There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, goes the old saying that always does the rounds at this time of year. After incredible developments in textiles over the past decade, there's no reason to wear the wrong cycling clothing any more and there's a large selection of winter cycling jackets that'll keep you warm, dry and comfortable.
We've divided winter jackets into four categories: softshells, for most conditions except the heaviest prolonged rain; warm jackets that just provide insulation without any rain protection; lightweight windproofs that keep the chill off but don't claim waterproofing; and classic waterproof outer shells for when you absolutely, positively have to ride in a torrential downpour
You do get what you pay for in winter jackets, but there are still some bargains here in very reasonably-priced pieces from smaller makers.
Look for reflective materials on any garment you're wearing as your top layer, to give dozy drivers an increased chance of seeing you
A winter cycling jacket not only has to protect you from the elements, it has to cope with the heat and sweat that you produce when you ride at a decent pace. Producing materials that are highly protective and breathable at the same time is the key challenge facing fabric engineers.
The right clothing is more important than those fancy wheels yo have your eyes on, a 20g lighter saddle, or any other bling. If you really want to get out and ride your bike this winter then invest your money in good clothing. It’ll transform your winter cycling.
First, you need to decide what type of winter cycling jacket you need; there is a jacket designed specifically for every type of weather you might encounter. The most common conditions you’re likely to face in a typical British winter are rain, wind and cold down to freezing point or just below.
Winter cycling jackets can be broadly distilled into three types: waterproof, windproof, and soft shell. Add in variations on those and cross-over jackets and you’re suddenly looking at a huge choice.
A waterproof jacket will keep the rain out but all but the very best ones (that is, the most expensive) compromise on breathability. It's practically impossible for a waterproof fabric to allow out as much sweat as a hard-working cyclist can produce, so you can get very hot and sweaty if you're going hard. Nevertheless, a good waterproof jacket is crucial for those days when it’s pouring heavily for the entirety of your ride.
It’s easy to make a fabric waterproof, but waterproof and breathable is tricky. You can keep the water out, but you need to allow the moisture that your body generates to escape somewhere, otherwise you’ll end up in a sweaty mess. Manufacturers are able to produce fabrics with pores that are big enough to let the small water molecules in the moist air escape, but small enough to keep water droplets outside.
Fabrics are getting better all the time, and there’s a wide choice.The more expensive the jacket, the more likely it is that a branded fabric like eVent or Gore-Tex will be used. Gore-Tex is one of the most common fabrics you’ll see used on higher end jackets. Gore-Tex is created by laminating a PTFE (polyetrafluoroethylene) membrane, with pores 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, in the fabric. This makes it completely waterproof.
Some manufacturers make full use of the latest fabrics offered by companies like Gore but some go their own way and produce their own fabrics that aim to offer the same technical merits. DWR (durable water repellent) is a finish used in conjunction with waterproof membrane fabrics that encourages water to bead up and roll off, preventing the material from becoming saturated with water.
How the jacket is constructed is important, and for a jacket to be properly waterproof the seams have to be taped to prevent leaks. For the best possible breathability, some vents are a must, and these have to be designed so they let sweat out, but don't let water in. They're usually under the armpits, or conclealed under flaps round the body.
If you’re not planning to ride in the rain, then a windproof jacket is a good option. Windproof jackets are commonly made from a fabric that's lighter than a waterproof one and much more breathable. They are usually designed only to be a little water resistant making them fine only for a light shower. This makes them a good choice for many conditions, especially if you get to pick when you ride, but not necessarily the best choice if you have to head out come what may, like if you're commuting.
And then there's the soft shell, a relatively new style of jacket. Waterproof and windproof jackets are sometimes referred to as hard shells, because they’re designed solely to keep the weather out, not keep you warm. That’s the idea behind a layering approach to clothing, using multiple layers to provide warmth and comfort.
Soft shells turn this idea on its head and essentially combine an outer and mid-layer, providing insulation and keeping the elements out. They’re softer and more flexible than hard shells so are more comfortable, and they're comfortable next to the skin. You can wear one over just a short sleeve base layer and feel fine.
In the last few years soft shells have risen in popularity among cyclists. The greatest appeal of a soft shell is that, unlike a hard shell, you can wear it most of the time, even when it's not raining. A soft shell isn’t waterproof, instead it is water resistant and much more breathable so it copes with a far wider range of typical British winter conditions.
A hard shell provides the ultimate protection against prolonged rain but the compromise is that it doesn't provide the best breathability so you can get sweaty inside. A hard shell needs to be worn as part of a layering system and deciding how many layers for any given ride can take some experience and trial and error to get right.
Soft shells, on the other hand, can simply be worn over a base layer of your choice when it’s not too cold. Add a thicker long sleeve mid-layer for really cold days and you begin to see that soft shells are the best solution for cyclists looking for a do-everything winter cycling jacket. Paired with a lightweight, packable waterproof jacket, it’s a good combination.
Generally, the more features a jacket has, the more it costs, but good features can improve the performance considerably.
Well-designed pockets are useful and many winter cycling jackets come with three rear pockets or variations on this theme. For more versatility, chest pockets and side pockets can be useful for things like keys and phones, or keeping your hands warm when you’re not riding. Some people like lots of pockets, some don’t — it's up to you.
A decent full-length front zip is a must, with a good size puller that you can use even with thick winter gloves on. Some zips will have a storm flap behind to stop draughts, and a zip garage (a fold of fabric at the top) will prevent the zip snagging the soft skin of your neck.
Velcro cuffs will keep baggy sleeves in order and drawcords at the waist will help tailor the fit. Hoods are occasional options and can be useful for dual-purpose commuting jackets, but separate headwear is typically a preferred option.
Most winter cycling jackets will have a dropped tail, the rear section extending lower than the front. This is so that when you're on the bike the jacket keeps your bum covered and the front doesn't bunch up around your stomach. The more race orientated a jacket, the more extreme this cut will be.
Many jackets will feature some sort of ventilation. Of course, there’s the full-length front zip that is an almost universal feature. Extra zipped ports on the chest and under the arms can help deal with any excess heat when you’re riding. The more breathable a fabric is, the less it’ll need extra vents.
