Sportful's Giara Thermal Vest is, as its name suggests, a sleeveless thermal layer and it's ideal when you need extra torso insulation, with a great fit and the stylish looks of Sportful's Giara (Italian for gravel) range.
This is no lightweight emergency gilet. It provides impressive warmth when paired with a long sleeve jersey or jacket, helping you to tackle really cold weather. And because it is sleeveless, it prevents excessive heat buildup on the arms when you're riding at a brisk tempo.
It's an odd thing, but sometimes when I layer up to keep my torso insulated, my arms can get too warm. Choosing an insulated gilet as my top and final layer solves this issue and makes a great combination for a wide range of weather, especially the rapidly changing conditions of this time of year.
Italian company Sportful has combined a Soft Protec Stretch outer fabric with Thermore insulation on the front and shoulder panels, with a waffle-type texture that provides the insulation. There's a breathable rear panel to prevent overheating.
While it can be rolled up carefully enough to be stored in a jersey pocket, it's not as packable as most typical emergency gilets. But then this isn't really a gilet just for emergency use. Instead, I've been wearing it for entire rides, over a baselayer and long sleeve jersey for a setup that works really well.
It's more of a 'wear for the entire ride' garment in my view. And it's comfortable for long rides, with a jolly good fit as I've come to expect from Sportful. It's not as snug as some of its racier lines, the Giara range being aimed at cyclists who want a more casual fit to match a casual style of riding.
It's not at all tight and the material stretches enough to accommodate several layers underneath and loaded jersey pockets. The full-length zip works smoothly and because the gilet doesn't have any pockets, there's a large vertical side zip so you can access jersey pockets underneath.
We could debate the pros and cons of pockets on gilets, but in reality most people have their preference. Personally, I'm of the view that lightweight emergency gilets don't need them, as you don't plan to wear them for long, but heavier duty gilets should have pockets. For me, the Giara falls into the latter camp and would be better off with a pocket or two. Trying to open the zipper and get at pockets underneath is a tricky task with chunky gloves.
The tall collar provides extra neck warmth; you can really hunker down in it.
There's little in the way of water protection, which might dock it a few points depending on what you're looking for in a gilet, but for bone dry and freezing cold rides it's a great addition to any cycling outfit.
The understated appearance of the whole Giara line, aimed at gravel and adventure cyclists but good, too, for club and leisure cyclists, is a boon if you don't want to look like a racing cyclist wannabe. A nice extra detail is that the rear stripe is reflective.
At RRP it's quite pricey for a gilet, but holds its own against other insulated designs we've tested, such as Endura's Pro SL Primaloft, and is £35 less than Rapha's Pro Team Insulated Gilet – though you do get pockets with both of those.
If you can afford it, the Giara's performance is worth the money for the extra versatility it adds to your cycling outfit. Shop around and you can get it much cheaper: I've seen it on sale for as little as £69, at which point it's a bit of a bargain.
Warm and windproof thermal gilet makes layering for the cold easy
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Giara Thermal Gilet
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Sportful says, "Relaxed styling in a highly technical winter outer layer. Highly wind resistent outer shell shields you from cold winter wind, Thermore insulation keeps you warm while the Thermo Pro warm mesh liner adds a extra warmth and moisture management. Perfect over our Giara warm top on crisp Fall days Highly functional with a distinctive look for your next adventure
"The Giara Thermal Gilet makes use of Protec Stretch outer fabric that is highly wind resistant to block out those cold winter winds. To really keep warmth in, the front quilted construction makes use of 80-gramme Thermore® insulation, trapping heat close to the body. However to ensure you don't start to feel clammy from sweat build up Sportful use a highly breathable back insert to allow excess moisture to escape."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Sportful lists these features:
Soft Protec Stretch fabric outer fabric
80 grams Thermore insulation on front and shoulders
Breathable back insert to eliminate excess heat
Higher collar to fend of the winter chill
Oversized rear access zip to reach jersey pockets.
At RRP it's quite pricey for a gilet, but holds its own against other insulated designs we've tested. Shop around and you get can it much cheaper, and at those prices it's a good investment for a top that adds extra versatility to your clothing outfit.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems at all.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Keeps your torso warm and adds an excellent layering option for chilly weather.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit and looks good.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Some pockets might be nice, but there is a zipped opening for getting to jersey pockets underneath.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A good, solid performing cold weather gilet that adds extra adaptability to your cycling outfit. Its price stops it scoring an 8 overall, though its performance and fit are great.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.