It's a month before Christmas and the Wiggle elves have been busy decking the halls. The cycling buyer wanders over to my desk brandishing something flashier than any of the lights adorning the office.
'What's this you've brought me? A mobile disco?' I enquire. But no - this is something possibly even more exciting (to a cycling geek anyway). This is the new Metier Women's Beacon Gilet.
With a personal goal of 500km in mind over the Christmas break and a dismal weather forecast, the timing couldn't have been more perfect to put the Metier Women's Beacon Gilet through its paces.
Métier's mission is to offer 'a new experience for cyclists with garments that have integrated personal visibility to make sure you’re prepared to ride anytime, anywhere from sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise.' In the past, high-visibility has often meant bright colours and a more casual fit. Métier's approach is different.
Breaking away from traditional neons, the Beacon jacket and gilet are available in go-with-anything black. The cut has more in common with high performance than commuter kit. On their website, they proudly quote cycling journalist Caley Fretz: ‘“You look pro” Taylor Phinney said to me in a coffee shop the other day…’
It's not just the sleek design that will turn heads though. Métier's Beacon jacket and gilet are both equipped with in-built LEDs positioned exactly where they will be seen by drivers. The placement, as Métier say, will also make you appear 'recognisably human.'
Three white Ultra High Intensity LEDs on each shoulder pack a mighty punch at 180 lumens and the row of five 22 lumen Ultra High Brightnes red LEDs on the rear deliver wide-angle visibility. They are powered by a small battery pack that sits in a zipped pocket and is rechargeable by USB. Three hours charge gives you an astonishing 72 hours ride-time.
For added visibility, the upper back is covered with the distinctive Métier 'shift' pattern which reflects headlights effectively. Together with the LEDs, Metier deliver optimum visibility in all light conditions. New thinking suggests that traditional neons aren't always the most visible choice during daylight hours and fans of classic black kit can certainly rejoice.
It's not just the reassurance that you'll be noticed by drivers that will make this your go-to garment on changeable days. The hydrophobic fabric with DWR double finish repels rain and fully taped seams add extra water resistance. The Beacon also manages to be highly wind-resistant whilst still being breathable so you won't overheat even at high intensity.
On the road
After five months with the Metier Women's Beacon Gilet I am still impressed every time I put it on. For a start, I still haven't recharged the batteries!
As a self-confessed kit-snob, once I got over the dazzling light-show, I was amazed by the premium fit and feel. This could really not be more different from the traditional hi-viz commuter garb. The cut feels like it was designed from the ground-up for women rather than as an afterthought to sell alongside the men's. I took a size small which is in line with other kit I wear from brands like dhb, Morvélo and Dotout.
Content Editor Shane Banks has been riding in the Metier Beacon Jacket and warns that the men might need to size up. 'I'm 180cm tall, weigh 63kgs and a slim build and I took a medium,' says Shane. 'While the fabric has some stretch it's still very close to the body and I only had space for a winter base layer underneath.' However, he adds that 'the jacket blocks wind and traps warmth nicely. Breathability seems excellent too, a few interval sessions didn't overwhelm the jacket with perspiration. In terms of protection, up to this point I've only been out in drizzle and light rain but the jacket kept me perfectly dry. '
I wasn't so lucky with the weather and was caught in several downpours and even hail on my rides over Christmas. The combination of a winter baselayer and jersey, thermal tights and the Metier Women's Beacon Gilet was perfect on days like this, keeping me dry and warm.
Here on the South Coast, rain or shine, one thing is always certain and that's a headwind, one way or another and usually both. The gilet's windproofing was put to the test time and time again and passed with flying colours. Having been caught out too many times on cold days, I'm starting to realise that a warm core means warm fingers and toes for longer and this gilet is definitely up to the job.
Another dead cert is that you will get dirty. Road or trail, during the winter there's no escaping it. The Metier Women's Beacon Gilet comes supplied with a mesh bag to place it in for hand-washing. I've only washed it twice in a small amount of Halo and air-dried it as per instructions and it's still looking as good as new. Given all I've put it through in the filth and rain it's also impressive that the lights are still performing perfectly.
In summary, the Metier Women's Beacon Gilet has become an indespensible part of my cycling wardrobe. For cyclists who don't want to compromise on performance or style but still want the reassurance of high-visibility, Métier's innovative Beacon range is absolutely spot-on.