Like any garment, a winter cycling jacket needs to fit well. One key consideration is the arms. They need to be long enough to cover your wrists when you stretch to the handlebars.
The fit of the jacket can range from loose for casually style jackets, popular with leisure and commuting cyclists, to more snugly fitted jackets with an emphasis on aerodynamics that are suited to more performance-driven cyclists. When trying on a jacket it’s vital you consider how many layers you could be wearing underneath and allow a bit of space for, say, two long sleeve layers.
Some jackets, especially those lightweight shells designed for occasional emergency use, skimp on the features in pursuit of lightness, so don’t expect pockets or other extras from this style of jacket.
Now you know your waterproof jackets from your windproof shells, let’s take a look at some of the options out there. We’ve picked a few of each type to present the choices currently available.
Although the Altura Nightvision Hurricane jacket is designed with commuters in mind, it actually turns out to stand up to a lot more. Altura's Nightvision jackets have been a staple for commuters for years. This 'Hurricane' incarnation is a long way from the rather bulky, visibility-at-all-costs, practical-but-unlovely (in my view) macs of the Olden Days. This garment, cut from very lightweight, waterproof fabric, also manages to incorporate a good deal of style without compromising on its protective powers. Not only that, but it turns out to be more than a match for some exposed off-road riding as well as the Monday-to-Friday donkeywork.
Tester Neil writes: “Actually, my commute is only about 30ft, so I can't pretend to have tested this on the mean streets of Durham in the rush-hour, but it has had plenty of outings on the winter bike, up and down the old rail lines and back lanes of County Durham (I believe the Young People are referring to this as 'gravel riding'), as well as some more demanding adventures in the high moors and hills of the North Pennines. I'm happy to report a high satisfaction rating from this tester.
“I can see the Hurricane appealing to a wide variety of riders: commuters of course, but also mountain bikers, gravel riders and tourists looking for reliable protection in a practical package that looks good enough to wear to the pub.It has all the practical weather protection you'd expect from an Altura Nightvision, with added style and space-age reflectives.”
Castelli has hit the design brief for its Emergency Rain Jacket absolutely dead centre. It's light and easy to scrunch into a pocket, and once on it proves comfortable with a superb slim fit, excellent windproofing and waterproofing, and well-judged breathability.
Tester Steve writes: “This jacket both looks and feels very well made. Castelli's Deluge Light 2.5 layer fabric is light but feels tough, and it's waterproof to a 10,000mm rating. That means the fabric resists a 10 metre water column without leaking, which equates to around 14psi of pressure. Basically, rain's not getting in.
“The seams are sealed to stop it sneaking around the edges, and the zip is waterproof too – yet mercifully easy to slide and adjust, unlike some. The crosshatched threads of the fabric give just a little bit of stretch, which is useful given the slim cut. This size large is for 100cm chests (about 39in, if you insist), and mine is exactly 100cm. The Emergency Rain Jacket gives a pleasingly slim fit over a baselayer and a typical winter jersey, but anything bulkier – such as a windproof or water-resistant softshell jacket – tends to need that stretch here or there.”
The 7mesh Copilot Jacket offers a minimalist design with maximum performance – it's a brilliant packable jacket for taking with you everywhere. The Gore-Tex PacLite Plus fabric keeps you dry, protected from the wind, and won't have you in too much of a sweat either. The price is high, but it's a very versatile jacket that's built to last.
The Copilot is built from Paclite Plus, which sits somewhere in the middle of the Gore-Tex lineup. It's not quite as light, breathable or packable as Shakedry (which features in 7mesh's brilliant Oro Jacket), and nor is it as hardy as Gore-Tex Pro.
It's a blend of all the water- and windproofing you expect from Gore-Tex, along with a high level of breathability and good durability. Just to be clear: it's not as durable as Pro, but it's more packable, and it's not as breathable or light as Shakedry, but it's much more durable.
If you're looking for a great do-anything jacket, you can't do much better than the Copilot. It's not necessarily the best at one particular thing, but it works really well in many areas, whether that's breathability, durability or packability. It's a versatile and very handy jacket.
Altura's Nightvision Storm Women's Waterproof Jacket is a great addition to a regular commuter's wardrobe. It offers good protection against the wind and rain without causing excessive overheating, and the reflective detailing and storage options are well thought out, practical and functional.
The Nightvision Storm is a home-to-workplace practical bit of kit that performs well and looks good both on and off the bike. I've used it for commuting, shopping trips, general errands and meeting up with friends. I've struggled to fault it from this perspective, both on and off the bike.
The jacket is a relaxed fit, gently shaped for the female form. Following Altura's sizing guide I opted for a size 10 which fits perfectly: plenty of breathing room inside, without making me look like a sack of spuds. I can happily fit plenty of layers under it without feeling like it's starting to be overstretched on the bike.
Altura claims a 10k waterproof rating on the Nightvision, which is lower than the higher priced Typhoon, Tornado and Hurricane, which are all 15k, but I was still impressed by its performance in persistent rain. For rides of up to 45 minutes it kept out every drop, and continued to do so when I pulled it on a short while later to ride again. It's a pretty thin fabric and I could shake off the worst of the rain when I took it off, which certainly helps with continued performance.
The Le Col Pro Rain Jacket is a very good option for intense rides in biblical rain, with excellent waterproofing and good breathability. The long dropped tail is great when you're not running mudguards, and the bright orange colour is nice on a dull day. The price is quite good too, compared with others, though some are more packable.
A rain jacket's primary job is to keep cold rain from soaking you to the bone. I've been out in some incredibly heavy rain while using the Pro Rain Jacket and it's been doing its job very well. I've managed to stay completely dry – well, everything covered by the jacket has.
Le Col has used a three-layer fabric from ITTTAI for the jacket, and while we can't test its claim of being waterproof to a standard of 10,000mm, it has held off some huge downpours. Being a three-layer construction makes it thicker than, say, Gore-Tex ShakeDry. While we're here, I might as well talk care instructions: you'll need to zip it up, turn it inside out and wash on 30 degrees before tumble drying on a low heat. Do this and the waterproofness will stick around.
Bioracer's Kaaiman jacket is a great option when you want to ride quickly and it's properly filthy out.
