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Cafe Fashions: Castelli CX Jacket for Short or Long Haul

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A warm layer designed for pre-race but with more to offer

Castelli Cross Prerace Jacket

If only someone made a jacket for the six months of the year when it’s 45 degrees out and I need to either get or stay warm...

What Is It? The Cross Prerace Jacket, by Castelli

Linkage: Via the Castelli Website. Retail cost $199.

What’s Special About It? Light, warm, versatile.

Downsides? Defo not cheap.

Verdict: Using it all winter justifies the price

Do you need a cyclocross warmup jacket? If you are a top competitor, you need something to keep you toasty and primed for the opening gun hole-shot acceleration, because there is no easing into your pace in ‘Cross. Into that void steps Castelli, making a cool-weather jacket for high-intensity action, or the preparation for it anyway, with its Cyclocross Prerace Jacket, a toasty stuffed-shell coat aimed at warming your core and functioning like a real on-bike piece of clothing.

The Prerace Jacket is actually a versatile winter layer, smartly designed to handle high intensity without overheating your body, and cut to accommodate any style of riding. The core is padded like my favorite down vest, filled with PrimaLoft insulation — an alternative to down found in items from mountaineering layers to bed pillows. But that only goes for the chest, upper back and upper arms; the shoulders, side panels and lower back are Nano Flex fleece material that lets excess heat escape for when you’re taking your race warmup to its peak.

Hey, it matches my beard!

I’ve ridden in this jacket before ‘Cross races, and I can vouch for that effect as much as I can, given the limitations of my (sort of lame) pre-race routine. More to the point, I’ve also trained in the woods and on the road with this coat as the temps in Seattle have dropped down into our six-month 45-degree winter gloom. I’ve worn this thing for 8-10 hours, and never detected any sense that I was too hot or too cold. Obviously what you gain from it depends on what you wear underneath, and the idea is that if you are racing light then you need enough warmth from this coat to take you from the chilly parking lot to the start line. It for sure works for that, and my only criticism is that it’s maybe too nice a coat to peel off at the start line and throw it on the ground, like I would with an old rain shell. Make time to stash it in the car or with a friend.

[My only other criticism is that the sizing runs very small, so check the size chart before buying. You probably new that from the “it’s Italian” thing.]

But it also costs $199, and unless you are in the upper echelons of the CX world I think it’s important for consumers to have other uses for it besides 20 minutes before a race. And that’s where I can recommend the Prerace Jacket as something to have in your closet. You really can wear it all winter.

Mind you, I wouldn’t wear it off the bike much, since it’s cut for cycling (high in the waist in front and low in the back for your on-the-saddle position), though like all winter cycling gear it’s probably a great layer for cross-country skiing. Haven’t tested that yet but the form-fitting, breathable fleece should give you the same advantages on the skis. But for road riding and training, it is a great addition to your winter wardrobe.

It has a full set of rear pockets, a bit of reflective piping, and all the outer materials will repel light moisture. That makes it function well for long winter road rides, along with the overall comfort and warmth. The 40-50 degree range is its wheelhouse, but it’s good down to 35 in my estimation. Below that, you could layer up underneath and still have the functionality of the pockets. I doubt it would hold up in steady rain or very wet conditions. It’s not a do-everything jacket, like the name suggests.

Given what quality outer layers cost, the $199 isn’t outrageous, but it’s not nothing either. If you’re into this coat, know that you can get your money’s worth, even if you’re not a crosser.