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BUYER'S GUIDE

Best cycling gilets 2024 — find the perfect option for the riding you do

Keep the chill out when the weather's changeable with the best cycling gilets for every season

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One of the simplest bike garments, a cycling gilet is also among the most useful. Sometimes known as a vest or simply as a sleeveless jacket, a gilet protects your torso from the wind chill and perhaps from the rain too. We've subjected over 160 gilets to thousands upon thousands of miles of road testing. These are the best cycling gilets you can buy.


You might struggle to see the point of a gilet… until you try one. Then you’ll be won over. Gilets are great for keeping cool/cold air off your upper body so that you retain more warmth. They can make a surprising amount of difference to your comfort.

Why not just go for one of the best cycling jackets? Granted, that’s sometimes the right option, but a gilet is a kind of halfway house, giving you plenty of warmth without much bulk.

Most have the advantage of being easily stashable in the rear pocket of a cycling jersey. You can take off your gilet and stow it back there if the weather warms up on a morning ride, for example, or you can put your gilet in a pocket before you set off on an evening ride and bring it out if the temperature falls.

Gilets really come into their own in changeable conditions and they’re great for hilly rides too, being easy to put on for a chilly descent. You get gilets for different seasons too, everything from lightweight options that’ll just keep the air off your chest to ones that are insulated front and rear.

Whatever type of cycling gilet you’re looking for, we have the best option for you.

How we review gilets

As with all other products, we allocate each gilet to a reviewer who we believe to be a target customer. If it’s a minimalist lightweight gilet, we’ll get a racer on the case, if it’s designed for long-distance riding, we’ll send it to an Audax rider so that’s it tested in the correct conditions and according to the right criteria.

road.cc reviewers use a product for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works, ensuring that the gilet is worn extensively to gauge its performance, durability and comfort. We’d rather get it done right than get it done quickly.

We believe that this comprehensive evaluation provides valuable insights into what the gilets are like to use regularly in various conditions, but it's always worth trying on several before making your buying decision. 

Why you can trust us

When it comes to road.cc buyer's guides, we only ever recommend products that fared well in reviews, and the gilets featured here scored 4 out of 5 stars or more overall from our reviewers, indicating very good or excellent quality according to our reviewers' opinions. The one exception is a gilet that scored 3.5 overall, included because it’s the most highly visible one we’ve ever reviewed.

Our reviewers are all experienced cyclists, and so are the road.cc team members who put these guides together. That means you can be sure the product selections are our genuine top picks, not just a round-up of things we can make a commission from.

With all that said, it's time to get into our selections. Fabrics are constantly evolving and styles change so the vast majority of our picks are from the past three years, and they’re all still in their respective ranges. We’ve included cycling gilets of all types, whether you are a road racer, commuter or simply cycle for leisure. We have everything from super-light designs to ones offering plenty of insulation, and various fits and, of course, there are options for both men and women, so you’re bound to find the best cycling gilet for you.

You'll find our overall top picks first, followed by plenty more recommendations, and finally our Q+A section. Whatever type of cycling gilet you’re after, keep reading…

The best cycling gilets: our top picks

2023 GOREWEAR Ambient Vest Mens

Gorewear Ambient Vest Men’s

9
Best cycling gilet
Buy now for £99.99 from Gorewear
Amazing windproofing for so little weight
Great ventilation & breathability
Packs down small
Back pocket design could be better
Not cheap

The Gorewear Ambient Vest is an excellent packable gilet that’s amazingly good at keeping the wind off despite weighing a paltry 67g (in an XL size). A mesh back allows heat and sweaty vapour to escape, and the lack of bulk makes it easy to store in a jersey pocket when not in use. Ideal!

You get Gore-Tex Infinium fabric across the entire front of the gilet. Despite being extremely thin, Infinium is windproof and you’ll immediately notice the benefit of keeping cold air out. Although not completely waterproof, the fabric will keep damp air and spray from soaking in.

The mesh material at the rear allows excess body heat and damp air to get out and is the key to the gilet’s aggressive cut. While there’s no stretch in the Infinium front panels, the mesh offers an impressive amount, meaning various body shapes have a close fit without feeling restricted.