The Kaaiman is Bioracer's take on a classic winter hard shell jacket. It's a full membrane fabric with a waffle-texture internal facing that feels good next to the skin if it's warm enough to wear this jacket without a long-sleeve layer underneath.
Available in Black, Orange or this fluo Yellow, it's nicely made, with ultrasonic bonded seams, a storm flap, tight silicone-edged cuffs and a waterproof zip. All those things together make the Kaaiman just about the most waterproof outer layer I've used. I've worn this jacket on some properly biblical days and it's shrugged off everything. It's not a particularly thick jacket but the waffle textured inside fabric traps a bit of air and helps to keep the windchill off you.
Pearl Izumi's Rove Barrier jacket may well be the ultimate commuting jacket. It's comfortable, ultra-water resistant, lightweight, stretchy and looks fantastic. The fact that it even undercuts a lot of its main rivals in price is simply a bonus.
The Rove Barrier might be 88% recycled polyester, but it is far from rubbish. In fact, as an all-round, general use cycling jacket for a broad range of conditions, tester Matt Lamy says "it's probably the best garment I've ever tested".
The Vulpine Portixol is a rain jacket rather than a packable shell, and as such is aimed more at the commuter than the hardcore roadie. The more casual, urban styling underlines this, but it matches technical hardshells in its performance.
Under its new owners, British brand Vulpine has been working on new designs and reworking some old ones. The Portixol jacket was originally a stripped-back, race-orientated shell that has been given an urban makeover, re-emerging with side pockets, an extendable flap, a two-way zip and a contemporary style that successfully blends fashion with on-bike functionality. Crucially, it retains the foul-weather capability that we praised the old version for in 2016.
The Showers Pass Elite 2.1 is in the round the lightest, most waterproof and windproof triple-layer jacket the company makes. It has legions of adoring fans, and it's easy to see why. It's as close to perfect a jacket as there is for going far, fast and hard in the most awful of weather.
Tester Mike Stead says "I've owned and reviewed many jackets over the last 30 years. From £20 commuter cheapies up to £400 tech'd-out mountain bike range-toppers that wouldn't be out of place on an alpine expedition. At the rarified end of the price spectrum they are all great. They all do the job, keeping you dry, warm and comfortable. Your particular optics may skew your opinion to favouring or bemoaning one particular area – weight, fit, breathability, features, ruggedness, and so on – but it's rare that a jacket, even one costing a very solid three figures, ticks every box, in full. Well, I'd never worn one.
The Showers Pass Transit CC jacket is a super-practical commuting hardshell, packed with clever details.
It's equally at home in soggy southern England as it probably is in its home of Portland Oregon in the similarly wet Pacific Northwest. Tester Simon Smythe says: "I've been wearing it as an outer layer every day for my commute and, thanks to its excellent breathability as well as its impressive water and windproofness, it works really well whether it's raining or not.
Bioracer's Tempest Protect winter jacket is an excellent outer layer for cold, damp and windy rides, offering dependable warmth and comfort whether you're working hard or not. Its water resistance is strong, windproofing is excellent and the fold-out drop tail is a bonus. It's fairly bulky, though, and while visibility under headlights is great, in daylight it's just very black, which won't suit everyone.
Bioracer's attention to detail is impressive. Th Tempest's two zips are waterproof with garages at both ends, while the main zip also has a substantial windflap for excellent sealing. There's a fold-down waterproof 'beavertail' at the back which, judging from the filth it's picked up, works well – it's cut to curve around your bum, with elastic loosely cinching a silicone gripper around you, so it stays in place effectively without flapping or riding up. It's not so long you'll ever sit on it on a road bike, either.
Plus, if you don't need it, the beavertail stows away using hidden magnets. Magnets! Basically magic rocks. The Spitfire Tempest Protect runs on magic rocks. Amazing scenes.
The 7Mesh Women's Rebellion Jacket delivers outstanding protection in heavy, persistent rain. It's lightweight and packable with a feminine and functional cut. It's targeted at the all-weather roadie but will appeal to gravel lovers and adventurers too – though the very high price might not.
Tester Emma Silversides says: "The Rebellion is best described as a slim fit rather than 'race'. I've been testing a medium, which is exactly what 7Mesh's size chart suggests for me (and what I wear with most manufacturers). There is room to wear a decent set of layers under it without it being pulled taut around the waist, chest or across the back when on the bike. Although the cut at the rear screams 'cyclist', I was happy to keep the jacket on after riding to meet up with non-cycling friends; it has a flattering shape and attractive colouring.
"The lower rear section is much more generous than some – packed-out jersey pockets are no problem here. If your pockets aren't full, the elasticated sections either side of the jacket's tail and the silicone strip at the base do a great job of holding it in place."
The Galibier Tempest Pro Jacket has an impressive ability to shrug off the heaviest of rain for ages without soaking you from the inside out, and when you don't need it, just stuff it in your rear pocket. There's a bit of a plasticky feel to the fabric, but it works really well.
Using a HydraStop membrane, the Tempest Pro delivers factory results of 9,000mm when it comes to waterproofing; that means it can resist 9,000mm of water from a hydrostatic head (tube of water) before it can't hold any more and it leaks through. In the real world that means heavy rain and downpours.
There have been plenty of chances to get out and test it too, especially in prolonged heavy rain. Depending on how heavy it was falling, I could head out for at least three hours without getting drenched, with the rainwater just beading off the surface.
The new Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Gore-Tex jacket offers all the performance of the unique Gore-Tex Shakedry fabric with a few Rapha details, at a price that isn't excessive compared to other Shakedry jackets. It's totally waterproof, very breathable and impressively packable.
You're essentially getting the stunning performance of Shakedry with Rapha branding. Rapha fans will love it! Rapha has until now sought out its own fabrics, but it has clearly been unable to look past Gore-Tex's stunning Shakedry waterproof fabric and so this winter launches two new jackets built around it, the Pro Team Insulated and the Pro Team Lightweight tested here.
