dhb Flashlight Windproof Gilet review

A casual cut, mid weight windproof gilet, well vented and with bright (if slightly oddly placed) reflectives.

Taking the edge off on chilly commutes, without making you look too much like the bin man

The dbh Flashlight Windproof Gilet (currently £34.99 here – also see the women’s version) is squarely targeted at the commuter market, but especially in this charcoal version, rates well in the style stakes.

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Materials and construction

The Flashlight gilet is built to a surprisingly high standard for the price. I was always impressed by the dhb Ultralight gilet for the money, but this definitely takes things a step further – the panels are well thought out and the stitching and materials are solid and holding up well to daily use so far.

The sturdy YKK zip is a particular highlight – it has an excellent motion and locks in place wherever you leave it. Although it’s still not ideal for gloves (I use the little Alpkit zipper tags on most of my gear to make this easy) you can work the zip one-handed without too much trouble, and there is an ample zip park to guard against chafing when it’s fully done up.

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Off the shelf the coating on the Flashlight gilet is top notch – it beads up nicely in even quite heavy rain (although since you are wearing a gilet, you’re already on to a loser if the plan was to stay bone dry). This is also lasting better than expected after half a dozen cycles in the washing machine.

The arm holes are elasticated but not massively – but this isn’t as much of an issue as the (non) snugness of the collar, given the relative orientation to the wind.

There are no pockets, which is fine by me as it really cuts down on bulk (frankly I’ve never really understood why people would want jersey pockets and jacket pockets on top). The relaxed cut makes it very easy to access your jersey pockets even when the gilet is done up – job done.

The fabric is indeed windproof and has kept me comfortable right down to freezing point (with the right gloves and jersey – remember the gilet is just letting the layer(s) below do their work – it’s not supposed to provide significant insulation). Although the collar isn’t the snuggest there is a good storm flap behind the zip, something conspicuously lacking from the Ultralight option. YMMV- as always, warmth is quite an individual thing.

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The back is mostly made of a fine mesh for optimum ventilation. I really haven’t found myself working up a sweat in this gilet at all, which makes it perfect for shoulder season riding where you can be riding over frozen puddles in the morning and climbing home under a solid evening sun.

Don’t count on it keeping your back dry if you wear a rucksack though (although this should be obvious, considering your back will still get sweaty with a rucksack even if you don’t wear a shell layer at all).

Retroreflectives

The reflectives on the Flashlight Gilet are bona-fide Scotchlite and throw back light with the best of them. Slightly unfortunately the reflective detailing seems to have been chosen to fit in with other items in the range (like the jacket) despite the latter relying on a rear zip pocket cover for back-centre reflectivity – something which is largely lacking in the gilet.

To be completely fair, when you’re riding along minding your own business, quite a lot of the side panel is lit up by an approaching car (based on a short experiment following someone who I made wear the gilet to see what would happen). And of course, both dhb and ‘flash light’ logos on the rear are picked up nicely by headlights, it’s just an odd design decision for a gilet whose very name evokes night time adventures…

Pictures probably speak louder than words here:

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Cut, sizing

Take a careful look at the size guide. I’m just under a 32″ waist (small to x-small) but with almost a 44″ chest (x-large), so I took a punt on medium, and this has worked out well – the chest isn’t tight and the elastic in the waist is taking up up any slack.

The cut is distinctly on the casual side so it’s not too critical so long as it’s not too tight! In particular, I found the collar a little too loose which compromised warmth on the coldest days, but it is lined with a nice soft hand, pleasant against the skin. There is an ample drop tail – just about long enough to sit on, which goes some way to compensate for the collar.

In contrast as I have moaned before, the dbh Ultralight gilet which is my go-to item has a ludicrously short tail (often sitting up at my kidneys if I have anything in my jersey pockets).

Conclusion

The Flashlight Windproof gilet crunches down to about the size of a clenched fist, easy to stow even if you are carrying all the essentials in your jersey pockets already. While it isn’t the lightest at 123g (versus the dhb Ultralight gilet at 72g) this is still only the weight of two gels, or a big mouthful of water – nothing much to write home about.

With solid construction, a good fit (if you want a relaxed cut) with an ample drop tail and surprisingly good water-repellent coating, only the slightly awkwardly-placed reflectives put a damper on this item. Overall, hard to beat for the asking price (and if you can catch this on sale it will certainly be a steal).

