Bicycle Jackets: How To Choose Right One

A waterproof cycling jacket is a crucial part of a commuter cyclist's gear. It's your best defense against rain and chilly weather. Here's what to consider when purchasing one.

Why its necessary to have good bike jacket

Having a good bike jacket is essential for several reasons, particularly if you're cycling in varying weather conditions or taking longer rides. Here are the key reasons why a quality bike jacket is a necessary piece of gear for cyclists:

1. Protection from the Elements

  • Weather Resistance: A good bike jacket offers protection against wind, rain, and even snow, keeping you comfortable and dry. Materials like Gore-Tex provide excellent waterproofing while still being breathable.
  • Temperature Regulation: The right jacket helps maintain body temperature by providing insulation in cold weather and breathable options for warmer conditions.

2. Safety and Visibility

  • High Visibility: Many cycling jackets come in bright colors and feature reflective materials that enhance your visibility to motorists, other cyclists, and pedestrians, crucial for early morning rides, late evening outings, or any low-light conditions.
  • Protection in a Crash: While not as robust as motorcycle gear, a good cycling jacket can offer some protection against scrapes and abrasions if you fall.

3. Comfort and Performance

  • Moisture Management: Quality jackets are designed to wick sweat away from your body, keeping you dry and comfortable during intense rides.
  • Fit and Mobility: Cycling-specific jackets are designed to fit well while in a riding position, offering freedom of movement without flapping excessively in the wind, which can be both annoying and a drag on your speed.

4. Convenience and Utility

  • Pockets: They often have well-placed pockets that allow you to carry essentials like your phone, keys, wallet, and even small tools or snacks, minimizing the need for a bulky backpack.
  • Packability: Many bike jackets can be easily packed down small enough to fit in a jersey pocket or saddlebag, making them convenient to carry on rides where the weather might change.

5. Durability

  • Quality Materials: Good jackets are made from durable materials that withstand the wear and tear of cycling, including exposure to UV light, repeated washings, and brushing against vegetation or rough surfaces.
  • Longevity: Investing in a high-quality jacket means it will last longer, making it more cost-effective over time compared to replacing cheaper, less durable options.

6. Versatility

  • Many cycling jackets are versatile enough to be used for other outdoor activities, such as running, hiking, or any situation where you might need protection from the weather, making them a valuable addition to your outdoor gear.

In summary, a good bike jacket is an investment in your comfort, performance, and safety on the bike. It not only makes riding more enjoyable in less-than-ideal conditions but also contributes to your visibility and protection on the road or trail.

Types of Bike Jackets

Waterproof vs. Showerproof Bicycle Jackets

Look for jackets labeled as "waterproof," not just "showerproof." Showerproof jackets can handle only light, brief rain, whereas waterproof ones can withstand sustained downpours.

Waterproof ratings, like 5,000mm or 10,000mm, refer to the fabric's hydrostatic head measurement, indicating the pressure of water it can resist before leaking. Higher numbers mean better waterproofing. Ratings below 1,500mm are only showerproof. A rating of 5,000mm suits persistent light rain, and 10,000mm or more is suited for heavy rain.

Rain can seep through seams and zips. Look for sealed or taped seams and zips with storm flaps or waterproof designs.

cycling jacket

Wind and Cold Protection of Winter Bicycle Jackets

A waterproof jacket naturally offers windproofing, crucial for warmth while cycling.
Cyclists produce significant body heat, reducing the need for heavy insulation.

Cycling jackets feature design adjustments for cycling posture: longer arms and backs to cover wrists and lower back, and snugger neck cuts to prevent air scooping. Hems, collars, and cuffs should be tight to the body, often achieved with shock-cords, elastic, or Velcro.

Specific Design for Cyclists

Aside from standard coats, which may be too bulky for cycling (but suitable for e-bikers or casual riders), another alternative is a rain cape or poncho. These work more like umbrellas but may not suit all cyclists.

If you opt for a cycling-specific jacket, these design features will be tailored to your needs as a cyclist, ensuring comfort and protection during your ride.

Breathability in Cycling Jackets

Cycling jackets feature breathability to prevent overheating and excessive sweating during rides. The fabric has tiny pores that allow sweat vapor to escape without letting in rain. Breathability is also measured on a scale (like 5,000, 10,000, etc.), indicating the amount of water vapor (in grams) that can pass through the fabric in a 24-hour period. Generally, the higher the number, the better the breathability. This is particularly important for more intense riders, such as road cyclists, compared to e-bike riders.

However, it's possible to sweat more rapidly than the jacket can ventilate, especially during intense exertion, warm and wet conditions, or when carrying a backpack. Many cycling jackets incorporate underarm and back vents, often with zippers for adjustable airflow. If overheating, you can partially unzip the jacket for additional cooling. For intense riding or rain cessation, you might consider removing the jacket and storing it.

cyclist winter jacket

Design and Fit of Cycling Jackets

Cycling jackets are designed with a closer fit than typical high-street jackets. They range from casual fits, suitable over regular clothes, to snug, race-oriented styles meant for cycling gear. Commuter jackets often have a more relaxed fit, while performance jackets are better for longer, faster rides. Fit can vary between brands, so it's advisable to try on different styles.

