'Matter'

MATTER: An Exclusive Review of Biemme’s Soon-to-be Released JAMPA Foul Weather Kit

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MATTER

“I’m tired.”

“It’s cold out.”

“I don’t have time.”
“I have to rake the leaves.”

“My bike is still dirty from the last ride.”

“It’s………………………………………………raining.”

Each of these can be a reason, or an excuse not to ride outside. Tired? It might be best to rest. Or you might feel energized after moving. Cold out? It’s pretty easy to dress for that once you’ve got the gear. No time? Only you can say whether that’s really true. If so, a little creativity often helps. Leaves? Wait until they’re thick and hit em hard! Dirty bike? Clean and oil the chain and roll. Raining? Ok, this is the tough one. Rain is really hard to dress for once the temperature drops below 10C, especially when we’re talking about rides over an hour in length. Rainy at +23C; easy. Just get wet. Under an hour; easy. Ride hard.

Why bother? The easy answer is that races demand we ride in whatever weather, barring dangerous storms and icy conditions. So racers need great gear for taking on hours in horrible weather. For cyclocross, since the races are just about an hour and the intensity is so high, clothing doesn’t have to be very high tech. Since riders don’t stop, they don’t get chilled after working up a sweat. There are no big descents either, which are another way to get cold. Even if it’s raining and hovering close to 0C, one can layer quality base layers under jerseys or skinsuits and fare well. Road and mountain biking bring different requirements, which I’ll expand on below.

But back to why. Hardly everyone races. Reasons for riding in rain for sport versus transport (in the latter case the reason is simple: to get to work/school/store, etc.) can be as simple as:

“It’s Sunday.”

For those who work all week and have one shot at riding outside, it’s often as basic as that. For those with more flexibility, riding outside in foul weather can come down to the basic need to be outdoors. The trainer and rollers are great, but everyone has their limit…. There’s always the other, less common reason for riding in cold rain: Because it’s badass (#9).

Most riders will face the prospect of a multi-hour ride in the rain with horror. What to wear? How is it even possible to be comfortable in steady cold rain for hours on the bike? Do I want to try to ‘stay dry,’ or ‘warm-but-wet’? How do I do either? So many questions! Details matter.

Biemme JAMPA: Shut up, rain.

Enter the Biemme JAMPA line of foul weather riding garments. Taking a page out of Castelli’s category-defining line that changed things forever, Gabba, Biemme is about to release a line of race-fit outer layers that hold a lot of promise for riders looking to not just survive rain rides, but enjoy them. Whoa, bold stuff. In November I was fortunate enough to borrow two pre-production pieces from James White, Biemme’s local rep, for testing. Then it was up to me to get out to ride in foul weather.

If you’re wondering what’s wrong with the good ol’ clear plastic rain jacket approach, or perhaps a waterproof membrane jacket (if we’re talking tops here), well, nothing is ‘wrong’ with that approach, unless we’re looking at a performance context. For commuting, waterproof layers that are impermeable in both directions are fine. As long as you don’t work too hard, you won’t get too wet inside from your own vapour. However, as soon as the intensity ratchets up inside an impermeable layer, the moisture quickly accumulates to the point one has to wonder what the point of keeping the water out is. At the same time, such jackets tend to be baggy, which, in a world of ‘marginal gains’ is like throwing away watts on the bike. For short commutes, most won’t care. For races/events and training, or plain old ‘rides,’ most will, provided they know how much energy is being lost to flapping clothing. Click the vid.

Castelli’s Gabba jersey essentially took the principle of ‘wet and warm’ and ran with it in the form of a jersey. Tight against the skin, the Gabba was an immediate hit with PROs on the road, as it was both more comfortable and faster in the wind than their shells. Once a few teams were in the stuff, you could just see the ‘have nots’ looking over enviously in the pack as their baggy shells flapped in the wind.

Biemme builds on Castelli’s approach with the Jampa line, utilizing fabrics that shed water, yet allow the body to breath. When I say ‘builds,’ I mean they have researched, developed, and produced JAMPA’s fabric in tandem with an independent textile company. In some cases, they work with companies like COOLMAX when sourcing proven materials for pieces where the ideal fabric already exists. For the Jampa line, the fabric is new and unique. Each JAMPA piece is made from polypropylene, and the seams are heat welded.

