Windproof cycling jackets have two jobs: they stop the wind in its tracks so that it doesn't evaporate the sweat from your body quickly and cool you down too much, and they pack away into a pocket so they're ready when you need them. A windproof cycling jacket is most useful in cool, dry weather, letting you ride comfortably without the weight and bulk of a full-on waterproof jacket.
Most makers of windproof cycling jackets don't claim any great water-resistance, but we've found a couple that help keep the rain off too
A windproof cycling jacket is a great outer layer for chilly morning starts; when things warm up, just stuff it in a pocket
Cheaper windproof cycling jackets use generic tight-woven fabrics with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating; look for names like Gore, Polartec and Pertex on spendier jackets
Look for features like a high collar, perhaps with a fleece lining, pockets, a long back and sleeves long enough to overlap gloves and seal out the cold
Even at the height of summer, a packable windproof cycling jacket in your pocket or seatpack can get you out of trouble if the weather turns
A lightweight windproof cycling 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. Most lightweight windproof cycling 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 fabrics made by Polartec, which usually have a polyurethane membrane 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.
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.
The Rapha 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 a better fit on the bike and a dropped tail too, the sleeves are tailored and long enough to be stretched in the drops without wrist-gap creeping in.
As befits a jacket that's designed to be ultra-lightweight and easily pocketed the Wind Jacket isn't cluttered with extraneous features. There's a small waterproof-zipped pocket low down on the front, the full-length waterproof front zip is offset and has a light fleece chin guard to prevent chafing as the collar comes up goodly high.
This is a lovely item of clothing that's been expertly tailored and pared down to the essential details. Windproof without flapping about, breathes without breaking into a sweat and more waterproof than its billing it's one of those bits of kit that you're glad you're wearing when it's needed, but never a bother when it's not and hidden back in the pocket.
Oh, and remarkably, it's now £20 cheaper than when we reviewed it in 2014.
The Pearl Izumi Men's Pro Barrier Jacket is a great lightweight option that'll keep you dry should you need it in the summer, and will also work well as an outer layer as the days get cooler.
The Pro Barrier is tailored for performance riding; it's for getting hunkered down on the bar and smashing out the power. The cut is close, and you get a dropped tail for good coverage when it's raining, and plenty of length in the arms.
The high-stretch fabric not only provides an excellent fit, it's windproof and uses PI Dry, a hydrophobic technology that makes it both water repellent and breathable.
Tester Stu Kerton thought the Sportful Fiandre Strato Wind Jacket was "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."
The front and side panels are made from Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper material which works brilliantly to keep out chilly winds. The lighter fabric of the arms gives plenty of freedom of movement, though it does mean your arms might not be as warm as you'd like on very cold days.
This is very versatile windproof cycling jacket that you can tune to a wide range of conditions just by changing the weight of the layer or layers underneath it.
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 sensation of your front half being protected while your rear half cools by evaporation is initially unnerving – I wondered if I would then be too cold on the following descents – but no, it all balances out. Once the sweat load is gone, thanks to the Cypress Hybrid's amazing breathability, a good merino base/jersey combo then works to insulate.
Shimano's Evolve Wind Jacket provides a cosy yet breathable layer with a relaxed fit that opens it up to more casual commuting as well as general road riding. The styling is very nice, but the notable feature is the Wind Shield, which looks odd but works well. It's a great jacket, but rather pricey.
Shimano's Evolve line sits between the race-focused S-Phyre range and the casual Explorer collection. Compared with the S-Phyre kit, the Evolve range is a little roomier, made for a slightly more upright position and, in the case of this Wind Jacket, also suitable for combining with jeans for the ride to work or cafe.
The cheapest windproof jacket in this article at just £29.99, the Van Rysel Ultralight Windproof 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, if a little delicate feeling – treat it with care – but it still does a very good job of blocking the wind. It'll even keep out a light shower if you get caught out.
RBS stands for Really Bright Stuff, and you're certainly going to get noticed with this on. It's a packable light weight windproof that's just right autumn and milder winter days. Its windproof qualities keep the morning chill at bay. The 100% polyester fabric is thin but is a good barrier against the wind and will stand up to a bit of light drizzle too.
This three season windbreaker looks good while striking the difficult balance of warmth against breathability. It's made of a single layer, coated fabric called Airdry which is intended for mild and windy conditions and which is quite soft; it feels just like a normal jersey against the skin.
There are vents at the rear which helps the warm air escape should your work rate increase, but it's more at home when descending or riding in a group, not necessarily pushing too hard sitting on a wheel.
Prive and link above is for sizes L to XXL. BikeInn has S and M for £50.45.
Unlike most of the jackets here, Endura's FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape is fully waterproof, with a breathable fabric and taped seams. But in practical terms it has lots in common with most merely water-resistant windproofs in that it can be easily packed into a pocket.
This is a great garment, proving breathable race capes can be relatively affordable. Packable race-light 'shells' are usually either super-expensive yet breathable and comfortable, or cheap and boil-in-the-bag. I'm delighted to report here that the FS260-Pro straddles the two definitions.
It performs very well. Of course, there's a limit to how effective any breathable fabric can be. Even industry standard Gore-Tex meets its match in the right (or wrong) combination of humidity, warmth and exertion. But, if you're riding at a high tempo, the Endura keeps you as dry as I've experienced in a shell such as this. It works best in cooler conditions – and layering up too much negates its effectiveness – but it really is quite impressive.
Galibier's Gino Pro Wind Jacket is one very impressive piece of kit, blocking out the breeze without creating a humid micro-climate on the inside thanks to great breathability.
Galibier has used UPF200 Windstop fabric by Miti for the front panels, a high thread-count material which is then laminated to create the windproofing. Nothing gets through at all. To test how insulating the Gino was, I went out on a night ride with the temperature just half a degree below freezing and a cold north-easterly wind blowing in. Underneath, all I had on was a mesh short-sleeved baselayer that I normally wear in the warmth of summer. My temperature was very comfortable, even on my arms, where under the sleeves of the Gino my skin was exposed.
The Chapeau! Echelon Jacket brings together some really nice features combined with good performance and an excellent fit, even if it looks a little Star Trek-y.
One of the key points of judgement for the Echelon, as with any other jacket, is how well it performs in bad conditions. Luckily, testing in the UK in December means it's been put through its paces.
In terms of windproofing it works really well, with Chapeau! choosing a fabric that kept even the fiercest wind off. I was really surprised by how effective it was, simply because it is so thin – it can't be thicker than a regular sheet of A4 paper, but managed to keep the wind off even in the freezing cold. It is genuinely impressive.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. 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.