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14 best cycling gilets and vests

Add an extra layer of protection from the elements on your rides

Aaron Roe
Thursday 08 February 2018 12:12
The Ashmei is lightweight, offers great protection and folds up into a neat pouch
The Ashmei is lightweight, offers great protection and folds up into a neat pouch

Gilets, or vests, whichever name you favour, are one of cycling’s most useful bits of kit. The ideal one will keep out the wind and rain yet pack down small enough to fit in your pocket when you warm up or the weather improves. For commuters they can offer extra visibility in traffic.

We hit the road to put a range of styles to the test, looking at fit, practicality and how they fared against the elements. Some are aimed at commuters, others at sporty riders. We have examples that will keep you snug on the coldest winter days and others you can use all year round as an extra layer.

Some are water-resistant and will keep out light rain, while a few waterproof examples will keep your core dry through the heaviest downpour. Whatever you’re looking for, you should find it here.

Endura Pro SL Primaloft: from £114, Tredz

Our Best Buy kept us warm and toasty through some freezing winter weather. The windproof front sections contain heat-retaining Primaloft insulation to keep out the cold, while there are laser-cut holes on the back to aid ventilation. Despite the insulation, it’s lightweight at just 152g for a medium size and packs down into an attached pouch so you can carry it in a jersey pocket. It’s not waterproof, so you’ll need to team it with a suitable jacket if it rains. Available in sizes S to XXL.

Buy now

Prendas Ciclismo Guard Vest: £80, Prendas

Poole-based Prendas teamed up with Italian firm Santini to create this wind- and water-resistant, packable number. Apart from the colour, it’s identical to those the Trek-Segafredo racing team will be wearing this year. Available in red or black, it’s a well-tailored fit and will appeal to racier riders, as well as those looking for great value for money. It also includes some nice details, such as a soft-touch collar lining and a reflective stripe down the back. A size large weighs 152g, so it’s pleasingly lightweight. Available in XS to 8XL.

Buy now

Proviz Switch: £65, Proviz Sports

This sort of trickery could have got you hung for being a witch not too long ago… it’s pure magic! Shine a headlight anywhere near the grey fabric and it bursts into life, transforming the wearer into a bright white spectral figure that’s impossible to miss. It’s perfect for dawn and twilight commuting or for anyone who likes to train at night. Proviz has made it reversible too, so you can walk around with the black side out without drawing unwanted attention. There’s also a version with a fluo-yellow side for daytime riding. It’s waterproof but not particularly warm, although the generous cut means you can wear it over a light jacket or jersey. Available in sizes from XS to XXL.

Buy now

Chapeau Echelon: £100, Chapeau

Hats off to the designers of this one – they’ve added some nice little features which make it both practical and stylish. There’s a handy chest pocket with a waterproofed zip where you can stow your bank card or fiver for the café stop. Round the back is a zipped pocket you can pack the vest into, while soft “garages” at the neck and waist protect your skin and shirt from being rubbed by the zip. The fit is good and we appreciated the higher collar for keeping draughts out. It’s got a water-resistant coating that did a good job of keeping the drizzle at bay and ensuring our testers stayed warm and dry. Available in sizes S, M and L.

Buy now

Altura Podium Elite: £63, Tredz

This great value vest is windproof, water-resistant and great looking – all at a pocket-friendly price. The stretchy Altura Shield fabric allows for a flattering fit and is highly breathable. There are three rear pockets and we liked the fact the outer ones are cut at an angle for easy access. There’s also a long tail to keep the curse of the soggy bottom at bay in the rain. Available in sizes S to XXL.

Buy now

Ashmei Gilet: £110, Ashmei

Weight watchers will love the fact this surprisingly effective wind- and water-resistant vest tips the scales at a mere 115g, while the style conscious will adore the understated looks. Ashmei has come up with a suitably elegant way to prevent neck rub from the zip – it’s been moved it to the side by using an unusual wiggly design. There are laser-cut holes at the back to help ventilation while zipped openings allow access to your jersey pockets. The whole thing packs down extra small into a built-in pouch. Available in sizes XS to XXL.

