Giro’s new winter range has two new Polartec Alpha options, the sleeveless Cascade vest and a full Cascade jacket. However, their very binary performance means whether you’ll love them or not likely depends on how hard you ride - or don’t.
It might not have any sleeves but Giro has still put a lot into the Cascade vest. The Polartec Alpha Active insulation sits behind the stretchy Renew Series recycled polyester front and side panels. The back and shoulders are then uninsulated Renew Series shell, with a slightly dropped, doubled-over hem. While it’s not seam taped, the whole vest is treated with a CFC-free DWR (Durable Water Repellent) layer. The stand-up collar and two zipped hand pockets get a soft fleece lining and the two-way front zipper gets a beard guard at the top. There’s another suspended zipped pocket at the back with reflective trim and reflective logo and collar panels (silver on the orange here, stealth reflective on the green and black options). The three colors are available in both men's and women's and cut in five sizes.
Giro describes the tailored cut of the vest as ‘relaxed’ but it’s definitely not billowy. Stretch in the fabric means you can size down if you want a really snug fit (I’m wearing a small in the pictures) and obviously you don’t need to worry about the sleeves being too short. Considering its low weight and sparse fluffy tufts appearance the Polartec Alpha Active insulation is remarkably effective at trapping warm air. That means the wind-resistant 20 CFM (The US measurement for windproofing which ranges from 60 (basic fleece) to 0 (totally windproof) fabric feels a lot more weatherproof than it would normally. It also transmits the sweat sucked up through the open weave Alpha fleece out into the fresh air very quickly so you stay impressively dry. Even when you do get wet the jacket dries super quickly.
That makes the typically short-lived shower protection of the eco DWR coating less of an issue. The fact I’ve stayed perfectly comfortable even when soaked in sleet for two hours is highly impressive for the light weight too. The fact the whole back is also completely uninsulated keeps heat, and therefore sweat, down when you’re working hard.
The obvious downside is that it doesn’t keep you remotely warm across your back when you’re not working that hard or when the rain is rattling down. Even if you are putting effort in the difference between front and back warmth levels also takes a bit of getting used to until you realize the overall result is really effective.
The face fabric holes easily on pointy plants and the Alpha fleece can get snagged and pull threads if it shares a washing machine with unguarded Velcro items. The fat seams that Alpha needs to be captured with also add packing bulk but they aren’t noticeable in use. The hand pockets are of questionable value in a vest that works a lot better when you're riding not just standing around in it.
Giro’s Cascade vest is definitely a divider. It’s an outstanding choice if you’re a high-output rider who wants lightweight thermal protection with minimal sweat. Fit is well thought out for a blend of performance and practicality too and personally, I love both the vest and the jacket.
However, if you’re a steadier rider who’s more concerned with overall warmth than maximum wicking, something with a more insulated back like Endura’s Freezing Point vest is likely to be more comfortable and versatile. The price is also very high compared to other Alpha vests or similar alternatives.
Tech specs: Giro Cascade Insulated Vest
- Price: $200.00 / £159.99 / €200.00
- Sizes: S-XXL (men’s) XS-XL (women’s)
- Options: Black, Green, Orange (tested)
- Weight: 220g