The Bontrager Circuit Women's Wind Vest is an effective, packable, high-vis solution for riding in the wind. Just bear in mind the cut is distinctly feminine – one to try before you buy, or check the returns policy...
First off, I'd suggest you go up if you're between sizes. According to Bontrager's size guide I'm a small chest-wise and a medium waist-wise, and I should probably have tested a medium not a small. It was actually fine around my waist, chest and shoulder area, but tight around the ribcage when on the bike. It's not me in the photos, by the way, that's Tass, who would probably take a large – it's definitely not that tight on me. The vest is labelled as 'fitted', which it is.
The body length is great, with a good drop at the rear. Bontrager has done away with the cord adjustment that featured on previous Circuit Vests, replacing it with a robust, elasticated hem (the website appears to have some outdated information on it with regards to this and a chest pocket). The vest stays firmly in place – no flapping, even in the windiest of weather.
I found the collar height great for colder days. It's a snug fit without being constrictive. There is a decent zip guard here too, though you can't see it in our pics.
The vest offers good protection against the wind for your core – it's been great in the recent weather – but it doesn't stand up to much rain. Bontrager claims it's water resistant, but it doesn't handle anything more than a squally shower.
I'd say breathability is pretty good. Granted, if you are putting in an effort you're probably going to start sweating sooner than you would without the vest, but that's the pay-off for the wind protection it offers.
The zip has a substantial windflap behind it to prevent draughts creeping in, and the zipper itself has a sizeable toggle, attached to a long cord; it's easy to locate and pull, even with a gloved hand. I frequently found myself unzipping the vest to promote ventilation – it's smooth running and easy to manage while riding.
The vest certainly can't be knocked on the visibility stakes. I tested the 'radioactive yellow', and it also comes in 'radioactive pink'. You shouldn't go unnoticed in either option. As the days shorten and we're treated to generally dull conditions weather-wise, I'd say this is a big plus.
The rear pocket is roomy and well placed; you don't have to be double jointed to reach round and unzip it (the zipper is the same type as the main one). Bontrager has included a headphone port in the upper left corner too.
The pocket doubles up as a storage pouch, albeit a rather generous one – the vest actually packs down much smaller than the pouch. The fabric scrunches up well and I rarely made use of the pouch when on the go, I just rolled it up and shoved it straight into a rear pocket.
Overall, the vest is really well made, with tidy, professional looking seams and stitching. There's even a loop at the neckline for hanging it up.
I'd say it's reasonably priced for the quality on offer, though, as ever, there are cheaper options out there. Siobhan tested Decathlon's Van Rysel RC500 Windproof Gilet last year and really liked it. It doesn't offer the visibility of the Bontrager, but even at this season's price, it's half the cost.
Overall, if you refuse to stop riding outdoors when the cold winds kick in and the weather turns pretty dull, this vest will serve you well. You're getting a functional, well-made bit of kit for your money, just be aware of the cut and sizing.
Striking protection for the core on windy and dull (but not too wet) days
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Women's Circuit Wind Vest
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Bontrager tells us it's a 'packable, windproof and water-resistant women's vest, built to protect your core on blustery rides'.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bontrager lists these details:
-Windshell fabric is lightweight and easily packable.
-A full-length zip with draft flap allows temperature regulation.
-Zip-up security pocket at the rear into which the vest can be packed.
-Drop-tail and elasticated hem provide a snug on-bike fit.
-The semi-fitted cut follows the curves of your body with room for movement.
Does its job of keeping the wind off well – but don't expect it to withstand anything more than a squally shower.
Well made with no obvious weak seams or stitching.
Distinctly feminine cut. It wasn't the best fit on me, but may well suit others better.
If in doubt, size up.
Light enough not to notice.
I didn't appreciate the tightness at the ribcage, which might have been alleviated by sizing up, though I'd have potentially had some flapping at the shoulders and waist then.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine in the recommended cold wash.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Protects the core against the wind very well, with reasonable levels of breathability, but doesn't stand up to much rain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High-vis element; we've had some pretty dull days recently.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The cut wasn't quite right for me.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Bontrager's Wind Vest comes in mid-range price-wise. Decathlon's RC500 is half the price, but you can spend far more – Rapha's Brevet Gilet is £90. More in Bontrager's ball-park is Primal's Wind Vest for £55.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd want to try before buying – the fit of the small didn't win me over.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with a warning to try for fit first.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a well-made, functional vest that offers good levels of protection against the wind, as well as increasing your visibility to other road users. It won't protect you in heavy rain, though, and you should check the fit before buying.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…