One of the most immediately interesting things about the Findra Stroma Technical Jacket is that the fabric uses repurposed coffee grounds alongside recycled plastic bottles in its creation. The clever eco-fabric has four-way stretch and a 10,000mm waterproof rating, and the resulting jacket is very light and stretchy. Just bear in mind that it's designed to be an all-round outdoor waterproof rather than cycling-specific, and therefore lacks a few cycling-specific features such as a dropped tail and reflectivity.
Because of the level of stretch, the fit of the jacket is reasonably forgiving – worth bearing in mind when selecting your size. If you're likely to want to wear it with multiple layers underneath then I'd say go for your usual size, but for a sleek fit maybe consider going down a size. (Tass is modelling a 12, her usual size, but reckons a 10 would probably be a better fit.) It's available in sizes 8-16, and in 'Nine Iron' grey as well as this lovely teal.
The Resolute Bay Reflective Cycling Jacket is impressive. It's a high-quality design, offering superb protection against the weather, excellent breathability, and some strong cyclist-specific features, and the fit works really well both on and off the bike.
One thing that tends to plague commuter cycling jackets is that they're either too cycling-specific or not cycling-specific enough. The Reflective Cycling jacket aims to balance the two – and succeeds.
As with all foul weather jackets, waterproofing is one of the most important elements, and the Resolute Bay has stood up to all of the rain that the British spring has thrown at it. I tested it on some torrentially rainy rides and it performed admirably, not letting in a drop. The only slight downside was that when wearing it with the hood down (if you have a helmet on), you can get water caught in the hood.
The Metier Beacon Rain Jacket performs brilliantly in foul conditions and can also pack down small and compactly into a jersey pocket. Its USP, the flashing LEDs, work really well too, although if you're thinking it'd be great for everyday commuting with a backpack, they're not ideally placed. This isn't your typical commuter jacket, though, it's a piece of high-performance kit – with a price tag to match.
The idea of incorporating flashing lights within clothing isn't new, but can be a little garish and needs to be done subtly in order that the wearer doesn't look like a walking traffic light. Metier has managed this well with slim strips of LEDs, one set of white lights on the front of each shoulder, and a set of red lights on the bottom hem at the back of the jacket.
dhb has created an excellent bad weather top layer with its Aeron Lab Ultralight waterproof jacket. It keeps the weather at bay better than most, especially at this price and weight, plus it's packable too. It's quite an outlay, but it's justified by the very good performance.
The Ultralight is rated to 30,000mm on the waterproofing scale, which means that in laboratory testing the fabric could withstand 30,000mm of water from a one inch diameter sealed tube of water before it soaks through. That's pretty impressive, as most of the jackets we test here are around the 10,000mm mark.
The Triban RC120 Hi Vis Waterproof Cycling Jacket is constructed from a coated membrane material with taped seams plus plenty of reflective details to help you been seen on the commute to work. There are vents and breathability is very good.
The Gore C7 Gore-Tex ShakeDry Stretch Jacket provides total rain protection with incredible breathability. The stretch panels help to give a perfect fit that lasts through machine washing and tumble drying. This jacket is packed with tech features. The Gore ShakeDry fabric that made the last iteration so good is still present, and it works really well in heavy rain. Put simply, nothing gets through.
Added to this is Gore's new Stretch technology. It was developed with the military for use with body armour and is also windproof and completely waterproof.
The Sportful Fiandre Pro Medium Jacket is an exceptionally good wind- and water-resistant option for keeping you comfortable on rides in middling temperatures, especially when the weather can't decide what it's going to do.
This is similar to the Sportful Fiandre Pro. It uses the same Polartec NeoShell fabric on the front and the arms, but here you get Sportful's lighter NoRain material round at the back for increased breathability and suitability for slightly warmer temperatures. As with that model, the Polartec NeoShell fabric is the real star of the show here. Polartec bills it as 'the world's most breathable waterproof fabric technology'. It's also virtually windproof (it blocks 99.9%, apparently), stretchy – especially across its width – and lightweight.
“The Sportful Fiandre Pro Medium Jacket is made from excellent fabrics and the construction is similarly impressive. The result is a top performance in middling temperatures, especially when conditions are changeable and you're likely to need some sort of protection from light rain and/or road spray.”
The aim of dhb's All Winter Softshell is to offer one jacket that can take you all the way through a winter season that can see temperatures range from below zero to double figures in the UK, and with additional layering for the worst conditions it has succeeded in meeting its goal.
Made using a fleecy, grid-back softshell material, the All Winter manages to retain warmth with less bulk than you might expect, which of course aids all-important breathability. Where extra protection is needed across the chest and sleeves – the bits of your body that face the wind directly – that is provided by the use of warmer panels, while lighter weight, more breathable panels are placed under the arms to prevent overheating.
Tester Paul writes: “All in all, this is a fine winter jacket at a good price that balances everything a cyclist needs outside of the summer months – warmth, breathability, flexibility, visibility and, yes, style – to make a versatile package. From the looks of the construction and the way it has responded to washing, it will take you through several off-season cycles before it ever needs replacing, too.”
The Castelli Alpha RoS 2 Jacket is an exceptionally good windproof for cold weather with a few tricks up its sleeve – literally, in one case – that add to the performance.
The Alpha RoS 2's double-layer construction makes it incredibly versatile so you're getting more for your money than you might think. Plus, anything that makes riding in cold weather more comfortable has to be worthy of consideration. As long as you don't come off and rip it, this jacket will last you several years.
Overall, the Alpha RoS is a great design. The premium-quality fabrics and double-layer construction mean you can stay comfortable across a range of winter temperatures – even freezing and below – without getting too sweaty when you hit the climbs. It'll keep you dry through showers too, meaning that you don't need to mess around with a waterproof shell unless you encounter heavy rain. The all-round performance really is something special.
The Proviz Reflect360 Elite Women's Cycling Jacket is part of the company's high performance road cycling range, which builds on the popularity of its incredibly reflective urban cycling gear. Using highly reflective materials together with stretch windproof and thermal fabrics, it's an impressively comfortable and warm jacket, ideal for winter road rides.
Tester Lara writes: “It's made from highly stretchy thermal fabric with wind and water repellency, as well as fully windproof and reflective panels across the upper arms and shoulders, and across the three pockets at the rear. Despite the jacket being primarily black, the reflective panels are so intensely reflective that this is an excellent choice for after dark rides. I felt confident that I was highly visible.
