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What to look for in a cycling vest

Stay warm—but not too warm

‘Vest’ seems like a straightforward category of cycling clothing, but there are many small features that can make or break a cycling vest’s usability.

When you’re cycling in fall or spring weather there will undoubtedly be moments when you are under-dressed or over-dressed for the weather. Items such as arm warmersneck gaiters and vests (often referred to as gilets) can help you regulate your temperature in uncertain conditions like a pro.

RELATED: What to look for when buying arm warmers

Here are some features you should keep in mind when you’re shopping for a cycling vest:


Unzipping a vest to let a bit of cool air in will make a big difference to your body’s temperature.

The zipper should be easy to grab and unzip smoothly, but it should also not weigh too much (a flapping heavy zipper repeatedly slapping your back can get very annoying.)

Givelo’s Quick Free Gecko Gilet has an interesting rippable zipper design that can be opened using just one hand.

Rapha Pro Team Lightweight vest

Vests with two zippers (one from the top and one from the bottom) will let you unzip almost entirely while avoiding having to deal with fabric flapping in the wind.


The material of the cycling vest that is best for you will depend on how you plan to use it. A lightweight vest for a-bit-chilly-with-just-a-jersey conditions will be good to avoid overheating. For windier rides, a windproof vest or one with thicker material, like the Castelli  Pro Thermal Mid vest will keep you warmer.

Castelli Pro Thermal Mid vest

If you’re planning on taking on some possibly rainy (or even snowy) conditions, make sure the material of the vest you choose is water-resistant.


Thicker vests will sometimes have pockets similar to cycling jerseys. More lightweight versions often feature a flap in the back that opens to the jersey’s pockets underneath.

Sportful Fiandre Light NoRain Vest

Some vests don’t have pockets at all, or just one zippered pocket on the side. These vests may be the cause of a bit of a struggle unless they have a double-sided zipper that will allow you to easily reach behind loose fabric to access a pocket.


Riders generally plan to wear heavier vests during the majority of the ride, unzipping if they get a little bit warmer.

Oakley Packable Vest 2.0

On the other hand, some lightweight vests, such as the Oakley Packable Vest 2.0 are designed to pack into a built-in pocket, making them small enough to be stored in a jersey.