Reverence: Gilet

A properly-fitting gilet is an indispensable piece of kit

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who own a properly-fitting, lightweight gilet and those who don’t. Those who own one know this is an indispensable piece of kit.

The gilet is typically one of the last items that enters into a Cyclist’s wardrobe, long after arm warmers, knee warmers, and long sleeve jerseys have found their way into the kit bag. It’s just a vest, after all, and can’t possibly serve much purpose beyond Looking Pro, can it? It can, in fact.

A vest is an incredibly versatile unit that serves to stave off all kinds of Fuckness – be it from wind, rain, or cold. Furthermore, the sleeveless design makes it easy don or doff, and packs away nicely; a lightweight gilet can be folded flat (first in half, then in thirds) and slipped between the jersey and bibs, keeping the rear pockets clear and accessible for tools and food.

In short, the gilet is a Four-Season Fuckness Stopper that accompanies me year-round, one which I personally hold in higher regard than the long sleeve jersey:

  1. In Winter it is an ideal insulation barrier, adding warmth to a long or short sleeve jersey, or bridging the gap between the two during Spring and Fall
  2. In Spring and Fall, the wind-breaking capabilities make for a great rain barrier in (depending on your climate, Winter as well)
  3. In Summer, its lightweight nature makes it the ideal garment to stave off the chill of an early morning start or to bring along for warmth on cold mountain descents

Related Posts

162 Replies to “Reverence: Gilet”

  1. @frank

    @all
    Who was it that used the word “tricksy” today or yesterday? Just FYI, that has me giggling right now.

    Moi, talking about dopamine over in the Romanticization article :)

  2. @jimmy

    Akin to the post on RdV’s shin-guards, my early experience with a ‘gilet’ was chamois that covered the chest and shoulder blades as the standard early spring chest protection. Over a base layer, under a jersey it was a little work to get on smooth and came off with the weight of chain mail if wet. Great protection though. Given the helmets of the time, it was easy enough to take off…once. There was no putting it back on in an echelon like one can with a current zip up model. photo is modeled outside a jersey to give better perspective. I had to dig through a few suitcases to find it last night, maybe I’ll use it for car washing next summer.

    THAT. IS. THE. COOLEST. THING. EVER.

    Did a ride with G’rilla today, forgot to have him video me while doffing my gilet and folding it to stow…figure a vide of that will help people understand what I’m talking about…

  3. @Clips and Straps

    I totally agree the Gilet is the most indispensible bit of kit after your basic riding jersey, shorts, shoes, gloves etc.
    Here in Britain, where you often get all 4 seasons in one day, i seldom go out without either wearing or carrying it. It weighs nothing, rolls up super small and does not cost much unless you buy designer gear.
    As we are cyclists please remember how to pronounce it, a la Sean Kelly commentaries, or at least the understandable ones. “ggeee lay”. No hard Gs and certainly not “Gill let”; you can only pronounce it this way if riding a horse in the Home Counties (swanky up market horsey culture paid for by Daddy !).

    I am actually thinking of adding a pronunciation key to all our kit, as its now classified as Zwarte, Witte, Winter. Its Dutch/Flemish, so should be pronounced “Z-v-art-uh”, “Vit-uh”, and “Vin-ter”.

    Not to mention the name of the site:

  4. @frank
    So, basically fake German? (I hear that riles up you Duthfolk) I took a solid 4 years of Deutsch in school so I have those pronunciations down fine. My French and Italian cycling word pronunciation is atrocious. There is a kid on my floor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that I run it past, but they have their own dialect or something, as the French girl I am friends with just facepalms every time I try to pronounce something.

  5. @scaler911
    My folks live in the suburbs also. Its actually called Oro Valley, with sub divisions called Ranch Vistoso or Vistoso Views and other unoriginal names. Vapid would be how I describe it. that song described it perfectly.

  6. @FNG
    Gents, I’m just over the hill in Reno. Let me know if you’re ever somewhere between Auburn or this area. S. Lake Tahoe has some fun riding too, even now what with this nice summer weather!

  7. Oh goodness, I can’t stand the suburbs. I hang out quite a bit in one of Pittsurgh’s farther out suburbs, and I can’t stand the mindset of most of the people. So. Many. Yuppies. The kids are worse though, typical entitled jerks.

  8. @BrianG
    Will do. I work up in Grass Valley & Auburn sometimes & I like riding in Tahoe. The thin air makes you gasp like you’re climbing Alpe d’Huez!

