Unless you live in a hot desert, every cyclists needs a wind/waterproof to take on rides. It’s there to deal with unexpected rain, cold or big descents. Unlike most cycling gear though it will (hopefully) spend most of it’s time in your pocket not on your back. I’ve never found an entirely satisfactory solution to this, but the Giordana Nano Shell (link) comes close, very close.
The first thing you notice about the Giordana Nano Shell is how compact it is. You stow it inside a tiny flap at the bottom of the jacket, which makes a soft ball about the size of a kiwi fruit. Weight is negligible, so there’s no problem at all stowing this away unnoticed in a pocket or maybe with your spare tube. Since this is where it’ll mostly spend its time, this is important. The next thing is how flimsy it seems. Of course to make it this light and this compact, the material is incredibly thin; more on that later.
Wearing it feels surprisingly good. Once you’ve overcome the fear of tearing such thin material (it isn’t anywhere near as flimsy as it appears – I’ve had no problems yet). It’s close fitting with elastic across the back which makes it feel a little like a normal lycra top. It has the classic cut all “racy” cycling clothing has – low at the back, high at the front, perfect for drop bars, and I guess fine for everyone else too. The material is so thin whatever you’re wearing underneath is clearly visible, which I think looks good. Well, I suppose it depends what you’re wearing underneath…
On the bike, it’s obvious immediately that the breathability is very good. There’s none of the boil-in-the-bag effect I’ve had from featherweight waterproofs in the past – it just keeps the cold air out as it should and feels comfortable. On big descents it’s does its job, but its here the only problem I’ve noticed becomes obvious. It’s noisy. Giordana have doe their best to reduce flap with a close cut and judicious use of elastic, but it isn’t entirely effective and is annoying. In Giordana’s defence I imagine this is unavoidable when using a fabric as lightweight as this one, and as such, is a price worth paying for the otherwise superb performance of this garment. The other thing I should mention is that it only flaps on my right shoulder, which I broke years ago (nasty crash in a road race), leaving it very wonky. Maybe with symmetrical shoulders the problem would go away.
Giordana say that the Nano isn’t completely waterproof because it doesn’t have taped seams. I guess it’s made that way to keep the weight and bulk down. I’ve ridden in moderate rain wearing it, and haven’t noticed any difference between this and more substantial “waterproof” tops. With water dribbling down my neck and spraying up from the road I’m not sure anything could keep you truly dry – the Nano keeps the wind off which in the wet keeps you warm which is all I want it to do.
This isn’t a cheap garment, but then performance costs. I think it’s worth the money, but that’s up to you to make a judgement on. It does seem easy to find them at discounted rates; I paid much less than RRP for mine.
So in summary then the Giordana Nano Shell is a superb windproof to stuff into your pocket for rides where you might get cold, do a big descent or rain is possible. It’s insanely light and compact, yet breathable and comfortable to wear. The only downside is noise on fast descents. Recommended.
Disclaimer: I bought this top with my own money and have had no contact at all with Giordana. This review is simply my opinion based on several months of wearing the Nano.