For changeable days or the transition seasons of spring or autumn a gilet – a light, sleeveless outer vest worn as part of a layered clothing system – is an invaluable addition to your cycling wardrobe.
Read on to find out more about features common to many gilets and additional things you should look for.
While not as resistant to the elements as a full jacket, a gilet will offer a degree of wind- or rain-resistance on breezy, showery days or long descents, and is light and small enough to be packed into a jersey pocket when not required. However they don’t offer much in the way of insulation so are mainly for summer use, or for autumn and spring when worn in conjunction with warmer mid- and base layers.
Some things to consider when buying a gilet are cut, design, fabric and additional extras.
• Cut: Cycle-specific gilets – as opposed to running vests – will additionally be cut anatomically to reflect the on-bike position, with an elongated back and drop tail to prevent the gilet riding up and exposing the back, and to protect against spray from the rear wheel. Multi-directional stretch fabric panels will typically be used in areas such as the shoulders for comfort, while arm holes are cut to offer ample room for the rider that likes to stretch forward.
• Design: It’s worth nothing that pro-style ‘racing’ gilets or vests will be closer-fitting and more aerodynamic than more casual cuts for commuting or MTB use, and may also be restrictive in terms of the layers that can be worn underneath – worth bearing in mind, for example, if you are looking for a commuter vest under which street clothes can be worn.
• Fabric: As with most technical cycling garments, look for lightweight, breathable fabrics with good wicking properties (the ability to draw moisture away from the surface of the skin to the exterior of the fabric, where it can evaporate). Some gilets may also feature a water-repellant coating or a special windproof textile to the front of the garment, in order to offer additional protection against the elements. Conversely, some gilets have mesh panels on the rear to enhance air flow and offer optimized ventilation.
• Extras: Other features to consider are zippered rear pockets for ride essentials, and for commuting and low-light training, high-viz colours or piping to offer extra visibility to other road users.