The best cycling jacket can mean the difference between enjoying every minute of a ride and wishing you hadn’t left the house in the first place. You need a jacket that will repel rain, keep the cold and wind out on breezy days, and not drench you in sweat from within. And even the most basic, relatively affordable packable jackets deliver that to some degree.
Well, cycling jackets aren’t only for bad weather. Yes, they’re a vital outer layer during winter, but most are also comfy enough to wear all through the rest of the year as an extra layer of protection when shine turns to rain or the temperatures drop. A few even manage to inject a bit of pub-friendly flair into the affair.
Let’s face it; the grand old British weather means that investing in an affordable cycling jacket is vital. If you think otherwise, you may as well watch your bike collect dust in your garage for days on end.
Choosing the most appropriate cycling jacket can be strenuous—the reason behind it being the wide range of apparel brands and technical terminology to go through. But don’t fret, as we’ve compiled a list of some of the best lightweight waterproof cycling jackets in the market. We’ll also answer the most asked questions and discuss the standard features to look for in a typical biking jacket.
Let us get into it!
Types of cycling jackets
Cycling jackets come in various styles, and your cycling habits will primarily determine the right one for you. The following are the three primary types of bicycle jackets:
Waterproof cycling jackets feature a waterproof hardcover. As such, they are most suitable for harsh weather elements – whether it be rain, wind, or both. They tend to be less breathable and slightly bulkier than other options, though.
Softshell jackets are a good compromise between lighter fleece jackets and hard-shell waterproof coats. They are weather-resistant, soft, lightweight and are often lined with a fleece inside. However, many softshell cycling jackets do not provide total waterproof protection. So, if you want something to survive the rigours of British weather, you may have to trade breathability for something more resistant to rain.
These are lightweight, very thin jackets that include a showerproof fabric. They are designed as an “emergency option” for added protection in unpredictable weather and they pack down small enough to fit in a saddlebag or jacket pocket. Since they don’t provide much insulation, they’re only appropriate for use during summer. You may also use them for fall and spring when worn over warmer base- and mid-layers.
Buying Guide for the best cycling jacket
Packable waterproof layers used to keep the rain out but had breathability concerns, and they left you drenched in your sweat. With the invention of breathable hydrophobic fabrics, cycling jackets can now drain away moisture from within while successfully repelling rain.
The hydrophobic layers feature pores that cause water to bead on the surface. By doing so, they prevent water from soaking through while allowing perspiration vapour from the inside to escape.
Some jackets boast strategic placement of vents to provide additional airflow to enhance temperature and moisture management even further. Some of these positions include underneath storm flaps, behind the arms or on the back of the jacket.
Most of the best cycling jackets are made of multi-layer laminate with waterproof zips and taped seams to prevent water infiltration. The many layers typically include a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) surface fabric covering a hydrophobic membrane beneath and have a liner finish for comfort. Other brands, such as Gore, have a robust membrane that does not necessarily require the top shell.
A single layer enhances water resistance since there is no outside layer to become soaked while reducing the pack size and weight significantly. There are downsides because, to some extent, these membranes are still delicate. And for that reason, it is advised to avoid abrasions, for instance, by wearing a backpack.
Jackets typically have a waterproof rating, which is determined by placing a 2.5cm x 2.5cm tube over the fabric then filling it with water. The water’s height then determines the rating before it begins to seep through the material. For a cycling jacket to be deemed waterproof, it must have a rating of at least 1,500mm. However, look for 10,000mm or higher ratings if you want reliable protection in heavy rains.
Some cycling jackets are just a simple shell made to be as compact as possible. On the contrary, others will have extra functions built-in. It is crucial to examine what additional features you require, as such details may often raise the cost and impair packability.
Pockets prove helpful in storing stuff close at hand instead of digging around under layers to access jersey pockets. To get around this, manufacturers use cleverly-placed vents or zipped access to make the jacket pockets reachable.
Some brands include convenient storage bags for storing the cycling jacket when not in use. These pouches not only make packing and storing the jacket more organised but also protect it from damage. Fleece lining, drawcords and elasticated openings are added to the wrist collars, hems, and cuffs to enhance comfort against your skin and keep the material in place.
If the weather is unpredictable, you’ll probably want to to store your cycling jacket in a back pocket. Waterproof cycling coats are heavier and bulkier and rarely collapse down enough to fit in a back pocket. On the other hand, water-resistant choices are easily squeezable into a fist-sized ball.
