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The Castelli Flight Jersey Air strikes an impressive balance between warmth and breathability. So while it is made for early morning starts in cooler months, it will still keep you remarkably comfortable long after the sun starts to shine.
Looking for some short sleeve options? Check out our guide to the best summer cycling jerseys.
As with a host of Castelli products, the key to performance on this jacket-like jersey is all down to the fabric technology. And here the heavy lifting comes courtesy of its own Nano Flex Light: a tightly woven material that will take the sting out of a chilly morning headwind.
Bearing in mind this is a jersey, it's not as windproof as the Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper you'll find on Castelli's Perfetto RoS 2 Jacket, but it does fend off a surprising amount of windchill. And as it has no membrane, moisture can escape easily, and it's that breathability that will help to keep you comfortable on the bike for longer. Even as you get into your ride and up the tempo, you'll find it will keep you well within that Goldilocks zone of 'just right' for far longer than you might expect.
The Flight Air turned up before a big weekend ride, and I used it as part of a layering system that needed to deal with the forecast heat of a summer's afternoon and then a chilly overnight section through the mountains of Snowdonia.
As I set off at 4.30am, I had an X-Bionic baselayer and short sleeve cycling top underneath the Flight Jersey Air, a skull cap down over my ears, and a Buff pulled up over my nose.
The Flight Jersey Air's pair of 'raw cut wrists' tucked securely under the cuffs of my gloves to stop icy blasts of air shooting up my arms. It's a reassuring feature on cooler mornings but I am a fan of being able to hike your sleeves up when it gets hotter, and that is not an option here.
The first thing you notice is that this is a remarkably sleek top that delivers a really aerodynamic fit. There's plenty of stretch in the material so you never feel restricted in your movement. And it's so lightweight that for the most part you hardly know you're wearing it. I often take an XL but here a size large delivered a really pleasing fit.
There are three deep pockets at the back, and under these a strip of elastic with extra grip to prevent the jersey from creeping up your back.
The jersey looks great and there's even a reflective Castelli logo on the back for added visibility. So you can continue your work as a brand ambassador long after sunset.
As the day heats up, you can pull the full-length zip right down to ventilate effectively, which is vital when you're faced with a big, midday climb. And then as you crest the top and catch your breath, the YKK zip is easy to pull back up, even with gloves on, so you get the full windproof benefit for the descent. And with the zip right the way up you'll find the collar snug but perfectly comfortable.
As the day progressed I started to tinker with my clothing, using a lunch stop to ditch the baselayer and ride with just my short-sleeved cycling top under the Flight Jersey Air. Even in the early afternoon with the summer sun high in the sky, I kept perfectly comfortable and surprisingly cool.
I could almost feel moisture lifting off my skin, but there was very little condensation inside the top when I took it off later in the day. This is what makes the Flight Jersey Air such a versatile piece of kit because it allows just enough air movement to really deal with vapour inside the garment.
And when you do decide you want to take it off, it is so light that it packs neatly into a saddle bag and will easily roll up and slide into the rear pocket of a cycling top.
In the early evening, our ride took us over Pen y Pass on the side of Snowdonia with a chilly descent to Llanberis. So at the summit of the climb, I decided it was time to pull the Flight Jersey Air back on.
What really gives it extra insulating muscle are two panels of technical-looking, orange material sewn into the front. These are made from Castelli's 3D Mesh fabric used on its baselayer range. They are incredibly effective at keeping you warm and making sure moisture is moved away from your body. That allowed me to focus on the hair-raising descent that was littered with potholes, random flocks of sheep and stray boulders that had tumbled from the cliffs above.
So it was only at 2am, exhausted and with a final chilly descent ahead of us into Dolgellau, that I needed to add an extra layer on top of the Flight Jersey Air to stave off the cold. Maybe I should have left it off, because at this point there was a real risk of me falling asleep on the bike. Who knows, the cold might have helped to keep me awake.
This top is pitched as a spring and early autumn jersey: Castelli says it's the equivalent of its Aero Race Jersey for cooler conditions. Its stated temperature range is 10-16°C, but my experience tells me it will perform well way beyond those temperatures. And it's that versatility that makes this well worth consideration no matter what kind of riding you do.
I tested this in the driest five-week period we've had all year, so I didn't get to see what it's like in the rain. But Castelli reckons it performs well here, as it's coated with 'millions of tiny nanofilaments to create the most water-repellent fabric finish ever. Drops of water stay as spherical balls on top of the fabric or bounce off the fabric without leaving a trace'.
I gave it a quick test at the kitchen sink and it was good to see water droplets beading off really nicely, but then wearing it under the shower it soon started to wet out. I think this might give you some protection in light rain, but that won't extend far beyond the lightest of showers.
