As lightweight as a jersey but as protective as a shell, this is the ultimate cycling top
My closet is stuffed with dozens of jackets—waterproof-breathables and soft shells, synthetic thermals and downs, lightweight wind layers and wool—but if I were forced to get rid of all but one, I’d keep the Assos iJ.haBu5. This jacket is the single most versatile piece of cycling apparel I have ever tested.
In inimitable Assos style, the Habu (let’s forget the Assos-crazy nomenclature for now) is more high-tech gear than apparel. It’s said to incorporate seven textiles and 20 separate patterns, which explains why the piece is so formfitting, so comfortable, and yes, so expensive.
The two primary fabrics—both proprietary materials developed by Assos—are Stratagon Light, a wind layer with a smooth top coat and an almost rubberized interior feel, and RXQ, a Roubaix fleece with waffle-pattern cutaways to reduce weight. The wind protection goes on the front and sleeves, while the more breathable thermal layer sits under the arms and on the back. Neither fabric is waterproof, though the Stratagon Light is water-resistant, and for the most part this jacket has kept me warm and comfortable in the light and sporadic wet conditions we tend to get in the Rockies. That said, if you need a proper rain layer, look elsewhere.
There’s a huge neoprene-like storm guard at the zipper, rear pockets large enough to carry extra warmies and plenty of food, lots of stretch built into the fabrics and patterning to accommodate extra layers underneath, and an elastic waistband with well-designed rubber grippers. The Habu comes in yellow, red, blue, and green for those seeking extra visibility, but I’ve always favored the understated black, which has reflective hits on the front and rear zippers.
Marketed as an “early winter” piece, the Habu is lightweight and feels more like a jersey than a jacket. But the protection it offers for its weight is exactly what makes this piece so great. Though it’s compact enough to stow in a rear pocket and can double as a jersey in temperatures up to about 60 degrees when combined with a short-sleeve base layer, I’ve worn it over a thermal layer like the Assos winter Skinfoil and used it down to about 15 degrees. More than once, I’ve raced in the Habu jacket layered over nothing more than standard kit—riding overnight and up to 12,400 feet, with temperatures below freezing—and was perfectly comfy. The fabrics insulate and breathe really well, so you can go hard and stay warm without overheating. It’s truly extraordinary.
The Habu costs a lot ($380), but most good things do these days, and I’ve been riding in mine since it launched in 2010—and it still looks brand new. Assos says it has no plans to change the design, which is a testament to how good the Habu really is. But the real testament is that, in a closet packed with awesome apparel, this piece comes out more frequently than any other.
It is, simply, the ultimate riding jacket.
Here at Outside, we cycle through new gear faster than dirtbags combing through a Patagonia closeout rack. But only a few pieces are good enough to make it into regular, long-term rotation. This is the first installment in a series about the finest gear we turn to time and time again.