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On test: Bergamo Marcello Signature Series winter wear, February 13, 2006, part 1

Toasty and stylish

With the US still deep in winter, Mark Zalewski takes a look at some gear that might just inspire you to brave the elements. For starters, here's the Bergamo Marcello Signature Series Jacket, and check out the Bergamo MSS Winter Bib Knicker and Bergamo MSS Exotex Base Layer too.

Bergamo MSS winter jacket
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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For those like me, who choose to live in the northern half of the U.S., as well as east of the Mississippi River, winter usually means many hours on rollers or wind trainers trying to burn off the holiday calories. Even when the temperatures nudge above 40F, it takes an entirely different cycling wardrobe to handle the elements. For riders just starting off and entering their first 'winter of discontent,' this often takes the form in layering of many typically warm weather items combined with arm/knee warmers and some old socks for shoe covers. The result isn't very pretty and not usually the warmest either. Therefore, if you plan on riding more than once in cool to cold weather, investing in proper gear will make your rides more enjoyable and more productive. Enter Marcello Bergamo and his new line of winter riding wear.

Based just outside of Milan, Bergamo has produced high-quality cycling clothing for more than twenty years, and being close to Milan, it looks good too! The latest evolution in Marcello's chilly cycling couture is his Marcello Signature Series (MSS) line, anchored by a stylish and functional winter jacket, bib shorts and base layer.

Marcello Signature Series Jacket

The MSS jacket looked good even in the plastic packaging, and looked even better after. I quickly noticed a few attributes that I knew would separate this jacket from others in its class. First, the materials. Seventy percent of the jacket's construction is of 290 gram Windtex Dri-Lex, stopping the cold winter chill from leaking inside. The other 30 percent is a lighter material called Eschler Husky SwissPile, which allows for ventilation to still occur, preventing overheating. This material is strategically placed so that when you are riding, the panels face the rear and are out of the direct wind.

The back
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)
Generous cuffs
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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Get a grip!
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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A simple slot
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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Beefy zip
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
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The jacket combines well
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski
(Click for larger image)

Another feature I knew would be essential is the sleeves, or more the ends of the sleeves. A good 5 cm of elastic cling material is attached at the end, ensuring a comfortable yet tight seal to keep cold air from flying up your arms. This works well tandem with gloves, furthering the enclosure of the arms.

The other key location on the body where a tight seal makes the difference between a jacket and a warm jacket is the waist. Here Bergamo uses technology you find on his high-end shorts, more specifically the ends of his shorts. A silicone gel gripper is sewn into the waist providing a snug fit around the bottom of your torso. Finally the neck on the jacket is also quite comfortable, using the same material found on the sleeves.

A big plus in my book comes from the very substantial zipper. Too many jackets and jerseys use namby-pamby zippers that are hard to engage and zip, particularly when you are wearing thick gloves. The MSS Jackets has a two-way zipper that you could operate with astronaut gloves (which I wish I had with these temperatures.) And the two-way design is always met with praise by riders when riding in those temperatures that fluctuate due to shade or Mother Nature's cruel sense of humor.

The pocket design on the jacket is unique. While it does feature two standard rear pockets on the sides, there is a third zippered pocket that completely closes and is big enough for higher-value items (mobile phones or iPods) that would be sorely missed if they fell out on a ride. While the pocket does not create a waterproof seal, we are all well versed in the use of plastic baggies for this. Even more exciting, the MSS jacket has an internal access point for you to route the ear bud wire so that it stays inside the jacket until they emerge at the neckline! Ingenious! No wires outside the jacket necessary, making it easy for you to listen to your favourite music or sell that high-value stock with ease.

Looking at the aesthetics of the jacket, I am once again a fan. It just looks cool. The flat-lock, outside grey stitching gives a unique appearance, and the blue/black colour scheme combined with the material details and stitching made for an attractive piece. The fit of the jacket was spot-on. I wear a medium jersey from most manufacturers and the medium jacket fit well, both by itself, with a base layer and over another jersey for the really cold days. The raglan cut gave me freedom in movement and placed the materials in the best places for warmth.

I must admit that I received this jacket while the weather was unseasonably warm in the upper Midwest, and the first test I was able to run on the jacket was the going out on Friday night test. The jacket performed exceptionally, giving just the right amount of athletic and hip essence to keep heads turning. And the rear pockets came in handy for holding... lots of things. However, once the weather turned cool enough, the MSS Jacket did everything I hoped it would. The wind-proof material kept me warm and dry and the circulation in the jacket kept me from ever overheating. All of the closure points stayed closed, working well with my gloves. And as predicted, the large zipper was easy to use in a variety of situations. I even utilized my new iPod Shuffle and found working the controls through the fabric was rather easy.

I rode in a multitude of temperatures and conditions, something the Midwest is good at providing. The jacket did the best in the cooler temperatures rather than the downright cold. I found temperatures between 55 °F and 40 °F were ideal for this jacket, though sub-40° F weather was still easily more than bearable. Going less than 30° F though would require a more substantial set of clothing (which Bergamo also makes) and a psychological review. I avoided riding in the rain but a few snow flurries were present on a few occasions, and the MSS Jacket handled these well too.

The price point at nearly $180 USD might seem high for a jacket, but it really is not at all. This jacket will serve you well not only in the winter months, but far into the spring/fall when the weather is back and forth between seasons almost daily. And depending upon where you live, you can get anywhere from two to nine months of good use from this jacket.

The only aspect that I thought was lacking was front/side pockets, which I personally like to have since the cooler the weather in which you ride the more items you seemingly need to bring with you. And since one of the rear pockets is not as functional in the capacity of holding more cycling-related items, this would be a nice compensation. Otherwise, I have nothing but praise for this item -- both on the bike and on the town.

Pro: Looks good, feels better!
Con: No front pockets
MSRP: $179.95
Fabric: Windtex Dri-Lex, 290 gram, Eschler Husky SwissPile, 200 gram,
Color: Navy Blue/Black, Red/Black, Yellow/Black
Sizes: S-XXXL
More information: www.uplandsg.com (US importer); www.maglieriamb.it
Cyclingnews rating: Click for key to ratings

See also: Bergamo MSS Winter Bib Knicker; Bergamo MSS Exotex Base Layer