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review

Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet

9
£196.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Impressive windstopping performance, great insulation and comfort on the bike in a sleek, race fit design
Impressive insulation
Water resistant
Ethically sourced down
Great visibility
Sizes up smaller than expected
Back pocket design could be better
Not cheap
Weight: 
211g

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The Cafe du Cycliste Maya unisex insulated cycling gilet is perfect for cold mornings, night rides and long-distance routes, when the temperature threatens to plummet and then spike over the course of the day. It's a versatile piece of kit that will pack down into a saddle bag and can even be stuffed into a rear pocket on your cycling jersey – a deep pocket, perhaps, where the money for the gilet was hiding...

Ignoring the price for the moment, the Maya is designed to keep you warm, and offers a snug fit and insulated baffles of ethically sourced down at the chest and across the back to keep you cosy. Stretch panels at either side help to deliver a streamlined fit and excellent comfort.

> Buy now: Cafe du Cycliste Maya for £196 from Cafe du Cycliste

You can buy it in this rather vibrant orange or a dashing 'Neon Pink', and both models feature reflective detailing to improve visibility at night.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet - tail.jpg

The label inside makes it clear that this is aimed squarely at the audax market. It comes with a dictionary definition of what makes an audax rider that even those with limited French will be able to translate: 'hardi, intrépide, aventureux, déterminé, courageux...'

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet in use 5.jpg

This is a garment that flatters you out of the door. It positively goads you onto your bike to take on some of the most challenging routes in the UK. And so it was, I found myself boarding the 8.44am to Worcester on a chilly winter's morning, for a two-hour saunter around the Malvern Hills.

Creative composure

We were riding on a trio of folding bicycles – mine a rusty old Brompton. Stepping out of the train, I zipped the gilet up as high as it would go, pulled my hat down and hoiked my Buff over my nose. There's a soft fabric at the collar that makes this very comfortable and keeps the YKK zip well away from your chin. We were heading north on the Elgar Trail on the coldest day of the year.

If you'd been riding here in the early 1900s, you may well have come across a bowler hatted cyclist on a Royal Sunbeam bicycle. And if he was humming to himself, then it may well have been the composer Edward Elgar, who wrote many of his most famous pieces of music riding around the Malvern Hills.

Elgar mural.jpg

The large Maya gilet I was testing came up tighter than expected. The Cafe du Cycliste website has a size guide that puts me at the upper limit for a large, but my ride companions assured me it was a good-looking 'race fit'. You might want to consider opting for a size up if you sit between sizes.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet in use 2.jpg

It quickly proved to be exceptionally comfortable. The stretch panels at the side and elastic gripper at the base of the gilet ensure that it never rides up your back. Tucked low or out of the saddle when climbing, the gilet stays in place and the scooped rear ensures that your lower back is kept snug at all times.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet - gripper.jpg

Pub-ready

We'd opted for cycling civvies, and a 'no Lycra' three-line whip. For me that meant a pair of cycling trousers, a Specialized/Fjallraven bike-specific shirt and merino baselayer. The Maya gilet topped this off perfectly and delivered impressive warmth on an icy first hour in the saddle.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet in use 1.jpg

We popped into the Elgar museum to pay our respects and then headed to Great Malvern for a lunchtime pub stop. And despite feeling like I was cosplaying as a rail-track engineer worker, the gilet was sufficiently 'casual' to blend in as we ordered our pasties.

Elgar.jpg

We came back into Worcester that evening as the light was starting to fade and the reflective detailing came into its own as we navigated the heavy traffic, tipped our cycling caps towards the city's Elgar statue and headed back to the station.

Audacious insulation

This is really meant for bigger and more ambitious rides, though, and so it accompanied me on a 200k audax. It stayed in my saddle bag for the first half, but I could feel myself shivering as we left an overly long lunchtime stop so I unpacked it and zipped it up.

It was just what I needed. The shivers vanished immediately and I could feel a warm glow seeping through my body. This performs brilliantly and its windstopping credentials are genuinely excellent.

> How should you dress for winter cycling? Here are our best tips for layering up

For this ride I was on my fixed gear bike and some of the climbs were generating a huge amount of internal heat. The Maya features a two-way zip that is easy to operate with one hand and means you can fine-tune the mix of insulation and ventilation as you need it. You can ride with those zips meeting in the middle to give you total ventilation, without having to stop or try to re-zip while you cycle no-handed.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet - hem.jpg

I've previously relied on outdoor gilets and duvet jackets that don't have this kind of flexibility. And they have a tendency to really soak out. So when we got to the final control at the 165k mark, I was impressed to find this top just slightly damp. And after a 20-minute break it was bone dry once again.

