The cycling vest is a really specific piece of clothing to dedicate an entire post to, but we consider it to be a fall staple… even off the bike! Here, we wanted to break down different considerations while vest shopping. We have a few recommendations that we love, but it’s less about ‘you need X brand vest in X cut’. We want to talk about what you should look for while you’re picking the right vest for you—because while it seems like a simple choice, there are weirdly HUGE variations in what a vest can do for you.
Do you want windproof, waterproof or warm?
All vests aren’t created equal. Read the descriptions carefully before you order! Some are fleece-lined and designed to be a substitute for a full-on thermal coat. Some are for rainy days when it’s not super chilly but you want to keep your torso warm and dry. Some are windproof and meant to just add a bit of warmth for blustery fall riding. All three types can be SUPER useful, but they each have limitations. A rain/wind-proof one won’t be great as temps really drop, but a thermal one won’t be very packable and can really only be used when it’s quite cool out. (I love a thermal vest like this one from Champion Systems rather than a winter coat since I usually start feeling chilly but warm up partway through, and even if I can’t pack the vest away, I can at least unzip it.) Note: If you’re looking for something that’s going to be the lightest, most packable option, look for something windproof and water-resistant. That’s your thinnest bet!
Yes, you might be a size medium. But if you prefer to stash your stuff under the vest since you plan to take it off, you may want to size up. Or, if being aero is important to you, stick with your normal sizing. Me, I prefer the slightly bigger option since I’m rarely concerned with top speeds if I have a vest on.
I personally love a vest with decent pockets, not the crappy fake skinny pocket that can’t fit anything except a minipump. Some vests now are super packable because they skip the pockets altogether and just have a hole there so you can get into your jersey pockets… This can be awesome! There isn’t a right answer here, it’s more food for thought—and a reminder that with cycling tops, it’s always important to look at the back of a piece before you order to check the pocket situation—especially on things like women’s jerseys that sometimes skimp on pockets.
Consider the zipper
Perhaps a minor consideration but… Some people love a good two-way zipper, while others find that those are much more apt to break. I’m OK with either, but I do look closely at the zipper before ordering and try to make sure it looks solid and reinforced. I’ve had some crappy cheap options that immediately broke on me, so I’m pretty picky. I’d rather spend more on a higher-quality vest than end up with something that breaks on me mid-ride.
Think about other sports
Personally, I believe in finding kit—especially when it’s not something super specific like a chamois—that I can use for multiple sports. That means for me, I skip the vests with the back pocket cut out since I wouldn’t run or hike in it. I really love Velocio’s Recon Vest for a vest that can be ridden in, go for a run, or even go for a nice coffee shop stroll. (I had it in Girona and wore it A TON.) And Velocio’s more standard Softshell Vest is GREAT for running:
Check Return Policies
One thing I’ve realized over the years is that sometimes, a good deal isn’t a good deal because it’s cheaper but it’s non-returnable. Always check that you can return cycling kit if it doesn’t fit the way you want it to! If you’re shopping IRL at your local bike shop, make sure you try the vest on with your actual cycling kit, and get into riding position (bent over) to make sure the fit works while pedaling—the arm holes can get weird!