You love cycling, whether it's a weekend club run, a Sunday pootle or riding to work. Nothing beats enjoying the great outdoors on two wheels. Don't let the rain put a damper on your favourite pastime. There’s a huge range of waterproof jackets available to keep you in the saddle all year round. Here's our guide to help you find the right one.
Waterproof cycling jackets - what to look for
Waterproof cycling jackets can vary in style and appearance. Whatever you go for there are a few features that you should expect to see
- High collar to protect from windchill.
- Taped seams to prevent water ingress.
- Dropped tail to reduce splashing from the rear wheel.
- Under-arm zips to increase ventilation and breathability.
- Pockets to stash your essentials – some may have reinforced waterproof pockets
- Longer sleeves - some will have longer sleeves than others to accommodate a more aggressive position
- A hood. Generally, you’ll only find this on MTB and commuter jackets for protection off the bike.
What will you be using the jacket for?
Think about the type of riding you’ll be doing most often. Most jackets will be cut for a specific purpose and will fall into one of the three categories below.
Performance waterproof jackets will have slightly longer arms and a tighter cut to reduce loose material when you're in a more aggressive road racing position. These jackets are designed to keep you dry with the minimum impact on performance.
They're normally made from high-tech fabrics that wick sweat away and allow you to stay at the optimum temperature even if you're riding at maximum effort. These cutting-edge fabric technologies are often difficult to produce in a full colour range so don't be surprised if you find that you're limited to darker colours than you'd like. As a compromise, most brands add reflective flashes at points where other road users are likely to see them.
Expect a slightly looser fit to allow for work clothes underneath and freedom of movement off the bike.
Because it's likely that you'll be stopping and starting in traffic and you won't be riding an epic distance every day, weight, packability and wicking properties aren't as vital as they would be on a performance-cut jacket. Therefore, commuter jackets are generally available in a wider range of bright colours with whole retro-reflective panels and some even have built-in lights.
If you want something that you can wear for popping out to lunch or after-work drinks, look for fabrics that only light up under direct headlights and streetlights.
Packable jackets are available in both performance and commuting cuts. Many will pack down small enough to tuck into a pocket so that you can keep one on standby for unexpected showers.
Until recently, most packable jackets were only water-resistant. Fine in a brief shower or light drizzle but the water would eventually get through. This is still mostly the case but GORE-WEAR’s ShakeDry fabric offers another option, making it possible for a jacket to be packable, lightweight and totally waterproof. This technology doesn’t come cheap but it’s a worthwhile investment if you’ll be out riding in any weather.
Fit and sizing
As with any cycling kit, it’s important to get the right size. If you’re looking for a new cycling waterproof, always check the size guide on the product page as this can vary between brands and even between a single brand’s ranges.
For example, performance jackets have a close-fitting ‘race cut.’ If you’re going to be wearing thicker layers underneath, it may be worth sizing up.
Many of our cycling jackets are available in both male and female-specific cuts to ensure a better fit.
Lined or unlined?
Some jackets have an inner mesh lining for additional warmth and comfort. If moisture builds up inside the jacket, it can feel cool against the skin. The mesh keeps the outer fabric away from the skin and traps warm air.
The lining can add more bulk, so most packable jackets are unlined. The packable jackets of the past have a reputation for feeling clammy against the skin but, thanks to recent developments in fabric technology, it is possible to create a jacket that is warm, waterproof and packable. For example, the Gore Wear C5 Gore-Tex SHAKEDRY 1985 Insulated Jacket has Polartec® Alpha® fabric which traps body heat and keeps rain out whilst allowing moisture to escape.
If you just want to use your jacket to keep you dry as you nip to the shops, breathability isn't so important. However, if you're wearing the jacket over work clothes and don't want to arrive feeling sweaty, or you're riding hard or over longer distances, the level of breathability of a jacket will have a significant effect on your comfort.
Waterproof jackets for mountain bikers
Road cyclists and mountain bikers have distinctly different demands from their kit. Road cycling jackets are close-fitting, often with high visibility detailing, and long arms. They’re designed for faster riding in traffic and cut for a more stretched out position on the bike.
By contrast, mountain biking jackets are designed to be able to deal with both the rain falling from the sky and the mud coming up from below. They are also made to be comfortable off the bike when you might be trekking up to the next downhill or waiting for the next uplift service.
As a result, they are made of more robust materials. You’ll probably find pockets to stuff your hands in to keep them warm and a hood to protect your head from the rain when you take your helmet off. Mountain bike jackets also tend to have a more relaxed fit, with a focus on comfort rather than streamlining.
If you're taking a hydration pack on your of-road rides, silicone grips on the shoulders will keep your hydration pack in place so that you can focus on the trail ahead free from distractions.
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