  9. There are three types of people, those who can count, and those who can’t…

    so, the Gilet.. I am not into the pornography of gear, i just don’t need that much stuff, but i have to admit, a vest does come in handy, a great wind breaker, part of the whole layering system. You gotta figure, if it wasn’t useful, it wouldn’t exist, would it? Cyclists wouldn’t overburden themselves needlessly, would they?

  10. @ChrisO

    Fowler is like Merckx to us pedants, although to be fair he was actually quite scathing about those who attempted to follow rules for the sake of nothing more than showing that they had superior knowledge.
    I’ll get my coat…

    Pedantry? Sweet.

    It’s “I’ll get me coat”, rather than “my coat”.
    Love The Fast Show.

  11. @scaler911
    Watched that for the first time last night on Netflix. The chickens thing hit a little close to home, with our six ladies out back givin’ us good egg lovin’ every day. They are named as follows:

    Minnie
    Maxie
    Clementine
    Jig
    Polly Prissy Pants
    I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter

    Three of them are older, and we collectively call those three “The Elders”. Three of them are Buff Orpingtons, and we call them “The Tater tots”.

  12. Question for the Aussies… on our ride today one of our group, a lady from Queensland, was complaining she was hot (half-jokingly, about 3 minutes earlier she was complaining of being cold).

    As she was wearing a gilet I said they often make me hot unless I’m on a very easy ride or it’s very cold.

    She looked at me and said WTF was I talking about. I pointed to the garment in question and she insisted they call it a windbreaker, and in all her years of cycling she’d never even heard the term.

    I can’t remember whether I even knew they existed from my time in Australia, but I would have called a windbreaker something that was hooded but usually made of synthetic, like a shower-proof jacket or kagool.

    So have you all been reading this wondering WTF we were on about ?

  13. @frank

    @scaler911
    Watched that for the first time last night on Netflix. The chickens thing hit a little close to home, with our six ladies out back givin’ us good egg lovin’ every day. They are named as follows:
    Minnie
    Maxie
    Clementine
    Jig
    Polly Prissy Pants
    I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter
    Three of them are older, and we collectively call those three “The Elders”. Three of them are Buff Orpingtons, and we call them “The Tater tots”.

    Ha!
    You’ll like our urban farm then. We have 5, Twitch, Bitty, Harriet, Britches and the obligatory Happy Feet.
    All variations of different Bantams.

    Bitty and Twitch

  14. @mcsqueak

    Chickens seem pretty badass. I would like to own a few some day.

    You know it’s the middle of winter and no racing to discuss when a article on Gilets turns to urban farming.

  15. @ChrisO
    Queensland. There’s a clue right there. Did she ask for a cup of chino after the ride?

    Gilet is a French word no? We usually bastardise pronunciation here. Hard G and L and T. I learned the term listening to Paul and Phil commentating on Le Tour. Never used the term windbreaker though.

  16. @frank

    I think we’ll have to push the close date out a week to Sunday January 15

    For reference, you’re the Emperor back there. It’s like you just told me Padme is dead, but instead my V-Kit will arrive one week later – pretty much the same thing, really.

  17. @harminator

    @ChrisO
    Queensland. There’s a clue right there. Did she ask for a cup of chino after the ride?

    Beat me to it. Queenslanders like things big, so she’d likely ask for a mug of chino.

    @ChrisO
    Queensland is a pretty conservative (read – redneck) state, so it may be likely that the French terms that are the default for much of the cycling world are not used as much there (“Bidon? Talk Australian mate! It’s a bottle!”). Note that I’m not calling her a redneck, just looking for a reason her cycling community don’t use the term.
    It’s weird she hasn’t heard the term, though. I learned my cycling terminology from Phil and Paul and from reading up a storm, magazines then the web and gilet is used so widely it’s almost as if it’s the correct word.

  18. @Blah

    @harminator

    @ChrisO
    Queensland. There’s a clue right there. Did she ask for a cup of chino after the ride?

    Beat me to it. Queenslanders like things big, so she’d likely ask for a mug of chino.
    @ChrisO
    Queensland is a pretty conservative (read – redneck) state, so it may be likely that the French terms that are the default for much of the cycling world are not used as much there (“Bidon? Talk Australian mate! It’s a bottle!”). Note that I’m not calling her a redneck, just looking for a reason her cycling community don’t use the term.
    It’s weird she hasn’t heard the term, though. I learned my cycling terminology from Phil and Paul and from reading up a storm, magazines then the web and gilet is used so widely it’s almost as if it’s the correct word.