The Flight Jersey Air comes in four different colours: black, dark blue, military green and the 'green tea' option I was testing. I think the lighter colour helps deal with sunnier weather but it does also show up oil stains and general grime that you can expect to accumulate on longer rides.
The label makes it clear that you need to wash this one carefully. That means a wash at under 30 degrees and hanging on the line rather than tumble drying. That's not a big deal – the same applies to quite a lot of cycling kit featuring technical fabrics, but maybe be a little cautious about just throwing it in the wash with the rest of your bike kit.
Despite it being so lightweight, this feels like a durable piece of kit. That stretch means it is quite forgiving, and the stitching looks solid and reinforced in areas where it needs it most. I've been using it for over a month and I've really put it through its paces. I can see this one lasting for years.
The real clincher is that price tag of £185. That's a lot of money in my book, and although this really is an excellent piece of kit, I am not sure that I could entirely justify the expense.
For 'just' £90, for example, performance and price hit a sweet spot with the Lusso Long Sleeve Jersey+. It offers a similar spec in terms of insulation and water-resistance, though it is a little heavier. Its fleece lining means it will keep you warmer but it's not going to be as compact if you want to stash it away in the middle of the day.
If you've got the racing-snake figure to carry it off, then the aero-cut Van Rysel Men's Mid-Season Long-Sleeved Road Cycling Jersey Racer costs £49.99 and scored very well in our last test. And its Women's Long-Sleeve Road Cycling Jersey also scored well in our test. Its cut is a little more forgiving and it punches well above its £29.99 price tag. There were just minor niggles about a lack of hem gripper and the length of sleeves.
If you're looking for something that bridges the gap between long-sleeved jersey and a more waterproof outer layer, then a piece of kit like the Santini Guard Nimbus Jacket is worth consideration, normally retailing at £145, but currently on offer. It tested really well, although our reviewer, Steve, felt that both the sleeves and tail could have been longer.
Though expensive, the Castelli Flight Jersey Air is a brilliantly comfortable piece of kit... so comfortable in fact that for most of the day you'll forget you're wearing it. It is hugely versatile, especially if you couple it with the right layers, and would make an excellent addition to anyone's cycling wardrobe.
Brilliantly flexible piece of kit made for cooler rides that will keep you comfortable through a surprising range of temperatures
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Castelli Flight Jersey Air
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
An aerodynamic, race-fit outer layer that is made to keep the chill out during the cooler months.
Castelli says: "Next-level fabric technology makes this jersey faster, water repellent, and warmer even though it's lighter. Like an Aero Race Jersey for cool conditions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
It is build around Castelli's own Nano Flex Light material that is tightly woven to keep a good chunk of the windchill at bay and offers enough water resistance to deal with light showers.
Castelli lists these features:
Nano Flex Light woven fabric all around partially blocks wind, but lack of a membrane guarantees maximum breathability
3D Mesh fabric from Castelli's base layer range used as front lining for extra warmth and moisture management
YKK® Vislon® zipper
Raw-cut wrists integrate easily with gloves
3 rear pockets
Reflective wordmark on back pocket
Weight: 207 g
Temperature: 10°C - 16°C / 50°F - 61°F
Very thoughtfully designed to give a comfortable fit that offers great freedom of movement – no membrane means it is very breathable and two panels at the front add extra insulation to keep your core warm.
I was impressed at just how warm it kept me on early mornings and then how cool I stayed later in the day.
I've used this a lot in the five weeks that I've been testing it and although that doesn't constitute a long term test, there's nothing to suggest this isn't going to last a good number of years. Stitching and construction feel pleasingly robust.
Super comfortable, in part thanks to the stretch material. I normally take a large or X-large and although this jersey offers an aerodynamic fit, I found this size large fitted really well, with stretch where it is needed.
At just 214g this is a lightweight jacket that packs in a lot of performance and can be rolled up and stashed in a rear pocket of your baselayer or cycling top.
There were times when I just forgot I was wearing it – it is super comfortable and no niggles at all.
At full rrp this is a pricey option, but it does offer great performance, and there are deals to be had out there.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You do need to wash this with a little care; I was cautious about just throwing it in with the rest of my cycling kit.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
This is a really excellent top that does exactly what it is designed for and performs well way beyond its stated temperature range.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Exceptionally comfortable fit and those two additional insulating panels at the front really do make a difference.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
This is at the more expensive end of the spectrum, but there are deals to be had if you search around.
Did you enjoy using the product? Loved this top and really appreciated how light and easy it was to pack away.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely... but I'd be digging around to find a deal.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is an exceptionally versatile and comfortable piece of clothing that is easy to stow away and offers extra warmth on cooler mornings and night rides – for the weight it is really exceptional and a superbly comfortable piece of kit that should give you years of good service.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialised Langster (fixed commuter) My best bike is: Condor Fratello (new – Audax rides)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax