A gilet is a really versatile piece of kit in the four-season-rider's wardrobe, and the Specter Windshell Vest from Bontrager's mid-range line is certainly clever. It keeps you warm, keeps you cool and even keeps your core dry. All that comes at a price, mind you.
Its name comes from the material used in the front panels, Profila Windshell. It's a very tightly knitted fabric that literally blocks the wind, stopping it from hitting your body even at speed. It works surprisingly well, and is most noticeable when the wind is on the chilly side; you warm up instantly.
Thanks to the close knit of the material, water doesn't tend to get through either, so as an added bonus you get a degree of water repellency. It's nothing too outstanding, but it'll keep drizzle off your core, and if you're riding in fog or mist you won't find it seeping through to the layers below.
Even with a sleeveless top you can still get that 'boil in the bag' feeling, but to stop that here the rear is made from Profila Cool, which is pretty much what you'd expect to find on a summer jersey. You can see the ventilation holes, which allow excess body heat to be transferred out into the atmosphere, and it does a good job. It can take quite a lot of effort to overwhelm the Specter and even if you do you can just drop the zip a few inches to let a bit of breeze blow through.
Both materials are very thin, which keeps the gilet lightweight and highly packable so you can stow it in a jersey pocket. With a racer's cut, it's designed to sit close, but both fabrics have plenty of elasticity in them so it's not constricting in any way. An elastic hem with added silicone dots does a good job of keeping the gilet in position as you move around on the bike.
You get a dropped tail to cover your rear when in the saddle, plus the usual three pockets across the bottom of your back. These are elasticated across the top to keep your contents secure, with the bottoms tucked under before being stitched; this means as you fill the pockets they have room to bulk out without stretching the material or causing them to sag. The left also has a hole for internal headphone routing.
Overall, the Specter Windshell is a great piece of kit that can easily be used year-round. It's well made and because it has rear pockets you could even wear it with just a long-sleeve baselayer.
At £70 it's quite pricey, especially when you take into account that there isn't much to it. Yes, the material choices are spot on, but there are also others on the market that do a very similar job for half the price – have a look at some examples here.
Lastly, it's really nice to see some bright colours being used on a piece of clothing that is likely to see a lot of murky days, although it comes in black too. Bah.
Clever gilet with impressive temperature control and well-designed pockets
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Specter Windshell Vest
Size tested: Medium, High Vis Yellow
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bontrager says: "Pedal through damp and windy rides in style with the Specter Windshell Vest. Profila Windshell and Profila Cool lightweight fabrics are breathable, windproof and water-resistant."
It is impressive at what it does, making it a useful all-seasons gilet.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Profila Windshell fabric is lightweight, windproof and water-resistant
Profila Cool fabric inserts for breathability
Three open back storage pockets
10cm drop-tail and silicone gripper for a precise on-bike fit
Reflective elements enhance visibility for maximum safety in all conditions
Fitted - Streamlined fit for all-around cycling performance
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall it's great against cold winds and light drizzle.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A touch pricey.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I like the Windshell Vest, it works well in quite a few conditions and certainly looks well made. Although it's far from the most expensive gilet we've tested, I just feel it's a little on the pricey side for what it is.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.