larger upper panel is RXQ (see the red panels in the photos below), fortified with an extra layer of lining. Interestingly, the front panels extend all the way around the sides of the torso to meet the back panel at the shoulder blades.
The rear panel of the vest is essentially a single panel of RXQ (see the red panels in the photos below) topped with a small section of the same stiff lycra found in the front panels. Assos utilises a patented design to stabilise the rear panel so that there is a minimum of vertical stretch to keep the trio of rear pockets in position, even when they are heavily loaded.
Elastic hems are added to the waist and arm openings so that the there is no risk of the vest flapping in the wind. Indeed, the falkenZahn is designed to provide a snug fit, hugging the body to immediately insulate it against the cold. There was one drawback though: the close fit made it more difficult to catch the insertion pin and get the zipper started while riding the bike.
I’ve come to value the gilet for its utility and versatility: light enough to wear just in case, but not so large that it can’t be stowed with ease. The falkenZahn does well to fulfil these criteria but it is bulkier than other designs. I managed to roll it up to fit into a jersey pocket, but it was a tight fit. It does offer plenty of insulation though, and while I wouldn’t rely on it to keep me warm in winter, it is well suited to spring and autumn.
The iG.falkenZahn gilet is available in six sizes (S, M, L, XL, XLG, TIR) and one colour (black) with a recommended retail of $300.
According to Assos, the motivation to make a heavier bibshort came from Freddy Maertens back in the ‘80s. The two-time world champion wanted a bibshort that could contend with tough autumn riding conditions in Belgium. Decades later, the initial design developed for Maertens has evolved into T.tiburuShorts_s7.
Assos developed a new variation of its RX fabric called 610.RX to serve T.tiburuShorts_s7. It resembles the RXQ fabric found in the company’s falkenZahn gilet (see above), however it is much heavier and the chequered fleece lining more generous. Assos also claims that 610.RX is water repellant.
610.RX is used almost exclusively to construct T.tiburuShorts_s7. The only departures are the back panel, which utilises a light mesh, and the codpiece, which is protected by Assos’s Stratagon windblock fabric as part of its “blasenSchutz” (bladder protection) technology. Assos promises that fortifying the front of the shorts with blasenSchutz reduces the urge to urinate in cold conditions.
The tiburu shorts use the same padding as T.equipe_s7 summer bibshorts, which is well suited to at least a few hours of riding. As a series 7 short, there is Assos’s unique “goldenGate” construction with “anatomical side flaps”, y-shaped elastic braces, and extra shaping for the codpiece however there is no “kuKuPenthouse”. The cuffs of the shorts are finished with a wide elastic band backed with silicone strips to ensure their hold on the legs.
The fleecy lining of 610.RX is immediately warm on the skin, so it was a small pleasure (or mercy) getting into these shorts on cold mornings. The fit was familiar, matching that of Assos’s other bibshorts, providing a firm hold on the leg muscles. The elastic straps felt a little tight while I was standing but disappeared once I was on the bike.
Out on the road, the tiburu shorts proved very resistant to the cold. My legs and buttocks revelled in the cosy comfort of the 610.RX fabric. And yes, Assos’s blasenShutz technology works as promised, at least in the sense that my waist and groin were well shielded from the cold (as for the urge to urinate, I’ve never suffered from the cold in that way). The padding was equally comfortable, and based on Assos’s reputation for hard wearing and durable fabrics, I expect these shorts will serve many cold mornings.
Assos says T.tiburuShorts_s7 is not a mainstream product, but as someone that rides all year round, I can see the value in these shorts. On their own, they are well suited to mild spring and autumn days, while knee or leg warmers can be added to contend with all but the coldest winter conditions experienced by riders living in coastal areas of Australia.
T.tiburu_s7 bibshorts are available in seven sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, XLG, TIR) and one colour (black) with a recommended retail of $330.
Assos offers a different skinFoil for each one of its climate modules, where the major difference is the weight of the material. Assos expects the rider to sweat in their undershirts and utilises the moisture to enhance the cooling or insulation of the garment. In this instance, the Spring/Fall undershirt is designed to wick moisture away from the skin, to reduce the risk of chill, and insulate the body.
There are two versions of the skinFoilSpring/Fall_evo7 undershirt: one has long sleeves (designated by the LS prefix), the other short sleeves (SS prefix). A low volume mesh was developed for this undershirt and it is woven into a tubular, seamless pattern. As such, the shirt fits closely with a measure of stretch to follow the shape of the body while offering a little compression.