After spending about 10 hours in the jersey and leg warmers, I had opportunity to speak with Biemme about the line, and they were kind enough to shed light on the development of the product and what they were ultimately aiming at.

Lightweight, race-ready pieces

With the UCI expecting ProTour racers to be in their approved team kit at all times during races, the days of black and white rain gear are going the way of the dodo. Biemme struck out to create the lightest garment possible that would not only protect the rider at about 5C and up from wind and water (warm and dry approach), but also allow for moisture management; i.e., breathability. By developing a fabric that can be produced in custom livery, the racers are covered. In JAMPA we find a lightweight, aero, race worthy foul weather line of garments for the inevitable cold, wet, and windy days. The JAMPA line consists of the jacket (tested), bib knickers, leg warmers (tested), arm warmers, socks, and gloves.

Features 

(Tester: Matt Surch. 6’1″, 165lbs)

Jacket – Size M/L tested ($189 CAN)

  • Very snug, race cut for little to no flapping in the wind
  • Waterproof and breathable everywhere – same fabric used on all panels
  • All seams are heat welded and taped
  • High quality one-way waterproof zipper with flap on inside
  • High neck with snug elastic for full coverage and reduction of water penetration
  • Elastic cuffs, just the right tightness
  • Three full-sized rear pockets, which are perforated on the bottom for water drainage, and low enough for easy access
  • Silicone branded grippers on rear hem of jacket to prevent riding up
  • Excellent multi-directional stretch provides mobility and no tension in the riding position
  • JAMPA logo on front, left stomach
  • Handy garment bag provided

Leg Warmers – Size L ($79 CAN)

  • Fully waterproof, breathable fabric
  • Full length, from high on thighs to ankles
  • Ankle zippers at rear for easy removal
  • Silicone grippers at top on the inside of broad, comfortable elastic band
  • JAMPA logo on outside of each lower leg
  • Handy garment bag provided

Field testing

Since September, 2014, Biemme has worked with several PRO riders. The pieces I tested are the final production prototypes that will be go into production for retail in February, 2016.  An American Pro Continental team – yet to be announced – will partner with Biemme America in 2016, and use the JAMPA as their wind/waterproof jacket.  The team will race the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and Tour of Alberta, so we ought to see the JAMPA in action during at least a few stages in North America.

How do I wear this stuff?

After testing the JAMPA pieces I am impressed. I rode 5.5 hours in off and on light rain the first day, hitting a high of 8 degrees Celcius. I had layered two base layers underneath – a merino base and a merino t-shirt – and put my full-sleeve team jersey over top for visibility. This set-up was overkill. I shed the t-shirt after 40k, yet was still wearing more than I needed under the jacket. I was damp, but warm. Inside the leg warmers, my legs were 100% comfortable. They seemed to block wind completely, and regulated my skin temperature perfectly. Impressive.

Thanks to James White, today was product testing day. With rain on the menu, I was happy to have the opportunity to put in a full day in Biemme’s Jampa waterproof jersey and leg warmers. Just under 6 hours, 160km of gray skies, rain, and mist was more than tolerable in this kit. My first impression that the pieces were of very highly finishing quality, smart design, and great race cut was backed up by excellent performance all day at 8C. I even tested the jersey in the shower afterwards, confirming it’s protection. Impressive stuff. After some more hours in the kit I’ll post a thorough review on www.teknecycling.com :: Until then, rain rides will be welcomed. @biemmeamerica #waterproof #dirtroadriding #foulweathergear #teknecc

A photo posted by Matt Surch (@cyclosomatic) on

The second day was colder (high of 4C), but dry, so I tried one base layer, fishnet polypro, and my team jersey over top for my 4 hours of riding, with the leg warmers again. This time I was so dry I couldn’t even tell if there was moisture accumulating inside. If you can’t tell whether you’re wet, you’re good. Again, my legs were completely comfortable, and the warmers did not migrate whatsoever. I didn’t ride hard that day but still wanted to know more about layering under the JAMPA, so I posed the following question to Biemme:

“If we were about to head out with one of the members of the Biemme design team for a 4hr hilly ride, and it was +5C and raining lightly, what would s/he recommend we layer underneath the top? (Assuming we’re typical in terms of sweating intensity and are not prone to getting cold).”