Features like a full front zip make the jackets easy to put on and remove, even when wearing a helmet or glasses. For cold weather, look for jackets with zip mechanisms operable with gloves.

Hoods on cycling jackets are mostly for off-bike use. Some are designed to fit under or over a helmet but ensure they don’t obstruct peripheral vision. Hoods should be detachable or stowable to avoid flapping during rides. Jackets also have a high neck and extended arms and back, with some featuring a dropped tail for extra protection on bikes without mudguards.

Visibility Considerations

Bright colors like yellow, red, orange, lime green, and light blue are ideal for daytime visibility in urban settings. For nighttime, reflective elements are crucial. While some jackets incorporate LED lighting, these shouldn’t replace legal bike lights. Reflective jackets are most effective in the headlights of oncoming traffic.

Pockets and Storage

Useful features include a chest pocket for small items like a phone or keys and a large rear pocket for gloves, snacks, or a lock. Some jackets can fold into their rear pocket. Hand pockets are convenient off the bike but less so during rides. Ensure any pockets used while cycling have zips to secure contents.

Machine Washing

Most waterproof cycling jackets can be safely machine washed at temperatures of 30 or 40 degrees, but always refer to the garment's label for specific instructions.

Due to increased sweating in these jackets, they require more frequent washing compared to regular coats. If you notice any lingering odors, it’s time for a wash.

Avoid using fabric softeners, as they can clog the breathable pores of the fabric and reduce its effectiveness.

To maintain or refresh the jacket’s durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, which helps water to bead and roll off instead of soaking in, use specialized wash-in products like Nikwax TX Direct or Granger’s 2-in-1 during the wash cycle.

Best Brands of Bike Jackets

RAPHA BREVET GORE-TEX RAIN JACKET

1. Rapha Brevet Gore-Tex Rain Jacket

Specifications
= Weight: 150g (small)
= Sizes: XS - XXL

Pros
+Easily packable
+Incredibly waterproof
+Impressively lightweight

Cons
-Not quite as easy to pack as a stuff sack
-Quite pricey
-Offset zip takes getting used to

The Rapha Brevet Gore-Tex Rain Jacket features what Rapha describes as a 'classic fit'. This slightly looser style is ideal for winter layering or more relaxed rides in unpredictable summer weather. However, if you're looking for a rain jacket with a more form-fitting, 'second-skin' style, this might not be the jacket for you.

For those who prefer a bit of extra space, Rapha's design strikes a good balance. The jacket avoids excessive material, minimizing wind flapping. The use of Gore-Tex’s 2L Paclite Plus fabric ensures reliable waterproofing.

There are a few minor issues, though. The offset zipper can be somewhat bothersome, and the pink retention band for packing the jacket isn't as practical as a standard integrated stuff-sack. Nonetheless, the jacket's breathability is impressive, making it a strong competitor to higher-priced models from other brands.

When compared to the Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket Targa ($400 / £290), the Rapha jacket doesn't seem quite as durable, although the Assos model is notably exceptional in balancing packability with a sturdy feel. A long-term test would be necessary to accurately assess the durability of both jackets. So far, neither has shown any signs of premature wear.

DHB LAB AERON ULTRALIGHT WATERPROOF JACKET 2.0

2. DHB Lab Aeron Ultralight Waterproof Jacket 2.0

Specifications
= Weight: 153g (medium)
= Sizes: XS - XXL

Pros
+Very light and small when rolled up
+Great cut when riding
+Good cuff design
+Brushed collar
+Very breathable

Cons
-Feels tight across chest when standing (not riding)
-More water resistant than waterproof

The DNB Aeron Lab Ultralight 2.0 stands out as a remarkably lightweight, race-fit jacket that conveniently compacts into a back pocket for unexpected weather changes. Its extended drop-tail and specially angled cuffs effectively shield you from rain, while the snug, lined collar provides added comfort for your neck.

While wearing the jacket, we noticed it feels snug across the chest at first, but it adjusts comfortably once you start riding. It features two vent flaps for easy access to jersey pockets. The jacket comes in an attractive Atlantic Deep color, with a Sulphur Spring variant available for increased visibility.

Although it doesn't match the waterproofing level of some other jackets in continuous rain, allowing slight dampness through the front shoulders and arms, its high breathability ensures it dries quickly. This makes it a great option for days when the weather is unpredictable.

ASSOS EQUIPE RS RAIN JACKET

3. Assos Equipe RS Rain Jacket

Specifications
= Weight: 290g
= Sizes: XS - XL, XLG, TIR

Pros
+Great waterproofing
+Very breathable
+Great fit
+Manages to make hi-viz chic
+Easily packable

Cons
-Cuffs let in water

Crafted from the softshell, Schloss Tex fabric tailored for the Equip RS, this jacket offers top-tier waterproofing while maintaining breathability. Its hydrophobic membrane comes with a DWR coating and features taped seams. The jacket's race-cut design effectively repels water, although the stretch wristband may allow some moisture in if not positioned correctly against the rain.