I found this undershirt delivered on all of Assos’s promises, including a warm, cosy fit with plenty of insulation for mild autumn temperatures. As for sizing, the size I skinFoil was a perfect match for a medium Assos jersey. I found I could use the undershirt or the falkenZahn gilet interchangeably to fortify a summer-weight jersey on mild days or I could combine the two when early morning temperatures started in single figures.
The SS.skinFoilSpring/Fall_evo7 is available in four sizes (0, I, II, III corresponding to XXS/XS, S/M, L/XL, and XLG/TIR, respectively) and one colour (black) with a recommended retail price of $115.
armWarmers_s7 and kneeWarmer_s7
The s7 armWarmers and kneeWarmers are constructed from Assos’s RX and RXQ fabrics. I’ve already introduced RXQ above (see the falkenZahn gilet above), a relatively breathable fabric that offers a measure of insulation. By contrast, RX is much denser and better suited to blocking out the wind. Both fabrics are warm and soft to the touch thanks to the brushed finish of the inner surface, though the final finish is plusher and more generous for RXQ than RX.
Each of the armWarmers comprises two long panels that are shaped to suit the elbow. A panel of RX is used on the inside of the arm that catches most of the wind, while the outside is RXQ. In contrast, most of the kneeWarmer is made from RXQ with shaping to suit the knee. A single panel of RX is positioned behind the knee that extends to the lower hem.
A high proportion of elastane is used throughout (16% for the armWarmers, 18% for the legWarmers) so the warmers are easy to pull on and they grip the limbs well. A small length of elastic is added to the upper cuff of the armWarmers, while simple hems are used elsewhere.
In the past, I’ve had trouble finding arm warmers that offer a generous length while maintaining a slender width. The size I armWarmers_s7 were perfect though, reaching to my armpit while providing a firm hold on the entire length of my arm. Better yet, there was no unnecessary bunching of material over the elbows or behind the knees.
Both warmers were effective against the cool air until temperatures dropped below 10°C, while I normally abandoned them once the day warmed up to 20°C, especially when the sun was out. At any other time, they largely went unnoticed, and I might not have known they were there were it not for their warm insulation.
The armWarmers_s7 and kneeWarmer_s7 are available in three sizes (0, I, II corresponding to XS/S, M/L, and XL/XLG, respectively) and one colour (black) with a recommended retail price of $80 each.
The tiburuGlove_evo7 is designed to serve as a low weight shield against mild temperatures. Constructed from brushed lycra with a high proportion of elastane (15%), the gloves match the arm and knee warmers in offering a warm, cosy fit on cool mornings.
There is no padding in the glove—Assos suggests wearing their summerGloves_s7 over the top if padding is required—while large rubbery rings have been printed on the palm and fingers to afford some extra grip. And to help with touch screens, there are small contact patches on the tips of the thumb and index finger of each glove so there is no need to remove the gloves in order to operate a smartphone or GPS device.
The size medium was a comfortable fit for my hand and it worked well over the prescribed temperature range (12-22°C). The brushed lycra makes for an incredibly soft glove that is very easy to wear. However, I’d really like to see some padding added to this glove. Yes, another set of gloves over the top worked well but this glove would be close to perfect if it had padding for the palms, even if it added to the price.
The tiburuGlove_evo7 is available in six sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, XLG) and one colour (black) with a recommended retail price of $60.
Summary and Final Thoughts
At face value, it is easy to dismiss Assos’s clothing as overpriced when other brands are able to provide a large measure of the same fit and performance at a more affordable price. In practical terms, such differences in fit and performance aren’t so great as to ruin a ride, but they will influence the level of comfort, especially when conditions are more demanding.
I count the colder months of the year as demanding and that’s why I find it much easier to justify the expense of Assos’s autumn/spring clothing than their summer range. In this regard, the falkenZahn gilet and tiburu bibshorts stand out as garments that will continue to serve the owner long after the initial expense is forgotten.
During the course of this review, I encountered the kind of conditions that really helped my appreciation for the sophisticated function of Assos’s proprietary fabrics. The kind of days that started out cold and warmed quickly, yet temperatures were still cool in the shadows. This was where the adaptive behaviour of the intermediate jersey was able to shine. And that it was at its best while I was working on the bike emphasises an important point. This is not clothing for showoffs and short rides to the café; it is designed for hard work by dedicated riders.
Disclosure statement: Assos’s Australian distributor, Echelon Sports, is a CyclingTips advertiser and we thank them for supplying samples for us to review.