However, technology has improved significantly since the early days of Gore-Tex. Today, Gore’s ‘Shakedry’ technology, a current trend in the sports apparel industry, is highly waterproof and lightweight.
It’s horses for courses or jackets for jockeys in this case. Fast racing or riding will need a tight-fitting rain cape. The reason being, it’s practical in reducing fabric flap to retain aero performance.
On the flipside, all-day slower activities will be more comfortable with a looser fit for covering underneath. Other fit features, such as thumb loops or a long tail to keep your back fresh will please some cyclists but not all.
Best Lightweight, Waterproof Breathable Cycling Jackets
All its seams have seals, further protecting the jacket against the elements. It doesn’t have a hood but instead has a tall stand-up collar with a chin shield in front. Its cuffs feature Velcro fasteners to make it adjustable, while its primary zipper is water-resistant.
While the exterior lining is weatherproof, its bright neon yellow colour makes it highly reflective and visible. For this reason, this jacket is not only appropriate for cyclists but also warm-weather hikers and runners.
- Underarm zips to facilitate ventilation
- Taped seams for water resistance
- Pure, robust Polyester material
- Mesh lining for breathability
- Long sleeves with Velcro fasteners
- 3000mm waterproof rating
- Bright neon yellow colour
Its side zippers provide additional ventilation. Further, the jacket has two pockets, one on the chest front and the other at the back. The coat’s back hem is taller than the front to offer better coverage when biking.
The C5 cycle jacket also has an under-helmet hood, making it one of the few jackets with this functionality. There is minimal protection at the chin. However, it is 3D adjustable thanks to three cords and boasts a low profile. So, even though it looks strange tucked behind a helmet, it doesn’t feel so.
The C5 Trail Hooded has few features as it’s a lightweight jacket, but what it has is outstanding. It features an internal storm flap, fully-taped seams and a waterproof zip alongside a zip garage.
Moreover, it also has adjustable cuffs, a dropped tail, and shoulder seams to accommodate a backpack. The construction and quality of these are excellent. Even though the DWR appears to be a little spotty in some areas, it is pretty simple to refresh.
- Rare under-helmet hood
- GORE-TEX Active Technology for breathability
- Cycling-specific cut with reflective details
- Fully taped seams for water resistance
- Adjustable cuffs for excellent fit
The C5 Trail Jacket has the best breathability on the test, even when riding hard. It simply regulates temperature while also providing a great deal of additional protection. It’s also highly lightweight and compact. As a result, you may easily double as a jacket to wear all day or one to hide in a pack and pull out when it rains.
There is no hood on the jacket. However, its waterproof zip has a total length with an under-flap to prevent water intrusion. It also includes a top zip garage to keep the sharp point off your neck. The coat easily rolls up, and packs in the rear zipped back stow area. And it also includes a breast pocket for a phone or keys.
The jacket has a hem, adjustable cuffs, and its fit isn’t too roadie. This indicates that it is not extremely high in the front but falls far enough in the back. As a result, when you lean forward, its rear-wheel splatter will not go between your pants and the jacket.
- GORE-TEX PACLITE+ Technology
- Durable 100% Polyester fabric
- Rear waterproof zip pocket for storage
- Cycling-specific cut for easy mobility
- Adjustable cuffs for a comfortable fit
- Full-length waterproof zip with an under flap
- DWR layer for beading
The jacket doesn’t come with mesh pockets or pit vents. As such, it’s easy to assume that it has a lot of heat build-up. But this jacket breathes very well that I didn’t miss them at all. It also has a nice DWR layer on the surface, which aids in beading. The jacket then features a low-cut design and long sleeves, which cyclists with long arms will appreciate.
Despite its load of 85 grams, this jacket effectively provides critical protection against temperature drops and cold winds. Luckily enough, It quickly folds away, making it ultra-packable. The coat makes an excellent top covering for early morning starts and protection on fast chilly descents. If a waterproof and windproof cycle jacket is what you are after, this is it!
- Luminous reflective detail for visibility
- It weighs only 85 grams; hence highly lightweight
- Full-length zip
- Mesh back panel for ventilation
- Minimal design to minimise bulk
The jacket includes a mesh back panel which enables temperature management. The sleeve and waist cuffs are elasticated to keep the vest in place during intense cycling. It then boasts a giant reflective back logo and another one to the front log to enhance the safety factor.
The high-quality material comprises both polyester and cotton. As such, it’s practical in keeping your body warm even during longer rides. This jacket also can maintain a sharp and resilient appearance without any wrinkles.