"That's a nice looking gillet... Very orange!" remarked one of my fellow riders as we switched lights on for a final group ride back to the arrivée. The reflective detailing was clearly showing up well as I sat in the middle of our wind-battered peloton.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet - back.jpg

The only small design quibble I have is that as I tried to retrieve a pair of gloves from the rear pocket, I could feel it turning inside out. It is anchored in the middle but not in each corner. With a set of keys stashed there as well I decided to leave the gloves where they were for the final few kilometres of the ride. I think a small stitch in each corner would be a good way to ensure valuables don't spill onto the road mid-ride.

2023 Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet - pocket.jpg

And for the price, I'd also like to see a waterproof stuff sack that can be compressed to make sure that you make the most of available packing space when you do store this in a saddle pack.

Value for money

Talking of price... I have loved wearing this gilet. It is a really excellent piece of kit that vastly outperforms all the non-cycling insulated gilets that I have used. But then it is almost £200.

Is it worth it? I'm not sure I could justify it – but then I am a notorious skinflint. But I have used it for two months and it's accompanied me on almost daily commutes and utility rides, as well as more arduous outings. It often stays on as I head into the office and it's become a permanent layer of insulation in my very draughty home. It has proved to be durable, well designed and easy to wash and look after.

Also, the down is responsibly sourced; there is a huge issue around live plucked down and the Responsible Down Standard here ensures that down (90% of the filing) and feathers (the remaining 10%) are ethically sourced. Those credentials are further enhanced by the fact that the gilet uses recycled fabrics.

However, Alpkit's Filoment Vest also uses 100% recycled fabric and Recycled Claim Standard-certified fill (RCS100 recycled down) and costs £119.99. And Halti's Evolve Lite Down Vest Men's also uses recycled fabrics and down, and is just over £160 (€189,00).

Neither has the cycling-specific elements or fit of the Maya gilet, though. I have a number of general down gilets and they are pretty unsatisfactory bits of kit on the bike.

It is cheaper than the Pas Normal Studios Men's Escapism Down Vest that Dave tested in 2022; that was £255, though it's no longer available, and Dave was not impressed. You can certainly pay more for a down gilet – PHD's Minimus Down Vest: K Series is £404, but that's serious mountaineering kit. I'd love that for a wild camp, but wouldn't ride with it on.

If you're happier going for synthetic insulation, you can find significantly cheaper options. Dave tested the Galibier Izoard Quilted Gilet and reckoned it performed well in the wet, although it was better suited to lower-paced rides. It does come in at an just under £54, though.

The Vulpine Ultralight Quilted Gilet is £100 (though currently £35) and this synthetic fill jacket scored four stars when Steve reviewed it, although he pointed out it was best suited for commuting and casual use.

Perhaps the best rival in terms of racing fit and the ability for it to pack up small is Endura's Pro Primaloft Road Gilet, again with synthetic insulation. Mike reviewed this in 2020 and he reckoned it was a solid choice for longer rides. He was particularly impressed with the array of pockets on offer. An audax friend of mine uses one on long, multi-day rides and gives it a big thumbs up although warns that the insulating material can bunch up. Some online reviews suggest that some people have had issues with the zip. It costs £120.

Conclusion

Forget the price tag, focus on the performance, and this is a genuinely excellent piece of kit. It is brilliantly windproof, keeps your core exceptionally warm, offers a sleek and efficient race fit and can be stashed in a rear pocket. It is audaciously good. The price, however, 'est tres coûteuse'.

Verdict

Impressive windstopping performance, great insulation and comfort on the bike in a sleek, race fit design

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Cafe Du Cycliste Maya Unisex Insulated Packable Cycling Gilet

Size tested: Large

Tell us what the product is for

This is designed for long-distance riders who need to ensure core warmth on cold mornings and late night rides but still need to conserve space.

Cafe du Cycliste says:

Part of our long distance collection, Maya provides both serious wind stopping power and thermal insulation while also still packing down into a jersey pocket. The innovative design allows the gilet to bring core warmth as the temperature drops while still being small enough to carry easily when not required.

Ideal for longer rides and colder days, the Audax padded gilet uses a down filling with a down to feather ratio of 90/10. The outer shell and lining are constructed from recycled fabric while the outer shell and the down itself are water-resistant. With a unisex fit, the gilet has stretch side panels to produce a close fit and slim silhouette, enabling maximum performance whatever the riding position on the bike.

Maya has a large zipped rear pocket for ride essentials and a two-way YKK zip. Crucially for longer distances, the gilet has additional reflective panels located across the chest and on the lower back, including a reflective AX logo. These additional details provide increased safety in low light or during night time riding while the 'fluoro' colouring adds extra day time visibility.

In keeping with our commitment to protecting the environments we love, the gilet uses recycled fabrics and RDS (Responsible Down Standard) filling.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

CdC lists these details:

fabric 01: 100% nylon

fabric 02: 100% Polyester

duck down lining: 90% Down 10% Feather

added reflectivity

thermal insulation

windstopper protection

water repellent

RDS filling

recycled fabrics

two way YKK zip

stretch side panels

unisex fit

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Zips and stitching can be a weak point on items of kit like this but a YKK two-way zipper and solid stitching promise real durability.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

This has been out on sub-zero temperatures and on gusty weather-warning days and it has performed exceptionally well, delivering core insulation and the ability to ventilate when needed.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

After two months of solid use it looks in good shape. I've had one feather escape and nothing else to suggest possible weak points that might give out. This looks good for years of solid service.

