The Assos airJack 851 jacket shuts out chilling winds with strategically placed Airblock membrane on the collar, chest and arms. The high collar with snap closure, a full-length zipper with draft flap, and double-layer elastic cuffs enhance the airtight protection.
Weaknesses: armpit area and upper arms not well protected from wind.
I found the same weakness in the jacket as noted by some other riders above. In particular, arm pits and inside of upper arms are very unprotected from front winds when riding slightly more upright (on the hoods). I believe this is a design flaw that makes this jacket less than ideal under 40 degrees F. For rides of over two hours in those temps, this results in a cold chest area despite the airblock material on the chest itself. Only when deeply tucked does this jacket with its protected shoulder tops serve to shield the rider as the armpit area is then due to posture.
Strengths: Ability to handle temperature variation. Good for 5-15 Deg C. But could easily cope with 0 deg. C with variations of l/s baselayer. Looks good with Assos early winter gloves and airblock booties. Complete package works best.
Nicely manufactured, well cut on the body, quality zip, good waist band.
High collar, which converts to regular style collar when folded down.
Heaps of storage, Very comfortable, feels great on. Put it on when you know it's going to be a cold day. Can easily regulate temp by slightly opening zip. Your mates will envy you.
Weaknesses: The stupid press button to secure the collar is a design flaw. Velcro with a rip tab would have been the best solution. It cannot be easily secured while wearing full fingered gloves. May have been better to adapt a version of the Assos Element, vest's collar instead of current design. Material inside collar will pill with rough stubble.
Too expensive, but don't want to see it made in china either.
Don't use it when you know it's going to be wet.
Works best with a L/S base layer.
Tab at base of zip looks good, but is a bit annoying.
Review for the Assos 851 Airjacket.
Had purchased other Assos gear and was shopping for a quality garment that would handle a reasonably wide variation in temp. range, from cold morning starts at about 5 Deg. C, to about 15 Deg C. upon completion of a bunch ride 2 to 2.5 hrs later. I didn't want to lug a bulky jacket, then later try and stuff it into a jersey pocket. Needed to block wind effectively, be fashionably appealing, have good recognition to other road users, and generally be comfortable to wear. The Airjacket filled all these requirements
Strengths: Quality, fit, performance. Probably should switch to the Fujujack, but price always seems a bit rich. Need to find a used one.
Weaknesses: As always with Assos it's the price. I justify there cold weather apparel though because I ride outside sparingly in the winter, so their jackets will last me forever.
Great product. Fit is excellent, but needed to size up because it's very form fitting. I use this jacket down to 20 degrees, but need to use a winter base layer. Between 30-40 degrees I simply switch to a thinner base layer and I good for 1-2 hours on the bike.
Strengths: Superb fit. It really feels nice to don and ride. Stretchiness accommodates weight variation, so if you put on a little weight during the holidays, no problemo. Excellent build (Slovenia-sewn but with Swiss design and QC.)
Weaknesses: The 14 F /8 C temp range is very limited. If you layer up for lower-temp extension, you lose the value of the non-constricting airJack's design and materials, and start to get feel "bulky".
The airBlock panels, placed at the front, are great for windless/low wind days, but don't work in cool/cold-temp cross-winds. Here a full-body windblocking jacket, with pitzips is far more versatile.
If Assos wants to get you to buy a multi-set wardrobe, starting with the FuguJack at $695 for sub-32F, then switch to airJack, then switch to Element One, then ClimaJet for cool to warmish rain, that's fine. But practically speaking, other mfrs have one-jacket-works-for-many-more conditions, which give you more money to spend on other stuff.
A great jacket, albeit somewhat limited as to climate-variation versatility. Assos says it is designed for 32-46 F / 0-8 C, which depending on where you live, can make it not suitable for winter at all, but more like Oct-to-early Nov and latish-March thru April. If you are in Gulf-Coast or west-coast states, it should be fine for winter, except on very rainy days.
I got mine on a rare one-size-one-color-only overstock at ColoCyclist. For $223 no regrets. At $370, I don't think so.
For example my $230 Showers Pass Elite 2.0 is far more versatile for both far-below-freezing temps with windy but dry conditions to mildly cool rainy days. Much, much wider-condition-range performance than the airJack 851, and it's no-contest bang for buck even when equally priced.
