Castelli is very well known in cycling for making some of the very best winter cycling jackets available. For more than a decade, the Italian brand has been at the forefront of winter cycling apparel innovation and today the brand can be found at club rides, sportives and races all around the world, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
We’ve all heard the stories about pro riders wearing Castelli Gabba jackets with the logos coloured in using a permanent marker to try and sneak it past their sponsors, and in an era when the only weatherproofing available was either ‘more layers’ or a rain cape that also resembled a parachute, the practice was so common in fact that Castelli began shipping the Gabba with a Sharpie.
The Gabba earned Castelli a reputation, it was the first softshell jacket that was fitted like a race jersey, kept the rain out, kept the heat in and breathed. The Gabba was revolutionary. Many brands have copied it since, but millions still seek out the Castelli name when winter calls.
However, over recent years, Castelli has massively expanded its range, introduced new technologies, and shuffled its naming structure such that if you were to buy the Gabba today for your winter rides, you may be very disappointed (it’s only available in a short sleeve).
That all means that there is a frankly ridiculous number of options within the latest Castelli winter range. Even for the once-initiated, choosing a Castelli jacket today can require a steep learning curve, and that’s where we come in.
Within the 2021/2022 Castelli winter range, there are more than 20 different jackets available. Some are designed for light rain, others for biblical downpours; some are for a slight chill, others for all-day epics in sub-freezing conditions; and some are immensely expensive, while others are comparatively affordable. Get the wrong one and your winter is likely to be unpleasant, get it right and you’re in for many happy miles on two wheels.
Castelli technologies and terminologies explained
- Gore-Tex Infinium: Created by Gore, Gore-Tex Infinium is completely windproof and highly water-resistant.
- Thermoflex: Castelli’s warm and stretchy fabric with a fleecy inner face
- Nano Flex: Castelli’s Thermoflex fabric, coated with “millions of tiny nanofilaments” to result in a waterproof outer face. Similar to a typical durable water repellant coating.
- Nano Flex Xtra Dry: Similar to Nano Flex but an advanced iteration with an even tighter weave for added waterproofing
- ShakeDry: Another technology created by Gore, which takes the typical construction of waterproof clothing and removes the outer layer, exposing the waterproof membrane to create a lightweight, highly packable, incredibly waterproof material.
- Polartec Alpha: Designed by Polartec for the US Special Forces, Alpha is a really thin, yet highly insulating material. To the touch, it’s furry and fleecy, but it’s thin enough that you can see through it, and therefore moisture is easily wicked away. It’s typically paired with more water-resistant materials as the soft, insulating inner face.
- Polartec NeoShell: Neoshell is Polartec’s waterproof fabric, but it’s designed with a keen eye on breathability to allow heat and moisture to escape during intense efforts. It’s constructed with three layers: a durable and water-resistant outer layer; a soft brushed inner face; and the Neoshell membrane in the middle.
- Rosso Corsa: A label Castelli gives to all of its top-tier clothing: “Every thread and fibre, every curve and contour is obsessed about.”
- Alpha: Castelli’s name for its two-layer construction. It comprises a single jacket, which is made with a sewn-in inner fleece across the chest for added warmth.
- RoS: Stands for Rain or Shine and is a term given to Castelli’s winter-weather jackets that can be worn all day
Castelli winter jacket run-down
In the selection below, we’ve run through some of the key jackets from within Castelli’s range, detailed the price, the ideal temperature range, and highlighted whether or not they are deemed water- and windproof.
We’ve then provided a brief description to explain where it fits into the range and what sort of riding it’s best suited to.
A top-tier deep-winter warmer that’s fully windproof, breathable and highly water-resistant, and its Alpha name represents its construction of two layers across the chest, with a GoreTex Infinium Windstopper outer and a fleecy inner. It comes with a pretty high retail price, but it’s not uncommon to find it with a bit of a discount.
There’s no denying this is a heavyweight jacket, but it’s genuinely brilliant at keeping you warm and comfortable on days where the temperatures are below freezing and the ride duration is long.
