I bought my Castelli Gabba 2 jacket in early 2015 and, after seven seasons of winter abuse, it’s still going strong. That’s what makes it a High-Mileage Hero.
The semi-waterproof and windproof cycling jacket has seen countless Sunday club runs, as well as three years of riding around the bitterly cold Norfolk lanes while at university.
It has also regularly ventured off-road on extended weekend gravel escapades and weekly evening social rides in the dark with friends. On the latter, it’s been a particularly welcome companion for many a post-pub ride home, where you emerge into the unforgiving wilderness of winter after revelling inside in the warm.
It was my loyal companion on a particularly memorable mountain bike sportive in December 2019 called the Dirty Santa, an event that more than lived up to its name. My friend and I were the only riders to turn up on cyclocross bikes, which raised more than a few eyebrows, and the conditions were biblical.
Most of the course around the picturesque Surrey hills involved riding through streams of water, with my friend experiencing a tubeless puncture around 10km in, which meant stopping every kilometre or so to put some more air into the tyre before we could find a shop for an inner tube.
To put into context how miserable the conditions were, it’s one of the only times in my cycling career when I’ve succumbed to using a pressure washer to clean the bike afterwards. The conditions may have been atrocious, but the Gabba 2 kept me toasty throughout and crucially didn’t let any water in, even if it was sodden on the outside.
BikeRadar’s High-Mileage Heroes
High-Mileage Heroes showcases the products that have stood the test of time and become part of our everyday riding.
These aren’t reviews, but rather a chance to talk about the kit we depend on and the products we choose to use when we’re not reviewing fresh gear.
More from High-Mileage Heroes:
- Jack’s Halo TK fixed gear hubs
- Matthew’s Speedplay Zero pedals
- Tom’s Shimano ME7 shoes
- Simon’s Bont Vaypor Classic shoes
- Alex’s ancient and most favourite tools
- Stan’s Chrome Industries Mini Metro bag
- Matt’s Garmin Forerunner 45
The development of the Gabba
The Gabba 2 replaced the original Gabba Rain jersey, which was released in 2010. It was offered in short-sleeve, long-sleeve and convertible variants, all in a variety of fetching colour choices.
The Gabba largely flew under the radar until the 2013 edition of the Milan-San Remo, where it snowed and the race got shortened. Many of the pro teams were wearing an unidentifiable, non-sponsor jacket with blacked-out logos outside of their sponsor commitments and thus, the Gabba was born.
Towards the beginning of my tenure at Evans Cycles, we were occasionally rewarded with store credit to be used on various brands. We had been given a £50 credit towards Castelli items and virtually everyone used it plus some of their own cash to buy a Gabba 2.
Retrospectively trawling through the internet, it looks as though the long-sleeve jacket in ‘Drive Blue’ I own had a recommended retail price of £180. At the time, that was about as lofty as high-end jackets got, though it’s not uncommon for some to go for upwards of £300 now.
Despite its high initial outlay, it has more than proved its worth.
A loyal companion in the cold
The Gabba 2 is phenomenal at keeping out the cold, thanks to the Gore Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric (the current models use Gore-Tex Infinium). I only have to pair the jacket with a baselayer underneath and that does me fine. If it’s colder, I’ll wear a warmer long-sleeved baselayer and if the conditions are a little warmer, a short-sleeve one suffices.
Castelli recommended a 6 to 15ºC temperature rating for the Gabba 2 and I’ve found that to be accurate. I’m happy wearing the jacket down to 2 or 3 degrees, and when conditions get colder, I’ll switch to my Castelli Alpha ROS 2 Jacket (which will probably warrant a High-Mileage Hero article itself after a few more winters).
The Gabba 2 fits me brilliantly with its race-oriented, close cut. The front doesn’t bunch up when hunched over, and the collar and sleeves are shaped nicely and elasticated. Paired with suitable winter gloves and a neck warmer, the jacket leaves no openings for the cold to creep in.
It’s also highly breathable, so you don’t feel as though you’re boiling in a bag wearing it.
If temperatures get warmer, you simply unzip the pockets on either side of the jacket to provide some ventilation.
Waterproof enough and deep pockets
The Gabba 2 isn’t completely waterproof, but it will cope with a couple of showers. Even if you’re riding in torrential conditions and you get wet, the Gabba 2 still keeps you warm.
It features the brand’s Nanoflex insert under the arms – this material is used on many of Castelli’s products. The material is designed to offer the warmth and comfort of the brand’s Thermoflex fabric, while also repelling water.
As with any jacket, the Gabba occasionally requires re-proofing.
The jersey pockets are as good as they get – they’re satisfyingly deep and keep valuables and cargo secure.
Building on the success of the original Gabba, Castelli added eyelets at the bottom of the pockets for better drainage and I can attest they work flawlessly. In addition, there’s a dropped tail at the bottom of the jacket to stop mud spray getting onto you and your bib shorts or tights.
Great value despite an expensive initial outlay
The Gabba 2 may have been expensive at its time, but it has offered excellent value for money. It’s cheaper than buying two or three different layers of winter clothing and offers better performance.
If you opted for the short-sleeve version, you could use the jacket in warmer conditions and pair it with the brand’s Nanoflex arm warmers when it’s cooler.
It’s a shame Castelli remoulded the Gabba into a short-sleeve affair, replacing it with the Perfetto, which uses a slightly thinner material.
The Gabba 2 revolutionised the cycling clothing market with its forward-thinking, foul-conditions jacket and it’s no surprise practically every brand has emulated Castelli and now boasts a similar option in its range.
However, I’d argue no brand has managed to better Castelli and the Gabba 2 is a piece of kit I’m sure I’ll return to for many more winters to come.