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Best wet weather cycling gear
One of my earliest memories is going out for a family cycle with my parents.
I’m guessing it was probably summer as I remember being in shorts and t-shirt. Unfortunately, British summertime being the unpredictable beast that it tends to be, it soon started raining. And then it really started raining. Soon we were absolutely drenched, with quite a few miles still to go before we got to a hot shower, a fluffy towel, and a dry set of clothes.
It’s the kind of experience that you look back on with a fine pair of rose-tinted glasses perched on your middle-aged nose. You remember the laughs as you splashed through the puddles and the giggles as, yet another, car went past and splashed you with a tidal wave of water.
You tend not to remember the feeling of the icy cold, muddy water trickling relentlessly down your spine…
These days, I never head out on a bike trip without taking a waterproof jacket with me. If it’s already raining, I’ll wear it from the outset. If it’s dry, I’ll tuck it in a pocket or wrap it round my waist, knowing that I’ll have a warm, dry, and very smug feeling, when it inevitably does start raining and I can whip out my jacket.
There are some fantastic cycling jackets on the market today. Many of these are aimed at the semi-pro with price tags to match ($400 plus). But there are plenty of great value waterproof jackets at prices that won’t make your eyes water.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Short on time? Here are my top recommended best value waterproof cycling jackets:
Things to consider in choosing a waterproof cycling jacket
There are four main areas to look at when picking a bike jacket:
- Is it waterproof
- Is it breathable
- The fit
- Does it pack up
1. Is it waterproof
All manufacturers want you to think that their jackets are waterproof. But unfortunately, not all are.
If you see “water-resistant” then it should stand up to a light rain shower, but not prolonged heavy rain. What we’re hunting for here are jackets that actually state that they’re “waterproof” and preferably with some customer reviews to back that up.
Remember that it’s not just the outer fabric that has to be waterproof for a jacket to be fully waterproof. Any seams on a jacket are an opportunity for the rain to get in. So look for jackets that have taped seams – these are exactly what they sound like. There will be tape going along the inside edges of all the seams in the jacket to ensure that the water stays on the outside.
2. Is it breathable
You tend to have to step up to the (much) high price brackets before you can get jackets that are waterproof and also breathable. But that’s not to say that they aren’t available. So if you see one, then snap it up fast.
Breathability is a function of how easily the jacket can get moisture from you (i.e. sweat) to the outside of the jacket. The higher the breathability, the drier you will stay.
Even if your jacket is not made of a breathable fabric, don’t despair as there are many other ways that you can help get that moisture out. Firstly there’s the main zipper on the front – pull that down midway and it’s an easy way to let some cooler air in and moisture out. Also look for jackets with vents and armpit zippers, again all these help to let the sweat out and keep you dry.
3. The fit
The shape of a cycling jacket differs quite considerably from a standard rain jacket that you’d use for hiking.
Firstly they tend to be much lower at the back than at the front. This allows the water to fall off you and the bike when you’re hunched over, rather than dripping on to your shorts. They’re also often a snugger, more athletic fit. This helps to stop them flapping about in the wind as you’re cruising along. If you prefer a roomier jacket, then make sure you order a size or two up than you would normally.
For the ladies there are female-specific styled jackets which can give a much better fit. Roomier on the chest and hips than the men’s jackets tend to be.
Finally, this one’s a bit of a bugbear of mine. Jackets with no pockets. Hate ‘em. If you’re like me, I never head out for a bike ride without an armful of stuff: bananas, energy gels, inner tubes, kitchen sinks…. So, I like to go for jackets that have pockets either at the front or back to stash everything in. They can take a little off your aerodynamicity, but for me it’s worth it.
4. Does it pack up
It’s generally the case that the more lightweight jackets, which are thinner and less insulated, are the ones that pack up smallest. The heavier weight jackets, which are usually more insulated for the winter, are often bulkier and you need to have a bigger rucksack or bike bag to tuck them away in.
When you’re choosing your jacket have a think about the conditions you normally get in your part of the world.
My Top Recommended best value waterproof cycling jackets
This is a great jacket.
Three bright color choices, all with reflective detailing, so other road users can see you in poor visibility.
Waterproof and breathable, with taped seams and water-resistant zippers. Add in the two roomy front pockets and the ventilation from the armpit zips and the rear vent and this jacket is great in all seasons.
The FS260 is a great choice for summer cycling.
Fully waterproof and with taped seams, so the water stays on the outside. It’s lighter weight than the Club Pro jacket, so great for biking in the warmer months, when there’s clouds threatening in the sky.
It’s also clear, so if you’re needing to let people see a race number, or you’ve just got a stylish base layer you want to show off, then this could be the perfect jacket.
The second Showers Pass jacket on our list, and with good reason. They are renowned for making quality cycling apparel.
This has a very similar construction to the Club Pro with the exception of being a thicker jacket. This put it firmly into the winter clothing category, keeping you dry and warm.
Bear in mind that, being heavier weight, it won’t pack as small as some jackets. But that’s probably not an issue when it’s cold enough to see your breath.
During the daytime, this is a fantastic cycling jacket. Waterproof, breathable, a pair of chest pockets, and a fleece-lined collar.
It’s at night-time though where this jacket really shines. Literally.
Want to see it in action? Take a look at this YouTube video:
Waterproof, with taped seams and a waterproof front zipper make this a great choice for female riders.
The color choice is excellent if you’re concerned about being seen on gloomy days. I think my particular favourite is Screaming Pink – very understated.
An unbelievable price for the specification on this jacket.
Waterproof with taped seams. Breathable and with vents for extra air flow. Two roomy pockets and reflective details.
It’s very lightweight and packs up into the back pocket. So it’s a great choice for summer riding.
Final word on waterproof cycling jackets
Cycling in the rain without a waterproof jacket is the kind of thing that is only fun in hindsight.
Wrap yourself in one of these great value bike jackets next time you go for a spin in the rain and you’ll keep dry and be able to enjoy the ride, without the icy water trickling down your spine.
Stay warm and dry.