23-09-17

Castelli Alpha Jersey versus Alpha Jacket

The Alpha Jacket has been a game changer in the winter jacket market. It has received many (very) good reviews (not only from the press but also fron users who bought one themselves).

Two years ago I started looking at these jackets and found out that there was also a jersey version. After a lot of thought I bought the jersey. It has been my go to fall/winter/spring jersey/jacket (it is far more than just a jersey).

The Alpha Jersey has served me well in all but the coldest weather. Last winter we were having a very cold period with many deep sub zero mornings and the Alpha Jersey was just not warm enough. The cold managed to creep in through my arms and back. Then came the opportunity to buy an Alpha Jacket in a sale and I finally got hold of one. And I must say it has been awesome! It has truly lived up to it's reputation.

One thing I found lacking when looking into the Alpha range was a good comparison of the two. Most descriptions were pretty vague with very little information on the jersey.

In this post I would like to provide some more detail on the differences between the two.

The Alpha concept (as I experience it): Provide comfort by using a breathable outer shell (that protects from wind and provides a barrier against rain) by decoupling it from the insulation layer. The main benefit is increased breathability and moisture management (no 'cold sweat').

How I use the Alpha jersey and jacket: The jersey is the most versatile in our Belgian climate, you can cover a very broad range of conditions by choosing your base layer. I have been using very light summer base layers under this jacket in fall/spring conditions. In winter I have been using thermal base layers (sometimes combined with a summer base layer underneath), you can also change the weight of the base layer according to the conditions. On some occasions I would wear a long sleeve base layer on my morning commute and a short sleeve base layer on my evening commutes. 

I have only used the jacket in very cold conditions (i.e. freezing) or in very poor weather (think up to 8°C and rain).

The differences:

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The main give away to spot the difference is the orientation of the front zippered pocket.

Jersey on the left, jacket on the right.

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After opening you can already see the differences in insulation. Jersey has a light front insulation panel (white) and no insulation on the back. Jacket has a heavy front insulation panel (black) and a light insulation panel on the back (white, same as the front panel of the jersey).

The differences are very clear when they are turned inside out. 

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You can see that the jersey sleeves are not insulated and have a non-Windstopper panel at the back.

At the backside the differences are also very clear.

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Roubaix like (think leg warmer material) for the jersey and full windstopper (ventilated at the top) for the jacket.

To summarize:

Component Alpha Jersey FZ Alpha Jacket
Front Shell Gore Windstopper Gore Windstopper
Backpanel Roubaix like fabric Gore Windstopper
Front Insulation Lightweight Insulation Heavyweight Insulation
Back Insulation None Lightweight Insulation
Sleeves Windstopper with roubaix like fabric on backside Full Windstopper
Sleeve Insulation None Heavyweight Insulation on front side
Back Pockets Windstopper Windstopper

To close of the pro's and cons:

PRO:

They both work really well in a very broad range of conditions.

The insulation separated from the outer shell works really well. 

If you are to hot you can unzip the shell and the insulation will keep you warm, the unzipped panels don't flap as much as e.g. an unzipped windvest.

All black (other colours are available) easy to keep clean.

Front zipped pocket is a real plus.

Durable and really good quality.

CONs:

All black, hard to spot in low light conditions. Could do with more reflective highlights.

Front zipped pocket could be slightly larger. The position on the jersey is better than the one on the jacket.

Quality has it's price (look around for sale items).

 

So all in all very good products that cover a lot of ground. The 2017 fall/winter version of the jacket has been updated with some reflectivity and more importantly with taped seams making it even more versatile.

 

 

 

 

21:10 | Commentaren (0)

12-09-17

Dirty Boar 2017 Gravel Ride

Last weekend we rode the Dirty Boar gravel ride. 170km of the finest dirt and gravel roads of the Hautes Fagnes and Huertgenwald area combined with roughly 2700m of climbing. 

In the run up to the event I started rethinking my bike choice. Should I take my Transition Rapture 'gravel' racer or should I go singlespeed? Fired up by some fellow singlespeeders I decided to convert the Rapture back to full commuter mode and prepare my trusty Niner One 9 for this ride. An easier gear was chosen for the climbs (32x18) and the fat MTB tires were replaced with some very nice WTB Resolute 42 tires that I set up tubeless on my MTB wheels. 

Friday evening prior to the ride we already went to sign in in Ovifat. We then went to the youth hostel in Malmedy for one beer before going to bed early.

That one beer quickly turned in to one to many beer as we hooked up with some of belgians singlespeed usual suspects. At 01.50am we decided it was time to go to bed. 4 hours later we got up and had breakfast, probably not the best preparation for a big ride, but hey, we had good fun.

The typical morning grumbling and fumbling with bikes had us leaving late from the hostel. Stef unleashed all 200 horses from his Jetta to get us up to Ovifat as soon as possible.

When we got there the start had already been given so we calmly prepared to set off. About 200m into the ride we already passed a lot of riders with flat tires, something that would be seen many times during the day.

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The course brought us straight to the Botrange and then slowly towards the German woods. The course was rolling well despite the heavy rainfall. The weather would be the same all day, on and off rain with a dash of sunshine from time to time.

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We quickly passed the first feed stop and had a bite to eat, filled up our bottles and pressed on. Somewhere between feed zone 1 and 2 I managed to miss a course marker and got lost. While checking the GPS I noticed a singletrail short cut that could bring me back to the course. it was I really nice trail so I wasn't to bothered with the detour. On my way to the second feed zone I rationalized my efforts as I didn't want to blow up my legs on the singlespeed and cramp up at the end.

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The second feed zone was really good and the ham sandwich did a perfect job of calming down my stomach and the sportsdrink chased away my little hangover. From then onwards I started pushing a bit harder on the climbs again as we were getting into the final part of the ride. 

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Some 30km before the finish there was a surprise feed zone and I decided to wait for Stef to start the final part of the ride together. We were getting closer to our second home, the Bayehon valley which we have been riding for more than 20 years now. 

The last 10km through the Bayehon area went by really fast, my legs were still strong and the climbing went smooth. I was suprised how much the Bayehon river had swollen, the river crossings were very deep, deeper than I have ever seen them this time of the year. A clear reminder of how much rain had fallen.

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Together with Stef we rolled into the finish to meet up with our faster clubriders Bert and Wim and to have some nice fries. 

After a cold dry shower in the parking lot we packed up and headed home. On the way home we contemplated on what gravel riding is or can be or used to be. We noticed that there are many different gravel riders. Roadies that can ride fast uphill but have poor cornering and descending skills, the converted MTBer that nows how to steer a bike and go downhill fast, the randonneur taking things easy and as they come and many more types of riders. This alone made it an interesting ride. 

Gravel riding may be hot and trendy, but to me there is a clear reason why it is so fun. On a true MTB this would be a really boring ride, but slap on some faster skinnier tires and you cover ground much more easily. Combine that with a pair of open eyes to take in the beauty of the nature surrounding yourself and you have a true winner. We will be back for more!

Thanks Vettige Swa's for organising the event.

 

20:52 | Commentaren (0)