2021 Galibier Izoard PRO gilet

Galibier Izoard Pro Gilet

9
Best cycling gilet for warmth
Buy now for £62.48 from Galibier
Warm
Comfortable
Stylish
Good price
Weird rear pocket

The Galibier Izoard Pro is a well-made and impressively warm gilet that's just about packable into a jersey pocket. It's showerproof thanks to a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, and is an absolute steal

You get plenty of warmth courtesy of 49g/m (grams per square metre) recycled synthetic insulation. Both the front and the back are insulated, which can trap a lot of heat. On sub-10°C rides, reviewer Steve Williams found that he felt too warm on only the hardest of climbs. Once the temperature gets up to around 12-13°C, it’s best to leave the Izoard Pro at home.

The reflective herringbone stitching looks smart, and the big logo on the tail is great. The silver highlights on the main zip, on the front zip garages, and down the rear panel sides are strongly reflective under headlights, too. With a slim but not restrictive fit and well-shaped armholes, this gilet looks more expensive than it is.

The Super-Roubaix fabric used for the sides continues around the waist, and it all stretches to maintain a good, close fit all over.

Van Rysel Hi-Viz Cycling Gilet

Van Rysel Men's Hi-Viz Cycling Jacket

8
Best bargain-priced cycling gilet
Buy now for £29.99 from Decathlon
Great cut
Great fit
Water-resistant
Decent breathability
Three pockets
Nice detailing
Less packable than some

The Van Rysel Hi Viz Cycling Gilet is a nicely thought-out and well-made gilet with a great cut, fit and overall performance, and you really can’t argue with the price

The gilet is made from polyester with a windproof and water-repellent laminate at the front and a relatively thin, perforated panel at the rear designed to let damp air out.

The front layer does a good job of blocking cool/cold air without rustling too much. Reviewer Shaun Audane found that those panels kept out persistent showery rain and drizzle. The laminate panels dried quickly, too.

Shaun reports that he wore this gilet over a long-sleeve jersey in temperatures between 7 and 14°C and had no problem with clamminess.

This isn’t really the type of gilet you can just shove in a jersey pocket if you get too warm, but dropping the front zipper to half-mast certainly helps and, given the snug fit, you’ll have no issues with billowing.

The neon yellow colouring ensures you’ll stand out in dull conditions, while bold and well-positioned reflective detailing will get you noticed at night.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet

Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet

9
Best cycling gilet for long-distance luxury
Buy now for £195 from Cafe du Cycliste
Impressive insulation
Water resistant
Ethically sourced down
Great visibility
Sizes up smaller than expected
Back pocket design could be better
Not cheap

The Cafe du Cycliste Maya unisex insulated cycling gilet – aimed at long-distance cyclists – is perfect for cold mornings, night rides, and those times when the temperature threatens to plummet and then spike over the day. It’s versatile and will pack down into a saddle bag or even the rear pocket of your jersey.

The Maya keeps you warm, offering a snug fit and insulated baffles of ethically sourced down at the chest and across the back. Stretch panels at either side help deliver a streamlined fit and excellent comfort, while soft fabric at the collar offers more comfort and keeps the YKK zip well away from your chin.

The scooped rear and the elastic gripper at the base ensure that your lower back is always kept covered, and the two-way zip allows you to fine-tune the mix of insulation and ventilation as you need it. In use, it proved to be durable, well-designed, and easy to wash and look after.

You can buy it in vibrant orange or a dashing 'Neon Pink', both models featuring reflective detailing to improve visibility at night.

If you can cope with the whopping price, this is a genuinely excellent piece of kit.

Santini Redux Stamina Womens Vest Cycling Gilet

Santini Redux Stamina Women’s Gilet

9
Best women's cycling gilet
Buy now for £74.99 from Bike Inn
Warm yet breathable
Very light
Versatile
Excellent windproof fabric positioning
No pockets or integrated stuff sack
Zip is only one way

The Santini Redux Stamina Women’s Vest Gilet is form-fitting, light, and packs down very impressively given the level of warmth it provides. Well-positioned wind panels provide good defence against the cold while allowing good breathability elsewhere. It's the best cycling gilet for women that we've found.

The Redux Stamina is made in Italy from Ghisallo stretch-woven fabric, and its checkered lining is Polartec Delta, which will keep you warm on chilly starts. The collar is cut high and feels wonderfully cosy thanks to the thermal lining.

Tester Anna Marie writes: “The Redux Stamina is an extremely well-crafted technical layer you'll find yourself reaching for all the time – for all sorts of rides, across all the seasons. It's effective at keeping you warm, while also being breathable, and small enough to carry with you on every ride.”

