Object of desire: Assos Johdah Winter Jacket

Assos Johdah Winter Cycling Jacket
(Image credit: Josh Ross)

If you are someone who spends time battling the elements then this article is something you will relate to. As the summer comes to a close and the last days of warm riding disappear, these are the times when it gets hard to keep fitness. Going out the door on a warm day with a blue sky is fun but when the sky is grey, the temperatures cold and the ground wet, it's a totally different experience. 

Anyone who's experienced these moments will understand that there comes a time when any amount of money would be worth feeling warm and comfortable. The Assos Johdah is - hands down - the best winter cycling jacket available, and ideal for those who spend their time turning the pedals through the winter cold. It’s a jacket that stitches together all the very best parts of the Swiss brand. So, what’s it like to wear?

The first thing you have to understand about the Assos Johdah jacket is that it's not actually the warmest jacket Assos makes. The Assos Mille GT Ultraz Evo Winter is a bit warmer. The difference is that Mille GT is the long-distance specific line of clothing from Assos. That jacket is warmer, bulkier, less water resistant, and less aerodynamically cut.

What the Johdah jacket represents is the most adaptable jacket in the Assos line-up. Although it's not quite as warm as the Ultraz it's still very warm but it also works when the temperature rises during a ride and it's more water resistant. Building an incredibly warm jacket isn't actually that difficult. Building a jacket that's warm and water resistant, but also breathable is the difficult feat and it's here that the Johdah really shines. 

Making the jacket adaptable falls to two different design decisions. The more expected decision is that of cutting-edge materials. Assos always uses its own unique fabrics but Johdah stands apart even in comparison to other jackets in the line-up. The bulk of the jacket uses a few different densities of what Assos calls the 'Sphere' membrane fabric. 

From the outside, Sphere feels identical to the Neos fabric that Assos uses in the Mille GT Winter Jacket Evo. Assos calls it a softshell but it's not like any other softshell out there. If you touch something like the Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket Targa you can tell right away that there's a difference but compared to any number of competing hardshell materials, it's nearly indistinguishable. Practically speaking, it doesn't really matter what you label it. The point is that it's not quick to overwhelm in sustained rain and it breathes like a softshell. 

Supporting the Sphere membrane material is another material that isn't like anything else. From the shoulders to the elbow on each arm is something called 3L ZigZaggy foam. The name comes from a zigzag pattern on the outside and, somewhat obviously, the fact that it's a three-layer construction. It's incredibly dense and super soft on the inside. 

Object of Desire series

Moving away from the fabrics, there's a unique mechanical design that's part of the Johdah. Slightly in front of the peak of each shoulder is a vent. Stand up and it's closed but lean forward and the faster you go the more air flows in. This design is the primary driver of the description on the product page that talks about how the jacket responds as you work harder. It's one of those shockingly simple mechanical designs that does what it's supposed to. 

The vent ties into another fabric layer also. It doesn't just open on your shoulder. Instead, there is a separate layer that attaches to the inner layer of the jacket and runs from about the point of the ribs up to the neckline. This layer has an offset zipper at the front and uses the same Osmo fabric as the Assos Equipe RS Mid Layer. In fact, it's exactly the same as that mid layer but shorter, and attached. It also funnels the vent air down to the lower sections of the jacket where it can exhaust out the bottom.  

Adaptability is usability, but there's some specific usability designed into the Johdah as well. Primarily that means really good pockets. Not just usable pockets either. These are stretchy, cavernous, gusseted, pockets that will swallow everything you throw at them. There's even an extra zippered pocket for valuables on the left. The valuables pocket sits on top of the main pocket so you can't really stuff it but it's there for a phone or keys. Keep moving up until you get between the shoulder blades and there's another pocket there, too. That one lets you stuff an extra layer in without losing storage lower down. 

The Johdah jacket came out along with the mid-layer and also the Assos Equipe RS Climacapsule Alleycat. That extra pocket is there to hold one of those. Don't expect it to hold the mid-layer though. It will fit, barely, but it makes little sense to store it there and it's not easy to get it in. Instead, use that for the Alleycat shell. It's still not super easy to get it in there but if you find yourself getting cold mid-ride, adding the Alleycat blocks the vents and warms the whole system up considerably. 

Overall, the experience of wearing the Assos Johdah is just that it's so comfortable. Without the Alleycat layer there is always some air moving through it. It's good down to about 45F / 7C in that configuration. Add the Alleycat and it goes even colder. I've also spent plenty of time in the rain and even been able to wear it when the sun came out and it was 70F / 21C. It really is a three-season option. It helps that it fits me perfectly and feels amazing to wear. 

One important attribute to consider is just how much it costs. At £575 / €650 / $725 / AU$1,000, it's the most expensive winter cycling jacket on the planet and although it has many merits, it's exceptionally hard to justify the sticker price. Especially, when you factor in just how good the Assos Mille GT Ultraz Evo Winter jacket or similar offerings from Castelli, Sportful, Santini and UYN.

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