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 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.
The only issue is sizing. My recommended size (Medium) gave a skin-tight fit over a single thin baselayer, despite a) me being an inch inside the maximum recommended chest size and b) it being extremely unlikely that anyone would wear it over a single thin layer. Over normal winter layers/a jacket, I could barely get it closed, while its shoulders reached nowhere near mine. (It's not me in the photos, by the way.)
Sizing up to Large gave me a snug fit over winter layers, and leaves nothing to flap over one thin one either. It seems the sizing is technically accurate, but doesn't take into account what you're going to wear this with. Be aware when ordering.
Issue fixed and the fit was excellent. The high neck gives good wind protection, while the relatively stiff, thick Windtex fabric makes it easy to fish the zip out of its garage and make adjustments to temperature (no need to bite the collar, which is nice). It's showerproof too, which is one up on the excellent but more expensive Endura Pro SL PrimaLoft gilet, and makes it more usable.
The three pockets on the rear are fleecy inside for an extra layer of warmth across your lower back, while the whole rear panel is very breathable – I never got clammy in this despite being bundled up on some long, chilly climbs. The zipped, side-entry pocket on the right is a welcome touch, and stretches easily to accept phones.
The hem, logos and grey bars are all highly retroreflective, but while this gilet is a decent blend of cyclist-favourite black and still-cafe-friendly high-vis touches, it would be good to see options in brighter colours. Maybe I imagine more close passes when my torso is all-but blacked out, but maybe not...
The competition is expensive, making this gilet good value by default. The Endura Pro SL mentioned above is excellent but £115, while Rapha's similarly light and packable Pro Team Insulated Gilet is £140 (currently discounted to £112). Both of these and even the less aero, 'adventure'-orientated Sportful Giara Thermal Gilet (also £115) are lighter than the Lusso, though, if weight matters more than price.
Lusso takes Italian fabrics (and arguably style) but designs and makes its gear in Britain – specifically, Manchester. The Essential Thermal Gilet shows it has a good grip on the UK climate and its challenges, and this is an excellent, versatile bit of kit whenever temperatures fall far below 10°C. It's a bit much for warm spring days, but invaluable for winter.
Neither light nor easily packable, this gilet is one to leave on: warm, well made and fantastically useful
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Lusso Essential Thermal Gilet
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Lusso says: "The Lusso Essential Thermal Gilet is designed to be used on the coldest of days, keeping your core warm and temperature regulated."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lusso list these features:
-3 Rear Pockets ( 1 Zipped )
-Designed & Made in Manchester
Strong stitching and chunky fabrics.
Very warm and genuinely useful on very cold days.
Tough build gives no cause for concern.
Once I had the appropriate size (see below), the fit was spot on.
The Essential Gilet comes up small. The size chart says I should fit a Medium (with an inch to spare), but over a few winter layers it was a struggle to even zip up. Sizing up gave a comfy, slim fit over a jacket.
At 261g in Medium it's 100g heavier than some, and bulky too – it's not a gilet to take on and off.
Nothing restrictive or flappy, with a good high neck and great fabric providing strong protection and warmth.
It's expensive, but as one of the cheapest thermal options – with a tough build that should perform for years – value is still pretty good.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Took cold washes without issue.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provides vital warmth without excessive bulk to make colder rides far more manageable – I found it invaluable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lots of warmth for little bulk (once on), and temperature's easy to regulate with the zip.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sizing was out, and a brighter colour option would be welcome.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's at least £25 cheaper than the serious competition.
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
True, this doesn't pack smaller than two fists and it's almost 100g heavier than some, but it's also cheaper and easier to care for. It does a great job of adding warmth without bulk to genuinely cold rides, which is exactly what it should do. The only issue is sizing, and that's a one-time problem and easily solved – hence the solid high score.
About the tester
I usually ride: GT GTR Series 3 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mountain biking