*Note: This is a 2017 update to our guide from 2010*
London is a city that’s known for many great things. Unfortunately for us, good weather is not one of those things. Rain is a regular occurrence throughout the year, along with cold winds and grey skies. It’s important to have the best waterproof jacket you can afford packed in your pannier, so that impromptu showers don’t slow down your day too much.
The ideal waterproof cycling jacket keeps rain completely out, while allowing your skin to breathe so that things stay dry and comfortable on the inside. Sounds tricky, right? This guide will review three recently released jackets in different price ranges to give you a better idea of what to look for.
Of course, an expensive waterproof jacket is more likely to fit the above criteria best. But that’s not to say that you can’t get a decent budget jacket to do the job.
Things to look for in a waterproof jacket
First, these are the features and benefits to consider when shopping around.
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. Some jackets have more innovative venting.
The best cycling jackets
1. The commuter’s cheap and cheerful best friend
£54.99, Evans Cycles
This lightweight, streamlined design is perfect for the daily commute come wind or rain. A completely waterproof layer lines the polyester outer layer, with no vents – it does get a bit uncomfortably hot in milder temperatures, but I never felt horribly overheated. There are three fully waterproof pockets, which held my phone and keys in nicely. The hood is detachable and the toggle makes it easy to adjust – I prefer to cycle with no hood but it’s good to have the option. I usually take a women’s UK size 12 and found the medium to be a perfect fit. A fuss-free, simple, stylish jacket that I feel safe, warm and dry cycling in. The chain print on the inside is a nice touch, too!
It is a unisex jacket and comes in yellow or pink, sizes XS-XXXL.
2. The updated old favourite
The Aeron Storm Jacket is already a firm favourite, and the 2017 update features Flashlight Technology for increased visibility during those dark Winter nights. The 37.5™ fabric technology used means that active particles added the the inside waterproof layer respond to body heat by increasing moisture transfer and evaporation – keeping your body at 37.5°. Although it has fully waterproof zipped pockets, the tight fit might make you feel a bit bulky carrying around your phone, keys, cards, spare change etc. The tail means that your lower back is protected when leaning over for a hard push. The jacket doesn’t feature a hood.
3. The good looking one
Women’s Hooded Rain Jacket £230, Men’s Classic Rain Jacket £180
Both from Rapha
First, this jacket is so good looking that I’d be proud to wear it on a leisurely Sunday stroll down Bermondsey Street. It’s ideal for urban cycling but other Rapha products are better suited for anything more demanding than that. The jacket uses a lightweight, stretchy fabric, with laser-cut vent-holes under the arms to increase airflow and fully taped internal seams to fully protect you from water and wind. The hood is designed to fit under the helmet and move around comfortably with your head. It only features one pocket, which uses a water-resistant Vislon® zip.
Available in black or blue, sizes XXS – XL.
Another design that wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a fashion magazine. But this one is a little more functional, too! It has three layers and the middle one uses the same waterproof, lightweight nylon material that the popular Core jacket is designed with. Other nifty features include Aquaguard zip pockets, quality Ripstop fabric and elasticated cuffs. The jacket does not feature a hood.
Available in black or purple, sizes XS – XXL.
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.