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Café du Cycliste's Women's Albertine thermal gilet is a thickly padded layer that absolutely keeps your core snugly warm, and provides excellent windblocking on descents. It also looks pretty smart with its two tone front and stitched logo patch – but given the very high price, you might well demand that.
This is not the sort of gilet that can be squeezed into your back pocket. With its bulkiness compared even to other thermal gilets, either you commit to wearing it all day or you bring a bikepacking bag to stash it in.
The front boasts a synthetic down-padded layer Café du Cycliste says gives 'highly effective insulation coupled with extreme breathability'. Down is far warmer for its weight than anything else, but genuine down (feather) gets destroyed by water.
By using synthetic down, the Albertine enjoys great thermal properties and can stand up to the weather.
The back is merino polar fleece with a decent stretch, and it's incredibly comfortable to wear. Combined, these fabrics successfully defend against wind and trap body warmth – but not unpleasantly so, thanks its breathable qualities.
I found pairing this gilet with a short-sleeve base layer and long sleeve jersey kept me happy from 10° all the way down to zero.
It can definitely manage below freezing, too, as I wasn't even starting to get cold at zero.
Its two-way YKK zip is smooth and easy to adjust while riding, which definitely contributes to comfort. It also means you can access your jersey pockets without having to unzip the gilet fully.
Size wise, I'm usually a 32C and wear Café du Cycliste's very own Rosalie bra in a size small. I tested a size small in this gilet, and its slim fit could not be better. It hugs your figure without being tight, and there's no excess material flapping in the wind.
Lining the collar is a super-soft fabric that gives the gilet a cosy feel. It rises up the neck enough to keep the chill off, but without being annoyingly high.
The dropped rear is not excessive either, but provides a touch of extra protection from road spray. I also had no issues with it riding up, thanks to the Café du Cycliste-text grippers which wrap around the hem.
Styling up the front is a chest pocket with a popper button. It is large enough to take a fairly big phone (mine is 15.5cm x 7.5.cm), but the button is quite impractical – it takes effort and patience to align the two parts, which isn't great on the go, especially with one hand.
At least this fashion-style chest pocket is of no real concern, as at the back you find two incredibly spacious pockets – one with a side-zipped essentials holder. Attached to the zip is a useful 6.5cm fabric tag that's quick and easy to grab.
There is a reflective strip at the bottom of the pockets, but it only extends halfway across each and is barely noticeable – it really needs to be bigger.
At £176, this is pretty much expensive as it gets. Rapha's Pro Team Insulated Gilet is 'only' £140 and handles temperatures almost as low, yet packs down smaller. Meanwhile, Galibier's Izoard Quilted Gilet is incredibly good value at £48.25. It is warm and comfortable, if not the most breathable.
The times when this Albertine gilet is perfect are limited, but during those times its fit, quality and performance are faultless. I couldn't be happier when chasing miles in the winter with this on – it's so comfortable and looks great. It's a shame it's not small enough for a jersey pocket, though – and it's really going to cost you.
Snug, close fitting and extremely cosy, but not packable – and the price is huge
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe Du Cycliste Women's Albertine thermal gilet
Size tested: Small/Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Café du cycliste says:
"A women's synthetic down cycling vest to provide highly effective insulation coupled with extreme breathability. Air pockets trap body heat to provide warmth in cold conditions but the insulation is stable enough to be paired with a breathable shell and liner fabric to allow excess heat and moisture vapour to rapidly escape during periods of intense effort."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Café du cycliste lists:
Breathable padded cycling gilet
Mountain inspired styling
Two cargo pockets
Merino fleece back
Made in Europe
Feels very well made.
Delivers on breathability and windproofness, as well as being very comfortable.
At 248g it's heavy for a thermal gilet, but it does provide a significant amount of warmth.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Can be machine washed at 30, but can't be tumble dryed.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A great defence against the wind and keeps my centre warm, but with no problems of overheating.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The slim fit, breathability, spacious back pockets, comforting warmth and the finished look.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Price and front chest pocket.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's even more expensive than Rapha's Pro Team Insulated Gilet, which comes in at £140. There are also much cheaper options, including Galibier's Izoard Quilted Gilet at £48.25.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if on a slight discount
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This gilet is a joy to wear. It keeps you snugly warm by hugging your body with its slim fit, and delivers on blocking the wind. It's bulky, which makes it a little impractical in many circumstances, but it's not trying to be packable. So that really only leaves the high price to complain about.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike My best bike is:
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: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Gravel riding, indoor turbo and rollers, track