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The GO Outdoors Guide To Cycling Jackets

Cycling jackets are the outer layer of your layering system and are designed to offer you protection from a variety of weather conditions. 

Fabrics vary dependent on how and where you cycle, so choose your cycling jacket based on your destination and the weather conditions. Ideally your cycling jacket should be protective and warm, whilst still possessing high amounts of breathability.

 Your jacket should also be able to provide areas of visibility. For travel in the EU, a reflective jacket( or a gilet) as well as a warning triangle is mandatory. Read on for more information on high visibility.


If you cycle in the cold: An insulating Soft Shell Jacket with windproofing capabilities

 If you cycle in the rain: A breathable waterproof jacket

 If you cycle in all conditions: A lightweight soft shell with water repelling capabilities, or an athletic cut and lined waterproof jacket.

Typical Features On Cycling Jackets

  • Slim, two or one layer fabric construction to reduce bulk.
  • A hood that can packaway or be adjusted
  • Pockets for access to essentials
  • Stretch fabric for enhanced movement, either in the body of the jacket or in the arms and elbows
  • Elastication for an enhanced fit
  • Lightweight construction that’s easy to packaway or roll up .
  • Sometimes water repelling (DWR) or with treated fabrics to be waterproof
  • A soft inner lining for comfort. Wind stopping closures at the neck and wrists for protection as you hold onto the handlebars
  • Drop tail designs for extra coverage at the back and a contoured fit
  • Reflective logos/piping for high visibility.

Cycling Softshells

Soft shells can be useful for a variety of conditions and multi purpose pursuits as they can be both windproof and waterproof, cheap or expensive, depending on the levels of functionality you require. 

 Softshells are part of the layering system, a way of layering your clothing to achieve comfort and warmth, as well as varying levels of breathability, whatever the conditions. Softshells are an alternative to waterproof jackets, which are known as ‘hard shells’. 

 Softshells can be worn in place of a fleece when you need more protection, but for conditions where you most need excellent levels of waterproofing, a waterproof jacket is a better buy. 

 However softshells do have advantages over waterproof jackets if the weather is suited to them. 

Waterproof jackets are more rigid, whereas softshells are designed to have higher levels of breathability and flexibility, whilst still offering more water and wind repelling qualities than a fleece.


Waterproofing and Windproofing Cycling Jackets

Breathable Membranes can be used in order to make your cycling jacket repellent or resistant to water. These are known through a variety of names, according to brand, from GORE technology, to DWR (Durable Water Repellency.) 

 To read more about waterproofing and waterproof coatings, click here. 

 When you cycle your are likely to want to keep out wind and windchills. Similar to waterproofing, windproof coatings and membranes can be applied during the manufacturing process of making a cycling jacket in order to make it windproof. 

 To read more on windproofing, click here.


Breathability and Cycling Jackets

Breathability is linked into waterproofing and windproofing, as the coatings added to a cycling jacket can hinder the process of breathability.

 Simply, breathability refers to a cycling jacket’s ability to keep the wearer dry, by evicting moisture and vapours to the outer layers, away from the skin. 

This prevents moisture build up, chaffing, and overheating. The more breathable a jacket for active periods, the better. To read more on breathability, see our guide here.


Reflective Safety and High Visibility On A Cycling Jacket

From a hi vis jacket, to reflective panels, strips or straps, high visibility can keep you safe and seen on the roads, particularly important for children, early morning riders, as well as night riders. 

 High visibility comes under two main areas, fluorescent fabric colors, and reflective details. 

 You can choose from piping, which catches the light and reflects it, or a full fluorescent jacket that offers excellent levels of visibility. 

 For travel in Europe it is mandatory to carry both a warning triangle and a high visibility jacket or gilet in your car, kept in the main body of the car, and cyclists must wear high visibility jackets in poor light conditions. 

 To read more on high visibility, read our guide here.


Fitting Your Cycling Jacket

  • Make sure you have a fit that doesn’t rub or chafe.
  •  Snug and athletic cuts are ideal, particularly in high winds to avoid a billowing jacket.
  •  Some jackets come with active cut designs, such as pre bent arms and drop tail rears. 
  •  Look for inbuilt storm flaps that can help rain drop away from your jacket. 
  •  Drawcords can help you keep water and wind locked away. Even better are drawcords that can be used with one hand.