Cyclists in high visibility jackets (usually abbreviated to 'hi-vis') are a common sight, especially after dusk, as riders try and make themselves more visible to other road users. As well as standing out, hi-vis jackets for cycling usually offer a degree of water-resistance and windproofing to make riding in the dark and cold more bearable.
While there are studies that suggest hi-vis clothing doesn’t always ensure you’re visible to other road users, most people have clearly decided a hi-vis jacket can’t do any harm. For that reason high-visibility jackets are hugely popular and there’s loads of choice, with prices starting from £30.
The best hi-vis jackets combine lots of reflective material with their bright yellow fabrics
Hi-vis jackets can be waterproof hardshells, lightweight windproofs or made from softshell fabrics for warmth
Most hi-vis jackets for cycling are aimed at commuting riders, but there are close-fitting versions for training in too
Some things to consider if you’re looking for a hi-vis jacket. Aside from the colour, not all high-visibility jackets are made the same. Some are constructed from waterproof fabrics, others are made from windproof and water resistant fabrics, with the different fabrics impacting such aspects as weight, breathability, fit and how compact the jacket is when rolled up. The fabric also impacts the price, with branded fabrics typically commanding a premium.
Classic bright yellow hi-vis jackets are really only effective during daylight hours, so to ensure you stand out at night you want to look for a jacket with lots of reflective details and panels to help you stand out in the dark. Manufacturers are making much more effort to increase the reflectivity of high-visibility jackets, and we've even seen whole jackets made from reflective material, like the Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket.
Fit and shape are important, so it’s always worth trying one on before you buy, but you need to decide what. Some hi-vis cycling jackets are made from very lightweight material which means they can easily be folded away when not needed, making them ideal for touring and commuting where space is at a premium. Some hi-vis jackets have a much more generous shape with lots of space for layers underneath, and some can easily be worn over regular clothes. Some are proper performance fit if you’re choosing a high-visibility jacket for training rides.
Surprisingly few cycling jackets meet the various standards for high-visibility garments, which mandate acceptable colours and shades of material, and the amount of reflective material to bounce light back from car headlights.
The lowest standard is EN 17353:2020, which covers medium-risk situations. That standard was only published in September 2020 however, so the standard it replaced, BS EN 1150:1999 is the one you'll find in cycling garments.
These are standards for non-professional situations. High-risk situations — workplaces like motorway roadworks — are covered by EN ISO 20471 which mandates large sections of reflective tape to give workers a chance of being seen by drivers.
Given that riding a bike on the road can involve lengthy exposure to the risks posed by motor vehicle drivers without any of the control measures you'd find in roadworks, you might think ISO 20471 garments should be available for cycling too, but as far as we can tell nobody yet makes a cycling jacket to that standard.
We've scoured the online retailers to find some good deals on high-visibility cycling jackets. Here's what we found:
If you’ve decided you want to invest in a new high-visibility cycling jacket, here's a range of options priced from £24.99 up to £200.
If you want a packable high-vis jacket for training and other high-effort antics, you could do a lot worse than Castelli's Emergency Rain Jacket. 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.
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 Altura Nightvision Storm Waterproof jacket is great for commuting, offering huge amounts of visibility and weatherproofing, though you might want better breathability if you're looking for a jacket for more intense activity.
As for visibility, the NV Storm is very good – when light hits it, the whole thing lights up like a beacon. Across the shoulder, sleeves, down either side of the body and around the neck, Altura has added high visibility dots, which means that it should be very, very difficult for drivers to miss you.
The Pearl Izumi Men's Zephrr Barrier Jacket is made from 100 per cent recycled material and offers a more relaxed fit than many lightweight windshells at this price. It works well in terms of keeping you dry in light rain and showers, and it feels comfortable – just bear in mind that its shape will suit those who ride a little more upright rather than those who like to make the most of the drops.
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 clear why. It's as close to perfect a jacket as we've ever worn, for going far, fast and hard in the most awful of weather.
It's also adorned with plenty of reflective material. As well as the stripes on the arms and the log you can see in the above picture, there's a big stripe across the back. You could argue that the egg-yolk yellow here isn't quite the classic fluoro we've come to expect of hi-vis, but when the rest of the jacket is this good, we'll give it a pass for that.
The Showers Pass Transit CC is available as a hi-vis jacket as well as in more subdued colours. It's "a super-practical commuting hardshell, packed with clever details" according to tester Simon Smythe.
He adds: "To enhance low-light visibility there's loads of reflective trim front and rear, and the foul-weather pièce de résistance is a dropdown tail that is completely covered in reflective fabric and features integrated removable button-sized flashing red lights."
The Van Rysel Women's Sportive Cold Weather Jacket is a very good value winter hi-vis jacket with some water repellency, windproofing, and lots of pockets. Van Rysel claims some windproofing and water-repellency, and the inside is a waffle style fleece for warmth. Riding for 2-4hrs in temperatures of 10°C and below, and pairing the jacket with a merino T-shirt baselayer, I was very comfortable.
Very light rain just about beads off, but anything heavier and the fabric does absorb water; in heavy persistent rain you do eventually get wet to the skin.
If being seen on the road is your ultimate safety concern then the new version of Proviz's Nightrider high-visibility jacket really couldn't do much more to help. It's made from two types of material: super-loud yellow hi-vis and Proviz's REFLECT360 fabric at the shoulders and tail. Which means, whether you're cycling in daylight or darkness, as long as a source of light bounces off the jacket from somewhere, you'll be seen.
The effect of Proviz's high-vis yellow material is clear for all to see in daylight (the women's version uses an equally lurid pink), but it's the performance of the REFLECT360 material at night that is so impressive.
To my eyes, that seems to have taken a step forward since Proviz's original REFLECT360 products and it really does need only the faintest light, not even hitting the fabric surface directly, to glow like a loved-up phantom. It's very impressive.
Bright yellow jackets don’t get much more affordable than this one from giant sports superstore Decathlon. It’s made from a fully waterproof material with seamed seals, to prevent water sneaking in at the edges of the various panels the jacket is constructed from, and there are reflective patches on the front and back of the body and on the arms, wrists, neck and shoulders.
If you don’t want a bulky and sweaty waterproof jacket, the lightweight fabrics used in this Sportful Reflex jacket might just be right for you. The fabric is windproof and water- repellent, so it’ll be fine in showers, and it can be folded away very small to fit inside a jersey or backpack pocket. There’s 360-degree visibility with lots of reflective prints.
Made from a three-layer waterproof fabriv with fully taped seals and lots of 3M Scotchlite prints and logos, this dhb Flashlight Force should keep you both dry and visible on the roads. The use of a Teflon water repellent finish on the outer fabric face provides enhanced protection in the rain. You get two storage pockets, adjustable cuffs, a dropped tail and a fleece-lined collar.
British company Madison has been expanding its clothing range over the years and the Protec Waterproof jacket is fit for regular commuting cycling. It’s made from a fully taped fabric that is waterproof and windproof, and has vents for extra cooling on warmer days. A tailored fit with articulated arms increases the fit comfort and there is lots of reflective print.
A staple of Scottish clothing brand Endura’s commuting range for a few years, the latest round-town incarnation of the Luminite uses a 2.5 layer waterproof fabric with fully taped seams. It’s generously cut so you can get some layers underneath for extra insulation. You get a smattering of pockets, and big reflective slabs to shine in headlights. It’s available in a men and women’s version and a choice of colours if you don’t want yellow.
Gore-Tex is often held up as the benchmark waterproof fabric, and this one is feature-packed with a stow-away hood in the collar, chest pocket, adjustable cuffs and waist hem, and lots of reflective detailing. It's cut to a casual fit—more a jacket than a race cape—so you can fit civilian clothes under it. If you want something sportier, check out the £164.99 Gore Wear C7 Gore-Tex Active.
Altura uses waterproof fabric with trim that provides reflectivity to ensure you stand out at all times. The two-layer fabric has a soft touch and it’s breathable so you shouldn’t overheat. There are put and yoke draft vents to help remove any excess heat buildup. A hi-vis jacket that also repels sparkly vampires. Or something.
Rapha’s jacket range includes the Commuter Jacket, showing that even the high priests of coffee shop cool are prepared to be the king of hi-vis when necessary. It’s a waterproof jacket aimed at city cyclists and commuters that want a top that will keep them dry or stop the wind, while also being able to pack down into a pocket, so it can live in a rucksack without taking up much space or adding weight, so it’s always ready for when you need it. And if you've had enough of yellow, it's also available in hi-vis pink, among others.
Saving the most expensive for last, this Castelli Raddoppia jacket has a performance focused fit and shape and is made from Gore Windstopper X-Fast material, which is windproof and water resistant; it’ll keep you dry in a shower but not a prolonged downpour. This is a jacket for keeping you warm rather than dry and Castelli says the insulation level is similar to its excellent Espresso jacket. There are two big reflective panels across the front and back with reflective sleeve logos.
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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.