Assos ss.13 Short Sleeve Jersey
It's summertime and some riders look skinnier than ever. Their jerseys seem to hang loose over their bodies, with spindly arms so deficient in girth they are unable to fill out the sleeves to reach the caps. A gun show this is not. Their sleeves are flapping in the breeze as they ride.
While many cyclists do have skinny arms, more often than not you're looking at an optical illusion. Many riders, in an attempt to cool themselves on the hottest days, cut open their sleeves. This is usually accomplished in one of three ways; cut open the seam on the back of the sleeve by an inch, cut open the inside hem to remove the elastic inside the sleeve end, or just cut off the elastic and hemmed jersey material.
This "pro" tailoring is relevant to the Assos SS.13 jersey. Assos does not believe in cycling clothing taking on more air. That's just another way to add resistance to the ride. Their garments fit snug at all times. To better combat the summer heat, Assos works stretch fabrics, wicking fabrics and mesh panels into their jerseys. This is the new zenith of their jersey line with five different materials integrated into a 13-panel jersey.
Except for the zipper, just about everything seems to be a re-thinking of how a cycling jersey should be made. Actually, the zipper is a bit different, as there's a flap of material, a "dock," at the bottom, so the zipper doesn't abrade your shorts. The collar is made from two different panels of a wicking Lycra. It is seamed in back and front and the material extends down to the chest. The result is a collar that is high enough to seal off the body but low and form-fitting enough not to catch any wind, even when unzipped. The shoulder seams are narrower and more forward of what they'd be on a traditional two- or four-panel jersey. The chest material is made of a wicking Lycra that is designed to sit next to the body at all times; as with form-fitting undershirts, the jersey is supposed to wick the sweat off the skin to the jersey surface, where it can dry more quickly. Each sleeve is comprised of three separate panels; one is the same material from the chest, the second is a thinner Lycra, the third is a stretchy mesh panel that ventilates the armpits.
It is the SS.13's back where most people will notice the difference. The back is comprised of five panels.Down the middle runs a "3D senso mesh" panel. It starts at the shoulders and narrows as it goes down the back. Besides being breathable, it doesn't stretch. Assos says this is the key to the jersey's function. By not stretching, it stabilizes the jersey, so it stretches to fit, but doesn't move around. The two panels, one white, one black, on each side of the mesh center, are slightly more stretchy, but not nearly as stretchable as the front.
Aesthetically, the back presents a totally different appearance than the jersey front. When seen from the back or side, the SS.13 seems like a visually exciting jersey, with the panels accentuating the vertical, making the rider seem sleeker, and possibly faster. The front, especially in black, is a bit non-descript, like the person is wearing a skinsuit, but helping accentuate the legs pumping below.
A bit more subtle than the back panels, but still noticeable, are the six back pockets on the jersey. For those who like carrying food drinks, arm warmers, vest, mp3 player, and keys all at once. To keep the pocket area from moving around when full, the senso mesh is also on the jersey back underneath the three center pockets. The middle pocket is senso mesh on the inside and out, the immediate left and right are made from the jersey chest material, and the small side pockets, are made from the slightly stretchy back panels. Assos designers, always thinking, cut the edge of the side pockets on an angle to make it harder for things to fall out the sides. The zippered pocket in the middle of the back is good for those things you absolutely can't lose. Also, inside the middle pocket, behind the zip pocket, is a tacked hold for threading a wire for a headset or headphones. .
All of the above is well and good, but it's the ride that counts. Up front, the hardest thing about the Assos SS.13 is first going outside with the jersey on. It's so light, 172g on our scale, and the material feels so natural against the body, it feels like we're going out without a jersey on. .
Like many modern summer-weight jerseys, this top needs an undershirt under 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Wearing a baselayer underneath this jersey seems wrong, especially as most base layers seem heavier than this jersey. On the other side of the temperature scale are those summer roaster days, when climbing is like pedaling in a broiler and stopping is possibly worse. We were concerned about roasting, so we took the SS.13 out with us on some 90+ degree days. Riding several-minute climbs, we didn't always feel the need to unzip, and when we did, it was hard to tell a major difference between being zipped and unzipped. Part of this issue seemed to be that the jersey wasn't flapping as we rode, so we didn't remember it was open, part of it was that we weren't significantly cooler.
In terms of the pockets, we definitely like the ideas behind them. All-Lycra jerseys had a bad tendency to bounce when the pockets are full and the rider is standing on the pedals. This jersey did not give us any bouncing. As nice as the Assos gripper flourish is under the back hem, we think it's the fit that held everything in place. Riding with full pockets, the jersey didn't move on us. We tried a number of different items in the side pockets. Gel packets and small bars seemed to do fine. Putting a gel flask in a side pocket left us feeling jabbed every time we got out of the saddle.
The jersey sizes in typical Assos fashion. Where we take a small in most jerseys, we have to go with a medium here.
After hours in the saddle during the dog days of summer, most of us just want to take off all our clothes and sit in a cool stream. The SS.13 admirably takes care of the first half of the equation, and that makes the hot days easier.