Thursday, March 31, 2011

Synthetic Exceptions: Wind Vests for Cyclists

Framebuilder Dan Boxer wearing a discontinued wool Ibex vest in June

Standard issue, safety yellow, synthetic vest worn by Audrey A.

Karl, Eugene Tweed Ride participant, sporting wool Filson liner as cycling vest. Recommended for low speed cycling or cyclo-commuting only.

Use value of wind vest declines at rest

When shopping from the present, I try to source products that are made in their traditional country of origin from materials that are durable, all natural and will wear evenly with use. In most cases, I'm able to find something that I would categorize as archival.

For my sport of randonneuring, or long distance cycling, I've had to compromise on some of my purchasing decisions. Most performance oriented cycling gear is produced offshore out of synthetics fabrics. For short distance commutes, I'm fine wearing everyday, non-sport specific clothing on my bike. Here, one can easily default to wearing vests and jackets made from wool, moleskin or cotton duck. But for ultra distance rides, I always wear a synthetic vest over my wool kit to block wind, regulate temperature and prevent chill. While many cyclists prefer full sleeved jackets, the synthetic wind vest provides a protective barrier without causing overheating. Alas, I've never found a wool or natural fabric version of a vest that performs better than its synthetic counterpart.

That being said, here's what I caught and released from a recent shopping project.


Boure Pro Wind Vest. Best in class. Still made in Colorado. Customization possible. Unisex sizing. Supplex nylon front, mesh back. Ideally, Boure would add a two-way zip for maximum ventilation.

Sugoi Zap Vest. Shaped body panels on this one make the fit a little strange. Although I hate brightly colored fabrics, I almost always default to bright yellow for my wind vests for maximum visibility. If you're going with a bright yellow material, why not add more bold reflective striping?

Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest. Garneau is one of my favorite cycling brands. They produce well thought out, well structured cycling garments at a reasonable, non premium pricepoint. I love that this vest includes a two-way zipper, an essential feature on any vest or jacket. Reflective striping could be maximized.

Pearl Izumi vest (discontinued model). My old standby. As with most synthetic garments, the material on this vest does not age well with use. Dirt and grime cannot be removed.
Alp-X Zip Off jacket. Interesting option from Gore Bike Wear, another favorite brand. If I didn't have to pay an extra $99 for the sleeves, I'd keep this jacket and use it exclusively as a vest. The vest/jacket has two front pockets, a two way zip and fits perfectly. Gore makes a wind vest for women but color availability is currently limited to white and black--unacceptable colors for a cycling vest.

Not pictured is my dream vest, not available, which would be manufactured by Showers Pass, a Portland Oregon company. I wear the Elite 2.0 jacket throughout the winter and wish there were a vest equivalent. It would be made of the same breathable, durable eVENT fabric and have a two way zipper and a mesh back.

Tom and I often chatter about creating an Archival wind vest that would incorporate waxed fabrics, archival design details, but also make use of some modern synthetics. Stay tuned for future developments.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do you think a single layer Ventile vest would go?
With two way zip and perhaps and a pocket or two.

Lesli Larson said...

Yes, q single layer, windproof ventile would make a perfect vest. It would probably pack down better than waxed cotton. One issue: cost of Ventiile is so high (more than waxed cotton) that it might make such a garment cost prohibitive. I have a mental pricepoint of $100.00 or less for a wind vest. I fear what the final cost of a ventile vest might be. Worth investigating...

Kevin M said...

I wonder if leather could be used as a archival style windbreaker; it certainly works well for motorcyclists.

What about a vest made with thin leather front and a wool backside?

rocketfuelstyle said...

We've got some great wind vests and jerseys from these guys http://twinsix.com/ the fit and quality are really good the jerseys are breathable enough for a warm summer day in Australia). They do custom designs too.

Anonymous said...

Traditional wind protection involves stuffing sheets of newspaper down the front of your jersey. Perhaps you should import stacks of old issues of Le Monde and sell them for this purpose.

Or a waxed cotton dickie?

Angelo R. said...

Col d'Lizard has some great cycling vests, jackets, and accessories. Still made in Vermont. Great prices too! I have a jacket, vest, arm warmers and balaclava from them. The vest I own is no longer made, it has a full mesh back.

www.coldlizard.com

Todd V said...

The Woolywarm tweed vest is back at Rivendell!

Martha said...

Sign me up for an Archival Clothing vest! I've been waiting for the perfect cycling vest. I want visibility AND subtlety, figure flattery with room for a layer or two. Is this too much to ask?

Dan Boxer said...

I tell you what, all that wool got really hot in about three minutes! I could barely carry all the extra layers.

I sure liked the cozy warmth of merino wool while descending Loup Loup pass at 2 am.