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I’ve never owned a vest style cycling top before, for some reason I’ve never felt I needed one. I was out riding with friends who are firm believers in wearing them and have sold me on the idea of owning one numerous times. For me though it all came down to when I start looking through the vast choices of vests out there I always seemed to end up back at purchasing tops with removable sleeves. For me at the time they seemed to be able to do two jobs for the price of one; well that’s what I thought.

But now I would like to announce I am the proud owner of not one but two vest tops; well I don’t like doing things in halves! It’s one of those items that once you try you’ll never want to do with out ever again and you won’t be able to understand just how you’ve gone this long with out one.

So it would just so happen that the two said items have just rocked up on our doorstep and are now available to you our wonderful audience.

[rating:5] The Gore Ozon is the first vest I bought which I originally intended to be used for running as my usual outfit of black and black (known as the Ninja look according to my Nephews), made me feel some what vulnerable whilst running at night. So this lemon coloured vest was the answer to my visual aid but has turned out to be a very useful top for both running and cycling.

For running its brilliant, light weight, bright and most importantly great at keeping your core warm when the weather is at its worst. The only thing that I would have liked to see more of is reflective piping for use at night. The piping that is used wraps around each side from front to back  and does the job very well, but it would have been nice to see more reflective features used. On the plus side however, the lemon colour on offer does make up for this only one slight disappointment and just be aware, this item comes from Gore’s tight fit line for a great fit whilst in the extreme cyclist posture. But it is tight, so if your planning on using it over a bulky item, just make your size selection carefully.

When on the bike, this tight fit pays dividends, with no excess bulk or bagginess flapping around whilst you’ve got your head down and racking up the miles. I’ve started using the jacket for early morning rides where the sun (what little we have of it) has not had chance to warm up the early morning chill. It’s been primarily under my jacket and as it warms up (when it warms up) it’s been a dream being able to take my jacket off and underneath having an item that keeps the core of my body warm. No matter how long a descent, the Windstopper material has not let me down and the tight fit stops any drafts getting in. The only concern is no zipped pocket on the rear. What there is in its place, are two mesh pockets on the back which are easy to use and with a very useful feature of 2 side openings. This makes accessing your jersey pockets easy and sort of makes up for the lack of a zip.

All in all, a great performing top that really shines in cold weather for a multitude of activities.
[rating:4.5] As soon as I heard we were getting this next top in, I put dibs on one straight away. The Gore Concept Vest is one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive vest around but it does offer some very unique features which offer some amazing performance benefits.

I tested the jacket version of this vest a couple of years ago and was blown away with what it had to offer. Sadly the price also blows me away which resulted in me not buying one at the time but with the great price on offer for the vest version I had to get one.

So as far as technology in a cycling garment is concerned, it’s tough to find anything with as much going on and that offers some amazing features.

The feature which stands out for me above the rest according to Gore, is an “individual temperature control, with a single breath.” Which is basically blowing into a valve to inflate your vest. No, it’s not the latest in air bag technology, this is all about regulating your temperature without the need to add or remove clothing. When your activity level changes for what ever reason, a change in pace or terrain, fixing a puncture or as simple as the elements altering around you, this top has the answer. By blowing into the valve (which is somewhat like a hydration pack system) you inflate a series of channels which cover almost the entirety of the vest (with just certain panels being left alone for fit and movement). It sounds like a odd thing to do and to a certain extent it is, but if you take into account how a down style jacket works, it is using the same principle but with the benefit of being able to deflate it when your body deems it necessary, without removing any items of clothing. When I tested the jacket it was on a night time mountain bike ride in December and one of the guys got a puncture, so the first thing I did was to inflate the jacket and then proceeded to stand still and of course and not help out in fixing the puncture. It was of course all in the aid of testing the jacket, I could hardly help pump up the replaced tube, that would mean physical exertion and in my mind resulting in a unfair test. Funny the other guys didn’t see it like that, but the jacket really did work. Once the enforced delay was over and we were back on the bikes, I let the air out and my body temperature stayed the same throughout the ride.

Now its not all about looking like the Michelin man with this top, it also make use of Gore’s “comfort mapping technology” which is a little more hidden away in design, but makes a big difference to fit. What it does is strategically use different Gore-Tex fabrics in specific locations to improve comfort. The main material is the Gore-Tex Paclite shell which along with being the usual standard of waterproof, windproof and highly breathable we have come to expect from Gore clothing, it is also lightweight and packable which is very important to make a cycling garment as useful as needs to be for the whole host of varying needs a cyclist demands. The other material that stands out is labelled as “stretch” and if looking on the inside of the vest it is easy to see where it has been implemented. The material does exactly what it says it does, it stretches! The positioning is very important and makes the fit of the top a key feature, being situated on the rear panel down the middle makes for a great fit with a free moving feel which comes into play when using the top. All the usual movement that would make a top pull tight on your back now have this snug, unrestricted feel to them which just adds to this jackets greatness.

The only slight downside is the lack of pockets. The only one they have provided is placed on the chest which comes with a fully waterproof zip and a headphone exit inside. So it’s an ideal place for an mp3 player, but it would be nice to add some storage space on the back as well.

I’ve also seen some comments about the inflation system, that it is no good with the use of a hydration pack which I haven’t found to be true. With a pack on there is some restriction when blowing up the top, what you notice is it’s a bit harder to get the air in as it forces it ways past the straps of the pack. But once the air is in, the jacket still does its what it says it does, with the only real noticeable difference coming from some pressure points where the pack comes into contact with the air channels. Something I could quite easily live with for what the top does.

So it’s a very high priced piece of kit, but it does offer some very high end technologies that perform beautifully.

Check out the Gore range at ProBikeKit.com

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A hub of reviews, advice and news from the online road cycling experts at ProBikeKit.