Cycle commuting can be a challenge at the best of times and one of the biggest metaphorical hairpins to tackle can be choosing what to wear. We're not talking fashion here, we're talking practicality and clothing to suit ever changing weather conditions. There are three buzzwords to look for in a good piece of kit for cycle commuting: practical, versatile and portable. The Chrome Warm Vest certainly ticks all those boxes, but does its performance match its price tag?
Chrome is an urban apparel brand founded in San Francisco, USA but now familiar to cyclists all around the world. They originally set out as specialists in producing bags for cycling messengers and they now produce a range of bags, clothing and footwear for all types of urban cyclists. Their manifesto states that they are committed to "producing useful and durable gear for professional messengers, fixed freestyle riders, and urban commuters. People who live and ride in the city".
They also say: "We make simple, functional gear built with industrial strength materials and features that work on the bike and in the bar. We make gear that protects people and their things from the elements without looking like you came from the mountains. Made for living the city". So there you have it, they couldn't be clearer if they tried, kit made for city living and riding.
The Chrome Warm™ range, consisting of the vest here and a jacket, is intended to be packable, lightweight, reflective, reversible and most importantly insulated against a whole host of elements that you face every day on the bike. You can watch a short vid here that explains a little more. It can be worn alone or layered under/above other items to suit the conditions.
On the face of it the Chrome Warm vest is a fairly simple insulated gilet, but looking a little deeper is has a whole host of features that make it more than meets the eye. The first thing to mention is that it's reversible; one side has a muted black quilted finish, and the other a highly visible rust orange colour. The rest of the features are largely dependant on which way round you wear the jacket, so they're aren't all available all the time, so let's break them down side-by-side.
The black side of the jacket has a stitched quilted surface pattern on the fabric. On the front there are two front hand warmer pockets, and a zip up the centre. It's a double zip that can also be unzipped from the bottom upwards if desired, and there's a zip garage at the top to avoid you catching your chin. The collar comes up high and fits snugly to avoid any unwanted draughts and keep out the rain. There's a subtly stitched label down by the left-hand pocket with the Chrome logo. The back just has two main features: a 75mm reflective tab down the back of the collar, and a vented yoke with a large strip of reflective across the shoulders for increased nighttime visibility.
The orange side offers the benefit of increased daytime visibility. The front of this side is pretty minimal. There's a zip flap down the front that helps protect against the elements, this is trimmed from top to bottom with reflective taping. There's a small embroidered Chrome logo in the bottom right corner. The back has the same vented yoke and reflective strip as the black side, but it also has the added benefit of a large zippered utility pocket, ideal for stowing for valuable items.
The large utility pocket on the back of the orange side also doubles up as a stuff sack. The whole vest packs down easily inside it and it zips shut in a 25cm by 25cm pouch. Perfect for stowing away in your bag if the weather takes a warmer turn, or for packing in your luggage if you're heading further afield.
The Warm Vest has a slim fit to it. The size medium we reviewed was really quite narrow in the body, with just enough room to wear a single layer or possibly two thin layers. If you're planning to wear more underneath it then it might be advisable to size up to give that bit of extra room. The torso of the vest is made slightly longer to ensure your lower back is always covered up even when reaching forward for the bars.
The vest is made from water-resistant rip stop nylon, and insulated with a lightweight poly fill material. The rip stop is water-resistant enough to withstand light to medium showers but won't be protective against much more than that. It's quilted on the black side and left as plain panels on the orange side. The insulating poly fill compresses easily to pack down the jacket into it's stuff sack. It's also water resistant, providing a decent level of insulation even when wet, so at least you're not going to get cold if you're caught in inclement weather.
The yoke section is made from four-way stretch nylon that has some extra flexibility allowing the vest to move with the roll of your shoulders as you pedal. The jacket is trimmed with abrasion resistant nylon at the more common wear points for increased durability and to makes sure it stays in good nick for longer.
There's no arguing about the usefulness of the Warm Vest, it's versatility makes it perfect for riding a variety of British conditions. It works well on its own over a thin layer or t-shirt on chilly summer mornings, acts as extra insulation on top of something thicker in spring or autumnal conditions, and can serve as an underlayer on harsher winter days. It's a piece of kit that can serve a purpose on 365 days of the year, and it's portability means that it can be thrown into your bag for those 'just in case' days with minimal hassle.
Off the bike it fits in seamlessly with most casual clothes and can easily be worn for other active pursuits, or just simply down the pub with your pals. There's nothing overtly cycling-specific about it.
The Chrome Warm Vest is available in the single colour option that we've tested here, and in sizes from Small to XL. The smallest recommended chest size is 34in and largest is 48in. It's definitely worth remembering that it comes in quite a slim fit so sizing up is definitely recommended if you want the option of more layers underneath.
The RRP for the Warm Vest is £127.37, but if you shop around you can find it cheaper than that, even coming in under the £100 mark. For many it'll seem a lot of cash for a jacket that doesn't even have sleeves, but if you're in market for something like this then it's a great bit of kit. Stylish, versatile, practical and portable, something that stays useful as the seasons change. It falls more into the 'sound investment' category than 'great value', but it's a piece of kit that you won't regret splashing out on.
Versatile, lightweight, stylish and practical, a top performing year-round piece of on- and off-bike kit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chrome Warm 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?
The Chrome Warm Vest is an insulated gilet aimed at urban riders to protect against a variety of weather conditions.
Chrome say: "Our Chrome WARM™ Vest is fully insulated and works as a layering piece and as outerwear. With features like reflective details, reversibility, built in ventilation, water-resistant fabric, and more, our Chrome WARM™ Vest is one of our most versatile and technical pieces – without looking technical."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Reversible black diamond quilting on one-side, rust orange on the other for visibility choice
* Concealed 4-way stretch Nylon mesh yoke provides ventilation and mobility
* Rear utility pocket doubles as stuff sack
* Front hand warmer pockets
* Reflective taping along front zipper and back yoke band for night visbility
* Ripstop nylon shell with diamond quilting pattern for rip-resistance
* Water-resistant poly fill insulation provides warmth even when wet
* Welt covered zipper pockets resist wind and water
* Abrasion resistant nylon twill trim for enhanced durability at wear points
Really quality construction, tough stitching and abrasion resistant trim on wear points.
Performs well in a variety of weather conditions, works as a piece of riding apparel and also off the bike.
Really lightweight, doesnt even get too heavy when wet.
It's not the cheapest product in this category, but it has a good range of features, it's useful year round, and the quality should see it last a good few seasons.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well. Stylish, comfortable, and versatile.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It looks good, easy to pack down and throw into your bag, lightweight, can be worn on most days in combination with various other kit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The RRP is a bit on the pricey side.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, definitely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, definitely.
Use this box to explain your score
The Chrome Warm Vest gets an 8 from me. It's a really good bit of kit, light, packable, reflective, robust and verstile. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed over sustained daily use. The RRP is slightly on the steep side, and the cut could do with being slightly more relaxed.
About the tester
Age: 29 Height: 5'10" Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: KHS Flite 100 Singlespeed/Fixed, Genesis Equilibrium 20 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,
Oli has been a road.cc staffer since day one. He's the graphic design and photography force behind the site, and has got a keen eye for good quality, well designed cycling kit. You'll find him on his bike everyday whatever the weather, he's got a penchant for a steel frame and has had 'fit mudguards' on his To Do list for nearly 6 years now. Likes: cold toast, gin, rugby. Dislikes: fitting mudguards.