As the name suggests, this is a lighter version of the Alpha RoS 2. Still with a dual-layer across the chest, but with a lighter and faster-wicking material for the inner layer, as well as single-layer cuffs and an uncovered zipper to keep the cost down. It’s not as warm, but it’s more suited to the conditions that most of us will actually ride in.
What we mean by that is, when the temperatures hit freezing, many of us will avoid the icy risks in the outside world in favour of a ride indoors. Therefore, many of the temperatures catered to by the Alpha RoS 2 (the heavyweight) aren’t numbers we’ll actually encounter all that often. With a decent base layer, the Alpha RoS 2 can actually handle temperatures down to freezing without issue, making it the more versatile choice.
A few years ago, the Gabba was available as a long-sleeve jacket, and the Perfetto was a short-sleeve. Then things changed, the Perfetto – which translates to ‘perfect’ (Italian confidence at its best) – and the Gabba sort of switched places. What that meant is the Gabba became short-sleeves only (hence what we said earlier about being disappointed) and the Perfetto became the long sleeve jacket. Nowadays, both are given the ‘RoS’ suffix, detailing they can be ridden in ‘Rain or Shine’.
Nowadays, you can get the Perfetto RoS Long Sleeve, the Perfetto RoS Convertible (which converts from short to long via zip-off sleeves), and the Perfetto RoS Light, which is short-sleeves only.
In our experience, the Perfetto Long Sleeve features a jersey-like cut in Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper material, and it has a little less stretch than the older Perfetto or Gabba jerseys, so we recommend going up a size, unless you like a super-race-style cut. It also benefits from taped seams across the shoulders, two fat-glove-friendly rear pockets instead of three, two zippered ventilation slits down each side, and is great at keeping you warm and dry on long days on the road bike.
As mentioned above in the description of the Perfetto, the Gabba RoS is now short-sleeves only, and Castelli says that it is designed to be used with arm warmers. Of course, Castelli would prefer you use its own NanoFlex 3G warmers but you can choose whichever you want, and that’s good for the versatility of this jacket-jersey amalgamation.
It’s nearly identical to the Perfetto. The only differences are the sleeves, and the omission of the ventilation zippers down the sides.
With a Polartec Alpha fleece inner face, the Ulimited Puffy jacket is Castelli’s answer to cold rides where speed isn’t all that important, but distance is. Its ‘Puffy’ name is due to the fit and structure of the jacket; it’s not a race-cut, it’s not aero-at-all-costs, it’s comfortable, puffy, and slightly looser in fit.
It still benefits from a DWR coating to keep the rain at bay, but it will quickly wet out in a downpour. It gets two large pockets at the back, and zippered pockets on the chest as well as a third on the rear. Bear in mind there’s no dropped tail though, so we’d pair it with a small fender beneath the saddle.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where winter just doesn’t really bite, then the Perfetto or the Alpha jackets are probably overkill. For you, the Beta RoS is likely the better choice.
It benefits from a similar race-ready cut, but using the thinner Polartec NeoShell material with NanoFlex Light at the back. Don’t get us wrong, they’re still premium materials, but they’ll breathe better when the temperatures rise. Given the material has a little more stretch, you can probably get away with not sizing up, unlike the Perfetto RoS, if you’re between sizes. You also get three rear pockets and a reflective band across the back.
Commuting isn’t the sort of area that Castelli is famed for, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do a stellar job, and the Commuter Reflex is a good, albeit expensive option for commuting Castelli fans.
It’s basically a thin hardshell type jacket that offers exceptional wind- and water resistance, but in a nice relaxed fit that works just as well as a casual piece. Dotted – literally – all around the design is a collection of subtle reflective dots that light up like a Christmas tree (too soon?). There are a couple of added novelties too. A ‘gaitor’ at the waist allows you to essentially close it tight against your body to keep the wind out, and a velcro cuff allows you to do the same at the wrists.