In response, Biemme pointed out that since the  JAMPA jacket is a thin fabric that does not have any inner fleece or insulating characteristics, they would suggest a Biemme long sleeve Carboion base layer that wicks and breaths well for a layer inside the jacket. My experience suggests that one base layer alone under the jacket would indeed be enough for certain rides not far above freezing, depending on intensity level, general sweat rate, body fat composition, and taste in music.

Below 5C, Biemme suggest using a warmer base layer than the Carboion, which is the sort of layer I used for my rides in the jacket. Below freezing, where protection from rain is no longer the objective, the JAMPA would be less suitable than a more breathable jacket such as Biemme’s Identity winter jacket, which is made of  their B-Vent breathable and wicking fabric which is suitable down to -20 weather. That’s definitely warm enough for our winter snirt rides! The truth is that dressing for cold and dry conditions is far easier than cold and wet!

Conclusions: MATTER SCALE RATING 9/10

After two days in the JAMPA kit, and a test in the shower (seriously), I am both impressed and convinced of its efficacy. I’ve struggled with finding the right kit options for foul weather race and long ride days for years. I’ve left my shell jacket in my bag numerous times and had to wear 4+ layers of insulating fabrics (that get HEAVY when saturated!) many times because I’ve not wanted to pay the price in watts lost to flapping. I’ve long wanted a jacket that was up to the task, and I believe Biemme has delivered just that with the JAMPA. They’ve also gone a step further with their leg warmers, and have arm warmer and gloves to round out the line. I’ve never ridden in anything close to as effective as these pieces in cold, wet weather, and I’m not inclined to think anything we’ll see in the future will work significantly better. For these reasons I will pursue purchase of custom JAMPA jackets for our club members who see the value in such a piece. Because putting holes in this kit for jackets would be…sad, we’ll use magnets instead for race numbers. For the extremities, the stock black will work great.

JAMPA is perfect for cold, wet conditions, from about 0C to 15C. It is not the best option for cold, dry conditions, but can certainly also be used in that context.

JAMPA is not for everyone. With a retail price that will fall close to $200 CAN, the jacket will strike many as too specific to warrant the expense. Given a large proportion of riders simply stay home when its raining, this is to be expected. Others will persist with simpler options, such as snug fitting plastic jackets, and shells of various descriptions. But those who bite the bullet and spring for JAMPA will inevitably find themselves riding in horrible conditions and say, “Worth. Every. Penny.” For some, it’ll happen once or twice a season. For others, such as those who commute daily, once or twice a month. Either way, the jacket will prove itself invaluable.

The leg warmers will be an easier sell for many, given their lower cost and broader usability. I see no reason not to use them whenever it’s cold out, dry or otherwise, aside, perhaps, for fear of crashing them (see ‘cyclocross‘). I’m not a huge user of arm-warmers, but many are; they’d fall into the same camp. I am very curious about the gloves, which could be a great alternative to neoprene, which tends to be quite bulky and squishy.

Why 9/10 on the Matter Scale? Visibility. This is an aspect of garment design that can be addressed by changing to a bright colour, but in the case of the ever-popular black pieces, it should be added via other means, such as reflective accents. I see none on the JAMPA pieces, but given these are to be worn in the worst conditions, we have to assume that light levels will also be low. So increasing the visibility of the pieces is something I consider important. It is for this reason that I aim to have an orange version produced. I see no other improvements to be made, not even adding silicone to the outside of the legs’ upper band; they stay in place well enough as they are, even if they do wrinkle up a little around the knees, given their less-than-typical stretch.

Pricing and Availability

The production models within the JAMPA line are slated for sale at retailers in February, 2016. Custom options are available, and can be produced by Biemme in Italy as early as January, 2016.

For sourcing the pieces in Ottawa-Gatineau, please visit The Cyclery and Greg Christie’s. Both shops are keen on helping riders get into this kit, and are generously offering our readers 25% off the retail pricing below when this review is mentioned. This discount will apply to pre-orders made and paid in full for mid/late-February delivery. Pre-orders will be taken through January 10, 2016. Thanks for offering this great deal to our readers, Vince Caceres and Greg Christie!

JAMPA RETAIL PRICING (CAN$):

  • Jacket – $189
  • Bib 3/4 shorts – $189
  • Legwarmers – $79
  • Armwarmers – $65
  • Gloves – $79

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