Forged of high-performance fabrics with only subtle indication of its on-the-bike inclinations, the Kitsbow Arcana vest is an unpretentious neo-classic that offers versatile outdoor performance with an eye-watering price tag. It is an effective combination of amazing insulation and breezy breathability, a durable piece that uses the very best materials and a few thoughtful touches to deliver a serious upgrade for the cool-weather rider.
Over three seasons of cool-to-freezing riding, this tester found the Arcana warm enough to enable fewer layers on chilly mornings – the Holy Grail of winter riding. That performance comes at a cost, but the Arcana feels built to last and can double as streetwear without screaming “I ride a bicycle!”
So as you’re sitting there deciding between that Campagnolo Record 12-speed rear derailleur and this $250 vest, here’s what you need to know.
First, the insulation. As fill, Kitsbow employs a polyester insulation developed for the U.S. military that the company writes was designed to “eliminate the need of adding or dropping layers during dynamic and static activities.” It’s breathable and warm, and it wicks. Whether you are hauling up the climb or sucking down the espresso (two very important activities for a cyclist), you are comfortable.
Next, the design. A subtle touch for the cycling sect, Kitsbow puts more insulation in the front of the vest than the back – smart, and you’d never know it if you weren’t looking for it. The polyester inner helps wick, and the nylon exterior makes it durable. Indeed, I would not hesitate to mountain bike or bushwhack through heavy brush with the Arcana.
Fleece pockets are nice and cozy, and stash pockets abound. A wee magnet keeps the collar in order, and icing for this delicious vest cake is a waterproof coating. This tester did not employ the vest in heavy rain, but in the misty Portland weather, water beaded off just fine.
Now, the tailoring. Kitsbow markets this vest’s fit as “tapered,” and it’s no joke. Concave-chested road cyclists like this tester will love how the Arcana hugs close to the torso and keeps out the wind. A well-designed collar reminiscent of an old bomber jacket adds to the effectiveness. A l
Finally, the style. Unlike your GORE-TEX blah blah blah, the Arcana vest is eerily reminiscent of normal clothing. This tester’s aesthetic of “vaguely track cyclist thrift store hobo” finds the Arcana a little fancy, but with some beausage, this could be an in-character bit of everyday kit. Yet the waist does ride above the belt for this pencil-proportioned tester, and Kitsbow recommends going one size up for streetwear use.
If you’re the kind of rider who could cradle their Record mech in the brushed fleece pocked of the Arcana vest while riding your vintage Colnago home from the shop, don’t hesitate, buy this vest. If you’re a dirtbag who somehow has an electronic drivetrain anyway, you should consider this vest. “Buy the best, cry once,” they say.
Or perhaps, “Buy the vest, cry once, and your tears will wick away as you ride cozy into the night.”