Ciovita hails from the sunny coastline of Cape Town in South Africa. Not the first place you'd think of for testing winter kit (though on cold days I often wish I was back riding along Chapman's Peak), but the Apex Contego Jacket 2.0 proves otherwise aiming to be one of the best jackets for bikepacking and gravel. The range is largely road and gravel-based, but they have plenty of XC and trail options, too, and if you watched any of the Cape Epic races, you would have seen the leaders riding in kit made in their own local factory.
Design and specifications
The Apex Contego 2.0 jacket is made using three different fabrics, the main one being a VitaTherm quilted front panel with Comforttemp air fiber, designed to offer decent insulation levels in cold weather. The sleeves and side panels use Lycra with a cozy brushed fleece inner and feature a hydrophobic finish, which helps shed light, spray, and mist. The rear of the jacket and under the sleeves use a 3D high-performance Lycra, and it has a dimpled design that is meant to offer more flexibility than a standard flat finish.
Ciovita makes everything in its factory in Cape Town. After testing this and the Ciovita cargo shorts, I have been impressed with the high-quality finish and attention to detail. Still, sadly and rather unusually, there's no talk of sustainability or the use of recycled materials here. However, after a lengthy test period, the kit has lasted very well and is definitely not an item of disposable fashion.
Styling is very much on the road end of the gravel spectrum with a close fit and skin-tight sleeves. It's a quality-looking garment with minimal logos or branding, and it's all finished to a high standard with zero issues or loose threads throughout testing. It does have some small, subtle reflective details across the pockets and near the collar, which offer some night-time visibility. However, I'd advise wearing something brighter over the top if visibility is a concern.
Other features include a chunky YKK two-way zip, ideal for heat management as you can unzip from the bottom mid-ride without impacting the garment fit across your chest or shoulders. The three rear pockets also have stability straps built in to offer more support when loaded. They are hidden under the material but are basically elastic straps that go from the collar downwards to help keep them from sagging in use. There is also a neat hidden zip pocket with a tidy little port for headphone cables. The bottom section features a wide silicon grabber similar to those found on lycra shorts with a dimpled rubberized backing to keep it in place.
Ciovita is a direct to consumer brand, with all clothing shipping direct from Cape Town. This helps keep costs down, with the Apex Contego coming in at a competitive $180 / £162 when compared to equivalent European brands, and much like everything in the bike world lately there are deals to be had on certain colors. It does mean you can't try items on in a range of sizes in-store, but the sizing info on the site was very helpful and crucially accurate, too.
I opted to go for the large size which worked well for my 175cm height and 83kg build. The fit was close on me, but that is to be expected of a pro fit garment, and its tightness worked well when I was pairing it with an outer layer. The sleeves are plenty long enough, and there was no bunching or tight spots in use, so although it's snug, it has a lot of stretch and is very comfortable for long days in the saddle.
It has a real quality feel, and after many machine washes, it has stayed that way. The chunky zip feels solid and is easy to use in gloves. I really liked being able to operate it from below too, especially when on longer climbs when working hard, as it made it easy to cool down quickly, but without the whole thing flapping around; closing back up was quick and easy, too.
It is quite a flexible top for gravel or XC MTB as either a warm mid-layer or an outer layer for temperatures around 8-12 degrees, but it's not a full-on Northern Hemisphere winter top, in my opinion. It does a good job of regulating temperature, being warm without being too hot or sweaty, but its lack of windproofing was noticeable. Many of my rides involve long climbs and fast descents where wind chill is a big issue. I would normally pair the Apex Contego with either a gilet or jacket when the temperature dipped below eight degrees C; the VitaTherm padded front worked well in that setup, trapping and holding onto warm air to keep me toasty.
A well-made, high-quality road-based garment that works well for me as a warm mid-layer or an outer top for less cold or flatter rides. The fit and styling might not be for everyone as it is on the tight, racier end of the gravel spectrum, but its versatility meant it saw lots of use, especially on early morning or golden hour rides where being able to regulate temperature using the two-way zip was super helpful.
It's available in other colors, too, if the black isn't for you, and there are deals to be had, though its lack of eco credentials lowers its overall rating compared to offerings from other brands.
Tech specs: Ciovita Apex Contego Jacket 2.0
- Price: $180 / £162 / €185
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL, 3XL
- Colors: Black, Dark Olive, Gray
- Weight: 137g
- Materials: VitaTherm and Lycra
- Blend: 80% nylon | 15% polyester | 5% elastane
- Available from: Ciovita.com