“Overall, this is a high quality jacket that performs very well at what it's intended for. It's very comfortable to wear and use, and the reflectivity is literally brilliant – but it comes at a premium price. You might want to check the fit, too.”
Stolen Goat's Climb & Conquer Winter Jacket is the company's warmest offering. It is made from Tempest Protect fabric and is specifically designed to keep you riding in the harshest conditions. It does this very well, and at a fair price for what you get. In my opinion, it looks pretty good too.
The Tempest Protect fabric that Bioracer has chosen for this jacket is windproof and waterproof, and impressively so for a jacket that is supposed to be a softshell. It is not a full-on waterproof; the YKK zip works well but isn't waterproof, and the seams aren't taped. Even so, if you do get caught in a downpour, this jacket will just go 'shrug'.
This jacket kept me comfortable on a lumpy 100km ride in thick fog with the temperature just above freezing, with just a short sleeve baselayer underneath. I remember descending at speed after getting sweaty going after it on a longish climb, and thinking to myself how little windchill I noticed. This is testament to the fabric, but also the detailing. The collar is snug without being too tight, the cuffs are long and tight enough to get your gloves over easily. Even though there isn't a stormflap for the zip, it's sewn in such a way that it prevents the wind getting through.
The dhb Aeron Deep Winter Softshell is an excellent, very warm jacket if you'd rather run a packable waterproof and enjoy the breathability and unrestricted movement of a softshell the rest of the time. The dhb is stretchy, very well sealed against the cold, and lovely and warm, even below zero. This 'hide a massive battleship with it' grey might not be to everyone's taste, but there are brighter options if you'd rather be seen.
dhb recommends this jacket for riding between +10 and -2°C, and that's spot on – though at the warmer end you'll only want a single thin layer beneath. A prolonged cold snap with ice and snow arrived in perfect time for this test (thanks, weather... really, you shouldn't have), and the Deep Winter Softshell handled it brilliantly.
The fleece inner feels soft and very plush, and provides excellent insulation. It's just as stretchy as the windproof, water-resistant outer fabric, too, so the whole jacket copes easily with several layers without ever feeling constrictive.
The Castelli Alpha RoS 2 Light Women's Jacket is a high quality, high performance and comfortable three-season option that puts a significant dent in your wallet. It does do away with gilets or numerous baselayers though – it protects brilliantly in a wide range of temperatures and weathers.
The Alpha RoS 2 Light has a double layer build. Inside is the lightweight, insulating fabric known as ProSecco Strada. Outside, the front panels and sleeve fronts are made of Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper 150, while the back and underarms are Nano Flex Xtra Dry for protection against rain.
Each layer has its own YKK zip – it looks a bit like you've got half a waistcoat sewn into the jacket. It's a strange idea to get used to; the rote action of jacket-on-jacket-off goes out the window.
The Rapha Men's Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket is an exceptional cycling jacket for a range of winter rides. The fit is relaxed for easy layering over thermal long sleeve jerseys, and the lightweight design provides a surprisingly good amount of warmth.
My first ride in this jacket was a muddy mountain bike adventure in some incredibly heavy rain. That, combined with the rather sloppy trail, made for challenging conditions for the jacket. It came through this test without being fazed at all. Whatever Rapha is saying about the Classic Winter Jacket just being water-resistant, the rain and wheel spray that it fended off leads me to think it rather out-performed those claims. Which was nice, because I didn't get wet.
The thin design is a lot warmer than it looks and the brushed inner provides a surprising amount of insulation. For most of my rides, I stuck to wearing a summer baselayer and jersey under the jacket, only needing thicker layers when the weather turned really cold and wet.
This is a high-priced jacket that backs it up with brilliant performance. The fit and cut are both great, the outer fabric is very water-resistant, while the inner fabric provides a surprising amount of warmth.
Rapha says the Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket is 'for rides that begin and end in challenging conditions' – the days when you know it's going to be awful so you really don't want to roll the wheel out the door. With the addition of this jacket to your winter layering system, you'll be more likely to head out and endure the worst weather days: it is impervious to the harshest winter conditions.
The water- and wind-resistant jacket is an ideal top layer that is well shaped, and comes with sufficient room for pairing with warmer clothing underneath. There's no gap between the jacket and gloves (even ones that have a short cuff) thanks to Rapha's two-layer design here.
Overall, the Rapha Women's Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket is perfect for use on days when it's constantly chucking it down. I found it never let any water in and definitely blocked the wind. How often you want to go out in these kinds of conditions probably dictates whether or not it's worth the considerable price tag for you.
The C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Thermo Jacket is a soft shell that boasts full windproofing along with water resistance and a high-performance fit. After five weeks of testing, I'm pretty sure this jacket will cover about 90% of my winter riding – it's that good!
Gore says its Infinium products are made for when comfort and performance take priority over waterproofness, which to be honest is the majority of winter. A winter in the UK can be wet, but one thing I've learned from twenty years of riding – with seven of those as a serious commuter – is that it doesn't actually rain as much as you might think.
Breathability is impressive considering how well the Infinium fabric blocks the wind. Stopping a cooling breeze coming in can often create a bit of a boil in the bag effect, but not here. Gore has achieved a good level of heat transfer unless you're really going for it towards the top end of its temperature range.
At the time of writing, I've just got back from a blustery ride under clear dark skies and the C5 Infinium highlighted how good its windproofing qualities are. I'd gone for non-thermal tights, no overshoes, and thin gloves with each of those letting the chill through. My core and arms were noticeably warmer and the cut of the wind just wasn't getting through.
The Castelli Perfetto RoS wants to be both a jacket and a jersey, and is surprisingly good at being both. It's windproof and rain resistant whilst being super breathable, works well either on gravel or the road, and is perfect for chilly but not really cold weather.
The RoS part stands for Rain or Shine. The idea is that it performs like a jacket, but feels more like a jersey to wear.
Thus the Perfetto gets a Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper fabric, which is also extremely water resisant. It's not waterproof – it's more for protection against showers on otherwise dry rides – but nevertheless, the Perfetto is extremely impressive. Tester Rachael Gurney says: "It’s the most waterproof non-waterproof soft shell I’ve ever worn."