I have other Assos stuff (shorts, tights, knickers) and it's great , but very high MSRPs relative to other high-quality garments, combined with Assos' management's close tracking of mfring to sales volumes, and infrequent product upgrades, result in few overstock/end-of-season closeouts at deep discounts. Which isn't wrong for Assos to do, but you can score some far better deals on stuff that's very, very good. For example, bibshorts and tights that are normally $230-260, are performance-and-comfort comparable to Assos,(especially with Assos- licensed EIT pads which are super-non-abrasive), then when they go on sale for $150-$170, that's a way better deal than Assos' $350-400 stuff, because you can get two goodies for less than one Assos garment. I say this as somebody who wears and loves Assos' fit and quality.
Similar Products Used: Castelli Transparante stretchy-Windstopper jersey.
Not really similar: full-coverage Windstopper, GTX, eVent, Polartec, garment-brand-specific laminates (most of which seem to be versions of Gore's expired-patent ePTFE) and water-wind-repellant open-weave fiber-coated fabrics.
Brands worn: Assos, Bellwether, Castelli, Craft, DeMarchi, GBW, Pearl izumi,REI, Santini and Showers Pass bike stuff, plus alpine sports garments for cold weather from Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia, Swix, and The Northface.
Bike Setup: Cervelo RS, SRAM Red. Really comfy bike for doing 300 mi/week including a lot of chipseal and badly-maintained asphalt. Not the fastest bike, but not a slug.
Old hard-tail Stumpy, Shimano XT, customized for winter snow and ice.
Strengths: Material quality, fit, perfect collar, great pockets, great understated styling, windproof and breathable, pit zips, offset front zipper, exclusivity (this is key to bolstering ego and making people ooh and aah at you at work or at the park with the kids)
Weaknesses: needs a chest pocket, consider adding a little insulation for added warmth, expensive (love the tax cuts George)
This is a detailed review for the much touted Rapha soft shell. STOP reading if you are 1. Not extremely picky about your cycling clothing; 2. Do not have great difficulty finding cycling jackets that fit you; 3. Not willing to spend lots of money on quality clothing; 4. Do not have a wonderful wife who allows you to spend part of your tax return on "anything you want."
With that out of the way, this is the finest piece of cycling clothing I have ever worn. I am a slight 5'5", 125 lbs and have GREAT DIFFICULTY finding the perfect fit. With 300 dollars to spend on a new cycling jacket, I had lots of choices: Assos (can't say the name in front of the kids), Castelli (do not wish to look like a motocross rider), Giordana (too flashy), and umpteen others. After doing some research, I chose the Rapha because it 1. Was very likely to fit my body shape (it does perfectly); 2. It is understated and lacks words like "radiation" and "rosso corsa" and "Assoshole"; 3. Uses a very good synthetic known to be breathable and stretchy (Hytrel); 4. Has good pockets (needs a chest pocket though; 5. Has thumb loops (don't knock it till you've tried it, you'll never go back); 6. Has an offset zipper (same as 5.)
The Rapha has supreme build quality, a perfect fit, very supple soft shell material, and very nice styling. I hate fashion hype and blah, blah, blah. But, all the hype about wearing the Rapha soft shell off the bike is true. It actually is quite practical in the end. I routinely ride then go straight to work or meetings. I slip a pair of pants over my tights and leave the Rapha on...bam, presentable. Hair gets washed and dried in the sink, but that's another matter.
But, what really matters is performance. The jacket fits perfectly on the bicycle, is completely windproof, reasonably breathable, and has two critical strong points: 1. A PERFECT collar fit with soft fleece lining; 2. Nice long arms with thumb loops. These two features make the jacket for me. It is very hard to find the perfect collar for me, and the Rapha fits perfectly. I hate when arms are not long enough when extended in the cycling position. The thumb loops are comfortable and functional.
The rear pockets are huge and well positioned. Rapha needs to sew in an internal or external chest pocket though. Just do it and move on. 86 the little pocket at the waist, although this does fit keys and change perfectly.
The Rapha is not insulated. This means layers are required in extreme cold, something I ride in routinely. But it extends the range of use to higher temps. With an insulating layer, I am comfy down to the teens Fahrenheit. It is completely windproof! Don't you hate when expensive cycling jackets mix and match materials to provide "venting" and moisture management?! This is best achieved using great materials, proper fit, and pit zips. The latter are barely visible in the Rapha but they are there if you need them. I love pit zips.
I have not used the drop down butt cover.
Lastly, the bite guard. Pure hype Rapha! Since the collar fits so perfectly, I can't reach it with my teeth. It is not necessary anyway, since the zipper slides easily without counterpull.