With the correct clothing you can ride right round the calendar, not just through the warmer summer months.
Cycling jackets have moved on massively from the boil-in-the-bag sweaty outerwear of a few years ago. Nowadays there is a huge spread of designs offering everything from superb rain protection through to attention-grabbing fabrics that sparkle in car headlights.
A great jacket will keep out the rain while also allowing sweat that builds up while you are riding to escape. If you’re commuting, look out for ones with a more generous cut that allow you to wear ordinary clothes underneath.
Thinner fabrics are great for those obsessed with keeping weight down but a thicker material will allow you to carry a rucksack or bag without damaging your precious buy.
We hit the road testing a range of jackets to find the best of the season. Our search led us to windproofs that will keep out the winter chills, lightweight jackets you can keep rolled in a pocket and commuter wear that won’t look out of place in your favourite cafe or bar.
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Lusso aqua pro extreme: £164.99, Lusso
If you want a winter training or commuting jacket that ticks all the right boxes, this could be the one. It’s windproof, water-resistant and includes attention-grabbing high-vis and reflective details. It’s superbly stitched together too, with a form-fitting design which will help you to cut through the wind with no annoying flapping material.
Different Italian-made fabrics have been used in specific areas. There’s a heavier, quilted material to keep chills off your chest, with breathable but water-resistant fabric used at the back to help the rain run off. You can tell the designers have spent a lot of time riding in winter as there’s a nice long tail to keep road spray off your backside. To carry your snacks and ride essentials there are four rear pockets, including one with a zip for valuables.
Brompton London waterproof: £150, Evans Cycles
You don’t have to ride Britain’s favourite folding bike to appreciate this smart jacket, made in conjunction with Scottish brand Endura – it’s got some great cycling-friendly features but still looks stylish out of the saddle. There are five panels you can pop out when pedalling to reflect car headlights for a bit of extra safety. They are so well hidden we had been wearing it for more than a week before we found the ones stowed beneath the cuffs!
It’s got fold-over flaps with press-studs to keep the weather out of the large front pockets, and the main zip is backed up with a storm flap for extra protection. There’s also a phone/wallet pocket at the chest. All the seams are taped and the fabric is waterproof, windproof and breathable with zips under the arms for extra ventilation. It’s not the thickest jacket, so you might need to layer up underneath when it turns colder.
Sportful stelvio: £270, Wiggle
When it’s raining cats and dogs you’ll be grateful you’ve got this great garment on your back. It will allow you to keep on training in the toughest conditions rather than searching for a bus shelter to hide out in. It’s so good that it’s a popular choice among professional riders and you will often see it being worn in wet races.
The stelvio jacket is superbly waterproof, rated capable of withstanding a 20m tall column of water before any moisture gets through the triple-layer rainwick fabric. Professional athletes need their kit to be really breathable too – they don’t want to spend hours drenched in their own sweat while out training. This one can get rid of 50kg of moisture per square metre every 24 hours – plenty for us mere mortals.
It all rolls down into a package small enough to slip into a jersey pocket. The fit is on the small side so we’d suggest buying a size bigger than your usual. It’s expensive but if you’re serious about your cycling you will struggle to find better protection from the elements.
Santini duke winter jacket: £139.99, Prendas
Here’s one for those cold but mainly dry days in autumn, winter and early spring. It’s lovely and soft inside with a lightly fleeced lining. The outside is designed to block the wind and resist drizzle while still being breathable enough to stop you getting sweaty. We like the more generous fit as it lets you layer up in really cold weather. And it’s got longer cuffs, plus a nice high collar to stop draughts getting down your neck. Those high-vis sleeves and rear pocket panel really cut through the gloom, too.
Altura nightvision tornado: £119.99, Altura
This light and thin jacket comes with a label asking you to take a snap of it with your smartphone. We did and the results were brilliant. The tiny grey triangles dotted all over the fabric turn into a Milky Way of stars – a feature you’ll appreciate when it’s Fords rather than phones coming your way on the roads at night.