Buy now

Le Col Therma Rosso/Nero: £140, Le Col

It’s expensive, but this Italian-made offering has a high-quality feel and should give years of service. Former professional rider and Le Col founder Yanto Barker used his experience to design a race-cut vest that will appeal to sportier riders. The WindTex fabric has a four-way stretch to ensure a close fit. We particularly liked the big zip-puller which made on-the-fly adjustments a whole lot easier with chilly fingers. As well as being windproof, it’s got a water-resistant coating which did an impressive job of keeping the rain out on our rides. Available in sizes S to XXL.

Buy now

PEdAL ED Nachi Waterproof: £92, Condor Cycles

Here’s one for the wettest weather. It’s got taped seams and a waterproofed zip to ensure you stay bone dry. There are two rear pockets, while two ventilation slits allow you to reach into your jersey pockets too. We love the petrol blue colour and exquisite tailoring but you might need to go up a size as it’s a pretty small fit. Expect to see more of this Japanese/Italian brand over the coming months thanks to their sponsorship of the JLT Condor race team. Available in sizes XS to XXL.

Buy now

Rapha Brevet Insulated: £130, Rapha

Keep your core warm with this lightweight offering from cycling’s most stylish brand. The Polartec Alpha filling retains heat but dries out quickly if it gets damp, while the breathable side-panels prevent overheating. It did an admirable job of keeping out the wind and light drizzle on training rides. It packs down compactly so you can slip it in a pocket when not in use – there’s even an elasticated loop at the neck to bind it all together while stowed. Available in sizes XS to XXL, as two colourways.

Buy now

Madison RoadRace Windtech: £75, Tredz

This one’s perfect for those early spring and summer mornings where you need a bit of extra protection until things warm up. It’s race-cut, so quite a small fit, and the blue curacao version we tried out really turns heads. Houndstooth detailing inside the collar is a nice addition. Input from the Madison Genesis race team has led to a “pre-curved” design – shorter at the front than the back – making it perfectly suited to an aggressive on-the-drops riding position. As the name suggests, it’s aimed at keeping out the wind rather than the rain, so one for cold and dry days. Available in sizes XS to XXL, and available in black, blue and red.

Buy now

Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier Lite: £59, Cycle Store

Even the most myopic motorists can’t fail to spot this bold black and fluo-yellow design. Lightweight and very packable, it will fold down into its own single back pocket for easy carrying. It’s thin but will still do a great job of keeping you warm and fairly dry on spring and summer rides. Stretchy side panels ensure you get a nice aerodynamic fit. Available in sizes S to XXL.

Buy now

Blaze Wear Active Gilet: £195, Blaze Wear

This is something different – a gilet with a battery and built-in heating. It’ll even charge up your phone on the morning ride into the office. There are heating elements at the chest and lower back with four different temperature settings, and the USB-rechargeable power pack should last up to five hours. We found it so toasty warm we didn’t want to take it off. It’s too bulky for sportier riders and won’t keep the rain off, but it works well beneath a waterproof on cold commutes and could be used for skiing and other outdoor sports too. Available in sizes M to XXXL.

Buy now

FWE Kennington: £35, Evans

This is a cheap and very cheerful-looking vest from Evans Cycles’ in-house brand that offers fantastic value for money. It punches well above its weight with waterproof, breathable fabric, a zipped chest pocket, reflective detailing and a soft-touch collar. There’s a drawstring at the waist so you can adjust it to get the fit spot-on for your riding style. Available in a huge range of sizes – from XXS right through to XXXL.

Buy now

Sportful No Rain Fiandre: £88, BikeInn

This beautifully soft vest should be good for year-round use. Sportful’s excellent NoRain fabric is used on the back to shield against light rain, while the front and shoulders use a windproof material to stop you getting chilly on descents. Despite offering good protection from the elements, it’s highly breathable and the close fit helps you slip through the air. The whole package weighs in at a mere 131g. Available in small or large sizes.

Buy now

The Verdict

With such a huge range of styles, prices and fabrics, you’re sure to find your perfect vest among our selection. Our Best Buy from Endura gave sterling service in the winter weather and will no doubt see us through the spring and autumn too. If you want a practical and stylish vest to serve you all year round you could do a lot worse than buy the Prendas – it’s great value for money. Commuters will be wowed by the incredible Proviz thanks to its amazing light reflecting abilities.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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