    And you beat me to the Redneck / rooinek comment. QLD = bogan central.

    Sometimes a gilet is referred to as a windstopper vest. And yes bidon is not really that common, bottle seems to suffice.

    And a question for Chris O, are you not an Australian asking the Australians re the term gilet?

  19. @anotherdowunder Yes I am but I have lived elsewhere since 1993, and wasn’t into cycling when I was there (as opposed to riding a bike) so I was just wondering what term the roadies there might use.

    I thought it might be a Queensland thing (her very fat cat is called Flo) but yes you’d think you’d just pick it up from watching races or reading, websites etc. And she’s done a bit of racing and competitive riding too.

    Funny, I can just imagine her saying “Bidon…. it’s a bottle”. When I see her next week I’ll tell her you all said she was a bogan redneck banana-bender for not saying gilet.

  20. First road ride with my wife today, a 75 km jaunt up the Hudson. The V-gilet doesn’t really make up for the outstanding style demerits (socks, bib knicks, 3-point system, etc)
    However, I post the photo mainly to answer the question: where do children of average height come from?

  21. @DerHoggz
    The frame is listed as a 66 cm by Gunnar, though top tube is 61cm and seat tube is 63. HT is a statuesque 25 cm. In the winter, we use it to store grain.

  22. I’m guessing the 66cm is from BB to the top of the HT, that is a compact frame, right?

  23. @DerHoggz
    Exactly. Their frame sizing correlates to stack (664 mm in this case).

    @Rob
    Simply glorious. What a “winter” so far. We didn’t make it to the Spoon this time, but it will be a destination as we increase distance. See you there?

  24. @xyxax
    In the spring – I will repeat the Spoon ride I did with the peeps from L.I.
    Right now I am up in Northern Dutchess/Columbia county.

  25. While I hate to ruin a perfectly good conversation about chickens and such, the topic at hand has prompted a question from me…

    If one were to purchase a gilet and rain is not a primary concern, should the gilet have a mesh back or not? Are the mesh-backed garments too cool for a winter day of 5-15C, or is a non-mesh back simply too hot and stuffy?

  26. @BrianG

    While I hate to ruin a perfectly good conversation about chickens and such, the topic at hand has prompted a question from me…
    If one were to purchase a gilet and rain is not a primary concern, should the gilet have a mesh back or not? Are the mesh-backed garments too cool for a winter day of 5-15C, or is a non-mesh back simply too hot and stuffy?

    Personally, if I was going to use it for 5-15C I’d get one without a mesh back. But I’ve got both. I use the mesh back one (albeit rarely) for cool late spring mornings or shove it in my pocket if I’m planning on a long decent after a big climb, say McKenzie Pass Oregon.
    If you can only fund one, get the one without mesh. IMHO.

    Just wanna stay on topic……..

  27. Don’t know how this thread got onto chickens, but be forewarned, if you get those chickens anywhere near me, I’m-a gonna eat ’em!

  28. @xyxax

    First road ride with my wife today, a 75 km jaunt up the Hudson. The V-gilet doesn’t really make up for the outstanding style demerits (socks, bib knicks, 3-point system, etc)
    However, I post the photo mainly to answer the question: where do children of average height come from?

    Ah, you look fantastic!

  29. @G’rilla, @xyxax
    I’ve always used a straight-edge that I hold under the flat bit of the bars and align it to the bottom of the brake lever. In issue 25 of Rouleur, however, they have the guy rebuilding Roger’s bike lining them up by setting the bars on the workbench with the brakes attached and lining them up that way. That, of course, is the way I will do it henceforth.

  30. @motor city
    Are you norm? We think we actually saw your coop back when we were studying up on ours! Small world!

    @BrianG, @scaler911
    Agreed – mesh back is totally fine – no worries. I have both. I don’t notice much difference, though, so I would get one that fits well and I’ve found the fit on the mesh-back ones to be a bit looser than the others.

    @The Oracle

    Don’t know how this thread got onto chickens, but be forewarned, if you get those chickens anywhere near me, I’m-a gonna eat ’em!

    My VMH refuses to call them “chickens” when we commonly prepare chicken for din-din. She refers to them only as “yickens”.
    Go figure.

  31. This just arrived courtesy of the good folks at Bikes to Rwanda. Will go nicely with jersey and bibs come spring (once it’s warm enough to put them all together again).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.