Buyer's guide to windproof cycling jackets + 10 of the best
Keep the wind out with a lightweight windproof cycling jacket
Cycling in the wind isn’t just hard work, it can also make it feel much colder than it really is. You produce a lot of sweat when cycling, and the wind chills this sweat and can make you very cold, very quickly. A windproof cycling jacket will stop the wind in its tracks and keep you from feeling the wind chill.
A lightweight windproof jacket can prevent you being caught out in the wrong kit if the weather turns during the ride, or you’re out longer than planned. They add a lot of flexibility and versatility to your cycling outfit at this time of year, and are useful into spring, even summer too. Most lightweight windproof jackets can be rolled up very small and will fit into a spare jersey pocket, and most use technical fabrics that are very breathable if you need to wear for the entirety of a ride.
Fabric is key in a windproof jacket. There are quite a few options on the market. How much you pay will dictate the quality of the fabric, and typically the more you pay the lighter and thinner the fabric. Breathability - the degree to which a jacket lets your sweat vapour escape - differs from jacket to jacket too.
Gore Windstopper is a very popular choice. It’s manufactured by laminating a lightweight PTFE microporous polyurethane membrane to a fabric. Unlike Gore-Tex, which is waterproof, Windstopper is designed to just keep the wind out. That said, it does a fine job at keeping quite a bit of lighter rain out too.
Other choices include Polartec, where a polyurethane membrane is bonded onto the face of the fabric, and Pertex which combines a moisture moving inner layer with a tight weave outer layer that stops wind getting through.
While only designed to deal with the wind, some windproof fabrics are reasonably adept at keeping rain out. We’re not talking here about torrential rain, but they can often keep you dry if you have to cope with several short showers during a ride.
Lightweight windproofs don't provide much insulation. They're intended to be used in conjunction with insulation layers to provide the warmth. These jackets purely stop the wind from getting through to those layers.
Fit is very important. Jackets range from generously sized to race fit, the right one for you depending on the type of riding you do. If you’re commuting you probably want a relaxed cut that can go over a couple of other layers easily. If you’re racing or training, you want to minimise any excess material flapping in the wind so choose a close and slim cut.
It’s always worth trying a jacket on before buying if possible. Sizing can vary so much between manufacturers, and details like the length of the arms, how much the tail drops down, and the fit around the shoulders and waist, can change from one brand to another.
To keep the weight down, you don't usually get many features. All lightweight windproofs will have a full-length zip, and some might have ventilation ports around the arms or in the side panels to boost ventilation. You don't normally get pockets, but some of the jackets below do provide pockets, it all depends on the type of cycling you do and your requirements.
High-collars can be good for ensuring the wind doesn't sneak in around your neck. A dropped tail and raised front will give a better on-the-bike fit, and elasticated waist bands can stop the jacket riding up. Some jackets will have a pocket that doubles as a pouch to stuff the jacket into, as the photo above shows.
Light enough to pack away
Lightweight windproofs are made from thin fabrics so they pack away very small and will easily disappear inside a jersey or backpack pocket when not in use. If you commute by bike, it's worth having one in your backpack/pannier at all times, so it's there if you need it.
We’ve picked some of the best reviewed windproof cycling jackets recently tested on road.cc. Most of these jackets are lightweight windproof jackets that can be added to your existing outfit, some are very packable so you can stuff in a jersey pocket when not needed, and some are designed to be worn all of the time.
B'Twin 700 UltraLight Wind Jacket £19.99
The cheapest windproof jacket in this article at just £19.99, the B'Twin 700 UltraLight Wind Jacket is light enough to stuff into its own pocket about the size of a fist, and weighs very little so you can take it in a backpack, pannier or jersey pocket on all rides. The jacket is very light and hard-wearing, and does a very good job of blocking the wind. Basic but effective windproof layer, best for upright riding positions; good value.
Howies Dyfi Active Shell jacket £39.00
The howies Dyfi Active Shell is a lightweight windproof shell with a good fit, nice details and smart looks, and all for a very reasonable price. The bright orange fabric is a recycled polyester ripstop fabric that manages to offer decent breathability - you can maintain a high workout level without fear of boiling in the bag. That allows you to wear it for the whole ride if the weather demands.
Lusso Skylon 2XS windproof jacket £39.99
The Lusso Skylon 2XS is a simple windproof and showerproof jacket that is light - just 98g - and compact enough to stuff into a spare jersey pocket. You can put it in your pocket just in case the weather turns cold or nasty. The fabric will keep out a surprising amount of rain, and it’s fairly breathable too. A simple, lightweight windproof/showerproof that adds loads of warmth when the temperature drops.
dhb Turbulence Windproof Cycling Jacket £37.99
The Turbulence jacket from dhb (the in-house brand from on-line superstore Wiggle) is a lightweight windproof top that's an ideal outer layer for cycling on cold days, and it easily packs down small enough to stuff in your back pocket if the weather should turn balmy while you're out on your bike. dhb offer the Turbulence in a men and women's cut and size range.
Polaris RBS Pack Me Jacket £54.99
From Polaris’ hi-vis range is the Really Bright Stuff (RBS) Pack Me jacket which, as its name suggests, is an easily packable jacket. It’s a light windproof made from 100% polyester fabric that is a good barrier against the wind and is okay in some light drizzle too. It’s a bright jacket and there are reflectives dotted all over the jacket for good road visibility, making it an ideal choice for commuting or evening training rides. Versatile lightweight windproof for changeable conditions, well made and comfortable too.
BBB Rainshield Women's Jacket £69.95
A windproof jacket can be lightweight and easily packable, so you just wear it only when you need to. The BBB Rainshield Women's Jacket is a good example, with a performance fit and a very thin fabric that is impressively breathable and very light. It’s a great little pack-away jacket for the price tag.
Endura Hummvee Convertible Jacket £84.99
The British weather can change fast, and Endura’s Hummvee Convertible jacket is designed to adapt to such rapidly changing conditions. It’s fully windproof and very breathable, and in an instant the arms can be removed and stuffed inside a rear pocket. That’s ideal if the weather improves and it’s too warm for a jacket, and you only need the protection from a gilet. It’s a good top for commuting, when the ride home can be in completely different weather and temperatures to the morning commute.
Gore Bike Wear Xenon 2.0 AS Jacket £149.99
The Gore Bike Wear Xenon 2.0 AS Jacket is a lightweight jacket that's a bit pricier than most, but then it's more water resistant and breathable than most too, and cut to be ridden in comfortably with thoughtful details that'll help justify the cost.
Sportful Fiandre Light WS Jacket £165.00
Sportful’s Light WS jacket was designed for the demands of cycling in Flandrian weather, which involves a lot of icy cold wind, so it’s well suited to UK cycling too. It’s made from Windstopper Lightstretch fabric with a NoRain water barrier on the arms and shoulders, so it not only keeps 100% of the wind out, but provides a decent level of protection in showers too. Really good fit and good attention to detail make it a top winter performer.
Rapha Classic Wind Jacket £140
The Rapha Classic Wind Jacket is made from a windproof, water resistant and extremely breathable 100% nylon fabric. The cut of its jib is classic cycling with a long-cut back for better coverage on the bike. The sleeves are tailored and long enough to be stretched in the drops without a wrist gap creeping in. Rapha offer the Wind Jacket for men and women in a range of colours. It's currently (January 2015) discounted to £80 for the women's version and and £95 for the men's jacket.