Like a posh bodywarmer, the insulated vest from Giro's New Road range is a pretty flexible piece of gear that I found works well for casual use but is also an effective and packable layer for longer rides. Like the rest of the New Road range, the price might raise eyebrows, but with clever pockets and the insulation and packability that Primaloft gives, it's a lovely piece of gear.
Giro uses Primaloft Sport, a highly packable and water-resistant synthetic insulation, combined with Pertex Quantum for the outer layer. This combination makes for a low-bulk, really lightweight and surprisingly warm gilet. It's great over a t-shirt or hoody for an autumnal ride into town, but if you are going out for an all dayer in your lycra, it works really well as an intermediate layer between a lightweight jersey and an outer jacket. It's no problem to pack it down into a jersey pocket, and although it's not water-resistant, the Primaloft doesn't get sodden, so will continue to keep you warm even if it's damp from rain or sweat.
The pockets are probably the most unique feature here. There are various approaches to pockets for a gilet. Some don't include any pockets, some gilets have one or more external pockets, and others opt for flaps allowing you to reach inside to your jersey pockets. Giro took a novel approach here, and it's quite a good one. There are a couple of zip pockets on the front, ideal for keeping your hands warm when you're not riding. At the back is Giro's trademarked Stowback system, a kind of clever poacher's pocket. There are further vertical zipped openings on each side, further back from the front pockets, which give access to three internal pockets, between the inner and outer layers of the gilet. The internal pockets are made of a tough but lightweight mesh material and are of a similar size to jersey pockets.
What? That's not enough pockets for you? OK, so there's two more on the inside; an open pocket big enough for an OS map, and a smaller one with a velcro closure. I didn't ever find I needed these two, to be honest. The Stowback system is good when you're riding though: you can leave the side zips open and reach in to grab stuff from the hidden pockets quite easily, without stopping. It's a good idea to leave the zips open if you're using those pockets, as they can be quite fiddly to open and close.
The zips giving access to the Stowback and those used on the front pockets are hidden ones with rather small pulls, and the fine Pertex fabric either side frequently catches in the zip when opening or closing. Giro obviously wanted the zips to have as minimal an impact on the aesthetics as possible, but the consequence is that one-handed operation is tricky. The zip down the front is easier to use, and has a nice soft flap to keep it away from your chin.
Given the fairly thin layer of Primaloft used, the windproofing is really good, keeping cold drafts at bay when you're going down hill and also helping keep you warm if you're sitting outside a cafe late in the year. Most good gilets do a decent job of keeping the wind out when you're moving, but I find I can get cold when stopped, whereas this continues to keep you warm thanks to the insulation.
I used it under a very basic hard-shell waterproof and the combination was very effective on a long wet and cold ride. It's a slim fit but not tight, and the back is slightly dropped, so it looks ok on the bike as long the layer below isn't too long. When wearing it over the Crew Pockets t-shirt (sorry, jersey) from the same New Road range, I found that the pockets on that would hang well below the bottom of this vest, which wasn't ideal.
You can have the vest in the grey that we tested ("Dark Shadow") as well as the orangey Glowing Red or a lighter Glacier Grey. I'd definitely opt for the Glowing Red, which looks really good over a dark jersey or t-shirt. The styling is pretty discreet; smart but casual if you like. There's very little that shouts "cyclist", and I've been wearing it at least as much off the bike as on. Giro have included an incredibly subtle reflective stripe below the collar at the back - it's almost the same colour as the rest of the gilet, but reflects strongly when illuminated at night-time. Given its position, though, it's going to catch headlights better if you're riding in an upright position than in a TT tuck. The Giro Sport Design wording at the bottom of the front is also reflective, but that's it in terms of night-time visibility, so don't forget your lights.
To summarise, the Giro New Road Primaloft Insulated Vest is a lovely piece of kit, which works particularly well as part of a layer system for riding in the colder months. The fact that you can also use it for knocking around in town at the weekend, going walking and a bunch of other stuff definitely makes the price more palatable, but there's no getting away from it that £130 is an awful lot for a gilet. It's on a par with Vulpine's similar Ultralight Quilted Thermal Gilet, though, and Rapha's gilet (which doesn't have any insulation) is around the same mark too.
Expensive gilet but one with some unusual and innovative features; really lovely on or off the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giro New Road Primaloft Insulated Vest
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
All about warmth, versatility and storage. The insulated vest brings our New Road design philosophy to a cold weather layering piece. By using 25g of Primaloft® it manages warmth supremely. The featherlight weight allows it to be truly packable for easy storage. Giro's proprietary Stowback™ pocketing takes this piece to another level allowing the wearer to easily store gear which is completely hidden from view. This piece is truly a perfect blend of riding performance and versatile styling.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fabric & Construction
20D Micro Ripstop Nylon Shell, 25g Primaloft® Sport Insulation, Rear Stowback™ Gear Pocket with Mesh Venting System, Stows in Hand Pocket, Made in China
Very well made (in China) using high-performing materials. Top quality construction with neat tidy stitching, as you'd expect at this price.
Surprisingly warm and yet brilliantly packable.
No issues here.
Lighter than some non-insulated gilets - very light indeed.
You can buy a decent windproof gilet and a thermal base layer for an awful lot less than this. But it's on a par with similar high-end gilets from posh brands like Rapha and Vulpine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well - it's an unusual concept and works well for all sorts of riding (not to mention off-bike time).
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Combination of warmth and packability. Pockets are clever but not - to me - a game changer.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Tiny side zips are annoying and get caught all the time. Best just to leave them open. I think the red version looks better.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No, I don't think I could bring myself to pay that much.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes if they had £££.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
This was probably my favourite piece from the New Road stuff that I've been reviewing. It's very expensive, but it isn't "just another gilet"; it's good to see something creative and new. I wore it a lot and really enjoyed using it.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.