It's surprising how many of the French words we use in English seem to make us smile.
'Chic', 'aperitif', 'massage', 'omelette', 'champagne', 'soufflet', 'rendez-vous', 'avant-garde', 'fiancé','connoisseur' and 'liaison' are just a few that generally improve our days. (Admittedly, 'ricochet', 'utensil' and 'sabotage' don't have quite the same elevating effects, but we can gloss over those).
Let's add 'gilet' into that heady selection. Or the more prosaic 'vest', if you live in neither Britain nor France.
So why the excitement about the gilet?
Well, it's about more than an exotic French word. For those of us in the know, a good gilet can be the difference between a chilly, damp, weatherbeaten ride and a wonderful one.
And when we say 'in the know', gilet wearers are a surprisingly exclusive bunch. Wear a gilet and you'll sometimes get a knowing and appreciative nods from a fellow gilet wearer. How can it be, we often ask ourselves at VV, that every cyclist doesn't own a gilet? Or several?!
Gilets are incredibly practical, as you can see in this VeloVixen Sun Up
Let's start with the basics: what is a gilet? It's a sleeveless, zipped jacket. Simple as that.
It can be padded for warmth or super-light, bright or plain, and they exist at all budgets.
So why, you ask, do we love them so? Here are some reasons why we never leave the house without a lightweight gilet:
A gilet covers you for so many weather eventualities. On any day when a full jacket isn't a prerequisite, a gilet will get you through.
A couple of our team recently ventured out in warm sping sunshine wearing a base layer and jersey, gilet tucked into a back pocket. Fast forward an hour: the temperature had plunged unexpectedly and hail was bouncing off the gilet. Frankly it saved our bacon.
The key to a gilet's success is that it keeps your torso warm. As any survival specialist (or cyclist who's got too cold at least once) will confirm: having a warm core means you're most of the way to being warm.
Wearing a well fitted gilet, you'll barely know you've got an extra layer on. The fact that it has no sleeves means you have no restriction around your arms and shoulders that might come with a jacket, and you can wear it over any number of other layers when conditions dictate.
Most cycling gilets are deliberately conceived to be packable. That means that you can peel them off the moment the sun breaks through and stuff them unceremoniously into your jersey pocket in seconds. If you're a real pro, you'll do it without stopping pedalling!
4. Looking cool
Where once a gilet was a bit of a functional piece of kit, today we're blessed with so many choices. Whether you're a fan of plain colours to go with any outfit or want to make a real statement (and add to your visibility), there'll be a gilet with your name on it.
Fran looking ultra-cool in her VeloVixen Refraction Gilet
5. Being part of the gilet club
Whilst you'll see people walking their dogs in the kinds of gilets made famous by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, a proper cycling gilet will mark you out as a cyclist who knows what they're doing (who cares if you do or not - at the very least you'll be warm, comfortable and confident!).
6. The Gilet / Arm Warmer Combo
Thought a gilet was a clever riding choice on its own? Then check out the extra benefits you can get when you team it with arm warmers.
Think of it like this: a super comfortable jacket, with no restrictions around the shoulders, and the chance to adjust how warm your core and arms are separately. To say nothing of the insane accessorising possibilities.
In short, you'll be amazed by how warm a gilet twinned with arm warmers will keep you. Until you don't need them to.
So there you have it. As you can tell, at VeloVixen we are huge fans of the gilet, and want to share our secret with more cyclists. Whether you wear it with 4 layers underneath and thermal arm warmers, or simply as an extra layer over a short sleeved jersey, we guarantee it will improve your cycling experience.
Above: our ambassador Harri in her beloved Endura Pro SL Primaloft Gilet. Here's what she said recently about it:
"The gilet's definitely been my top purchase of the last six months. It's rare that I get something that genuinely fills a new niche in my cycling wardrobe these days, but having never got much use out of traditional gilets the versatility of this is unbelievable! It adds as much warmth as a jacket, even stopping the dreaded arm chill, yet packs away into an XS jersey pocket. It's also beautifully made and very light. There's a reason I keep telling everyone to get one!"
Still in need of some gilet advice?