Like any item in your cycling wardrobe, a good jacket can make the difference between an enjoyable ride, or a trip into the pain cave. Whether you are looking for a full on waterproof jacket to get you through the monsoon winter, or a simple windproof number that will keep you warm on your daily commute, getting the right style, fit and features is essential.
A great fitting jacket not only looks Pro but will make a ride much easier to handle. Many times I have seen people riding with ill-fitting jackets that blow up with air every time they descend causing them to resemble the Michelin man, or jackets that seem to be made of plaster, stuck to a rider like a Papier-mâché mould. Jackets like this not only restrict movement but will create a drag car effect and slow you down, which means you are putting in more energy then you actually need to.
When commuting on a daily basis, being seen and staying dry is likely to be the main priority. This winter there are plenty of high vis jackets to choose from, no longer do you have to look like you have stolen a jacket off a builders site as the new styles are designed specifically with cycling in mind..
Those who continue to ride in the colder months generally need something to keep them warm and regulate body heat, ideally something that has some protection from the elements. A good and inexpensive jacket for riding on those colder days is the Pearl Izumi Select Thermal Barrier Jacket. Both wind and water resistant and made with a Thermo Fleece lining, this jacket seals in the warmth but is still breathable. It is semi-form fitting, meaning it is cut to be comfortable on the bike, but roomy enough to fit a jersey underneath. It is not 100% waterproof but it will give you moderate protection if the weather surprises you with a cold shower.
Softshell jackets are becoming increasingly popular with riders as they look and feel like a jersey and can be very aerodynamic. As Aerodynamics is basically the way air moves around you, these jackets can be much more effective for riders who are worrying about watts and saving energy. Excellent for when you require a hard working item that will not restrict any movement and will allow you to work extra hard, yet still remain warm and dry.
Sportful are excellent at manufacturing softshell jackets that offer protection from the elements. The Bodyfit Pro WS Cycling Jacket gives you full protection against cold winter winds whilst still being aerodynamic and extremely breathable. The jacket is also water resistant, so it will shield you from the odd shower, but if you are planning on riding on a day of continuous rain you may want something offering complete water protection.
A few years ago a waterproof jacket generally meant that you would stay dry from the rain, but with the lack of airflow and breathability, by the time you finished your ride you were wet on the inside anyway. With many manufacturers now having to meet the demands of Professional cyclists they have had to become much more innovative with development of new materials and weight saving designs. Castelli has worked closely with the Cervelo Test Team and Garmin Barracuda to create the Castelli Pocket Liner jacket. At 170 grams this jacket is completely waterproof and extremely breathable; it has to be, as the Pros wouldn’t have it any other way. It also boasts stretch zones for the perfect aerodynamic fit and a storm flap at the back to protect you from wheel spray. But this jacket does not come cheap, the newest technology never is, but what you get is a jacket that will definitely keep you dry and as it looks so stylish you will likely turn a few heads whilst wearing it.
The best investment for any rider is a good waterproof that packs up small enough to fit in a jersey pocket. Take it with you on every ride, and that way, when Mother Nature throws a tantrum you are prepared. There are plenty of options to choose from and various price ranges to suit everyone’s wallet. But a good jacket is an excellent investment, and if you take care of it , it can last for years, so when you break down the price you may realise that it will actually only cost you 20p a day (seems pretty reasonable to us).