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Keep off the chill on cool days and when the weather's changeable

One of the simplest cycling garments, a gilet is also one of the most useful. Also known as a vest or simply as a sleeveless jacket, a gilet protects your torso from the wind chill and sometimes from the rain too.

That may not sound like a big deal, but keeping your torso warm even though your arms are still out in the wind can make a big difference to your comfort. Keeping the chill from evaporating your sweat gives your clothing a chance to move it away from your body, and the windproof shell traps a layer of air against your body so that helps keep you warm too.

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

Club Ride Cross Vest Gilet - on bike

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 to carry for sudden weather changes.

In the last couple of years clothing makers have introduced gilets that provide extra warmth from 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.

Rapha Womens Gilet - front pocket

Gilet manufacturers provide pockets in several different ways. At one end of the complexity scale, some gilets do without, some simply have slots so you can get through to your jersey pockets. Many have the usual two or three rear pockets, sometimes with a small front pocket for your keys.

Louis Garneau Course Speedzone Gilet - back detail

Other features to look for include material with a bit of stretch in it so it’ll accommodate those post-Christmas extra pounds; a fleece liner at the neck for extra cosiness; a windproof flap behind the zip; and a ‘zip garage’ at the neck to stop the top of the zip digging into the soft skin there.

Vulpine Ultralight Quilted Thermal Gilet - collar

A decent quality gilet costs from £20 and prices run up to over £150. At the low range you’re getting a simple windproof and (usually) water-resistant shell; at high prices you get for very-high-tech fabrics, clever detailing and — in some cases — extra insulation.

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

>>Read more: Reviews of gilets on road.cc

Lusso Essential Thermal Gilet — £90

Lusso Essential Thermal Gilet.jpg

The Lusso Essential Thermal Gilet combines stylishly dimpled Windtex panels with a fleecy, four-way-stretch rear to provide excellent core warmth on bitter days. It's breathable, easy to ventilate with the high-necked zip and is windproof. Yes, it's bulky if you try to pack it, but on cold days – early morning commutes perhaps – it performs so well you won't want to.

Gilets are invaluable on cold rides where you're already wearing several layers, and have reached the point where another set of sleeves is going to leave you bulked out and restricted. Most gilets are thin and merely for wind protection, though – there's a lot less choice if you want proper insulation as well.

This Lusso is one of the more affordable insulated options we've tested recently and, while it's still a fair chunk of change at £90, its no-nonsense build will easily earn its keep through multiple winters.

Read our review of the Lusso Essential Thermal Gilet

Neon Velo Lightweight Gilet — £99

Neon Velo Lightweight Gilet - front.jpg

Neon Velo's Lightweight Gilet is a packable windproof layer that is easy to whip on and off. The wind protection from the front makes it perfect for cold descents, while the back is very breathable, so this is one for the spring and summer. It’s available in black as well as this navy.

Read our review of the Neon Velo Lightweight Gilet

B’Twin RC 500 Gilet — £19.99

BTwin Ultralight Bike Gilet 700

As it so often does, French sport megastore chain Decathlon shows that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get decent kit. This gilet is easy to pack, fends off the cold and has a good feature set for its low price.

The front is wind- and water-proof and there's a mesh back for ventilation when you're working hard. Since you're likely to be wearing a gilet at dusk there are also several reflective patches to boost visibility in car headlights

Read our review of the B’Twin Ultralight Bike Gilet 700

Find a B’Twin dealer

Lusso Skylon — £27

Lusso Skylon Gillet

The Lusso Skylon Gilet doesn't make a fuss, it just keeps the wind off your body and helps to maintain core temperature while being small enough to scrunch into a back pocket.

The Skylon is a cut above bargain basement gilets; build quality is considerably higher and a little more thought seems to have gone into the design. For example, there is no loose fabric to snag the zip. The Skylon fabric which gives the gilet its name (and a whiff of 50's nostalgia, go Google it kiddies) has a slightly rubbery feel, a bit like latex workshop gloves. It's not unpleasant, just a little odd.

Lusso claim it's showerproof, but a short ride into a rainy headwind left our tester’s jersey quite damp. It's not a huge problem; after all you wouldn't expect a gilet to offer much by way of foul weather protection, especially one with a full length mesh back. What you want a gilet for is wind proofing and the Skylon scores full marks on that front. The mesh back stops it from turning into a mobile sweat tent and the whole thing folds up into its own back pocket.

