Giordana's Acqua+Vento (AV) line of winter clothing offers some impressive barriers against the elements that help provide much-needed motivation when pedaling during winter's worst. This windproof and water-resistant gear offers maximum protection against harsh conditions, and when faced with absolutely horrendous weather and when the show must go on, there's few jackets we'd choose over its AV Extreme Winter Women's Jacket. Compared to the rest of its AV line, the Extreme Winter Jacket has additional weather resistance and improved breathability in the form of the upgraded DValpine membrane, which is further bolstered by its cozy Polartec's Alpha 60 insulation, a low-loft thermal layer that complements the breathable membrane by preserving more warmth during the coldest, character-building rides.
Though Giordana's fit and construction expertise are what will make you fall in love with the jacket, the AV Winter Extreme's eVent DValpine membrane remains the jacket's key piece of technology. Like with much of its top summer-weight kit, Giordana looked externally for material solutions to the typical cycling issues we all encounter. This search led it to eVent, a relatively young company that, since 1999, has been carving out space for itself in the breathable membrane market on the strength of its Direct Venting technology.
Unlike the dominant strains of membranes currently flooding the market, eVent's Direct Venting models are what the brand calls a "dry system"—that is, they don't need to get wet before they begin to breathe. While traditional PU membranes require a slight accumulation of internal moisture before they begin to expel it, Direct Venting membranes like DValpine breathe immediately. This is ideal for cycling situations, where the work/rest cycles of intervals, climbs, or just pedaling between stop lights can make for a microclimate that constantly fluctuates from humid and hot to cold as exertion levels rise and fall.
By maintaining a constant state of breathability, DValpine ensures that you don't pay for those periods of increased effort with the gradual accumulation of a clammy chill as the ride goes on. Instead, it keeps you in what eVent identifies as the "dry zone," a happy stasis of temperature and humidity to maintain comfort during intense bouts of endurance training.
In addition to virtually instant breathability, the DValpine membrane is literally waterproof and windproof. Compared to the DVstretch membrane in some of the AV men's jackets, DValpine is more waterproof, just as windproof, and tests at a breathability rate of 20,000g/m² instead of DVstretch's perfectly serviceable 18,000g/m². That means it's built to keep you drier and warmer in worse conditions. There is a slight trade-off in stretch (DVstretch didn't get its descriptive name for nothing), but that's where Giordana's genius for fit comes into play.
Giordana cuts the jacket with an "aggressive ergonomic fit," which translates to a race-fit top that conforms to the body and fits best when you're stretched out on the hoods or drops. If you're into more of a generous club fit or foresee the need to supplement the Alpha 60 insulation with additional thermal layers, then we'd suggest sizing up. For conversational base miles, Giordana does recommend supplementing the jacket with additional layers; however, we recommend testing the jacket's limits before throwing on thick base layers, as that incorporated layer of Alpha 60 insulation is a pretty impressive thermal specimen.
Polartec developed Alpha 60 for US special forces to use in situations where stopping to don or doff layers could literally be a matter of life or death. In cycling, "life or death" becomes an overwrought metaphor (eg., "dying 100 deaths to recover and bridge to the lead group"), but Alpha 60's properties remain just as serious. It's a compactable synthetic layer comprising low-loft, hydrophobic fibers that establish a layer of insulation warmth between the jacket's lining and its protective face. Despite its ability to regulate temperature, Alpha 60 allows the free passage of water vapor and moisture, ushering it away from your body and into the winter air while the DValpine membrane keeps external moisture from enjoying the same mobility in reverse.
Giordana gives the jacket a host of finishing details, including an inner layer of soft mesh that sits gently against base layers or skin and feeds surface moisture into the outer layers. On the outside, Giordana incorporates the Pixel reflective ducktail that serves to protect against rooster tails while adding a health swathe of eye-catching reflectivity for increased visibility in low-light conditions. The standard complement of three rear pockets is supplemented with a zippered, waterproof security pocket, itself fast becoming an expected addition to high-end kit.