2021 Stolen Goat Men’s Palace Bodyline Gilet

Stolen Goat Men's Palace Bodyline Gilet

8
Best cycling gilet for stretchy windproofing
Buy now for £42 from Stolen Goat
Windproof
Great fit
Allows access to jersey pockets
No reflective detailing

The Stolen Goat Men’s Bodyline Gilet fits really well, is windproof, and packs down small enough for you to forget it’s there until you need it. Flaps allow easy access to your jersey pockets, and it’s available in various colourways.

The Bodyline Gilet is a polyester and elastane mix that’s very stretchy and comfortable. It’s not a really tight racing fit – just figure-hugging, no-flapping snug. The stretch means it works over a winter jacket just as well as a thin summer jersey.

The front is windproof, with a breathable vertical mesh panel on the back. The windproofing is helped by a storm flap behind the YKK full-length zipper, and by the high, snug-fitting collar. You also get a layer of thin, soft fabric inside the collar for upping comfort levels, along with a zip garage. The arm openings are cut just right; tight enough not to let any wind through, but not noticeable when riding.

Stolen Goat doesn’t bill this gilet as waterproof or thermal but you do get some light shower protection.

All that's really missing is reflective detailing. Beyond that, the strong design and comfortable, stretchy fit make this a very versatile choice.

The best of the rest: more of our top cycling gilet recommendations

2023 Rapha Men's Brevet Insulated Gilet

Rapha Men’s Brevet Insulated Gilet

8
Buy now for £160 from Rapha
Not bulky
Rapha reflective stripes
Elastic storage loop
Warmer than a standard gilet
No rear pockets

The Rapha Brevet Insulated Gilet, with its reflective signature stripes that give almost 360° visibility, is warmer than it appears for the chillier bits of longer rides. It might be pricey but it’s also light and packable, so easy to stash away when not required.

This gilet is light, scrunches up easily to hide in your rear pocket, and fits snugly to form a barrier to wind and maybe a bit of rain (thanks to a DWR coating). Hidden inside, a layer of soft waffled fabric lines the front and back to provide insulation. Spaces in the waffle pattern trap air and hold onto body heat, giving warmth while also contributing to its quick drying abilities.

The Rapha Brevet isn’t as warm as a more padded or quilted winter gilet, but it’s lighter and easier to leave unnoticed in a rear pocket, and there's a definite thermal benefit over a standard windblocking gilet that might be a similar weight.

Rapha suggests that it's best worn in cold and cooler (2-10°C) conditions, but we’d say it’ll also come in handy if you're riding your bike through the slightly fresher hours of a summer morning or evening.

2022 Altura Airstream Men's Windproof Gilet

Altura Airstream Men’s Windproof Gilet

8
Buy now for £33.5 from Cycle Store
Lovely and warm
Superb comfort
Water resistant
Lots of reflectives

We’ve been impressed by both the men’s and women’s versions of Altura’s Airstream Windproof Gilet. They’re designed for changeable conditions, providing a good level of warmth on cold rides with enough space to fit a couple of layers underneath courtesy of a ‘semi-fitted’ cut. The price isn't bad either.

The front is absolutely windproof with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating that performs well in showers, but as the back is a very lightweight mesh affair, the Airstream isn't striving to be waterproof.

The cut is good, with gently elasticated armholes and a deep-drop tail with a silicone gripper keeping everything in place. A two-way zip allows you to undo the gilet from the top or bottom, to regulate your temperature and access jersey pockets.

A zipped pocket on the upper chest is ideal for keys, credit card, or cash, and it doubles up as a pouch for packing the gilet away.

As well as a reflective Altura logo on the front left shoulder, there's reflective piping across the back of both shoulders and in two full-length strips down each side, with a strip on the back of the tall neck too

2022 Vulpine Mens Ultralight Quilted Gilet

Vulpine Men’s Ultralight Quilted Gilet

8
Buy now for £100 from Vulpine
Zipped front and inner pockets are useful
Warm, windproof and okay with showers
Nicely dropped tail
Subtle good looks
Sized to fit over street clothes, so fits loose over cycling gear
Rear pocket feels token

The Vulpine Men's Ultralight Quilted Gilet hits the target bang-on for commuter and casual use. It's warm, protective and doesn't look odd when you get off the bike. It breathes impressively given that it's insulated all over and lacking any vents.