Read our review of the Lusso Skylon

Find a Lusso dealer

RH+ Acquaria Pocket Vest — £43.50 - £60.89

RH Plus AcquariaPocket Vest

The RH+ Acquaria Pocket Vest is so lightweight and packable it's a proper three season item of clothing.

It's made of a single layer coated fabric called Airdry which is intended for mild and windy conditions and is designed to be worn between 14°C and 22°C.

With a mesh back it's highly breathable and wicks sweat away quite impressively for this kind of fabric.

Read our review of the RH+ Acquaria Pocket Vest

Rapha Women's Classic Gilet II — £60

Rapha Womens Classic Gilet II.jpg

A long-time favourite, this well-made and perfectly shaped gilet has a full suite of useful detailing: a bit of stretch in the fabric; pockets big enough to be useful; that handy little key pocket on the front; a comfortably lined neck; and baffle/guard behind the (stylishly offset) zip.

Read our review of the Rapha Women’s Classic Gilet II

Chapeau! Echelon Gilet — £99.99

Chapeau! Blue Echelon Gilet.jpg

The Chapeau! Echelon Gilet is an innovative, well made and good looking vest that keeps the worst of the weather out. Chapeau! has clearly thought about how to make this as good as possible and done a superb job – though you have to pay accordingly.

A good place to start is with its ability to keep out the wind and rain, which it does really well. The material used – a four-way stretch polyester and polyurethane blend – is thin, which I was initially worried about, given that thin normally means flimsy. I needn't have been: it's hardwearing as well as very protective.

Read our review of the Chapeau! Echelon Gilet

Endura Pro SL PrimaLoft Gilet — £109.19 - £114.99

Endura Pro SL PrimaLoft Gilet.jpg

It's expensive at RRP, but a bargain at this price, so if you need a gilet that can provide some vital insulation on top of windproof performance, then the Endura Pro SL Primaloft Gilet could be the layer for you.

It all starts with the filling – a Primaloft stuffing that provides vital heat retention. It's thin, so thin in fact that it's still possible to pack the gilet down into a decent-sized pocket. Moreover, it's cut so that there's little fabric wastage anywhere, which helps keep the form small when it's rolled up into a pocket or its own carry pouch.

Read our review of the Endura Pro SL PrimaLoft Gilet
Find an Endura dealer

Castelli Perfetto — £60.00 - £77.00

Castelli Perfetto Vest

It's not cheap, but universal rave reviews for this weather-resistant vest mean it surely has to be on your shortlist if you're a year-round rider. The front is made from the same Gore® Windstopper® X-Lite Plus as Castelli's much-loved Gabba rain jersey, while the back is made from fleecy, water repellent Nano Flex Light for breathability.

In short, this is the sleeveless version of the Gabba, and welcome torso protection for crummy Spring and Autumn weather.

Find a Castelli dealer

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Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

15 comments

Avatar
peted76 [1637 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes

You missed off the road.cc wind vest made by primal, which IMO is a really really good option for people. Pockets, windproof, high collar, lightweight and compact! 

Avatar
Simon E [3887 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

£100 for a sleeveless plastic vest? And people wonder why Rapha (and others) are criticised for taking the p*ss...

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [3322 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Given the actual exposed area that is always front on to the wind (unless in TT mode) it's more important to keep your arms covered and indeed your hands and head.

This will conserve heat far more than a gilet will (which does not cover the armpits where a lot of heat is lost) and because your torso is angled wind chill does not hit your core as much as it would your arms which generally have less fat on them too so are more effected by cold/wind. Same with head, a lightweight head band can make a subtle but important difference when cycling in cooler conditions

Whilst I have a softshell outdoor/walking gilet (Trespass) that is quite breathable/water resistant the number of times I've used it for cycling is less than a dozen in 6 years and that was really more down to carrying stuff in the (three) zipped pockets than it being better than a cycling jacket/jersey.

IMHO for cooler days/nights you're better off investing in a base layer, OR if money is no object buy a jersey/jacket that has zipped sleeves if you must, best of both worlds.

Avatar
STiG911 [305 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Spotted the Castelli Squadra in Evans just yesterday for £20. Steal.

Avatar
Duncann [1491 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Given the actual exposed area that is always front on to the wind (unless in TT mode) it's more important to keep your arms covered and indeed your hands and head.

