The Summer Solstice has passed and though we have begun that slow, inexorable drift towards autumn, it feels that summer has yet to fully release itself from the clutches of spring.
The majority of my rides over the last few weeks have been in warmer temperatures, but often accompanied by feeble drizzle or, on some occasions, the distant rumbling of thunder. Traditionally on days like these, it's wise to stash away a gilet at the very least, though the more pessimistic will stuff a lightweight waterproof in their rear pocket.
The Italian brand, Castelli, however, have built on the success of their all-conquering Gabba jersey and spotted a niche in the market. Their Perfetto Light Short Sleeve Jersey was launched at Eurobike, the world’s leading cycle industry trade fair, last September and received a considerable amount of press at the time. ‘Perfetto’ is Italian for ‘perfect’ and though the name does not give much away about the nature of the jersey, the Perfetto is essentially a lightweight version of the Gabba.
Whereas the Gabba is principally aimed at spring/autumn weather conditions, perfect for riding in colder, wet conditions, the Perfetto provides similar protection from the wet and damp in milder temperatures. Castelli advise wearing the jersey between 10°C and 20°C, so ideal for those warmer spring/autumn rides, but equally relevant for cooler summer days and, as those of us in northern Europe know only too well, that is always an eventuality we may have to contend with!
The key difference between the two jerseys is the fabrics: the Perfetto utilises two types of fabric (more on them later) which are lightweight and more breathable than those of the Gabba, ensuring you have protection from the elements, without the danger of over-heating.
Just as the Gabba was conceived out a specific request from the professional peloton, the Perfetto has a similar race orientated cut. Like its older sibling, it's a very unforgiving jersey, with a tight, constrictive cut that hugs your torso and arms, though the stretchier back panel does provide a little leeway. It’s a great looking jersey – a minimalist design with that distinctive scorpion logo and the Rosso Corsa label (Castelli’s premium racing collection) and red accents on the collar and rear pockets. It’s one of those cycling garments that just makes you want to get out and ride as soon as you pull it on, such is the ergonomic, aero feel.
Cam you spot the difference?: the similarity between the Gabba (left) and the Perfetto is striking.
The Perfetto comes in several colours, including Red, Fluro Yellow, Sprint Green, Drive Blue, but in the black version, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the Perfetto and the Gabba, save for their respective names stamped on the right-hand side panel. Incidentally, the first time I rocked up to a ride wearing the Perfetto, with the threat of rain a distinct possibility, one of my fellow riders commented that it I’d made ‘a good call to wear my Gabba’! He was right as the rain duly came, but on this occasion it was my Gabba-Lite that kept me dry and comfortable.
I’ve been wearing this jersey a lot recently, in temperatures ranging from around the lowest figures suggested by Caselli (10°C) to more humid, 20°C+ conditions, but always when wet weather is expected. All rides have been ridden at a good pace and as the test period coincided with some pretty intensive team time trial training, the riding has been high tempo and sustained, so I’ve had ample opportunity to really assess the benefits, qualities and limitations of the Perfetto.
The success or failure of the Perfetto was always going to hinge on the combination and juxtaposition of fabrics. As with the Gabba, Castelli have once again hooked up with with the fabric specialist, Gore, incorporating the latter’s Windstopper 150 fabric in the more exposed, vulnerable areas of the jersey, namely the shoulders, front panels and the bum flap. (The Gabba 2 uses the heavier Windstopper X-Lite Plus pretty much throughout – a far denser, more robust defence against the cold and wet).
To further keep the weight of the Perfetto down, whilst also ensuring optimum breathability, the rear of the jersey and the underside of the arms utilises Nano Light fabric, which is noticeably stretchier than the Windstopper 150 fabric used on the front, and provides a comfortable feel when crouched on the hoods or drops. (Incidentally, the same Nano Light fabric is a slightly thinner version of the Nano Flex fabric that Castelli use for their range of lightweight, water resistant arm and leg warmers).
Unlike the black incarnation of the Perfetto, the colour versions of define the two different fabrics used in the construction. The green fabric is the Windstopper 150 fabric and the black fabic is the Nano Light.
My experiences suggest the aeration of the Nano Light fabric must be good too as I’ve yet to feel overheated or uncomfortable in the Perfetto, even when riding at a high tempo. It’s a great combination of fabrics – lightweight weather resistance in the more vulnerable areas, combined with a softshell, more breathable fabric in the rear panels and under the arms. Even in humid weather, around the 20°C mark, I have not overheated, but in those conditions you are definitely taking the Perfetto to its limit. Any hotter and I can imagine the jersey is going to be uncomfortable as the ventilation offered by the fabrics will struggle to cope with body heat and sweat.