The jacket’s fabric is also very elastic. For this reason, it allows effortless mobility while still protecting the body from cold breezes. The stretchy zipper helps the jacket achieve a comfortable fit. The front fleece includes waterproof screen gel printing. Through this, the coat pulls off a great look and feel. With such features, the Brisk Bike Cycling Jacket is one of the best hi-vis options out there.
- PP-MEG advance polymer for a resilient look
- PPU-Spandex fabric for elasticity
- TC-Zipper for a snug fit
- Pico-thread technology for strong stitching
- EC-back pocket for versatile storage
- High-visibility reflective details
The jacket also boasts anti-microbial qualities that protect your skin while keeping it supple. What’s more, this biking apparel is highly affordable and includes a choice of three different colours.
The jacket includes taped seams and also features a dual-layer windproof fabric. Besides keeping you warm, its fabric also keeps you dry, even on long rides.
Further, the Impsort bicycle jacket is a Hi-Vis option. In other words, it features reflective details for additional visibility in all climates. Although it’s a versatile jacket, its design highly suits cycling. It then includes back zip pockets for storage, as well as cuff tabs for a proper fit.
The jacket is also very breathable and drains away moisture. At the same time, it is entirely windproof, allowing you to maintain your body temperature even in windy weather.
- Impressive 10,000mm waterproof rating
- Taped seams to reduce water ingress
- Dual-layer windproof fabric
- Reflective details for safe cycling
- Rear zip pockets for versatile storage
- Cuff tabs with Velcro fasteners for a snug fit
- Cycling-specific cut
The apparel’s design is appropriate for both male and female cyclists. And although it’s not the most affordable option, it delivers excellent value for money.
The hood attaches to the jacket’s collar, and both are impressively adjustable. Moreover, it includes a storm flap to cover the main zipper. The bottom hem and the cuffs are elastic to ensure a proper fit. It then comes with two side pockets which also feature zipper closures.
The Regatta Pack It makes an excellent jacket for mild climates. However, you can also use it as an extra protective layer, thanks to its loose fit. And being a lightweight cycling jacket, it won’t weigh you down or bulk up your clothing. Lastly, the Regatta Pack It cycling jacket is available in a variety of colours. These include Magma, Black, Bay Leaf, Navy, Oxford blue and Pepper.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are packable jackets warm?
Not exactly. Packable jackets are more of a top cover. It’s better to wear warm clothing underneath them, in that respect.
How should I wash my cycling jacket?
Some cycling jacket brands are machine washable. However, try to wipe away any loose dirt on the outer coat. Then, apply a gentle liquid detergent and rinse twice. Ensure your dryer is set at low, then tumble-dry the jacket.
How can I reproof my waterproof cycling jacket?
If you wash your cycling jacket often, you may have to reproof it now and then. Luckily enough, reproofing a jacket requires less effort. All you need is an ideal waterproofing spray.
How tight should my cycling jacket fit?
A loose fabric may cause chafing when cycling. Therefore, consider a cycling jacket with a snug fit. Ensure the cuffs don’t dig into your arm but rather fit close enough to prevent chafing. The best fit should be less tight than an underneath layer but close-fitting than a shirt.
Why do cycling jackets have zippers?
Cycling jackets and jerseys feature zippers to simplify getting them on/off and also ensure convenient aeration. Longer zippers are handy when cycling in warm weather as they allow you to let in more air.
What features does a typical cycling jacket have?
Look for a cycling jacket with enough insulation on the chest area. Also, consider a high collar with a full-length zip and sleeves with excellent mobility. Other cyclists prefer lightweight, windproof and waterproof packable jackets.
Do cycling jackets make any difference when cycling?
Yes. Proper cycling apparel can make you quicker by making sure you use very minimal energy as you ride. The significant difference is that cycling apparel is highly aerodynamic than standard gear. In other words, it fits snugly with no excess material flapping in the wind.
Without a doubt, having the best lightweight waterproof breathable cycling jacket is necessary for any cyclist. Unless you come from a place with all-time nice weather, using a cycling jacket is likely to be a necessity at some point.
There are many cycling jackets to choose from. But after reading this review article, I believe you have a better idea of the best cycling jacket for you. With many aspects of cycling jackets to consider, make your decision considering your needs.
The list has cycling jackets with varying price points, including budget options. If visibility is what you need, consider the hi-vis options, and so on. Just pick that one cycling jacket that suits you best.