While it may not be as packable as other options on this list, this Swiss-made jacket can still be comfortably tucked into a pocket. Its high-visibility color choices also earn our approval, making it one of our top picks for waterproof jackets.

Where to Buy Bike Jacket

Purchasing a bike jacket that meets your specific cycling needs requires finding the right retailer or platform. Here are some places where you can find a wide selection of high-quality bike jackets:

1. Local Bike Shops

  • Pros: Personalized service, ability to try on for fit and comfort, immediate availability.
  • Cons: Selection may be limited to certain brands or styles; prices can be higher compared to online deals.

2. Specialty Cycling Stores

  • These stores focus exclusively on cycling gear and apparel, offering a broader selection of bike jackets designed for various types of cycling, such as road, mountain, or urban commuting.

3. Outdoor and Sporting Goods Stores

  • Larger stores like REI (in the US) often carry a range of cycling gear alongside other outdoor equipment, providing options for multi-sport athletes.

4. Online Retailers

  • Websites such as Amazon, Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Competitive Cyclist, and Backcountry offer extensive selections of bike jackets from various brands.
  • Pros: Wide selection, competitive pricing, customer reviews to guide your decision.
  • Cons: Cannot try before buying; must rely on accurate sizing charts and potentially deal with the hassle of returns.

5. Direct from Manufacturers

  • Buying directly from the website of a cycling apparel brand (like Rapha, Castelli, Pearl Izumi) often gives you access to the widest selection of their products, including the latest models and exclusive items.

6. Second-hand or Discount Outlets

  • For budget-conscious shoppers, platforms like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or discount online retailers like The Pro's Closet can offer high-quality bike jackets at reduced prices. However, be cautious of wear and authenticity when buying second-hand.

Additional Accessories beyond Jackets

Expanding your cycling gear with additional accessories can greatly enhance your riding experience, comfort, and safety. Beyond bike jackets, consider these essential and helpful accessories:

1. Cycling Pants or Tights

  • Purpose: Offer protection against the elements, such as wind and rain, and provide warmth in colder weather. Look for options with padded inserts for added comfort on long rides.

2. Base Layers

  • Purpose: Keep you dry and comfortable by wicking sweat away from your skin. Materials like merino wool or synthetic fibers are ideal for temperature regulation.

3. Cycling Shoes

  • Purpose: Improve pedaling efficiency through better power transfer between your foot and the pedal. Options include road, mountain, and casual cycling shoes, each designed for specific types of riding and pedal systems.

4. Helmet

  • Essential for Safety: Protects your head in case of a fall or collision. Ensure it meets safety standards and fits properly.

5. Gloves

  • Purpose: Improve grip, protect your hands in a crash, and keep them warm or cool depending on the weather. Options range from lightweight fingerless gloves to insulated winter gloves.

6. Cycling Socks

  • Purpose: Designed to keep your feet dry and comfortable, with support and ventilation where needed. Some also offer compression benefits.

7. Sunglasses or Protective Eyewear

  • Purpose: Protect your eyes from UV rays, wind, dust, and debris. Look for lenses that offer good visibility in various lighting conditions.

8. Cycling Caps and Headbands

  • Purpose: Manage sweat, keep your head warm in cold weather, or protect you from the sun under a helmet.

9. Lights and Reflective Gear

  • Essential for Visibility: Ensure you're seen by motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Include front and rear lights, reflective vests, and reflective tape or stickers on your bike or clothing.

10. Hydration Systems

  • Options: Water bottles and cages or a hydration pack. Staying hydrated is crucial for performance and comfort.

11. Nutrition and Energy Supplies

  • Purpose: Keep energy gels, bars, or chews on hand for longer rides to maintain energy levels.

12. Repair Kits and Tools

  • Essential for Maintenance: Include a multi-tool, tire levers, a patch kit, a spare tube, and a mini pump or CO2 inflator for on-the-go repairs.

13. Bike Bags and Storage

  • Options: Saddle bags, frame bags, or handlebar bags for carrying essentials without needing a backpack.

14. Heart Rate Monitors and GPS Devices

  • Purpose: Track your performance, navigate routes, and monitor your heart rate to train effectively.

15. Fenders

  • Purpose: Keep mud and road spray off you and your bike in wet conditions.

16. Kickstand

  • Convenience: Useful for parking your bike anywhere if you don’t want to lean it against something or lay it down.

When selecting additional accessories, prioritize items based on the type of cycling you do, the conditions you ride in, and personal comfort and safety needs. This approach ensures you get the most enjoyment and performance out of your cycling experience.

Conclusion

Choosing a jacket and other winter gear is extremely important for your comfort and overall desire to go outside for a grand bike ride. We recommend studying all the properties of the materials and definitely watching crash tests for wear resistance and the effects of different sources on specific materials. It's about your comfort and even safety, and we are happy to help you make a choice.

And if you want to find a high-quality e-bike, which along with gear and clothing, will help you enjoy picturesque rides around the city and in nature, come visit us at 654 College Street, Toronto (Movin Mobility). We will share our recommendations on clothing, gear, and some of the best bikes in Toronto.


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