The turn of the season brings with it colder temps, wetter conditions, and cyclists who think they have to keep off the road because of it. Don’t be one of them. Because there’s no such thing as bad weather when you have the correct cycle gear to see you through. A good quality cycling jacket is one designed to move the heat and sweat you build up to the outside, while working to keep the cold and rain from getting in. When choosing your winter cycling kit, it’s important to forget trends and focus on more important features, like performance and comfort.
Because the type of cycling jacket that does it all in all-weather conditions is a kind of holy grail, you’re most likely to find different jackets suited to varying conditions, and also personal tastes. However, all quality jackets share some basic features when it comes to rider comfort and performance.
For instance, the basic design of a jacket made for cycling in colder weather includes extended sleeves and a drop tail for optimal coverage when bent over in the riding position. Pockets for storage, elasticated cuffs and hems, and full zippers. Breathability is one of the most important features of cycling clothing in general – the ability of your gear to keep you dry when you’re working hard. It’s difficult to maximize ventilation when for instance, a waterproof cycling jacket is sealed tight, but vents in the armpit, upper sleeve, and back can be found on most jackets suited to moderate-weather rides.
Some waterproof jackets have a membrane on the inside of the fabric specifically engineered to allow your body heat and sweat to escape, while keeping bigger water droplets from getting in. Your best chance at choosing the right gear comes down to your riding style, and the weather you’ll be out in.
Most cycling jackets are meant as a layering piece, which means you’re better off opting for a comfortable, breathable base layer next to your skin, and then either the wind- or water-resistant jacket over it. In very cold conditions, up to two additional layers can be worn. For this reason, lightweight waterproof cycling jackets are always popular for really cold and rainy days. The point is to keep warm and dry without feeling like you’re being weighed down by your kit. They should ideally have taped seams to keep water from seeping in, and elasticated cuffs and hems for a comfortable fit. Wind-resistant jackets, like Pearl iZumi’s ELITE Barrier Jacket is perfect for moderately cold days, when rain isn’t a huge threat to your ride. They keep you warm and dry by blocking out the cold, with some water-resistance for light showers.
The cycling jacket you end up with needs to do two things: it needs to protect you from the elements, and it needs to make your ride a comfortable one. Whether you’re using a bike to commute, for a quick sprint to the shops every now and again, or as a way to unwind at the end of a long day – your ride will be so much better when you have the right cycle gear taking care of you. And now that you know what you’re looking for in a jacket – fit, ease of movement, ventilation, and weather-protection – you have the tools you need to decide on just the right one for you.
Cycling jackets can be divided into 3 main categories: thermal, waterproof hardshells, wind- and water-resistant softshells. Each of these are best suited to particular conditions.
Thermal cycling jackets are ideal for really cold, dry days. They are easily layered, with thermal fleece providing maximum warmth. Fully waterproof cycling jackets, or hardshells, have one job and that’s to keep you dry. Higher end jackets in this category might come with added ventilation in the form of vents under the arms or on the upper sleeves, but for the most part, these jackets are designed to keep water out, and features like breathability and insulation are often secondary.
Softshell cycle jackets on the other hand, give you the best of both worlds with a balance between protecting you from the weather, while also sporting insulation and ventilation features that aim to keep you comfortable for the duration of your ride. Our range of Barrier Jackets includes brightly colored options for men and women, that are lightweight enough to be stowed away when not in use, and intelligent enough to provide superior protection from cold winds and light rain. Optimal breathability ensures the transfer of your heat and moisture to the outside where it belongs, and BioViz® reflective elements are added to increase your visibility in low light conditions. Since these types of jackets are meant as layering pieces, you should always opt for a semi-form fit to guarantee your comfort while riding.