The Louis Garneau Course Speedzone Gilet offers easy access to your jersey pockets, a dash of wind and rain protection, and the ability for race officials to see your race number in the rain, without you having to undress before crossing the finish line.
Following the various rain jacket solutions that were seen in early season races such as Milan-San Remo, the UCI became more strict on the ability to see riders' numbers at the finish line of a bike race. Europcar, working with its official kit supplier Louis Garneau, found a way to avoid having to strip down to just a jersey before the finish line while still being able to display the numbers on said jersey, in the shape of the Course Speedzone Gilet.
Now for you or me, the ability for a UCI commissaire to be able to see our race numbers on a rainy finish in Italy is probably fairly low. But a by-product of the gilet cutout is having access to your jersey rear pockets without having to muck about with multiple layers of clothing. This is where I think the designers behind the Speedzone are on to something. Being able to access my pockets quickly and easily while wearing at least a bit of extra wind- and water-proofing is great on typical British spring/summer/autumn rides.
Of course, you could fold your regular bog-standard gilet up your back a bit, or even just stop at the side of the road to access your pockets. So in some respects Louis Garneau has created a solution to a not desperately important problem for anyone who doesn't race professionally. Still, the Speedzone just adds a nice bit of simplicity to my ride. Whether you think that simplicity is worth paying for is up to you.
That brings me on to the price. At £70, the Speedzone is definitely on the expensive side. I think realistically for me to consider buying it, it would need to be a fair bit cheaper. It's comfortable, plenty breathable and has neat little features such as the more and more prevalent "empty-gel pocket" on the side. But, neat though they are, all these features still don't add up to 70 quids' worth of clothing for me.
The other downside for me is a by-product of having such easy access to your pockets. On a ride where there is strong enough rain or sufficient surface water, the rear wheel spray will get through to your skin noticeably quicker. For me, the solution to wet days is generally mudguards – which all but eliminates this issue – but it's certainly worth considering if you ride in climates where sudden rain is prevalent.
Overall, I really like the Louis Garneau Speedzone gilet. I think the simplicity of adding a layer of extra clothing while still being able to reach into your pockets easily is great. And I'd like it even more if it were a little cheaper.
Alternative design for a gilet that actually works pretty well, but at quite a high price
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Make and model: Louis Garneau Course Speedzone Gilet
Size tested: Medium, Black/Red
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?
Louis Garneau says: "With so much focus on aerodynamics, often mere utility is overlooked and compromised. The Course Speedzone Vest (patent pending) offers a new approach to outerwear layering that focuses on the rider's usability and protection. Developed in cooperation with Team Europcar, the goal of this development was to answer 2 pro team's needs: 1) easy access to jersey pockets and 2) race numbers visibility so it can be worn during any races. The Louis Garneau Course Speedzone Vest has an opening at the rear large enough to allow access to the rear jersey pockets and provide visibility of race numbers. This opening which has been validated and confirmed in accordance to the UCI Sport and Technical Department is currently exclusive to Louis Garneau, International patent pending, and part of Team Europcar's 2012 Team Kit. The rear pocket opening allows for easier access to the content of the jersey pockets and eliminates the need to transfer contents once the vest is removed. The front of the vest is constructed of Super Light fabric, a 100% polyester fabric that stretches, offers wind-resistant and is extremely light. The side panels and back of the vest are made of power mesh fabric for increased ventilation and snug fit. An inner flap under the zipper helps shield from wind and water, and the vest is finished with a zipper garage at the neck to eliminate chafing."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Louis Garneau says: "Designed to meet the pros specific needs, the Course Speedzone Vest combines practicality and protection without sacrificing aerodynamics."
Extenz: Stretchable and waterproof
Waterproof and breathable fabric: Keeps you dry inside and out
Hole in the back: Offers easy access to jersey pocket and allows race number to show
Full length reversed zip
Inner flap: Increases protection against the wind
Zip garage: Prevents neck irritation
Enviro pocket: Allows to separately store empty gel pouches to eliminate littering
Stretch trim: Provides a good fit
Wide Signature silicone gripper at back hem
Front and back reflective piping and accents
Nice materials and good fit both a plus.
I really like the cut-out pocket idea, it makes sense if you race and/or like being able to get to your pockets easily on the move.
Light and easily stashable into a pocket.
Fits me very well and no uncomfortable spots.
On the pricey side for a gilet.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The cutout for pocket access is a winner in my book.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
If it was properly binning it down or if there was a lot of spray coming off a non-mudguarded rear wheel, the gilet opens an opportunity for you (and your pocket contents) to get colder/wetter a bit quicker than a gilet without a cutout.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 23 Height: 182cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: Kinesis Pro6 My best bike is: The first steel bike I made
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking