You look on the BBC weather website and it says wind and light rain for the next day. You watch the ITV weather report and they’re suggesting clear skies. Who to trust? Even then, will the weather do the same thing all day? Of course not! Windproof cycling jackets are for moments like this. When the weather isn’t quite cold or wet enough for a full waterproof jacket but you’re not quite sure if the weather will turn nasty. Or it’s just a bit nippy.
Windproof jackets are often a great middle ground between a full waterproof and nothing. They breath a lot more than a full waterproof but still resist light showers. They can keep the chill off in the morning and evening, but you don’t feel like you are a boil-in-the-bag cyclist at the end of your commute!
*This is an update to a 2010 post to include up-to-date products and advice*
Types of windproof jackets
Windshield – These are often very lightweight, packable jackets made of a single layer of fabric. They act as a barrier to prevent the wind from chilling your skin. They also trap some warm air between the fabric and your skin, keeping you a little warmer when cycling in slightly cool weather. The fabric is usually thin enough to let any hot air pass through it, therefore breathing well. There is usually a treatment on the fabric to repel water, resisting light showers. Finally, the fabrics are usually very quick drying, therefore if you do get wet, you will dry off quickly once the rain stops.
Softshell – A softshell is usually heavier than a windshield. It will have a smooth, supple feeling, closer to cotton than a regular waterproof jacket. The fabric usually blocks a good amount of wind, it not all of it, and is treated with a water repellent coating to shed showers. They tend to feel more comfortable next to the skin and more breathable than a waterproof. They will also blend in in an urban environment a bit more than a standard windshield or waterproof. The main negatives of a softshell are increased weight, bulk and warmth over a windshield .
The type of jacket you need will vary depending on usage and weather. A windshield is a great emergency jacket and can be stowed in very small spaces, even a back pocket or saddle bag. They are often quite cheap (see the dhb Wisp below) and so are a worthwhile addition to any spring/summer/autumn commuting bag. A softshell is a more substantial jacket that tends to feel more like a regular coat and is often a little heavier than a windshield.
Much like waterproof jackets and other clothing you choose to wear on your cycle ride, windproof jackets can have features specifically designed for purpose. However, non-cycling specific jackets will work just as well.
If you do want a bike specific garment, look for: a dropped rear, longer sleeves, a rear pocket or two, no hood. Some will also have reflective bits, like the cuffs on the Arc’teryx below.
Those with bigger wallets will probably scoff at the low price tag of the dhb Wisp but they’ll be missing a bargain. This windproof cycling jacket offers great performance and packs down to a great portable size. The breathability is excellent and it also offers good water resistance for rainy conditions.
The DHB Wisp Windproof Cycling jacket costs £20 and is available only from Wiggle.
Huez* Starman Windjacket
Huez is a great London cycling company. They make products that function as well on your commute as out in the mountains. The Starman is an incredibly light windproof jacket which can be shoved in a bag but then deployed to keep the worst of the wind off. It is also pretty water repellent due to the shiny nylon fabric. It is a more aggressive cut than the Wisp, meaning it has great coverage for those who ride road bikes or lean over more. You can even rip it open when you heat up, Superman style!
It costs £125 from huez.co.uk
dhb Classic Softshell
Available in men’s and women’s, this jacket is on the warmer side of softshells, so great for late nights or colder days (or August, always a nasty month!). It is very soft with a fleecy layer on the inside. It does have some cycling specific features, such as a longer back and rear pockets, but it is sleek enough to not stand out in the pub pre commute home.
At £52 from Wiggle this is a very good value jacket with a good level of breathability for the price and is pretty water repellent.
Arc’teryx A2B Commuter Jacket
This is a favourite jacket for most weather where a little extra protection from the elements is nice, but a full waterproof is not needed. The commuter jacket is available in men’s and women’s and is a really breathable, lightweight option. It fits in well in the city but if has some cycling specific features that make life on the bike easier, such as a dropped tail and rear pocket.
Available from Arcteryx.com for £160.
A windproof jacket is often enough to get you through everything but the wettest commute. You will also almost certainly be more comfortable in a windproof than in a waterproof in most London weather. As you can get one for as little as £20, it is a valid addition to your commuting wardrobe.
I personally find that I wear softshells far more than I do waterproofs, and to me it is a good investment. I feel more comfortable hanging out in a cafe or pub in a softshell. In fact the Arc’teryx A2B commuter is my favourite cycling jacket ever. During the summer I always have a lightweight wind jacket very similar to the dhb Wisp in my bag, it has come in handy many times.
Do you primarily use a windproof jacket while riding? What one do you use? What features do you find most important? Let us know!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.