Note that there is a woman’s version available. There are also winter-weight ‘thermal’ models in both men’s and women’s flavours – curiously with pockets and adjusted reflectives that imply someone has been listening to the various reviews of this item which consistently picked up on both points…

Shimano R078 / R088 road shoes review

Great entry-level road shoes which accept both SPD and SPD-SL / Look style cleats. Stiff, light, and doesn’t break the bank…

Entry-level road shoes: with or without ratchet buckle.

I wear recessed-cleat SPD cycling shoes for at least 90% of my rides, but when I wear rigid road shoes, I really feel the difference. Only their inherent clumsiness when you’re not clipped in and spinning, combined with poor longevity, prevents me from wearing them for everything.

Shimano’s entry-level R078 / R088 shoes are very similar, the principal difference being the top strap, which is velcro on the R078 and has a micro-ratchet mechanism on the R088. The cheaper shoe is more reliable but you’ll get a consistent fit, and easier adjustment, from the more expensive model… so long as you don’t break a ratchet!

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At the time of writing, Chain Reaction are doing a very nice 33% discount on the R078, and a 33% discount on the R088 too.

Wiggle have the R078 at 26% off and the R088 at 20% off.

Compatibility

Both three hole (SPD-SL, Look) and two hole (regular SPD) cleats are supported.

This is great if you want a stiff shoe but are happy with the performance of regular double-sided SPD pedals – in particular, you’ll get huge mileage out of metal SPD cleats on these exposed soles where the plastic road ones will break every so often.

If your riding involves a bit of hopping on and off the bike (mixed mode commutes, or long audax / sportives) then you should definitely bear this in mind. Pushing hard onto the small SPD cleats doesn’t feel any different to me.

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The light coloured material along the middle of the shoe is after-market reflective tape, so I look even more bizarre while riding laid-back at night.

Fit and sizing

Shimano shoes are built on a narrower last, particularly in comparison with US manufacturers, so be careful of sizing if you’re coming from Specialised or similar.

Happily, you can buy the R088 in a special wide fit if you have that need – but don’t go crazy. I’ve got “normal” UK feet and wear normal shoes (but my better half would want the wide ones). Check the size charts!

It’s pretty tricky to offer fitting advice online, so here are a few of my sizings for your interest:

  • Shimano R088: size 42
  • Shimano MT33: size 42
  • dhb R1 (road shoe): size 42
  • dhb T1 (commuter shoe): size 44 (loose for winter)
  • Mizuno Wave (running shoe): size 41
  • Scarpa Manta (mountain boot): size 43

Make of that what you will!

Materials and construction

The Shimano R078 / R088 are made of synthetic leather, which means they’re durable and don’t need much in the way of care and attention. That said, if you go for the white option, be aware they they’ll soon become grey unless you’re quite exacting with the cleaning regime!

The soles are fibreglass, and designed to be quite stiff but not absolutely rigid (either carbon or fibreglass could be made completely rigid – the graduation between glass and carbon shoes in the cycling market is party a question of weight and partly to provide an up-sell path).

While flexible shoes are tiring on your feet, it’s not clear to me that there’s a meaningful increase in efficiency going from rigid to super-rigid and hyper-rigid outsoles. Once your feet aren’t a limiting factor and you’re comfortable, you should be set for top performance, physiologically.

Mine weigh in at around 580g for the pair. This is one area where spending an extra £100-200 could get you some savings, with absolutely minimal road shoes going as low as 300g.

(It’s unlikely you’ll notice the difference, but it’s much cheaper than upgrading your entire groupset for a similar drop in weight…)

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The sole has rubber at each end to make it slightly easier to walk off the bike, or put your toes down at junctions. This works pretty well until it wears away (after a year or two you’ll probably be thinking of sticking some glue on to boost the effect).

Ventilation

There’s a reasonable cross-section of mesh on the uppers of the Shimano R078 / R088, and there’s also a cut-out in the centre of the sole just behind your toes, which is echoed in the manufacturer-supplied insole.

While I don’t normally notice it, a similar hole in the insole of the shoes I wore during the 1200km of Paris-Brest-Paris became pretty frustrating and I duct-taped over it to try and soothe my irritated feet (with variable success).

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On the whole I find these a pretty good performer in hot weather. Even though it’s rarely hot in the UK, it’s more important to have a shoe that’s cool since you can easily add an overshoe, thicker socks, or both as required.

Conclusion

Both models of shoe are solid entry-level performers from Shimano.

They’re pretty light compared with a conventional SPD shoe, and very noticeably stiffer, cooler, and nicer to put down the power with.

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The ratchet tightening system on the SH-R088 adds £10 to the asking price, and having broken one of my ratchets (above) I do think they represent a weak point on the shoe, although they help get a tight, consistent fit.

The ability to use both three-hole and two-hole cleat systems is great if you’re looking for a rigid shoe to combine with conventional SPD pedals and only a bit of walking about – this is how I currently have them set up, after a couple of dissatisfactory episodes with Look Keos.

You do need to be a little careful of the sizing, but probably no moreso than any other time you buy shoes – at least you can send them back for free if you buy from Wiggle / CRC!

Again, at the time of writing, Chain Reaction are doing a very nice 33% discount on the R078, and a 33% discount on the R088 too.

Wiggle have the R078 at 26% off and the R088 at 20% off.

Happy spinning!

dhb Windproof Ultralight Gilet review

Cheap, virtually the same weight as an energy gel and a great performer – everyone should have one…

Stay warm and comfortable with this midget gem

If you’re not into windproof gear, you really should be.

I still remember the revelation of my first outing – all the warmth of a waterproof as the thermometer plummets, but without the unpleasant clamminess that even the fastest-breathing fabrics still suffer from.

The dhb Windproof Ultralight Gilet is a snip at £30 RRP, but right now you can get a 40% discount, making it an absolute steal. Mine weighs 72g, which compares well with an energy gel at just over 60g…

There is a ladies’ version too, also on sale.

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If it rains, you’ll certainly get a bit damp, but probably no moreso than if you’d been sweating into an eVent or Goretex jacket for an hour. The majority of rides are, in this part of the UK at least, generally dry affairs, and on all of those you’ll be enjoying significantly greater comfort.

Look mum, no arms!

To state the obvious, being a gilet your arms are not protected. Don’t discount it.

In the mild UK climate, if you like to ride at pace then outside of deep winter you’re likely to be too hot without the cooling of the wind on at least some part of your body.

It’s mid November and I often find myself riding with this gilet unzipped, even at 7:30am as I’m heading into the office. If it’s cold enough for frost then the full sleeve windproof comes out, but otherwise the best balance of comfort is a decent pair of fleece gloves, a standard long-sleeve jersey and this windproof gilet.

Cut, sizing

The cut of dhb’s Windproof Ultralight gilet is ‘slim fit’, which is the middle road for dhb clothing (the other options being ‘performance fit’ and ‘comfort fit’). I have ~44″ chest, which puts me slap between Large and Extra Large according to the sizing guide.

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Knowing that returns are free and hating flappy gear, I ordered a medium (!).

Surprisingly, the fit across the shoulders/chest is fine (there’s still a little spare material I can pinch). However, the Windproof Ultralight is cut very short in the body in comparison with my other outer layers. If I have anything bulky in my jersey pockets at all, it tends to sit at the top of the pockets rather than underneath.

This isn’t really a problem in terms of warmth or function, but it does look just a wee bit odd, I think.

If you go for a bigger size I presume you get a longer body, but the downside is that it might start flapping. Tough choice.

Materials and construction

The nylon is very thin – not quite thin enough to read your jersey beneath, though. To the hand it is pleasingly silky, not plastic and nasty as one might fear.

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Despite the bargain basement price, the stitching is competent and still holding up despite two years use, including trail centre riding at the 7stanes. While it will shrug off normal use, a tumble would certainly not do it much good.

The neck is lined with a thin fleece material which makes it very pleasant against the skin, and this extends down the first few inches of the zip as a storm flap, with a curl at the front forming a welcome zip park. Otherwise, there is no storm flap (if you needed one, your arms would already have given the day up as a bad job).

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The chest is lightly logoed with a reflective print and there are two tiny reflective tabs to the rear – this being one area where the gilet could be significantly improved at minimal cost to dhb:

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The zip itself is sprung, which is a really nice touch – it will stay wherever you put it and not rattle. My main criticism is that the physical zip tab is too small, not at all easy with gloves. You can remedy this with a little loop of chord, but it’s a shame it’s not just a bit bigger to begin with:

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Conclusion

Taking up almost no room and weighing almost nothing (72g) the dhb Windproof Ultralight Gilet is a great way to add at least a full season’s worth of warmth to your wardrobe.

Worn over a short sleeve jersey (perhaps with arm warmers) it will see you well into the nippy sides of autumn and spring. Over a long sleeve jersey of thicker material, you may find this is all you need on mild winter days.

If it rains the fabric wets out quickly, but the flipside is total comfort for the 95% of the time it isn’t raining.

The cut may not be perfect depending on your build, and some might wish to pay more for features like a second set of pockets instead of using their jersey ones.

Ultimately, for under £20 delivered, it’s an absolute bargain of a garment, and one that I can recommend without reservation. (Ladies option here).