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The dhb Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet is absolutely brilliant at keeping you warm while being impressively breathable, all from a garment that is so light and minimal that it fits easily in a jersey pocket.
The first thing I was surprised about when picking up the Aeron gilet was the weight, or more like the lack of it. The material makes it look bulkier than it really is, and when you put it on you realise it actually weighs next to nothing. It also packs down small enough to fit in a jersey pocket.
While many gilets are basically wind or water stoppers, the Aeron adds thermal properties to that mix.
It uses Alpha Direct fabric from Polartec, which it says is an improvement over the original Alpha as it removes the need for an extra layer between the rider and the insulating layer, so increasing breathability.
The inside of the gilet has a fluffy, fleece kind of finish to it and it's this that traps body heat, keeping you warm – and I mean really warm. It is proper toasty, but you never get overly sweaty even when riding hard (aided by the mesh underarm panels), and should you have to stop for a mechanical or coffee you can feel it keeping that body heat wrapped around your core.
Backing this up is the windproof outer layer which puts a stop to icy blasts penetrating through, ideal on a long slog into a chilly northerly breeze.
The outer has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, too, for a bit of water resistance. It won't stop heavy rain, but light showers, drizzle and fog are dealt with without fuss.
As with all of the Aeron products, this gilet has quite a close, racer's cut to it and you notice the benefits the moment you get on the bike, as opposed to when you're standing around, when it feels a little restrictive.
The dropped tail gives plenty of rear coverage and the stomach and chest sit close so there's no fabric flapping around in the wind. It's designed to be worn over a mid-weight long-sleeve jersey.
You get a full YKK zip which has a wind baffle behind it, and at the top of the tall neck you'll find a zip garage to avoid any skin irritation.
Not all gilets come with pockets but I'm glad to see dhb has included them here. There are three pockets in a traditional layout and an extra zipped one for valuables. They are made from a mesh fabric, so if you are riding and there is the chance of rain, your tools and so on aren't going to be protected from water dropping from above or road spray from the rear wheel.
The Aeron is available in two colours, black and this blue/green which I actually like with its hint of high vis on the back to help you get noticed from behind.
Cost-wise, £100 is quite pricey for a gilet but the dhb still manages to look reasonably priced against something like the Assos Mille GT Spring/Fall Airblock Vest at £130. Alex praised the Assos for its weatherproofing but it lacks the pockets, and the dhb sounds much more packable.
Another gilet using a form of insulation is the Endura Pro SL Primaloft which has an RRP of £114.99, and Ash was certainly impressed with its performance, especially from a warmth/breathability point of view.
You can get a lot of performance for less from something like the Lusso Aqua Challenge Gilet, priced at £64.99. It lacks a bit on the breathability front but works well if you get caught out in the rain.
Overall, the dhb Aeron Alpha gilet really benefits from the inclusion of the Polartec material. The balance of how warm you are without ever feeling clammy keeps you really comfortable on long, hard rides. While it is at the upper price point for a decent gilet, it's a worthwhile investment if you spend a lot of time riding in the cold.
Brilliantly insulated gilet that delivers on both warmth and breathability no matter how hard you are riding
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road.cc test report
Make and model: dhb Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
dhb says, "The thermal gilet that gives you the freedom to ride through cold and changeable conditions. Powered by the advanced Polartec® Alpha® Direct fabric, this new development from dhb balances lightweight insulation with best-in-class breathability.
"Thermal gilets don't have to be big and bulky. The new Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet from dhb uses advanced fabric technology creates a breathable, insulating layer, leaving you free to ride into winter in comfort, without the need for heavy, restrictive layers.
"Small enough to fit in your middle jersey pocket, this is the ideal gilet for carrying that nimble riding feeling into the colder months. "
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
dhb lists these features:
Polartec® Alpha® Direct lining for perfect thermal regulation
Windproof outer fabric with DWR
Underarm Mesh fabric
Three rear mesh pockets
YKK zip pocket for valuables
Full length YKK zip
Reflective rear details and dhb logo
High collar for added warmth
Silicone gripper along bottom hem
Inner: 100% Polyester
Mesh: 94% Polyester, 6% Elastane(Spandex)
Outer: 100% Polyamide(Nylon)
Very good throughout, with neat and tidy, durable stitching.
The perfect balance of breathability and warmth.
Sizing tallies up well with dhb's guide so you won't need to drop a size to get a race fit.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues with washing, and even when the green back panel got covered in dirty road spray it cleaned up fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's great at keeping you warm without letting you overheat.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The thermal regulation is top notch.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd prefer a solid material for the pockets rather than mesh, but that is just a small quibble.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Although it's not cheap, against other insulated gilets, like the Endura mentioned in the review, or other decent performing offerings like the Assos, the dhb is actually priced quite competitively. With certain sizes/colours available online from as little as £60, it becomes even better value for money.
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
At full price it is up there with some of the most expensive gilets, but it performs very well indeed and is well made, too.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!