The Lusso Aqua Repel V2 Jacket is surprisingly warm and waterproof for such a lightweight jacket, and the performance is excellent, as is the cut, which is close and racy, with plenty of coverage when you are in the saddle.
The Aqua Repel V2 is made from Storm Shield, which Lusso says is a lightweight thermal, windproof and water-repellent material. It's created using a waterproof membrane with an inner and outer fabric for protection from the elements.
The 7Mesh Cypress Hybrid Jacket is targeted at cool mornings and windy days, when you need lightweight, form-fitting protection but don't need a full waterproof. Seriously light and compact, it disappears into a pocket before and after use. It's a 'Significant Birthday' price, mind.
The Cypress Hybrid features Gore-Tex Infinium on the front, a superlight, super-breathable windblocking fabric that shrugs off light showers and road spray, but isn't actually waterproof. The forearms and rear of the jacket is a four-way stretch and super-breathable fabric treated with a DWR coating, so water just beads straight off. Again not waterproof, but good enough to shed a light shower while remaining supremely breathable. The breathability test I apply is to actually breathe through the fabric – it's so porous that this is easily do-able – amazing for a fabric on which water cannot settle.
The Pearl Izumi PRO AmFIB Shell is much more than just a shell: it's amazingly water resistant thanks to the company's PI Dry treatment but it behaves and fits like a thermal long-sleeved jersey, making it ideal for three out of four UK seasons.
The PRO AmFIB Shell is a really versatile garment: it's stretchy, comfortable, form-fitting and insulated like a thermal long-sleeved jersey, but thanks to its high-tech water resistant treatment you don't need to take a separate rain/wind jacket out with you.
The Sportful Fiandre Strato Wind Jacket is perfect if you like to keep the cold out without having to bulk up with lots of layers. The combined setup blocks the wind without seeing you overheat on the climbs, and the race cut means you won't have to worry about fabric flapping about when you are in the drops. I would like a little more protection on the arms on colder days, though.
From the front the Strato looks like you are wearing a gilet over the top of your jersey, but in reality what you have is a jersey/jacket made from a lightweight breathable fabric with the front and side panels created from Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper material.
The appearance of the 'arm holes' at the top gives the double garment illusion but actually benefits your range of movement, as the base material is a little more flexible than the Gore panels.
The 7Mesh Corsa Softshell Jersey is a featherweight, windproof, water-resistant top that offers exceptional weather protection for a garment so light. It's pretty pricey, though, and the pockets may or may not be to your taste.
This is not a substantial garment – but that is, of course, the point. This is for those looking for maximal performance from minimal fabric. It's made of Gore-Tex Infinium fabric and not much else. There isn't a plush lining or anything like that. You get a bit of fleecy felt material around the neck and that's about it.
It's impressively windproof. On one bracingly cold test ride tester Alex Bowden made the schoolboy error of stopping for a sandwich at the top of a climb immediately before a steep, fast descent. He says: "Sweat cool on my skin, I braced for full body shivers, but... nothing. The icy wind just skittered around me. I couldn't even feel it on my arms. There's no wind flap behind the zip, but this didn't seem to be a problem."
This short-sleeved version of Sportful's Fiandre Pro Jacket (below) uses the same excellent material as its full armed brother and brings with it even more three-season versatility by giving you the option to wear arm warmers or not. It's a fair chunk of money, but take its performance into account and it's well justified.
The majority of the Fiandre Pro on test is constructed from Polartec's NeoShell fabric, which is waterproof and windproof but has the supple finish of a softshell, which makes it more comfortable to wear than a hardshell rain jacket.
If you are out in the rain, water just beads off the surface, and thanks to its 10,000mm hydrostatic head rating (meaning it could hold a 10,000mm-tall column of water before it would leak through the weave), it will resist heavy showers and prolonged rain for hours before it is finally breached.
Technically, the Fiandre Pro isn't fully waterproof because not all the seams are taped on the inside – those running down the sides from under the arms, for instance – but to be honest it makes little difference as they tend not to be taking the full assault of the rain as you are riding into it.
Warm, comfortable and water repellent enough to withstand all but the worst of days, the Lusso Aqua Pro Extreme Jacket does a lot of very sensible things very well indeed. Throw in a flattering fit and enough reflectivity and colour to make it highly visible without tipping over into garishness, and it's a real winner.
Stu tested the Lusso Aqua Extreme Repel V2 jacket last year and gave it full marks. The Aqua Pro Extreme costs a little more, but I'm similarly impressed.
The Aqua Pro Extreme's Windtex Storm Shield membrane is categorised as 'water repellent' – which is typically considered to be a step down from fully waterproof, but a step up from merely water resistant. The material boasts a 10,000mm waterproof rating, which is enough for moderate rain and it certainly lives up to this. The seams aren't taped, as they are on a number of jackets, and so given long enough in heavy enough rain this is presumably where water would make its way in – but nothing got through in testing, and I'd say it'll serve you well the vast majority of the time.
The Assos Mille GT Jacket Spring Fall is a cracking choice for riding hard in the cooler seasons, where changeable weather is the norm. With beautifully engineered technical features, it doesn't put a foot wrong. Just be aware that it expects you to work, and keep working.
Assos of Switzerland has the tagline 'sponsor yourself'. It isn't afraid to price accordingly pro, and you pretty much get what you pay for. Anecdotally, the gear lasts and lasts – friends have Assos kit that's over a decade old, that's ridden hard year in, year out. But longevity wouldn't amount to a hill of beans if it weren't comfortable and functional to boot. Fortunately, in the Mille GT Spring Fall jacket, it's nailed both.
The Mille GT Spring Fall is classed as a jacket, not a jersey. At the front the triple-layer high-vis chest panel (other colours are available – with a blue panel and, for £170, black-fronted) is rated at 10,000mm of water head – i.e. waterproof, and it's windproof too.
Sportful's Fiandre Pro jacket commands a big price but it offers big performance for tackling horrible weather, protecting you from rain and wind well beyond the point other jackets would have succumbed to the elements, wrapped up with fit and comfort that has been refined over the years.
