Gilets are a cyclist’s secret weapon against the elements. Smaller and more packable than a full jacket, gilets are the perfect piece of spare clothing to take with you on changeable days. A good gilet can be the most versatile piece of kit in your wardrobe, seeing year round use.
Think cold morning starts in the spring and summer, long descents off mountains and days when the weather just won’t settle.
In the winter, they make a great outer layer for fast riding because they protect your core but are much more breathable than a jacket. The lack of sleeves means they can offer much greater ventilation, helping sweat to evaporate at a faster rate rather than getting trapped inside and eventually making you cold.
Like jackets, gilets come in a range of different materials, styles and price points, meaning there’s something for every type of cyclist.
So we’ve tested a wide range and have put together a list of what we think are the best gilets for cycling in 2020.
The best gilets for cycling in 2020 as tested by our team of experts
Altura NV2 Vest: £50
Castelli Perfetto Vest: £110 / $130 / AU$189
Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Gilet II: £65 / $90
Endura Pro SL Primaloft II Gilet: £120 / $165
Gore C7 Windstopper Light Gilet: £120 / $150
Kalf Club Lightweight Gilet: £50 / $52
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Rain Gilet: £140 / $190 / AU$245
Van Rysel Team Windproof Gilet: £35
Altura NV2 Vest
Altura NV2 Vest. Immediate Media
Featuring a semi-fitted cut and made with Altura Shield wind- and shower-proof fabric, the NV2 breathes well. The clever bit is the Darkproof technology in the fabric, which gives it a glowing appearance when light shines on it.
A silicone waist gripper holds the gilet in place, and the lower back panel features a single zipped pocket with a storm flap.
Castelli Perfetto Vest
Castelli Perfetto Vest. Immediate Media
Price: £110 / $130 / AU$189
Soon to be replaced by the Perfetto RoS Vest, which has an updated fabric on the front, side and shoulder panels, the Perfetto vest features a race cut and offers excellent comfort, construction and performance.
A thicker Gore Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric appears on the front, side and shoulder panels, with a more breathable, thinner Nano Flex Light fabric on the back. A storm flap also covers the full-length zip, making this gilet ideally suited for colder weather.
Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Gilet II
Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Gilet II. Immediate Media
Price: £65 / $90 / AU$137
Based on the classic race cape-style, the translucent ExoShell20ST fabric offers good breathability with excellent stretch properties and waterproofing, improved by sealed seams and an internal storm flap.
The ample reflective trim around the waist, shoulder cuffs and zip also offers great visibility.
Endura Pro SL Primaloft II Gilet
Endura Pro SL Primaloft II Gilet. Immediate Media
Endura’s gilet will leave you as snug as a bug under a duvet clutching a hot water bottle! It’s not as packable as most, but this PrimaLoft-insulated gilet does have three standard rear pockets and one zipped one, so it’s great for long days in the saddle when you might need the extra storage space.
We think it’s perfect over a baselayer and long-sleeve jersey on dry, cold days. This is ideal for whippets like Simon Bromley, but hot tatties like Jack Luke might find it a little too warm on long climbs. There are reflective details on the collar and hem too, for added visibility.
Gore C7 Windstopper Light Vest
Gore C7 Windstopper Light Vest. Immediate Media
This minimalist top is race-cut with a dropped tail, so consider sizing up if you want to wear it over a thick winter jersey.
The Windstopper material lives up to its name and is also water-resistant, with taped seams and a full-length wind flap behind the zip. There’s a small zipped pocket on the front and lots of reflective details. Another high-quality Gore product then, but it comes with a high price tag.
Kalf Club Lightweight Gilet
Kalf Club Lightweight Gilet. Immediate Media
It’s light and perhaps the most packable on this list. The Club has all the usual features: windproof and water-resistant front with a super-stretchy, breathable mesh rear.
The full-length front zip has a rear baffle and the only rear pocket is zipped. Our only real criticism of the Club is the paucity of reflective materials, but not everyone will see that as a negative.
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Rain Gilet
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Rain Gilet. Immediate Media
Price: £140 / $190 / AU$245
Perfect for cold, rainy days the Pro Team offers outstanding waterproofing. Rapha’s three-layer fabric is highly stretchy for a race-ready fit.
A two-way zip adds cooling options, along with the top Velcroed tab. A large rear pocket is ample for on-the-go storage, and it’s covered in a rubber-like film for added spray protection too.
Van Rysel Team Windproof Gilet
Van Rysel Team Windproof Gilet. Immediate Media
The Team in the name is reflected in its race cut and excellent packability. It achieves its size by doing away with pockets and having a thinner, more breathable mesh back. The front offers good windproofing for cooler days and some water-repellency for rainier rides.
White perhaps isn’t the most sensible colour for grimy winter rides, but thankfully it’s also available in black. It could also do with more reflective details, but is an otherwise excellent and well-priced gilet.