The 100gms (grams per square metre) insulation is made from recycled plastic bottles, and this gilet is impressively unsweaty for the kind of riding it's aimed at, and never stifling even if you do need to work hard. Reviewer Steve Williams found it offered useful extra core warmth and wind protection in temperatures down to 3°C.

The high collar protects your whole neck, the dropped tail shields you against wheel-spray, and the shoulders have reinforced nylon patches to protect against wear from backpack straps. Nice touch! You get several pockets too.

The overall sizing is best suited to wearing over regular winter jumpers, so size down if you intend to use it with slim Lycra – although this isn’t a gilet that’s designed for training and fitness riding.

For its intended commuting, leisure and off-bike uses, this Vulpine gilet is warm, protective against wind and spray, and very versatile.

2020 Endura Pro SL Lite Gilet II

Endura Pro SL Lite Gilet

8
Buy now for £42.99 from Merlin Cycles
Waterproof
Windproof
Easily packable
Pricey

The Endura Pro SL Lite Gilet II is a practical, windproof, waterproof and easily packable gilet that’s ideal for changing weather conditions.

Most of the panels are made from a nylon and elastane mix which gives a certain amount of stretch while maintaining waterproofing, with the centre of the back being a perforated fabric that allows for heat to escape. It's relatively close fitting without feeling tight, thanks to the stretch in the fabric.

This gilet offers very good windproofing to keep the chill off and a decent amount of waterproofing to keep the rain off your core in showers.

You get a good quality YKK zipper with a nice stiff cover which helps with windproofing. The large zip pull is simple to use with full-finger gloves.

There are three large open pockets and a zipped one for valuables at the rear, plus reflective details that help keep you visible in low-light conditions.

It doesn't fold down as small as some gilets, but you’ll have no trouble fitting it into a jersey pocket with space to spare for a pair of arm warmers.

2022 Specialized Womens Prime Wind Vest

Specialized Women’s Prime Wind Vest

8
Buy now for £100 from Specialized Concept Store
Featherweight
Packable
Good shape
Breathable
Soft collar
Expensive
No pockets

Exceptionally light and packable, the Specialized Women's Prime Wind Vest is a well-made, sleek and effective piece of kit.

This ultralight windproof gilet is designed to provide good protection with minimal bulk and weight (our XL size was just 86g). It's made from a light and stretchy fabric, with a windproof full front panel, and mesh at the rear of the shoulders. The stretch nylon fabric is soft and doesn't feel at all fragile.

An elasticated hem with silicone grippers that runs around the rear and sides of the gilet (not the front) keeps it in place well, and the softly lined collar adds comfort too.

Although you get no real water repellency here, the fabric excels in terms of breathability. Mesh panels and the ability to unfasten the zip at either end further help you avoid overheating and sweatiness.

The cut is sleek and performance-oriented, and the overall performance is superb.

Proviz Reflect 360 Gilet

Proviz Reflect360 Plus Gilet

7
Buy now for £67.49 from Proviz
Super-reflective
Not the most breathable option

If you want the ultimate in visibility, the Proviz Reflect360 Plus Gilet will get you seen. Slate grey in daylight conditions, it turns brilliant white in vehicle or street lighting thanks to the retro-reflectivity of millions of tiny glass beads that impregnate the fabric.

It’s incredibly effective. Reviewer Shaun Audane reckons most drivers in town registered his presence from a long distance while friends reckoned they could spot him at 250 metres out in the lanes.

The polyester main fabric is windproof and waterproof, and the rear is perforated so moisture can also escape. As a technical, training garment, the shell does an excellent job of blocking chill, and the fairly slim cut stops wind and rain sneaking inside.

The rear doesn't feature a traditional drop tail so you might find some jersey peeking out back there. The elastic gripper does its thing pretty well, though, Shaun having had no problems with the hem creeping up during a ride.

There are certainly more breathable gilets out there, but for getting you seen the Reflect360 Plus Gilet is brilliant – literally,

Best cycling gilets: how to choose and what you need to know

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Why do cyclists wear gilets?

It may not sound like a big deal, but the way the best cycling gilets keep your torso warm even though your arms are still out in the wind can make a big difference to your comfort on the bike.

The windproof shell of a typical cycling gilet stops cool or cold air from getting to your body while trapping a layer of warmer air inside, close to your skin.