It’s not very insulating, so it’s not going to see you through an Arctic storm, but it’ll keep the conditions on the correct side (the outside) of the jacket, with an okay level of breathability to stop you boiling on the inside.
For those of us who use the weather forecast not to check whether to ride, but to check what to wear, the Gavia is the ultimate in wardrobe companions.
It’s basically a hardshell jacket with impenetrable waterproofing, designed with a race fit but with a bit of added room for movement. It gets stretch panels under the armpits and at the cuffs, a tall neck, two large pockets with storm flaps over the top, and a long extended tail for maximum coverage. It’s one of the best waterproof cycling jackets out there, but it’s not one that’s designed for taking off and stuffing into your pocket mid-ride (for that you have the Idro). Don’t get us wrong, it packs up small enough to fit into a jacket pocket (just about) but it’s designed to be worn all day, door to door, on days when you know the rain won’t relent.
The Idro is Castelli’s answer to the Shakedry crowd of waterproof cycling jackets. Shakedry, as explained above in our glossary of terms, is a single-layer membrane
Gore-Tex is usually composed of a face fabric with a membrane layer underneath that acts as the barrier to rain. To create Shakedry, Gore basically removed that face fabric and created a jacket out of the membrane itself. It means water beads up and rolls off immediately, and it also means the jacket is much smaller, so it can pack up to roughly the size of a cricket ball.
It does also mean it’s not very stretchy and it’s very fragile. It’s not ideal for sending it through the undergrowth on your gravel bike, but it’s brilliant for road cyclists whose upper bodies are largely still for the duration of the ride.
For this season, Castelli is onto the third iteration of the Idro, and with it, we get two choices. The Idro Pro 3, and the Idro 3. As you can imagine, the Pro is the more expensive of the two, and it gets a few extra features such as stretchy panels down the sides and under the arms, a longer drop to the tail and a slightly racier fit.
The Aria Shell is a modern lightweight windproof shell built with impressive breathability, and unlike many windshells, it doesn’t balloon into a parachute when the wind blows. It comprises a fully wind-blocking front panel with stretchy mesh side panels that allow heat to escape whilst also creating a race-ready cut.
There’s only one pocket. It’s situated on the inner left hand side, and it’s that very pocket that the jacket folds into when time comes to pack it away.
So which Castelli jacket is right for you?
In the list above, we’ve highlighted what we think are the key jackets in the Castelli range, and given our insight into the conditions that they are most suited to. Hopefully by this point you’ve learned a fair bit about each one and already come to a conclusion of which Castelli jacket is the one that meets your needs the most, but what if you haven’t?
For example, most of us are going to buy one winter jacket, rather than two or three. With that, we need to make some trade-offs. But how do you discern whether to go for a deep-winter jacket that will probably leave you slightly too warm on the mild days, or a more all-rounder jacket that may leave you chilly when the mercury really drops? Do you opt for one with removable sleeves, or does your winter never equal short sleeves? Likewise, how do you know what size to get?
All valid questions, and sadly none have an easy answer.
The best way to discern which Castelli jacket – or any jacket for that matter – is right for you, is to consider your needs. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to get swept away by the marketing and buy something unsuitable. Ask yourself: what is it going to be used for, and in what conditions?
Do you tend to ride indoors when the roads turn icy? If so, why bother getting a jacket designed for sub-zero temps? Does your winter riding tend to be a deluge of rain? If so, consider a hardshell for the added rain protection. Are you riding off-road and likely to get snagged by trees or bushes? If so, avoid the Idro range as it’s fragile and could tear. The Alpha RoS range is great for those who want an extra layer of warmth, but the Perfetto is a fantastic jacket for winter weather too, especially if you’re pushing the tempo and you want something that wicks away the sweat whilst protecting you from the elements. Likewise the Gabba RoS, but of course, that’s a short-sleeve so it’s better suited to warmer winters.
Finally, if you’re between sizes and you’re unsure on how the Castelli jacket will fit, we’d recommend sizing up as the Italian brand is known for running small. That is, of course, unless you want a really race-ready fit.