The Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet is great well fitted lightweight layer that offers a great balance of breathability and protection. It is a little pricey and ideally there would be an alternative colour way option in the women's version, but if you do invest, you won't be disappointed.
Wind and shower resistant
Le Col has been steadily growing over the course of around eight years now, and in that time both its ranges and popularity have increased. Much of the collection is available in mens and women's fits, with the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet one such example of a crossover piece. It's worth noting here that I was testing the women's version.
Made in its own factory in Treviso Italy, which founder and ex-professional rider Yanto Barker brought in 2014, this 100 per cent polyester gilet has been designed to be both wind and shower proof.
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Constructed using Itttai fabric, the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet boasts air permeable qualities as well as quick drying capabilities and durability.
At the back, a mesh panel has been inserted with the primary aim of maintaining breathability when pressing on even in windy or showery conditions. However, this has also enabled the gilet's weight to be kept to a minimal, 82g for a size XS, putting it more or less line with the 94g Liv Race Day Wind Vest, or the 68g Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Gilet II, as well as, giving it a low pack down size, allowing it be easily stowed away in a rear jersey pocket.
With significant stretch, this rear mesh panel also facilitates the gilet's fit, keeping the rest of the fabric taut and fitting the body snugly.
Elsewhere a super-soft fleece high collar prevents any skin irritation, while a silicone-backed hem has been included to keep the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet securely in place.
Finally, two reflective strips have also been included at the rear for improved visibility when out on the road at night.
Pulling the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet on for the first time the fit is slightly larger than some of the Le Col clothing, which can be very true to it's size categorisation.
The women's extra small fitted easily over a lighter weight long sleeve jersey and, thanks to the stretchy panel at the rear, reaching round full jersey pockets wasn't a problem.
Once on, it was initially hard to remember I was wearing the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet, it's so light weight with a great fit round the arms, neck and shoulders that I just didn't register I was wearing an additional layer.
The collar is one of the softest on the market, but although the zip housing is a nice touch in terms of keeping possible skin irritations to a minimum, it did get caught in the zip. It's not as much of an issue as the storm flap on the Liv Race Day Women's Gilet, but still needed both hands/ hand and a pair of teeth to untangle from each other.
In terms of wind and shower proofing, the gilet does a great job at offering protection. Seams or logos aren't taped, but there didn't appear to be any noticeable extra draught or wet patches from those areas.
On a ride which included the infamous Box Hill, and corresponding descent down the super-steep Pebble Hill Road, I was pretty impressed with the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet's ability to be both breathable enough to prevent me overcooking on the climb, yet still provide enough protection at the 40mph descent in temperatures around the 10°C mark. In fact it was so good at providing protection to the torso that I was left wishing for an entire jacket constructed in the same way.
My only real gripe is that the only colour option for the women's version is white. It's great in terms of road visibility, but here in the UK the same roads also deliver a permanent black crud coating as soon as it's wet. So unless you have a full set of guards on and don't ride behind anyone (unless they also have a full set and mudguard extensions) the gilet will probably be peppered with an irremovable black grime as soon as any amount of precipitation occurs. Unfortunately this fact actually made me consciously ride differently, avoiding puddles, or soft tapping through them, which is hardly ideal when out with a group of riders, and even if you're alone, the time delays in trying to carry out damage limitation do your Strava timings no favour whatsoever!
At £80, the Le Col Sport Soft Shell Gilet prices itself at the higher end of the market. It is a well fitting piece of kit that does a great job at wind and water resistance, especially for the weight, but for that kind of money it just doesn't stand out from the rest, more competitively priced gilets on offer, such as the aforementioned, and impressive Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Gilet II for £14 less at £65.99.
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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