As well as having night vision technology, this jacket is breathable and waterproof, with taped seams and a weatherproof zip for extra protection. It’s very thin, so great for warmer weather, but you’ll have to wear something warm beneath it in the winter. There’s also a removable hood with a stiffened peak you can wear over your helmet.
Gore C5 infinium thermo: £219.99, Evans Cycles
The chocolate brown fabric used on this jacket looks more like leather than the fabrics normally used in cycling wear. It’s water-resistant rather than waterproof, with drizzle beading up and running off the fabric before it has a chance to soak in. The big selling point is its impressive wind-proofing which really keeps you snug, allowing you to ride further before having to head home.
We love the feel of the soft lining against the skin – it’s not got that cold feel of some foul-weather jackets. And the high neck with its extra flap of material does a great job of stopping water dripping off your helmet and down your back. There’s a brown and black version but we think the one with high-vis arm sections is a safer bet in the darker months.
Vega xtreme: £224.99, Prendas
Serious cyclists don’t stop training, whatever the weather. And if you’re planning on spending hours in the saddle during the worst of winter, this one’s a great choice. The designers looked to specialist firm Polartec to find a fabric that can lock in warmth while keeping out the damp and the wind, all the time allowing sweat to escape via a clever microporous membrane. There’s more Polartec material at the neck, this time it’s soft and cosy insulation to keep out the midwinter chill.
We used the original design of this jacket all last winter and it never let us down. Our only worry was that the all-black design might be a bit dark on the road at night – a problem Prendas have addressed by adding bright orange bands to the front and rear of this customised version.
Proviz reflect360 plus: £114.99, Proviz
We’re all for anything that will get you noticed at night. This amazing jacket uses tiny glass beads to reflect car headlights – a bit like cat’s eyes on the road. This feature transforms this grey jacket into ghostly white as soon as the light hits it, hopefully making you unmissable. It’s not cut too tight so there’s plenty of room underneath for a warm top or your work clothes. And there are zipped chest pockets for your phone and wallet plus a larger one at the back hidden beneath a storm flap. It’s a great jacket for commuters and potentially a lifesaver thanks to its reflective properties.
Rapha core rain jacket II: £100, Rapha
If you need something you can roll up and stuff in a jersey pocket just in case showers strike half-way round your ride, this is a great buy. It doesn’t have the breathability of really expensive rainwear – there are just laser-cut holes under the arms for ventilation – but it will see you through showers or make a welcome extra layer if it turns chilly when you’re out in the hills. We love the fact it weighs as little as 124g in a size small, and unlike many foul-weather jackets it comes in a range of bright colours including navy, pink and yellow.
Chrome storm cobra 3.0: £199.62, Rose Bikes UK
If you want a cycling jacket that doesn’t look like a cycling jacket, then check out this offering from an American brand better known for its bags and backpacks. The only giveaways that it’s aimed at bikers are a big zipped pocket across the lower back and the ventilation zips under the arms.
It’s got a waterproof two-way zip you can also open from the bottom up, something you might find useful while riding, while all the seams are taped internally and the fabric is both waterproof and breathable. There’s a hood for use when you’re off the bike, plus four handy cargo/hand pockets and another zipped one at the chest for your phone or wallet.
We adored the heavy-duty, quality feel of it. While it’s not a jacket you’d wear out on a training run it’s perfect for zipping around town – especially if you need something you can wear off the bike after work or over lunch. The fit is on the more generous side, so smaller riders might need to come down a size.
The verdict: Men’s cycling jackets for autumn and winter
We gave the Lusso our best buy as it’s a great combination of performance fabrics and sensible safety features. It will keep out the wind and all but the heaviest showers. If you want the ultimate protection from the rain then stump up for the sportful stelvio – it’s no wonder it’s the choice of so many professional riders. Cool commuters will love the Chrome storm cobra – a great all-rounder you can wear on or off the bike.