The key to the Fiandre Pro's performance when it's cold and wet is the use of Polartec Neoshell, a fabric Sportful first used in the Fiandre Extreme Neoshell jacket a few years ago, and updated last winter. Neoshell is a fabric that offers the protection of a rain jacket with the breathability and comfort of a softshell.
Neoshell really is very good. It is near-perfect for dealing with the sort of weather the UK is subjected to over the winter, constantly changing and wildly unpredictable. Rain, from drizzle through to thunderstorms, brisk winds, higher temperatures when the sun breaks through the clouds or you're putting in some effort – it tackles it all well. It keeps you dry, and breathes well enough to prevent overheating.
LAB is the high-performance range from dhb and this new Aeron LAB All Winter Polartec Jacket is designed for you to continue racing and riding hard throughout the winter months. A trio of fabrics keeps the elements at bay really well; it's not the perfect winter softshell, but it's pretty close.
dhb has chosen fabrics from Polartec to deliver the kind of properties needed for exercising hard through the winter weather. The front, shoulders and the outer arms (basically all of the blue bits) are made from NeoShell, which is a waterproof and windproof softshell material. It's placed in the positions on your body that are most likely to take a battering from the rain when you are crouched over in a race position.
It works really well, keeping the coldest of winds from penetrating, and water simply beads off the fabric as you ride. It'll get overwhelmed eventually, but only after hours of riding in the rain. Its performance s genuinely impressive.
The Endura Pro SL II is a warm, very slim-fitting and extremely protective winter cycling jacket that looks built to last - and an absolute godsend on horrible winter days. It features an excellent high collar, intelligent use of panels and a sleek yet stretchy fit that will never slow you down.
Endura recommend this as an outer layer on dry days between -5 and 12C, and a mid-layer beneath a waterproof once it worsens. That seems accurate, though you won't find much room beneath it for baselayers unless you size up. We didn't want to fit more than two (one tee, one long sleeve), and that combo was warm enough down to around zero. Any lower and we'd recommend an outer layer, however.
Pactimo's Vertex WX-D has proved to be a top performer in the cold and wet British weather. It's warm, dry and light while being breathable enough to wear all day in comfort.
It can be hard at this time of year to gauge what to wear – how cold is it, will it rain, blow a gale? The usual response seems to be layers and extra clothing in your pockets, but you end up looking like the Michelin man or without the bits you need. A jacket that claims to cover all aspects is a tantalising prospect, then, but can it deliver? The Vertex W-XD claims warmth down to -17°C, windproofing and waterproofing too, with its three-layer outer fabric providing the weatherproofing with taped seams (reflective on the outside) and waterproofed zips, and brushed fleece grid providing the warmth.
It's reasonably thin and light for a cold weather outer – not quite enough to fold up into a jersey pocket, but you shouldn't need to as breathability is good and it has two small zipped vents for fresh air if needed.
Galibier's Mistral foul weather jacket will cover off nearly all of your winter rides if you like to work up a sweat. It's windproof, waterproof, breathable, close fitting and exceptional value. Only the pockets let it down.
The Mistral has a three-layer membrane with a waterproof rating of 8,000mm and a breathability rating of 10,000gr/m2/day. That's both more breathable and more waterproof than the previous version, and it's also treated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating to help it shed water. The seams aren't taped, and it's not as waterproof as a full hardshell, but it's plenty waterproof to be a good choice on rides where you know you're going to get wet, especially if it's cold and showery and you don't want to be pulling a rain cape on and off. On a long ride some water will make it inside, normally around the shoulders. But not much.
The Assos Mille GT Ultraz Winter Jacket offers fabulous cold weather performance, requiring very little to be worn underneath, with the inner being exceptionally soft. The attached snood is perhaps more hinder than help, but overall this is an excellent bit of kit.
The Mille GT Ultraz has been designed to let you tackle the worst that winter can throw at you, but at a more affordable price point than Assos' Bonka jacket. When we say affordable, this is still £260 (the Bonka is £370!). If you've not got that kind of cash, there are plenty of great alternatives at a much lower price, but if you can afford the Mille GT Ultraz then it's worth every penny.
If you don't need protection against the most extreme weather, the Assos Mille GT Winter Jacket is the toned-down and slightly cheaper version at £225.
As an all-in-one winter jacket, the Castelli Alpha RoS is hard to beat. The Italian brand really means it when it calls it the 'Rain or Shine' (RoS – geddit?) jacket, and there's plenty of insulation for when the mercury falls.
After living with the Alpha RoS jacket for the past month or so when temperatures have dropped well into single figures at times, it has shaken up our perception of how we should dress for this coming winter.
The Madison Sportive Men's Softshell Jacket offers a good fit, generous warmth for the chilliest winter rides, looks smart and is reasonably priced.
The Lusso Aqua Extreme Repel Jacket V2 is made in the UK, and it's one of the best waterproof jackets on the market. Made in Manchester, the Lusso Aqua Extreme Repel Jacket V2 keeps serious rain out without creating that boil in the bag sensation found with many others on the market. A huge amount of reflective detailing makes this jacket perfect for night rides too.
Made from waterproof, windproof yet breathable Windtex Storm Shield fabric, with a 10,000mm hydrostatic head and breathability of 10,000ml of moisture per square metre per day, it's good technically. Not as breathable as some fabrics, but certainly equal to most at the price – you can pay over twice as much for a jacket with similar-spec fabric.
The seams aren't sealed but it doesn't seem to matter. On a ride that involved two and a half hours of heavy rain and temperature a few degrees above freezing it fought off the elements with aplomb. Unlike many materials found on waterproof garments with various coatings, water doesn't bead off the Storm Shield fabric. Instead, it quickly looks sodden and we were waiting for that feeling of the rain starting to seep though but it never came. The membrane clearly does its job very well indeed.
Tester Emma writes: “The Assos UMA GT Wind Jacket is fantastic – okay it's pricey, but it ticks every box a windproof shell should: it's very light, easily packable, gives zero rustle and offers exceptional breathability even as it protects you from chill winds. I'd say it's the most breathable windproof I've ever used.