Naturally, your arms won’t be as warm as if you’re wearing a jacket with sleeves, but our experience is that you don't lose nearly as much heat from your arms as from a wind blast to your body.

By leaving your arms and especially armpits covered just by your jersey, a cycling gilet lets you sweat through those areas, so can help keep you less clammy than a jacket with sleeves.

Of course, a gilet isn’t suitable for all conditions. You’ll want a full jacket when it’s really cold or raining, for example, and you’re unlikely to use one in the height of summer, but you might be surprised at just how useful a gilet is. Plus, when not being worn, many pack down small enough to fit easily in a rear pocket.

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Is a cycling gilet worth it?

A decent-quality gilet costs from £20 for a simple windproof and (usually) water-resistant shell up to over £100 for one with high-tech fabrics, clever detailing and — in some cases — extra insulation.

Choose carefully and chances are that you’ll get plenty of use from your gilet, so it’ll prove itself well worth the cash. You might soon wonder how you ever managed without one.

faq-icon
What features should I look for in a gilet?

The details and features of cycling gilets vary hugely, so it pays to look around and find something that perfectly suits your needs.

Mesh backs are good for working hard, especially in milder weather, because they let heat and sweat escape easily. You take most of the wind on the front of your body, so that’s where you need the extra protection.

faq-icon
What about pockets?

Some cycling gilets come with pockets and others don’t. Some simply have slots so you can get through to your jersey pockets.

Many have the usual two or three rear pockets, like a cycling jersey. You’re unlikely to fill the pockets of both your jersey and your gilet – that can make things really bulky back there – but having pockets in the gilet can make your ride essentials that bit more accessible. You don’t need to rummage around so much to find what you’re after.

We particularly like a breast pocket for your front door key. It’s just nice to be able to get inside quickly at the end of a winter ride.

faq-icon
How thick should a cycling gilet be?

Fabric thickness and level of ventilation vary a lot between gilets, so choose one that’s best suited to your needs. Some have side vents, others have mesh panels at the back to keep you comfortable when riding hard, with your front protected from the breeze and heat able to escape at the back.

Gilets intended for all-day riding in winter are made from thicker fabrics such as softshell or heavier breathable waterproof materials. Lighter fabrics are used for gilets that pack down small so you can stuff them in a pocket. They’re ideal for days when you know (or at least hope) that it’ll warm up after a chilly start, or for evening rides when the temperature is likely to drop.

In the last few years, clothing makers have introduced gilets that provide extra warmth courtesy of the latest ultra-light synthetic insulation. These are useful for extra protection when it’s very cold, or for cool-weather casual cycling. They’re usually styled so they look fairly normal off the bike too.

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Should a cycling gilet be tight?

You’ll probably want your cycling gilet to be relatively close-fitting to avoid flapping when you’re riding at speed. Even if you’re not bothered about aerodynamics, clothing that’s fluttering around can be irritating and you can lose that layer of warm air that would otherwise be keeping you comfortable.

That said, cycling gilets come in many different cuts, so you don’t need to look like a Tour de France racer if that’s not what you’re after.

If you do want a race fit, there are plenty of gilets out there that can provide that, including stretchy options that don’t feel at all restrictive. A bit of give can also help to accommodate extra layers underneath and those post-Christmas extra pounds.

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What else should you look for in a cycling gilet?

You might also like to consider a fleece liner at the neck for extra cosiness and/or a windproof flap behind the zip to stop draughts. A ‘zip garage’ at the neck can stop the top of the zip from irritating your skin. These features can make a significant difference to comfort, although they’ll all add a small amount of bulk.

Some gilets come with reflective elements that can shine out when they’re caught in the headlights of other vehicles.

Beware: some people find gilets addictive. You might soon realise you ‘need’ more than one for different conditions. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

faq-icon
Is it a gilet or a vest?

Some brands call their gilets 'vests' – two different terms for the same thing. Yeah, it can be a little confusing – and that's before considering that outside of cycling, what we'd usually describe as a vest in the UK is generally referred to as a 'sleeveless base layer' in cycling. 

Essentially, if a cycling brand mentions a vest, they're talking about what other people call a gilet. Probably.

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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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1 comments

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timmyotool | 1 month ago
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The only gilet I'd buy would be the ultra packable type, and I've not seen anything lighter (sub 40g) than the sportful ultralight. That's now apparently 10 years old!
https://road.cc/content/review/131579-sportful-hot-pack-ultralight-vest