As much as I like to think it doesn’t rain that much really, I am aware that I am just putting on a brave face. Ignoring the weather does not mean I don’t get wet in it!
*Note: This is a 2016 update to our guide from 2010*
The best cycling jacket will keep the nasty heavy rain out, will keep you feeling warm on your commute into work and allow your skin to breathe so you won’t be dripping with sweat. But how do you know which one to buy? What should you look for? Is there any difference between a £50 and a £150 cycling jacket? All these questions will be answered here.
As a general rule the more you spend the less you have to trade off between the above features. Having said that if your just starting out then even the budget jackets are perfectly good.
Things to look for
Some jackets are only waterproof because they are coated with a plastic on the inside. Others are waterproof because they have a membrane sandwiched in-between an outer and inner layer of wicking fabric. The coated jackets tend to be cheaper as they are easier to make. However, they also tend to be less breathable.
A jacket is not truly waterproof unless it has sealed seams. Many windproof and soft shells are pretty water repellent but if exposed to enough rain the fabric will wet through and the seams will start to leak. Full waterproofs have tape over the seams to seal up the little holes where the stitches are.
Dropped tail and cuffs
If you are primarily focusing on wearing your waterproof jacket on your bike, then it is worth looking for features designed specifically for cycling. We have talked about these on other garments before and they can make the jacket more comfortable on the bike. Look for a longer back to the jacket and longer sleeves so that when you are leaning forward you are still covered.
Another bonus that jackets intended for cycling can have is a removable hood. This is one of those contentious points, but cycling with a hood can be dangerous. They rarely fit around your head enough to not obscure your vision when looking behind you. Hoods when down can also obscure your vision over your shoulder. Therefore, being able to remove it is helpful.
Getting some air into the jacket while riding is usually a good thing. Letting the excess hot air out is also good, particularly when cycling. Look for zips under the arms (‘pit zips’). Large front pockets can also act as vents, as can wide, adjustable cuffs. Other jackets, such as the Vulpine below have more innovative venting.
(Note: Looking for something a little lighter? Checkout our windproof cycling jacket recommendations)
Popular waterproof cycling jackets
All of these jackets come highly recommended in reviews and are popular choices.
DHB EQ2.5 Cycling Jacket
I have owned a previous version of this affordable £42 dhb (£36 for the women) jacket and love two things about it: It’s completely waterproof and it stuffs down nicely into a small enough size to store in my bag ready for the rain.
The jacket is a little warmer than perhaps I would like due to the mesh lining but opening the under arm vents helps. It largely negates the need for a middle layer which sometimes isn’t such a bad thing. The mesh also stops the jacket sticking to you in hot weather. The well-sized waterproof back pocket is excellent for quick access to items and there’s also a couple of side pockets.
Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket
If you are looking for something a little more reflective then the Altura Night Vision Evo waterproof jacket comes well reviewed. The jacket is highly reflective, great quality and fairly warm. It is lined with mesh like the dhb jacket, but the face fabric is a bit heavier. This means it is a little less packable and a bit more suited to autumn, spring and winter use. There is an optional hood you can buy to go with it if you wish.
One of the favourite features is the soft material inside the collar making it extra comfortable. Additionally the jacket is well designed on all fronts. The zips are designed to be opened even if wearing gloves, there are vent zips under the arms and there is a little light on the back. With ample pocket space on the sides and back there is not much more to ask for.
Vulpine Waterproof Utility Jacket
At the premium end you can’t really go wrong with the Vulpine Utility jacket. Again, it is mesh lined and so not the coolest in the summer, but it is well vented and comfortable with just a t-shirt underneath. It has hand pockets and a waist drawcord. The hood is removable and fits really well. There is also a little high vis drop down flap to protect your rear end from splashes.
An added bonus if you ride with a backpack or courier bag is the textured shoulders. These protect the fabric from wear and also provide extra traction for the straps.
What waterproof jacket do you use? Are there features that you cannot live without, and others you don’t need?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.