This will conserve heat far more than a gilet will (which does not cover the armpits where a lot of heat is lost) and because your torso is angled wind chill does not hit your core as much as it would your arms which generally have less fat on them too so are more effected by cold/wind. Same with head, a lightweight head band can make a subtle but important difference when cycling in cooler conditions

Whilst I have a softshell outdoor/walking gilet (Trespass) that is quite breathable/water resistant the number of times I've used it for cycling is less than a dozen in 6 years and that was really more down to carrying stuff in the (three) zipped pockets than it being better than a cycling jacket/jersey.

IMHO for cooler days/nights you're better off investing in a base layer, OR if money is no object buy a jersey/jacket that has zipped sleeves if you must, best of both worlds.

Fully agreed.

I bought a gilet years ago and never used it - it just wasn't ever what was needed.

+1 for the headband too. Keeping your ears covered makes a huge difference in the cold - while still allowing excess heat to escape (which a full head covering wouldn't).

Avatar
darrenleroy [337 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I have the long arm version of the B'Twin gilet. Cost me £6.99 and has lasted over five years. It works. 

Avatar
Organon [372 posts] 10 months ago
9 likes

Gilet wearer admits his arms have been cold for years.

Avatar
macbob [50 posts] 10 months ago
0 likes

The Castelli Perfetto gilet is so good its almost worth the ridiculous asking price.

Rolls-up and goes in a back pocket. Gore windstopper front & much more waterproof than expected despite its excellent breathability - usable most of the year in the UK.

And it is frequently available much reduced in seasonal sales.

 

Avatar
Organon [372 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

What is the shiny black LS jersey he is wearing on the right?

Avatar
imaca [98 posts] 7 months ago
1 like
Duncann wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Given the actual exposed area that is always front on to the wind (unless in TT mode) it's more important to keep your arms covered and indeed your hands and head.

This will conserve heat far more than a gilet will (which does not cover the armpits where a lot of heat is lost) and because your torso is angled wind chill does not hit your core as much as it would your arms which generally have less fat on them too so are more effected by cold/wind. Same with head, a lightweight head band can make a subtle but important difference when cycling in cooler conditions

Whilst I have a softshell outdoor/walking gilet (Trespass) that is quite breathable/water resistant the number of times I've used it for cycling is less than a dozen in 6 years and that was really more down to carrying stuff in the (three) zipped pockets than it being better than a cycling jacket/jersey.

IMHO for cooler days/nights you're better off investing in a base layer, OR if money is no object buy a jersey/jacket that has zipped sleeves if you must, best of both worlds.

Fully agreed.

I bought a gilet years ago and never used it - it just wasn't ever what was needed.

+1 for the headband too. Keeping your ears covered makes a huge difference in the cold - while still allowing excess heat to escape (which a full head covering wouldn't).

Yeah, to me gilets are are a remnant from a bygone era before breathable windproof jackets and jerseys were invented. When on a bike do your arms ever need less protection than your torso?

Avatar
imaca [98 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
Duncann wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Given the actual exposed area that is always front on to the wind (unless in TT mode) it's more important to keep your arms covered and indeed your hands and head.

This will conserve heat far more than a gilet will (which does not cover the armpits where a lot of heat is lost) and because your torso is angled wind chill does not hit your core as much as it would your arms which generally have less fat on them too so are more effected by cold/wind. Same with head, a lightweight head band can make a subtle but important difference when cycling in cooler conditions

Whilst I have a softshell outdoor/walking gilet (Trespass) that is quite breathable/water resistant the number of times I've used it for cycling is less than a dozen in 6 years and that was really more down to carrying stuff in the (three) zipped pockets than it being better than a cycling jacket/jersey.

IMHO for cooler days/nights you're better off investing in a base layer, OR if money is no object buy a jersey/jacket that has zipped sleeves if you must, best of both worlds.

Fully agreed.

I bought a gilet years ago and never used it - it just wasn't ever what was needed.

+1 for the headband too. Keeping your ears covered makes a huge difference in the cold - while still allowing excess heat to escape (which a full head covering wouldn't).

Yeah, to me gilets are are a remnant from a bygone era before breathable windproof jackets and jerseys were invented. When on a bike do your arms ever need less protection than your torso?

Avatar
martybsays [31 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Rapha Brevet insuated gilet works for me. Takes the chill off the NZ winter mornings, and when I warm up it doesn't seem to overheat  - arm warmers will come off, but gilet stays on until home, usually. We're all different...

Avatar
martybsays [31 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Deleting double post

Avatar
Drinfinity [279 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I was just thinking of getting a £99 gilet today, the hottest day of the year so far, with a 40 C weather bomb inbound. I’m so lucky RoadCC published this handy guide.

Avatar
Drinfinity [279 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

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