The first thing that struck me about the ShuttVR Gilet is the fact that it’s a substantial piece of kit, not the sort of flimsy I’m used to stuffing in my pocket as riding days warm up. I say substantial, but not in a bulky sense, it folds down nicely to a light and compact size which can easily slide into a jersey pocket. The gilet is very nicely made and has a quality feel about it and in the best tradition, you can get it in any colour you like as long as it’s black!
As far as the bill of materials is concerned, you can get all the techs and specs from the Shutt VR website, but it features windproof, ripstop material front and back with Coolmax trim around the arms and mesh side panels for ventilation. The collar is finished with a fleece material lining. A decent, weatherproof YKK zipper is edged by reflective piping at the front. At the back there are two good-sized pockets where you might normally expect to a zip or other access to jersey pockets. There’s also more reflective piping and some subtle branding (the Shutt colour bar on the pocket and logo – also reflective – on the right shoulder).
I wouldn’t put myself down as an expert in gilets, but these features all seem very well thought out to me and make the garment a very practical piece of riding wear. Used with arm warmers you have a decent solution for those days of indeterminate weather where long sleeves or a jacket are overkill and don’t really give you flexibility for changeable conditions.
I’ve been wearing the gilet a lot for short commutes to the office; I like the pocket space, the gilet fits me well and it keeps the morning draft off very effectively. For my part, I think it looks very smart worn with jeans and a t-shirt, but I’m no fashion guru. I also chose it during my recent trip to Yorkshire for the start of the Tour de France for exactly the reasons described above; the weather was very warm when the sun poked its head out from behind the clouds, but chilly otherwise and there was always a wind! However, in conjunction with Castelli Nanoflex arm warmers and shorts, while I was arguably overdressed, I remained very warm and comfortable the whole time (which included a lot of standing around). I even bumped into someone else wearing one!
I was asked an interesting question about the gilet and that was whether it was really had a place in an age of Castelli Gabba and Capo Lombardia, wet weather, performance jerseys. My answer to that is, it depends on your sort of riding, or the sort of ride you’re on. If I was charging out for a couple of hours in the rain, I don’t think that the gilet would be my go-to choice. However, for longer days and adventures, I think the gilet provides classic layering advantages and is a really versatile piece of clothing. As fantastic a jersey as the Lombardia is (it makes a great Christmas or Father’s Day gift if your family is struggling for suggestions), the disadvantage is that once you leave home in it, you’re committed – I’ve found myself almost praying for the weather to stay cool and wet.
That said, one drawback I’ve noticed when riding in the Gilet comes courtesy of its waterproof liner. As far as I can detect, this is not a semi-permeable membrane – no detail is provided on the company’s website. So, while it keeps water out, it also keeps moisture in; specifically, sweat. When working hard in the saddle, prepare yourself for a build-up of damp. This is not altogether a bad thing, but is does mean that clothing beneath the windproof panels can get wet. I guess this means you need to time gilet removal carefully, there’s probably an optimum window before your clothing gets too wet, but I haven’t found it so far. Obviously it’s not a particular problem if you plan to keep the gilet on all day and it does mean you cool quickly when the zip’s undone.
The zip deserves some accolade. I’m a bit of a klutz when it comes to jersey zippers, frequently jamming fabric into them as I get them on and off. The YKK Vislon zip is easy to get hold of and use single-handed in the saddle (I’m not a big lover of taking both hands off the bars whilst climbing, especially to fiddle around with garment closures – I’m just not pro enough), and I’ve yet to shut anything in it (or have to take the gilet off over my head)! The zip garage also deserves a mention and adds to both smartness and comfort, as has been noted by my riding buddies.
Other touches like that fleece lining on the collar make for additional comfort. Its soft feel is obviously nice as the gilet goes on, but it also wicks sweat off your neck as you ride without any slickness. At the other end, the elasticated waist also features a silicone gripper which does a decent enough job stopping the gilet riding up when riding out. The back of the gilet is designed to provide a good amount of protection against rear wheel spray if you’re riding in the rain and you’re not on your winter bike (which obviously has mudguards).
The only issue I had with the gilet was in sizing. I’m 5’9” tall, 76kg, variable waist size; I wear size XL Castelli shorts and believe me, I wish I didn’t! Most of my stuff is sized large, however, the Shutt VR Gilet fits me perfectly and it’s a small. I’ve become used to “sizing up” because I like Italian cycling clothing but don’t have the frame for it (a fondness for pies, unfortunately), so going down two sizes is a bit of a surprise – although not an unpleasant or unflattering one.
Shutt’s sizing guide however, suggests that a small chest size is 34 – 36 inches (closer to my waist size). The gilet is not “racing cut” and so will accommodate most torso types. If I was to be honest, I think that more accurate sizing and a less generous cut would be more appealing. While I’m not a racing snake, I find it a little baggy around the middle and couldn’t help wondering whether the slightly elastic mesh panels would be one way of providing a closer fit. There is also an XS size that for slender, smaller or many women may make more sense.
Another small issue is that the mesh part of the gilet at the back/sides has “bobbled” a bit. I’ve been wearing it a lot but the “bobbling” if that’s a word is a touch disappointing.
Shutt’s lightweight gilet is on sale from the company’s website priced at £75, I think this is very much at the top end of the market, however, for the flexibility it provides to the wearer and the build quality, it’s worth the premium. As I mentioned at the top of this article, the garment feels substantially made and I think it’s something you’d wear for years, certainly it feels robust enough to take a good amount of wear and tear unlike flimsier, lower cost equivalents. Just be prepared for a little to-ing and fro-ing to get the right size.
You can find out more and order one from here: