When is a shirt not a shirt? How much is a sensible amount to spend on a shirt that isn't a shirt? Should we have an ironing board at road.cc for use before photoshoots? These were questions that I pondered while testing this Insulated Shirt from Giro's New Road collection.
It's an novel sort of a thing, styled like a shirt but reversible and made of a lightweight DWR-treated (Durable Water Repellent) polyester skin with Primaloft Sport insulation underneath. I'll be honest, it's not something I'd have walked into bike shop looking for, but it's perfectly pleasant to use, if on the noisy side. You don't really use it like a shirt; it's a jacket styled as a shirt, so you'd want something on underneath. Like, say, a shirt. So equipped, you'll be comfortable, warm and stylish. And £150 lighter of pocket.
When it launched the New Road range of clothing, Giro announced that it was aimed at cyclists who wanted something that combined advanced materials and technical features with styling that works on or off the bike. I've certainly found that I've tended to wear this Insulated Shirt more off the bike than on, but that's partly because the mild October we've just had meant it was really too warm for the hills of Bath. Primaloft is clever stuff - even quite a thin layer of it does a good job of keeping the warmth in, and combined here with a fine polyester outer skin, it offers decent protection against the wind too.
The construction of the Insulated Shirt means that it's pretty stashable, but unlike the Insulated Vest you'd really struggle to fit it in a jersey pocket. I don't think that's the end of the world, however, as this shirt is definitely further along the casual cycling spectrum. Unlike the vest, I wouldn't use this for all-day riding. It's more of a ride-to-the-pub/town/office thing, really. It's also reversible, with the usual mix of advantages and compromises that this brings. Like the waterproof outer layer, the inside is also polyester but has a softer, brushed finish without the rustling that you get from the outside.
Most reversible jackets have a contrasting colour on the inside, either for styling choices or as a high-visibility option. Here it's blue-grey or darker grey, with zero concessions to nighttime visibility at all. I find this a little surprising in a garment intended at least partly for riding. The vest from the same range has discreet but effective reflective details, and I would have liked to see something similar here. Safety considerations aside, styling is a subjective area and you may or may not like what Giro has done here. If I'm honest, I'm not that crazy about it, although I think it looks better inside out, with the darker grey visible.
It's not a unique idea; both Chrome Industries and Rapha have something similar in their ranges. Chrome's Warm Workshirt is very similar, in fact - reversible, with poppers and a water-resistant fabric. It adds some sensible reflectives and vents across the back, making it seem like a better bet for use on the bike. Rapha charge more (I know, right?!) for their Reversible Jacket, but allow you to choose different colour combinations for the inside and out, which is a nice idea. The Quilted Thermal Jacket from Vulpine, which Dave reviewed recently, is a different sort of affair, with a thicker (and rather warmer) layer of Primaloft, meaning that it's going to keep you comfortable at lower temperatures than this shirt would, but equally making it something you'd probably only want to ride in when the temperature is down in single figures.
In keeping with the pretence of this being a shirt, the fastening at the front is via plastic poppers, from YKK's sub-brand Plancer, rather than a zip. I wasn't really a fan of this, to be honest. Buttons or poppers are ok on a shirt, as you generally put it on in the morning, and take it off again at night, or earlier if you're English and it's more than about 20 degrees out. A jacket goes on and off more often during the day, and it's a faff having to find and pop all those poppers each time. Given that the poppers are hidden by a flap, I can't see why you couldn't just as easily conceal a zip there, except that then perhaps you couldn't call it a shirt. Oddly, Giro's website actually mentions a "Full Zipper and Button Closure", whereas in fact there are neither zippers nor buttons.
The bluer of the two sides is the waterproof one, treated (say Giro) with a DWR finish. Strangely, though, it didn't really behave like a normal DWR fabric. Droplets appear to soak into the outer fabric rather than beading up and running off like you'd see on something like Sportful's NoRain or Castelli's Nanoflex fabrics. Giro quote a 3000mm waterproof rating, which is also quite surprising given that there's no mention of a membrane. I stretched the jacket over the sink and poured some water onto it, and it all stayed on the right side. So I'm unsure as to quite how it works, but it is waterproof. It also helps that Primaloft is pretty water-resistant, so even when water eventually makes it through the outer skin (as it surely will, given that the seams are not taped), you shouldn't end up sodden and bedraggled.
There are four pockets on this shirt. Inside and out there are fairly small chest pockets - one has a Velcro flap, one is open. Both are on the small side for a phone but would work for a train ticket, say. There are also decent-sized hand pockets on the sides, when you've got it waterproof-(blue)-side out. Should you want to wear it with the darker side out, you'll have to find something else to do with your hands. I found this quite annoying, actually, and therefore generally wore it with the pockets outward.
The cut of the Insulated Shirt is slim but not tight, with the sleeves just about long enough for riding. The overall standard of construction is really good, as it is throughout the New Road range. Branding is very discreet - again, a theme throughout the range - with just neat "Giro" embossed popper heads at the neck and on the cuffs visible. The back is dropped; not that much, but enough - very much a compromise between the bike and the pubh. It's available in sizes S to XXL and we had the medium. Mat, who's wearing it in the photos is a similar height and weight to me.
I like the concept that Giro is aiming at with the New Road range. If you're spending a chunk on new gear, it doesn't hurt that you can wear it off the bike as well as on. Some of the range works really well for this, and I really like the Insulated Vest for riding days and kicking around days. I wouldn't buy this shirt, though, mostly because I'm not that into the look of the thing, I found the poppers a bit annoying, and I think it's lacking a few features to be really useful on a bike , ack of better pockets and any reflectives being my main gripes. The price is eye-watering, but on a par with similar competitors, so if it's your thing in styling terms then it'll keep you comfortable, warm and dry better than most "shirts".
Off-beat 'shirt' that keeps you warm and dry; effective, but won't be everyone's cup of tea
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giro New Road Insulated Shirt
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Some of our most satisfying creations come from building things that we all collectively want -yet can't find easily. Our M's Insualted (sic) Shirt is a great example that offers timeless style and comfort with a reversible, Primaloft- insulated fabric. It's a versatile staple that keeps you warm and dry, packs down easily for storage and looks smart in any environment.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Shell: 100% Polyester DWR Waterproof (3,000mm) 60g/m 2 Liner: Peach Woven 100% Polyester 130g/m 2 Insulation: 25g Primaloft ® Sport, Water-Resistant Fabric, Chest Pocket / Hand Pockets, Full Zipper (really? where?!) and Button Closure
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Made to a very high standard. I'd swap poppers for a zip but maybe then I'd have a jacket not a shirt. (Giro has that base covered elsewhere in the New Road range).
Rate the product for performance:
Hard to score this one. It's comfortable and reasonably warm off the bike but I'd want some more cycling-specific features for this to get heavy use on the bike.
Rate the product for durability:
It's very well made from good quality materials, so I'd expect it to last ages.
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
Primaloft is warm and lightweight.
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
It's pretty comfy if you don't mind the rustling. As Giro says, no one likes a noisy jacket.
Rate the product for value:
Yes, there are similarly priced warm shirts from Chrome and Rapha, but I think most people wouldn't get past the price tag if they picked this up in a shop.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It was ok. Off the bike you have to choose between water-resistance or pockets which is a shame. On the bike it's comfortable and keeps the wind at bay, but the lack of reflectives means that it's best for daytime use.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lightweight and low-bulk warmth that you get from Primaloft.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The styling and the poppers didn't really do it for me.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
This is a well-made piece from a brand trying to do something creative with bikewear, for which it should be applauded. If you like the style and you've got the cash, it's definitely one to consider, although I suspect you'll wear it more off the bike than on. I'd spend my money on a jacket, though, if it was me.
Overall rating: 7/10
About the tester
Age: 36Height: 190cmWeight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commuteMy best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 yearsI ride: Most daysI would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,