Softshell cycling jackets

To say that the British weather is indecisive is an understatement. As such, a light waterproof jacket that can pack down in to a small size is a nice addition to anyone’s ever growing collection of cycling goods. When the rain comes down, you can pull over to the side of the road and put the jacket on. Then, when things get a little more warm and humid afterwards, you can get it off and pack it safely away, without it taking up all the space in your bag.

We are using the term softshell here to describe lightweight jackets. This means that they won’t provide the same level of rain or cold protection as winter cycling jackets. However, if you are the type of person that gets too hot too quickly, you may prefer their lighter design.

I’ve also had some requests for more posts on “cycle chic” gear. We’ll be covering this in a follow on post.

Three things to look for in a softshell cycling jacket

  • Breathability: Cycling really raises your body temperature. A softshell jacket that doesn’t provide enough breathability is going to leave you hot and sweaty. Part of the solution is a jacket with enough vents that can be opened.
  • Pockets: These can be useful but more pockets often means more bulk and therefore it becomes more difficult to pack everything away in to a small bag or pannier.
  • Waterproof: Strong waterproofing is a must in a softshell jacket.

Caring for a softshell cycling jacket

As with most cycling clothing, the waterproof coating can be washed away by washing with detergent. Always check the label inside the jacket. You can often restore waterproofing using a product such as Nikwax.

Three of the best softshell jackets

DHB Minima men’s and women’s

DHB Minima softshell jacket for cyclists

The DHB Minima jacket which comes in both men’s and women’s fittings offers great value for money when compared to other options. It is currently on sale at £39.99 on Wiggle. The jacket does a great job of keeping the rain out, it fits nicely and packs in to a small size. However, the breathability is not excellent. You’ll find yourself unzipping the front down as you do quickly get hot.

If you are searching around for a jacket at the value range of the market, then there are cheaper options out there available in outdoor shops.

Oneten Pioggia Shell

oneten Pioggia softshell jacket for cyclists

The oneten Pioggia Shell jacket is a jump in price at £110, but will appeal to those with a little more cash to splash. The extra cash buys you the hi tech eVent fabric. This means a lighter weight (a barely noticeable 110g) and superior breathability. In fact, the breathability is the biggest selling point of this jacket. This will make it a good option for anyone who feels they are always sweating on a ride. The jacket is a great fit for cyclists with a longer back to keep you dry. It includes reflective features.

Vulpine Softshell Jacket

vulpine softshell jacket

The Vulpine Softshell Jacket is another excellent choice. It is heavier than the oneTen Pioggia and a doesn’t offer quite the same level of breathability. However, it is an incredibly stylish jacket and with a couple of well placed pockets that are bound to be useful. There are two large pockets on the rear for items you need to quickly reach. There’s also a card pocket on the arm, as well as two large front pockets. Reflective features are included and the cut is specific for cyclists. The large rear flap can be tucked away when not in use, a feature also available on the oneTen. The jacket costs between 125 and 160 depending on the size you choose (did someone at Vulpine order too many extra large?!). I’m looking forward to seeing more female specific options from Vulpine.

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6 Responses to Softshell cycling jackets

  1. GrahamL 02/11/2012 at 12:30 pm #

    Montane Featherlite Velo . . . . my favourite and indispensable clothing item. Folds up small, a little bigger than a tennis ball and I take it everywhere. It’s windproof and very good at keeping rain out also. I’ve even let a friend where it once when he was wearing a t shirt and a cool wind started to blow. He was shivering. He wore my jacket and in 10 minutes he was toasty warm. I have a Gilet but usually reach for this as it keeps my arms warm as well. This year I got caught in a heavy downpour wearing a short sleeve cycling jersey so took shelter under a tree. The rain was set in, but not as bad as the torrential downpour when it first started so I set off wearing my Velo. It did a good job of keeping the rain out even though its not waterproof.

  2. Darren 02/11/2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Yes I can be pedantic…… but only one of these is a softshell.

  3. Darren 02/11/2012 at 5:35 pm #

    GrahamL, I agree; the Featherlite is a superb top. As are the Rab ones that use Pertex in it’s various guises…

  4. Phil 02/11/2012 at 11:18 pm #

    I have the gore oxygen short sleeve active shell. Great jacket and I prefer a short sleeve waterproof. Arm warmers if cold.

  5. Alfred and Ted 04/11/2012 at 11:48 am #

    VISIBILITY: I think this should have been an essential feature, am surprised it wasn’t included in things to look for in a softshell cycling jacket. Being seen by other road users is more important to everyy cyclist than keeping dry, warm or cool since it helps keep us safe.

  6. Jono 05/11/2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Well I went full out this winter and blew £200 on an Edura Equipe softshell jacket – waterproof windproof and fairly warm – just add layers below when required – very expensive but cycling is so much easier with it

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