Rate the product for fit:
 
7/10

It comes with a sleek racing fit, and although I am very happy in a size large I would probably select a size up 'next time'. Use the online size guide and size up if in any doubt.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
7/10

It sized up smaller than expected but I was sitting between L and XL on the online sizing guide.

Rate the product for weight:
 
9/10

Down insulation means that this packs down very small and is exceptionally light. The performance to weight is exceptionally good.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
9/10

It is very well made, with a comfortable collar, deep scoop at the rear and stretch side panels to ensure that it moves with you as you ride and doesn't bunch or ride up anywhere.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

The performance, weight and the ethical sourcing of materials can all be used to help justify the RRP; there are cheaper options with those same claims, if not the same cycling-specific design.

And you could pay more than twice the price for a down gilet, but we're talking serious mountaineering kit.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Easy to wash but you need to follow the care instructions and be careful with the down insulation.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Used on long-distance and night rides this really came into its own. It is designed for audax rides and aimed squarely at that audience (CdC actually calls it 'the Audax padded gilet' in its description). It really does deliver and is a well-thought-out piece of kit.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Really impressive insulation meant a toasty core when it was most needed. It surpassed my expectations.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

I'd struggle with that price tag but there is very little here to complain about: a dedicated compression sack and better anchoring in the rear pocket would be useful.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's expensive compared with some – Alpkit's Filoment Vest also uses 100% recycled fabric and Recycled Claim Standard-certified fill (RCS100 recycled down) and costs £119.99, and Halti's Evolve Lite Down Vest Men's also uses recycled fabrics and down, and is just over £160 (€189,00) – but it's a more cycling-specific design.

It is cheaper than some, too: the Pas Normal Studios Men's Escapism Down Vest that Dave tested in 2022 was £255, though it's no longer available, while PHD's Minimus Down Vest: K Series is £404, but that's serious mountaineering kit.

If you're happier going for synthetic insulation, you can find significantly cheaper options.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? I would definitely consider buying it... a small windfall would certainly help me make that decision.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes... and it has definitely caught the eye of friends I ride with.

Use this box to explain your overall score

Putting discussions about the price to one side – and you can pay more – this is a brilliant piece of kit that really does fulfil its stated aim and delivers for long-distance cycling. It comes with great design, superb performance and ethically sourced down that means it is light, packs down small and offers exceptional windproof qualities.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 0  Height: 180cm  Weight: 83k

I usually ride: Specialised Langster (fixed commuter)  My best bike is: Condor Fratello (new – Audax rides)

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax

Add new comment

6 comments

Avatar
Freddy56 | 3 months ago
0 likes

I have a Galibier Izoard Pro gilet which looks similar for £60 I got a few years ago and use daily for commuting into London. Have a pair of CafeduCyclist bibs I bought in the sale and great quality for shorter spins, but use Assos for longer days.

Avatar
mattw | 2 months ago
0 likes

Utterly baffled by the price - sorry I can't get past it. Why? It's out of what I would pay in the same way as an £80k motor vehicle.

One more question - is it French or just cosplaying French?

I'll be having a look at the Vulpine one (or possibly 3 or 4 of them), however. 

At present Sport Pursuit seem to have a lot of expensive-ish Gilets at 50-70% off. Including one from Assos that makes the model look like a Mebon from Tharg - out-aliening Zak the Alien. Would go perfectly in the famous Top Gear Diving Suit Sequence *.

https://youtu.be/YHh32b0oWns?t=14

(Update 4 days later.
My 3 Gilet's for the price of 1 have arrived from Vulpine, and I am very happy at the price. Interestingly they were shipped by Sport Pursuit, where they are still £60.

Now back to £100 on Vulpine's website.)
 

Avatar
Tony Farrelly replied to mattw | 2 months ago
0 likes

yeah, they're French

Avatar
Sriracha | 3 months ago
0 likes

It claims to be "unisex". How well does it fit and function on the other sex?

Avatar
HollisJ | 3 months ago
0 likes

'Also, the down is responsibly sourced; there is a huge issue around live plucked down and the Responsible Down Standard here ensures that down (90% of the filing) and feathers (the remaining 10%) are ethically sourced.'
 

Unfortunately there's no such thing as 'ethical' down, unless you consider the cruelty of confining a sentient being and killing it for the sake of a sandwich to be ethical. It's simply marketing speak to ease the conscience of consumers, in the same way as free range and grass fed etc.

Avatar
VIPcyclist | 3 months ago
0 likes

Must think people are wrong in the head to pay that.

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