Comfort, ease-of-movement, moisture management… you won’t get them from any old t-shirt.
T-shirts are commonly made from cotton or polyester, which is great in a fashion sense, but not so good when biking. T-shirt material isn’t breathable, and every minute spent building up a sweat means another minute spent drenched in that same sweat. If the shirt is too tight, you risk chafing, and if it’s too baggy you end up with uncomfortable bunching in places you’d rather not have it. Cycling clothing, in contrast, is specifically designed for life on two wheels. This means that cycle vests and shirts are longer in the back so that when you lean over to hold the handlebars, the fabric won’t ride up and leave your back exposed. And although polyester is a building block of bike clothing, the fabrics are engineered to breathe and move moisture away from your skin. You have regulated body temperature, efficient movement of perspiration, and enough flexibility to allow your body to move through whatever paces make up an incredible ride.
The cycling vest is probably one of the most under-appreciated items in bicycle gear apparel. With regard to weather – a cycling shirt with short sleeves when it’s hot, long sleeves when it’s cold, and a jacket for when it’s very cold, seems to check all the boxes. However, spring and autumn are two seasons when temperatures are rarely that black and white, and this is when your vest will save your ride. Your torso is the one part of your body that fields the most wind when cycling, and a good vest will act as a barrier when you need it most. Lightweight enough to be worn on mild days – when a jacket would be too hot – it’s perfect for those moments when the sun is setting and you’ve built up enough of a sweat to start feeling the evening chill. The vest insulates your torso while allowing for full motion and breathability, and can be worn comfortably as a layering piece over short or long sleeves. They also come with a mesh section on the back for added breathability, keeping you dry without the cold. Changes in weather shouldn’t keep you from your ride – a cool morning that becomes a warm afternoon, and then a chilly evening… Luckily a cycling vest can be neatly folded into your pocket, to be pulled out as needed, leaving you free to enjoy your ride out whatever the weather.
As basic as the technology may seem, there are a few choices when it comes to cycling vests, and it’s best to consider 2 important factors that will ensure you get the vest that’s just right for you:
Mostly warm or cool are easy days to navigate – you can pick up a thermal vest for colder days, and a lightweight one when it’s warmer out. However, spring and autumn are famous for giving us days when the weather varies between times of day. For these days, you will want a vest that provides insulation when it must, but is also small enough to fold up into your pocket when you no longer need it. If you cycle in an area with excessive wind, the vest should have a high neck with a close fit to prevent cold air from going down your neck.
Most lightweight cycle vests are made from material that allows warm air to move away from your body, while simultaneously keeping unwanted cold air from getting in. This is the science behind convenient insulation perfect for cool weather rides, and is made up entirely of the type of fabric used. The thermal vests are masters at this, but only really needed in winter. For riding in weather that’s not yet so cold as to call for thermal protection, look for a vest designed to optimize airflow – hot air away from your body, while blocking colder air from entering.
The Izumi Elite Barrier Vest is a world class example of form and function backed by revolutionary science in cycle gear. The Elite Barrier fabric is 100% polyester, and provides protection from both wind and light rain – making it the perfect choice for spring and autumn, when the weather is always changing. Lightweight and comfortable, this vest can be layered with long or short sleeves, and then easily folded away into your pocket when not in use. The mesh Direct-Vent back panel increases breathability without compromising insulation, and the hem and armholes are elasticized for extra measure, ensuring no cold air gets in.