Dubious marketing strategies aside, you have to admire Assos. Not many clothing brands have lasted as long in the cycling sector. In fact when Assos began, not many brands even existed.
Since 1976 Assos has been pedalling out high quality garments from Lugano, a little town on the Swiss border with Italy, stone-skimming distance from Lake Como.
Over these years the brand has garnered a loyal following, and it has become the mark of a true seasoned cyclist. See someone out riding in ancient Assos gear and you know he has a good few miles under his belt.
Recently Assos has come under threat from younger rivals. Years of doing its own thing and laughing at its own jokes, have left it stuck in the past. The growing popularity of women’s cycling has thrown up a new dilemma. Assos’s risque marketing of its women’s clothing featuring models wearing nothing other than the garment in question has already alienated a large section of today’s marketplace, namely women, even if the brand appears to have started to address the issue.
Which is a shame because it taints what is otherwise a seriously good clothing brand. The look is an acquired taste, very German (even though it is Swiss), very nineties in graphics and design, but the quality is outstanding.
It’s no wonder Assos customers are legion and loyal and full of tales of the hardiness of their garments. One colleague will happily recount how he fell off his bike on a grit-covered MTB trail and his Assos bibs looked none the worse, which is more than can be said for his legs.
Assos released its first Habu5 in 2010, which would be around the time anyone produced a phone small enough to fit in the mobile phone pocket on its arm. These days that pocket will just about fit a gel.
The Habu 5 is a spring and early winter softshell. It is articulated in an Assos Man manner for a perfect fit while ‘in the position’ on the bike. Off the bike the shoulders are a bit tight, but the arms are lengthy and the material has extraordinary stretch to provide you with the necessary race fit. So much stretch does this have that it will actually look three sizes too small when you pull it out of the box.
Once you get out on the road in an Assos jacket it becomes clear why the brand appears to shrug off criticism like water off one of its jackets. This is remarkably well thought-out gear - incredibly comfortable and capable. The habu5 is not waterproof but it does have a high repelancy and thanks to the cut it keeps you well covered. And it is breathable, in a lightweight softshell manner with fabric panelling on the underside of the arms to allow bodyheat to escape. All of the fabrics employed in the jacket are developed by Assos - the front panelling is fleece-backed, wind and water resistant, while the sides and back are more breathable.
There are clever details, too. The zip features reflective piping either side and there are other reflective elements around the jacket.
But it is the rear pockets that offer the greatest indication of the mastery of manufacturing that years of producing cycling garments gets you. It’s a standard three-pocket layout round the back, but their positioning makes them incredibly easy to access, and they are just the right side of tight, that crucial balance that allows you to store multiple objects while also being able to access them. The centre pocket is the only one that isn’t zipped.
There are some questionable design elements though - one is a vertical logo patch that sits between the rear pockets and picks up dirt like a babywipe and the other is the aforementioned arm pocket. These aspects could be changed by Assos with a minimum of fuss but for the user don’t exactly present much of a problem anyway.
Assos say this jacket should be used as part of a layering system and we could have done with some additional bulking up to the single thermal baselayer we employed on our 5 degree ride. If the temperature had been any lower we would certainly have needed at least a gilet on top. This jacket would remain comfortable with a standard base layer down to around ten degrees, below which think about adding extra kit.
Summary: Assos have employed a stack of new fabric technologies in their latest version of the Habu5 and it shows through in comfort and protection. The black version will suit most tastes although many design elements are unmistakably Assos, and you either love that or you don’t. There’s no denying the fact that this is an incredibly well-made garment that is supremely comfortable and is built to last.
4.5 / 5