What it is: A lightweight, windproof and water-resistant vest with reflective elements and a mesh back that features 2 large pockets.
Why you want one: For those in-between days when a jersey or shirt isn't enough, but a jacket would be too much. Wear it with arm warmers on a chilly morning and take it off when the day warms up, or stash it in a pocket to throw on as the temperatures drop or when the skies open - the beauty of a vest is its versatility and ability to dump heat while still keeping your core warm during exertion.
|Under my Ultimate Direction Wink hydration vest.|
|Unzipped at Run for the Toad 2011.|
Duration used: 3.5 years (purchased sometime in the summer of 2009)
Price paid/purchased from: I paid approx. $50 + tax from Grand River Cycle.
|Not just for triathlon training!|
|Totally at home on a snowy trail.|
What rawks: This is probably one of my favourite and most-worn pieces of gear. It's lightweight, fits in a jersey pocket if you want to ditch it, and works for almost any activity - I've worn mine cycling, running, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, plus on the occasional windy walk or hike. The reflective piping is plentiful, running parallel to the armholes at the shoulders in front, down both sides of the back with additional bits radiating out to under the arms, plus a nice stripe down the middle between the pockets. It has proved very durable, too - unlike some other reflective piping that has lost its coating through hard use and multiple washings, the vest's trim flares like brand new after all of the abuse it has suffered at my hands. If that's not enough visibility for you, the vest is available in fluorescent yellow and also includes a loop to which you can attach a blinking light. The two-way zipper is stout and stays put where you want it; you can easily unzip the bottom or top to vent additional heat if necessary. When things get chilly, the wicking fabric-lined tall collar nestles softly under your chin thanks to the zipper garage and leaves plenty of space for additional tall-collared layers underneath. While there is no silicone trim to keep the vest in place at the back, there is an internal drawcord should you need to cinch it down - I don't believe I've ever used it, though, as the length is generous and the vest stays in place on me quite well without assistance. The armholes are cut well to allow full range of motion, aided by some soft, stretchy material under the arm and on the back of the shoulder, but not so gaping as to leave you feeling exposed. The materials used are ideal for their purpose; the ripstop nylon for the front, sides and collar is light but durable, and the mesh back and pockets allows excellent airflow while still being sturdy enough to take a beating. The back pockets truly are one of the shining features of this vest - large enough for a full-size water bottle or pair of heavy gloves, they're as easily accessed and useful as any cycling jersey's equivalent, yet hard to find on the competition's vest offerings. Despite not having any elastic at the top, I've never had an item bounce out, and will regularly chuck my unprotected smartphone in either one. The tailored fit of the vest is cut loose enough to allow layering underneath, but doesn't interfere with wearing a hydration vest overtop. While not waterproof, the vest will shrug off a light shower and continue to provide core warmth even when wet due to its windproof quality. For triathletes, this would be a much faster option to throw on in T1 on a cold day than a full jacket - I've considered doing so at a couple of late-season races.
|Helping me deal with the rain and wind at Horror Hill 2012.|
|Gel flask in the back pocket, also from Horror Hill 2012.|
What sucks: The collar doesn't like to lay down nicely when unzipped. There is no stretch to the fabric (with the exception of the bits around the armholes), so you need to get the right size. The water-resistance of the fabric won't really stand up to anything more than a light sprinkle, and the mesh of the pockets allows anything stowed in them to get soaked and covered in mud or road grime on the bike. While the mesh back does let you dump heat during activity, it leaves you exposed if you're doing start/stop activities (like getting caught at stoplights) with the wind behind you.
|Major glow off the reflective piping at Horror Hill 2010.|
|Side view at the finish of Vulture Bait 2012 - the vest moves with you really nicely.|
What I'd like to see: A little more pliable fabric used for the storm flap on the zipper so the collar would lay down, and maybe some solid fabric on the pockets to protect the contents a bit. I honestly can't think of anything else!
What I'm saying: If you don't have a vest, get one. You'll use it on warm days to cut the rain, on cool days to cut the wind, and on downright cold days to keep your core warm while still being able to dump heat. The low price and nice features of the Vent 2 make it a solid choice among its competitors.
|Training run along the Speed River.|
|Finish of Vulture Bait 2012.|
I can't believe I don't have a single photo of me using my cycling vest on a bike.
For further edification: BikeRadar and All Seasons Cyclist reviewed the men's version of the vest, and there are several customer reviews at RealCyclist.