Santini is a legend in the world of cycling apparel. As the official kit supplier of the Tour de France, their apparel is racing-focused, but the new Santini Alpha Trail Jacket aims to deliver cold-weather performance for all-road and gravel tracks. Built around Polartec Alpha, this jacket is still racy, but offers excellent warmth and moisture wicking for cold days.
Santini Alpha Trail Jacket Features:
- Outer features ultralight shuttle windproof fabric
- Polartec® Alpha® Direct fabric lining infused with Merino wool
- Zipped chest pocket
- Three rear mesh pockets
- Perforated underarms for added ventilation
- Slim fit
- MSRP: $240
The Alpha gravel
I don’t hide the fact that I love the feel and performance of Merino wool but, I also love the predictable fit and feel of synthetic fibers. Moreover, Polartec Alpha is a thing of legend as it seemingly possesses superpowers of both warmth and moisture management that put it in a class of its own. To further enhance those qualities, this particular jacket uses a Merino/Alpha blend for the best of both worlds.
Let’s first cover the fit and overall function of the Alpha Trail Jacket. It’s gravel-oriented, so some of the racy bits are minimized, but the cut remains efficient and athletic. One of the best parts is the sleeve length, which provides ample coverage and adeptly interfaces with gloves on cold rides. A simple elastic cuff makes for a straightforward experience.
While this jacket is aimed at the gravel crowd, it’s form-fitting enough for road use too. Honestly, there’s nothing that makes this a “gravel only” jacket, so fee free to rock it on the road or gravel. And, with the performance of Polartec Alpha, you’ll be glad you did.
If you’re unfamiliar with Polartec Alpha, it looks like a shag carpet and draws moisture away from your under layers like a vacuum cleaner. The stuff is magical, and lofts up to provide warmth (when needed) and its ability to draw heat and moisture away means that it remains wearable at higher temperatures than traditional insulated jackets. With that, I’ve found the comfort zone for the Alpha Trail Jacket to be from about 35-55 degrees – depending on how you layer it up. Honestly, it’s pretty astounding how comfortable it remains at warmer temperatures and that’s a really good thing.
On my coldest rides, I paired it with the Trek Circuit Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey, which provides added warmth and a tall collar to keep my neck warm. As temperatures increased, I paired it up with the Velocio Signature Long Sleeve or the Concept Merino Long Sleeve. In an interesting design choice, the front collar of the Alpha Trail Jacket is tapered, so it leaves the front of your neck exposed. I suppose that for most, lower-speed gravel rides, this isn’t a problem, but on long descents, things can get mighty chilly, unless you have a jersey with a tall collar. So, a taller collar was better for cold rides and a shorter one was preferred on warmer ones — just make the most appropriate choice for your conditions.
The outer shell sheds wind and adds water-resistance. Light rain will bead up and blow off, but extended rain will penetrate the jacket. At speed, the perforated arm panels feel like an air hockey table and allow cold air to enter. Descents are usually short-lived, so any chill is temporary. Once at lower speeds (18-20 mph), the airflow is perfect to help maintain comfort at even warmer temperatures.
On the bike, the Alpha Trail Jacket sits comfortably and comfortably moves with you. Thicker under layers can feel a little tight in the sleeves and the Alpha material can cause bunching. Once situated, things feel comfortable and cozy and the jacket fits nicely for all cycling maneuvers. It does lack grippy material along the hem, bit I haven’t noticed it creeping up during rides. As an added bonus, there is a two-way zipper for quick access to under layers or jersey pockets. A front chest pocket is a good place to store your phone or wallet after rides. Yes, you can ride with items in there, but I personally don’t like anything on my chest while riding. Thankfully, all zippers can be pulled up or down with one hand.
I appreciate the mesh rear pockets and understand why mesh material was chosen. With mesh, the backside can breathe better. But, that mesh material feels delicate and sharp items may poke through it if you’re not careful. I’ve hauled plenty of stuff for a 2 hour ride (gels, pump, tube, multi-tool, etc.). For the most part, items are easily-reached, but on occasion I did have trouble obtaining the top of the pocket while wearing full-finger gloves.
This is the first time I’ve used a Merino/Alpha combo. It’s hard to say whether it’s better than full-synthetic Polartec Alpha, but it certainly increases the MSRP of this jacket and I’m not sure it’s really worth it. Polartec suggests washing the jacket inside-out to clear all the loose fibers. I wore it several times without washing and it sheds quite a bit — particularly on Merino under layers. When it was time for the first washing, it got tossed into a load with other dark items. Let’s just way that I wasn’t the most popular person in the house after that load because anything that was black was now literally covered in fibers. My Merino jersey and a pair of wool socks seemed to absorb the bulk of the fibers. I implore you to wash this jacket all alone unless you want to experience the wrath of your family or significant other.
I can’t tell for sure if the Alpha material is more or less matted down, but it is definitely thicker than the traditional Polartec Alpha (shown above). I assume that the density can be adjusted based on intended use. Either way, Polartec Alpha remains a wonder material for breathable warmth.
Fit: I’m 5’11” and 175 lbs, wearing the size medium Santini Alpha Trail Jacket.
- Performs well across a wide temperature range
- Moves comfortably with you in the saddle
- Long sleeve lengths add coverage
- Perforated underarms allow airflow
- Polartec Alpha really sucks moisture away from your body
- Two-way zippers allow access
- Sheds just enough moisture for light rain or snow
- Be careful with any sharp objects in the back pockets
- Tapered front collar exposes your neck two the wind (layer up properly)
- Not quite sure what makes this a “gravel” jacket
- Wash this all by itself — believe me
The Bottom Line: Santini Alpha Trail Jacket
The Alpha Trail Jacket really is a nice cold-weather jacket that performs across a wider temperature range than I expected. On one morning ride, temperatures went from the low-40’s into the mid-50’s and I didn’t really feel the need to unzip the front. Overall, the Polartec Alpha blend works wonders and expels moisture just as I would expect.
Buy Now: Visit SantiniCycling.com