Lightweight the Perfetto might be, but it retains all the characteristics that make the Gabba such a great jersey: the high neckline (far higher than usual for a summer orientated jersey), longer arm length to provide protection, a robust zip, the bum flap to stop road spray penetrating your shorts, plenty of reflective detailing and three roomy rear pockets with a red gauze base to aid the draining away of water.
A note on the pockets though: yes, they are a good size, but the inherent stretchiness of the Nano Light fabric makes it difficult to quickly stuff your accoutrements into them. Conversely, accessing the pockets is hindered too and is especially difficult when riding at a higher tempo. Fortunately they are very stretchy so one has to be a little more aggressive putting things into them, but one has to be careful when taking things out, as there is a danger that one will inadvertently dislodge some of the other contents.
When you first pull on the Perfetto, it does have a constrictive feel, but this disappears when one is in a riding position, bent over the top tube. The size Medium on my 39” chest fits like a glove and there is no bunching or sagging of material – all the better for ensuring that water can easily run-off. And run-off it does – even in quite persistent rain, the droplets simply bead together and roll away.
Caught in a brief or light summer shower and the moisture is flicked away with disdain by the Perfetto. It’s also worth pointing out that this is a versatile jersey. It doesn’t have to be raining to wear it. The Windstopper 150 fabric is a perfect foil for chillier winds and paired with a good baselayer, it’s going to provide a level of warmth and protection on colder days, when it is a touch too warm for a Gabba or a long sleeve jersey.
The rear of the Perfetto (right) has the same flap first seen on the Gabba (left) that can be brought down over the buttocks to protect against spray. The same reassuringly bold and robust reflective strip are another great feature.
There was however, one occasion – a particularly violent sudden downpour – when the Perfetto’s defences were quickly, catastrophically overrun! But such was the ferocity of the storm, a Gabba, or even a fully waterproof winter jacket for that matter, would have struggled to deflect the torrent. Fortunately, being a humid night, I was soaked, but never chilled, which I partly attribute to the Windstopper fabric on the front panels – it provides just enough protection from the wind to negate any wind chill, even when saturated.
The Perfetto is aimed at a very specific set of weather conditions and suggests that manufacturers – the leading ones at least – are expanding their range to accommodate a very specific type of riding in very specific climatic conditions. There is still a place for gilets and storable waterproofs, but the Perfetto will appeal to those who want to dispense with the hassle and inconvenience of having to stop and put on/take off an outer layer. Just like the Gabba before it, I envisage that the racers out there or those riding at a high tempo for sustained periods, like club rides or sportives, will quickly recognise the advantages of a niche jersey like the Perfetto.
Constant use had required innumerable washes (probably about 7-8 so far) and I have seen no deterioration in the water repellent properties, nor the fabric or stitching. That’s a huge plus point too, but like the Gabba, a DWR treatment should restore the Perfetto to its original state when its water resistance shows signs of diminishing. The Nano Light fabric (like Nano Flex used in their warmers) can be re-treated by using a steam iron on a low temperature).
I admit I was a little sceptical about the reasons provided by Castelli for their development of a Perfetto when it was first unveiled at Eurobike in September 2015 and whether there was really a viable market for a jersey that you may only use on a handful of rides each year. What has been a revelation is just how versatile this jersey is – it accommodates more riding conditions than I anticipated and more temperature fluctuations too.
It’s always good to know that you have the right kit at hand for the ride in store and having worn the Perfetto on innumerable occasions in exactly the climatic conditions for which it was conceived, I would encourage you to make some room for this jersey in your cycling wardrobe. It’s hard to fault and coming in a little lighter in price that the Gabba, you’ll get some good mileage for your money.
The Castelli Perfetto Light jersey costs £125 and is available in six sizes (S-XXXL) and five colours (Black, Red, Fluro Yellow, Sprint Green, and Drive Blue). It can be purchased in all good Castelli stockists and online, via the likes of Wiggle, Chain Reaction and Evans Cycles . Visit Castelli Café and the Castelli website, for more information on the Perfetto, the Gabba and their full range of cycling products for both male and female riders. You can also check out our Rain Jersey Rumble – a comprehensive and illuminating head to head between the Castelli Gabba and the Rapha Shadow Jersey.
Review by Dave Nash/©Wheelsuckers.cc
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