19 December 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: Castelli Teseo windbreaker

The more I ride in traffic, the more I pay attention to visibility. Sounds pretty basic, but it really snuck up on me. When I noticed myself wearing my 14 year-old black Pearl Izumi Zephyrr windbreaker to work on cool fall mornings (and home on colder days), I decided to return it to it's home in the bottom of my mountain bike pack and look for something more appropriate. When did cycling windbreakers get so expensive? Sure it's been 14 years or so, but still... Between inflation, the weak dollar, and improved fabrics, though, $40 can easily become $70. Oh well, still cheaper than golf or motorcycles...

So: something light, breathable and visible. Almost everyone makes a windbreaker. I ruled out flouro greens and yellows because I actually wanted to wear it, which left white, preferably with a fair bit of reflectivity built in. I looked at a number from Descente, Pearl Izumi and others, but kept coming back to the Castelli Teseo. Part of it was the name, but the fact that it was $10 less than the comparable white Pearl Izumi Optik and fit suitably slim and long sealed the deal.

I could tell that it was light in the store.
On the road, though, it was even more impressive. The fact that two or three can fit in a standard jersey pocket means that there is not excuse not to have it along. Reflective 'accents' cover the shoulder and sleeve seams and are very visible from a standard road tuck, even with a pack on. Light rain beads up on the surface, and it seems to breathe reasonably well while keeping wind out. Combined with a long-sleeved base layer, it handles the wind-resistant part of keeping warm down to about 45 degrees. The large fits my 6' tall (but slim) frame and orangutan arms well. The only disappointment is the collar, which could accommodate a powerlifter's neck. This keeps it from feeling properly buttoned-up, and is the biggest disappointment. If it didn't funnel cold air past my adam's apple down my chest, it would be perfect, and just that little bit warmer.

At dawn and twilight, the white fabric almost glows- it's pretty impressive. The translucency gives it a bit of a 'pro' look, allowing your favorite jersey to show through, almost like a watermark. I did feel a bit invisible during a freak snow squall, but how often does that happen? All in all, a nicely made (in South Korea, not Italy), highly visible take-along jacket. If only the collar was a bit smaller...



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