“As a windproof jacket, I can't fault it. It doesn't rustle. It's as breathable as any windproof I've ever used. It doesn't flap about. It moves with you on the bike. It's worth noting that the toggle on the zipper isn't the biggest – grabbing it with a thicker glove is a little more challenging – but that's a pretty minor complaint. The water repellency is effective, and holds off very light showers for a decent duration – I was impressed by it, given how thin the fabric is. However, given mesh rear panel, you really don't want to be out in anything more than a bit of drizzle; having the front half repelling water is pretty useless if your back is getting a drenching.
“The UMA GT Windproof Jacket is an outstanding bit of kit, and the quality of its fabrics, construction and fit – plus its first-rate breathability and lightweight packability – justify the price tag.”
Made almost entirely from highly effective Reflect360 material, the Proviz Performance jacket is probably the best way to stay visible on your bike without looking like a French economic activist.
Save for areas of black mesh at the top of the back, sides and under the arms – the Proviz Reflect360 jacket is constructed entirely from the Reflect360 wonder material. This looks like fairly demure grey fabric in daylight conditions – old-school lurid high-vis yellow it ain't – but it reflects like a beacon with just a bit of light at night-time.
The great advantage of Reflect360 fabric is that you can wear this jacket during daylight without looking like a high-vis road warrior. That said, with this 'Performance' version you can't hide the fact that you're a cyclist. It's cut perfectly for road riding or fast commuting, with a nice balance of form fitting, stretch and a deep drop tail. The fitted waist is very effective for keeping it in place and it's very comfortable without being too roomy. Essentially, you can wear it when you want to get somewhere fast without feeling like you're making too much of compromise in the safety-to-speed stakes.
The Ultralight Wind Jacket from Van Rysel (Decathlon's in-house cycling brand) is a low-priced lightweight jacket designed to give you some protection when the weather catches you out. It stuffs into its own tiny pocket, about the size of a fist, and weighs very little, so it's no chore to keep it in your bag or pannier for when it's needed. As you might expect, it's aimed more at the casual cyclist than those wanting highly technical cycling wear, but it does a decent job especially at this price.
Tester Paul writes: “Northern Irish brand Galibier has been quietly producing high-quality cycle wear at very competitive prices for some years now, and the Colombière jacket can certainly be added to the list of its successes. An insulated jacket for on and off the bike, this works better than anything of its kind that I have tried before, with features such as lightweight panelling and a zip-off hood that reveal the thought and attention to detail that has gone into this product.
“I found the insulation level to be spot on for even the coldest weather (I even wore this to take the kids sledging), and the rain can be seen beading up on the outer fabric in a shower even after a couple of washes, so I trust this jacket to see me through any shower. It's not designed for prolonged downpours, but I've been caught in some pretty horrible weather and if has stood up to it well. Even when the rain eventually wins, the Colombière will at least keep you warm.
“Overall, this is an excellent everyday jacket, whether the day includes riding a bike or not. But those Roubaix side panels are a revelation when it comes to preventing overheating when you do ride.”
The B'Twin Warm Reversible Urban Cycling Jacket is a really versatile option for keeping warm in cooler temperatures, either on or off the bike thanks to its reversible shell. It's ridiculously visible in bike mode, good looking in pub mode, and offers some weather protection. It feels great to wear, though the fit at the waist is a bit odd.
This urban riding jacket is the perfect garment to wear any time – with its reversible shell, you've got two choices: put it in riding mode and take advantage of its PPE EN1150-certified fluorescent exterior and massive high-vis elements. Then, when you get to your destination you can flip it inside out and the subtle dark blue colour will allow you to blend in with Joe public.
Tester Hollis writes: “Even with the slight fit issues, I'd really recommend the B'Twin jacket as it does everything so well, and the price tag of £49.99 makes it an excellent purchase if you do a lot of urban riding and want to be seen night and day.”
Tester Stu Kerton says: "The Sportful Bodyfit Pro Jacket has become one of my favourite pieces of clothing to wear on the bike. Not only is it incredibly warm and breathable, it is really comfortable and impressively lightweight. The quality also goes a long way to justifying the price; the only thing I would prefer is solid pockets."
"The Bodyfit Pro is a three-layer windproof jacket with the outer taking care of stopping the wind, the middle working as thermal insulation, and the inner layer a comfortable mesh that sits nicely against your body. The whole thing is really lightweight and feels almost like a top-end sleeping bag in its construction.
"With a summer baselayer on underneath, the Sportful worked well from about 13°C down to about 7°C before I started to notice the freshness from outside, but pair it with a slightly thicker long-sleeve winter baselayer and it'll easily deal with sub-zero temperatures. Freezing fog and -3°C was the lowest I got down to, and you could really feel the way it was blocking the icy northerly wind compared to my tights."
The Pro SL PrimaLoft Jacket II is a luxuriously warm, soft and comfortable top that's fantastic either on its own or beneath further layers. It's windproof, brilliantly breathable and extremely light, despite its slim and easy-to-pack nature.
Endura fills this with two types of PrimaLoft, with the bigger chunk being the 'Gold' grade across the front and the upper sleeves. The rear panel is lighter-duty Silver Active, which breathes better and can stretch – two qualities the company says it's improved with this updated jacket. The stretchy lower half of the arms, stretchy side panels and the rear pocket area have no insulation at all, and each armpit has a small triangle of ventilation holes.
The Pro SL is extremely soft and comfortable against the skin or over full-sleeve layers, and there's no detectable sense that some parts are insulated and some aren't – it's just warm and cosy on the bike, without ever seeming to build up heat beyond a comfortable level.
If you're an out-all-day sort of rider, or heading off on an extended tour, it's nice to take a genuinely warm layer along for breaks, rest stops, energy crashes or the odd unexpected blizzard. The Madison DTE Women's Hybrid Jacket (there's a men's version available too) is light, cosy and packable, and the handy stretchy side panels mean it'll pop over everything.
Although aimed more at mountain bikers than roadies, this insulated jacket has plenty to offer the adventurous road or gravel rider, especially if you're looking to ride all through the coldest weather or tour.
Overall, it's hard to go wrong with this one, it's a super-warm yet light and packable layer that's water resistant and great value for money – it even looks good with jeans.
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.