The Universal Colours Chroma Insulated Unisex Gilet combines easily with other layers to make any ride in cooler weather more comfortable, and what it slightly lacks in wind protection it makes up for in well-considered features for winter riding, good breathability and quick-drying insulation.
Add to that its environmental credentials, build quality and refined aesthetic, and the Chroma gilet is certainly one to consider.
If you're interested in the Chroma, check out our guide to the best cycling gilets, handpicked by our experts.
Universal Colours has managed to create the Chroma from around 45% recycled fibres, including the insulating layer, with no detriment to its look or functionality.
The first thing I noticed was how little it weighs. It's a seriously light garment, weighing in at 119g. Putting that into context, the Rapha Pro Team Insulated Gilet that David tested in 2018 was 145g, while MAAP claims its Alt_Road Thermal Vest is 175g – a whole 38% heavier.
Interestingly, Universal Colours' Chroma is the odd one out in terms of insulating material, using Comfortemp rather than Polartec Alpha as used by the other two. Both materials are made from a proportion of recycled polyester, but it would require a more scientific look (and probably some dissection) to determine the insulating material's contribution to the overall weight.
Does it keep you warm?
Out on the road, I've been extremely thankful for any extra warmth. It's currently December in the UK, and winter has really started to bite, with temperatures hovering around freezing most days. Rides have been slower due to the risk of ice (and admittedly a dip in fitness), so I've been really relying on warm kit to keep me from freezing.
On the first outing, I immediately noticed how the insulated front panel really takes the sting out of the cold air hitting your chest, leaving you feeling quite protected from the elements but not smothered by insulation or liable to overheating.
Universal Colours doesn't mention any intended temperature range on its website, but I've been using the gilet on sub-zero rides on top of a Gore Shakedry jacket, thermal jersey and merino baselayer, which is perfectly possible as the fit is as described: 'relaxed, designed to fit as part of a layering system'.
On shorter, punchier rides with almost no stopping, my temperature was perfect – but on a longer, slower ride with a few pauses and an outdoor cafe stop, I found myself wishing the fabric at the back was a little heavier for a little more cosiness. It's certainly not a panacea against the cold, but nor does Universal Colours claim it to be, stating that it's 'a key part of your cold-weather layering system'.
Additionally, I've found that the gilet isn't as windproof as I'd like; on descents, it leaves you feeling a little bit robbed of some of the warmth you've stored within it on the climb (inadvertently serving as a small reminder of what you'd be facing without it).
In light rain the DWR coating prevents moisture from soaking in, and although I've not had the opportunity to test it in a deluge, after washing it the gilet is surprisingly quick drying despite its layer of insulation.
Construction and features
The gilet is constructed of three main panels, two comprising the front and sides, and a third connecting the panels at the back, where the pockets are situated.
The rear panel isn't insulated, nor is the very bottom portion of the front panels. Where the insulation is absent, the gilet is made of one quite thin and lightweight layer. Understandably, this is to ensure maximum breathability and minimum weight. Universal Colours has prioritised insulation on the torso where it catches the most wind, though this trade-off means the gilet does little to keep your back warm at a cafe stop or in extremely low temperatures.
On the front of the gilet there is a small retroreflective logo at collarbone level, a big one in the middle of the back, and one on the right-hand rear pocket. They are almost colour-matched with the gilet's fabric, which looks very classy and understated, almost hiding them in daylight. Talking of being hidden, although available in brighter colours, the Slate Grey on test is one of those garments that basically acts as 'road camouflage' in low-light situations such as under tree cover, dusk, dark clouds or rain. At night, however, the retroreflective elements light up like torches when headlights shine on them.
Other well-thought-out features include the two-way zip, which allows you to undo the gilet from the bottom and access your jersey pockets underneath; long zipper pulls with rubberised logos which are easy to use with gloves (which you're likely to be wearing with an insulated gilet); and a high neck to maximise warmth and allow precise thermal regulation.
You also get three jersey-style pockets and one zipped pocket at the rear. The gilet packs down to the same size as most non-insulated gilets made of weightier fabrics, and another nice touch is that it packs into the zipped pocket.
At £150, this gilet sits near the top end of the market alongside other premium cycling brands' insulated offerings, such as MAAP's Alt_Road Thermal Vest (£170), Pas Normal Studios' Essential Insulated Gilet (£140), and Rapha's Pro Team (£150).
This gilet's lightweight construction and slightly roomy fit allow it to be paired comfortably with other layers or used on its own when things get a bit warmer. I could see this gilet being used in every season, including evenings in summer. Its low weight and packability mean it could easily make its way into a bikepacking bag or on an overnight audax. It's not cheap, but the fact that you could get a lot of use from it adds value. It's a good choice.
Lightweight and packable with good environmental credentials – this gilet works hard to justify its price tag
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Make and model: Universal Colours Chroma Insulated Unisex Gilet
Tell us what the product is for
This gilet is for cold-weather layering, or a packable barrier on longer rides in changeable conditions.
Universal Colours says:
"A key part of your cold-weather layering system, this versatile gilet is perfect for crisp rides through all four seasons. The construction ensures warmth and breathability, while an environmentally friendly C0 DWR treatment provides protection from road spray and light rainfall.
Utilising an innovative Comfortemp® phase change lattice insulation, the gilet uses your own body heat to regulate temperature, absorbing and storing heat during hard efforts and releasing it when you begin cooling off mid descent. The two-way stretch recycled outer construction allows free movement for comfort in the riding position.
Finished with three rear pockets and a single zipped pocket you can carry essentials with ease, while silicone grippers, reflective detailing and a packable design ensure the Chroma gilet is as functional as it is stylish."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Universal Colours:
The main fabric is made out of 48% nylon, 42% recycled nylon and 10% Spandex. The innovative Comfortemp® phase change lattice insulation is made from 50% polyester, 45% post-consumer waste recycled polyester and 5% polyamide.
*Pre-consumer waste fabrics are scraps and damaged garments from the factory that are repurposed and spun into yarns again. Post-consumer waste fabrics have gone through the recycling process and are repurposed as new yarn and knitted into new fabric.
Thermoregulation to enhance your individual comfort zone
Packable - stows into zipped pocket
Three large pockets, plus a zipped valuables pocket
Two-way zip with Universal Colours pulls
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Great attention to detail makes this gilet more likely to stand the test of time.
Rate the product for performance:
I'd like it to offer a little more wind protection, perhaps through the use of thicker fabrics, although this would negatively impact its lightweight properties.
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for fit:
The rear panel is the only one with elastic at the waist. Combined with the gilet's looser fit, this may ride up on some people.
Rate the product for sizing:
I tested a small, which is larger than other brands' small gilets. It's been designed with layering in mind.
Rate the product for weight:
Surprisingly light for an insulated garment.
Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Perfectly easy to care for, washed as per most cycling kit. Surprisingly quick drying.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performs its intended purpose well, just slightly less windproof than hoped.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lots of thoughtful details make this very usable on the road.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not quite as windproof as some garments.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's on a par with others at the upper end of the market.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This gilet ticks so many boxes as a technical layer with many uses, a well-thought-out design and sturdy construction, all while managing to deliver good eco credentials. However, on the coldest of rides, the lightweight fabric doesn't offer quite as much wind protection as I'd like, making it necessary to be paired with other layers. It's good, but could be very good.
Age: 33 Height: 174 Weight: 63
I usually ride: Ridley Fenix SL Disc My best bike is:
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, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Bikepacking
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