If you’ve been following my articles over the years I’ve been writing for Cycle Tech Review, you might have started to get the feeling that I spend a lot of time really analysing, and second guessing, the choices I make before embarking on a ride. For better, or worse, I am someone who is never quite settled in what the best solution for a particular problem is. It means I’m always trying something new and discussing it here, but it also means that the quick to change conditions of fall and spring are really challenging for me.
When faced with the possibility of a ride covering a large temperature range, sun, clouds, and rain all with only the clothes I can carry on a race bike, I can spend a whole lot of time second guessing myself. With this in mind, I was able to take a look at the Castelli Perfetto Light 2 Short Sleeve Jersey, Castelli Nanoflex bib shorts, Castelli Nanoflex arm and knee warmers, as well as the Adidas Zonyk Aero Pro glasses. This is a group of products that are perfect for alleviating the stress of the range of conditions encountered in the fall and spring.
The Adidas Zonyk Aero Pro glasses are actually a follow up product to the closely named Zonyk Pro glasses that I wrote about previously and are basically the same but better. It’s one of my great joys when I get to write about the next version of a product I loved the first time around, only to find that it’s gotten even better.
The Adidas Vario mirrored lenses that are available for both the Zonyk Aero, and standard Zonyk, are the only mirrored photochromic lenses that I am aware of. I like the look of mirrored lenses, but when light is changing rapidly, the last thing you want to deal with is having the wrong lenses. Most companies handle this by offering lenses that can easily be swapped depending on conditions. Sometimes they come in the package, and sometimes they need to be purchased separately, but in either case, it requires making a decision before starting your ride about what conditions are going to be most prevalent.
In the summer, and winter, this is typically pretty easy, but in the fall and spring, the lighting conditions can shift pretty significantly on a long ride. Overall, the design of the Zonyk pro Aero is not significantly different from the Zonyk Pro, however, by eliminating the bottom of the frame, the updated glasses are less likely to come into contact with your cheek, provide a less restricted view, and are three grams lighter. By continuing to offer the mirrored vario lenses on the improved design of the Zonyk Pro Aero, Adidas has continued to offer what I consider to be the best option for changing conditions.
When it comes to clothing, I’ve covered pure winter clothing in the past, and even discussed lined bibshorts from Rapha, but I haven’t covered transitional gear, and I haven’t covered what Castelli offers. There are a couple of things that might seem odd in this group of solutions. The lined bibshorts as well as the knee warmers are both items that many people find to be an odd solution. Lined bibshorts are especially counterintuitive because it’s an inherent contradiction to have something that’s still a short but is also fleece lined and warm.
In the case of the Castelli Nano Flex 2 bibshort what they’ve done is used a durable water repellent coating combined with a thicker fabric and fleece lining. It’s a solution that means in dry weather it breathes without issue. You’ll never find yourself feeling swamped on the inside because of sweat buildup, but in light rain, your core will stay just a little bit drier. As the rain gets heavy, it will eventually come through, but the fleece lining will continue to provide warmth.
You can find a similar design in the Castelli Nano Flex 2 bibtight, but if you choose the bibshorts, it’ll allow layers, so that you can respond to a temperature change mid ride. Really the best way to look at Nano Flex 2 bibshort is as just one piece in a system. Another important part of the system is the Castelli Nano Flex+ Knee Warmer. As with the bibshorts, it seems on the surface, to be an odd solution, but really what happens is that when paired with the slightly longer Nano Flex 2 bibshort and modern, tall, cycling socks, you end up covering your entire leg in a way that can quickly be adjusted during the ride.
The Castelli Nano Flex+ Knee Warmers will fit over cycling shoes and cleats and feel almost identical, against your skin, as the Nano Flex 2 bibshorts. Really the biggest problem people run into with knee and leg warmers is that they don’t always stay up and can, sometimes, cause chaffing. After riding hundreds of miles in these, I can say without question that the double sided silicone grippers Castelli uses mean the Nano Flex+ Knee warmers don’t fall down. Also the use of Nano Light fabric on the back of the knee allows the Nano Flex+ Knee warmers to comfortably bend without chafing.
Moving up the body, I looked at the Nano Flex+ Arm Warmers and the Perfetto Light 2 jersey. Castelli really pioneered the whole category of a jersey designed for the rain with the Gabba, but the Perfetto Light 2 is a slight variation and is about 50 grams lighter. On the front, you’ll find Windstopper fabric that does a really great job of allowing your core to retain heat. Then in the rear of the jersey, there is more of the Nano Light Pro fabric, so that you can shed excess heat but stay drier in light rain.
In terms of fit, I find the Perfetto Light 2 jersey to be a little bit roomier than a summer jersey and with a much higher neckline than you’ll find on modern aero jerseys. It’s also astonishingly warm for what it is and the outstanding zipper is definitely something I use to regulate temperature when the weather really jumps up mid-ride. It’s just one piece of the system, though, and the other upper body items that really compliment it well are the Nano Flex+ arm warmers.
I think most people are pretty familiar with arm warmers, but what’s important to note about the Nano Flex+ is that they are definitely on the warmer end of the available options. I have some lightweight merino warmers I use when it’s just a little bit chilly and these are not like that. Like the Nano Flex+ knee warmers, the Nano Flex+ arm warmers are fleece lined and use the Nano Flex fabric on the outside. They will shed light rain, they stay warm even if they are wet, and although they do a good job breathing, they will keep you about as warm as you’ll find possible from a warmer. Also, just like the knee warmers, what they won’t do is fall down or cause chafing.
Really there’s only so much describing I can do. I think a better story to tell is just how much I’ve used these items and how well they’ve performed. The Adidas Zonyk Pro Aero glasses are something I’ve ridden thousands of miles in. They are unique on the market in that they are both photochromic and mirrored, and the pro version is also unique in offering a sweat bar at the top that does a great job of keeping sweat out of your eyes. They adjust quickly and provide an exceptional solution in quickly changing conditions. The zonyk aero pro is available for an MSRP starting at $209.
The Castelli Flex 2 bibshort (MSRP $99), Nano Flex+ arm (MSRP $49.99) and Knee warmers (MSRP $49.99), and the Perfetto 2 Light jersey (MSRP $149) I have not ridden as many miles in, but I trusted them on the longest single ride I’ve ever done, and they performed perfectly. In the early fall, I rode 210 miles in around 12 hours on a day where it started out with light rain, before sunrise, and gradually got warmer all day with periods of sunshine when it was pretty warm and cloud cover when it was colder. I had planned to wear a summer cycling kit, but I watched the weather shifting as the day got closer, and I decided to instead wear the Castelli transitional system. In all that time, I never overheated, I never had any chafing issues, and in the cold and wet before dawn, I was warm enough. I don’t think there’s any greater compliment I could really give than to say that in those conditions, I was happy to have the Castelli gear.