Cost: $159.99 (Diva Pink marked down to $79.99)
Colors: Women’s: Black, Pink Glow, Diva Pink (actually coral);
Men’s: Bright Yellow or Black
Materials: Polartec Drytex 6000, X-Lite 19, 60g of Polartec Alpha Insulation
Availability: company website, online
How Obtained: Purchased Diva Pink version last winter. Pink Glow provided as test sample.
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: Several months
Nice Alternative to the Standard Yellow Nylon Wind Vest
As we get into the cooler riding season, you often find yourself needing to layer. Cold at the start and shedding layers as your body and/or the outside temps increase. Garneau’s Alpha vest is the ideal choice for Fall, Winter or Spring riding. It’s available in both men’s and women’s versions, making it a great alternative to the basic yellow nylon wind vest.
I actually bought this vest last winter when it was on sale because of the light weight and packable design. Garneau just happened to send me the same vest in a different color to test as it is still a staple in their apparel line. I’ve worn the vest a lot, both on and off the bike. When you spend a lot of money for gear, it’s nice to get multiple uses out it. That’s why I liked the Garneau Cove Hybrid jacket so much (click to read my review).
I’ve used this vest in a multitude of situations, including cycling, skiing, hiking, or just lounging around the house. It packs down nicely and is stylish enough to wear traveling; you’d never know it was a cycling vest.
Performance in a light weight packable design
I’m still astonished by the developments in fabrics over the years. No longer does a garment need to be bulky, thick and heavy to be warm or perform well. The front of the Alpha vest combines X-Lite 19 fabric that’s ultralight, wind-breaking and breathable with 60g of Polartec Alpha Insulation for warmth and breathability.
The back of the vest uses a heavyweight Polartec Drytex 6000 fabric to provide both insulation with stretch. The back fabric is also designed with moisture-wicking properties to keep you dry by evacuating perspiration and retaining body heat – unlike your basic nylon wind vest that traps moisture.
This vest is designed to fit close to the body. The extra stretch in the back fabric and armholes only add to the comfort and performance when multi-layering. In addition to the stretch around the armholes, the trim is reflective. Combining with additional reflective elements on the vest’s front and back, it helps to be visible in low-light conditions.
When it’s time to remove the vest mid-ride, it easily folds up into the back zippered pocket. Then just stuff it into your rear jersey pocket for quick access when you stop for coffee or get chilled.
There’s plenty of zippered storage pockets both in the rear and chest. You can not only keep items secured but also electronics warm. I know my iPhone can freeze up when the temperatures drop and you hate to miss that photo op.
Extra little touches
The first time I tried on the vest I noticed the full-length zipper was off center. I thought maybe it was a design flaw. But when I went back to the marketing materials, I discovered it was done for a reason. The Alpha vest is designed for layering over a zippered jersey and/or jacket. The offset zipper eliminates multiple layers of zippers, one on top of the other. That’s a great little detail that shows the thought that went into the design of this piece.
The zipper also has an inner flap for added wind protection and a garage for added comfort. The soft collar trim also provides comfort and eliminates chaffing during activity.
Like most high-end cycling gear, the rear hem of the Alpha vest is a little longer, protecting your lower back from the elements even in the drops.
Protection from the cold and wind…but not rain
While the Alpha vest provides great protection from the cold and wind, it will not shield you in the snow or rain. If you do need added warmth on a rainy or snowy day, I’d suggest wearing the vest under a waterproof layer.
I bought my Alpha vest last winter and love it. Its light-weight, packable design combines with the wind-breaking, warm, breathable fabrics to make it one of my go-to layering pieces in cooler temps. I also like that it doesn’t scream cycling gear, so it can be worn for a variety of activities, including but not limited to hiking, skiing, snowshoeing or just running errands. The Alpha vest comes in both women’s and men’s versions, and a variety of colors. So consider ditching your nylon yellow wind vest and checking out Garneau’s versatile Alpha vest.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.