The best winter cycling jackets keep you warm and dry, without making you ‘boil in the bag’. It might not be the most glamorous part of the cycling season, but winter cycling is a fact of life for most cyclists.
Whether you’re racing, training or just commuting to work, the specific demands of cycling in the harsh conditions aren’t easily met, and if you want to stay comfortable out on the road, getting your clothing choices right is vital.
Jackets, in particular, are a key piece of your armoury, as while your legs will generate some heat through use, protecting your core and arms from the elements is paramount to keeping you warm and in control of your bike.
The choice used to be limited to fleeced long sleeve jerseys or plastic rain capes. But development and innovation in fabrics and fit means that clothing for cold and wet conditions have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Our roundup of the best winter cycling jackets below will cover insulating jackets designed to keep you warm when the mercury drops. Many of which will feature a level of water resistance, but for absolute waterproofing performance, check out our guide to the best waterproof cycling jackets.
Best winter cycling jackets
If you’re looking to ride in comfort during cold season, then chances are you’ve been recommended something from Castelli. The brand’s Gabba jacket became synonymous with winter wear, and this new Alpha RoS (Rain or Shine) 2 jacket sets an all-new benchmark in what a winter cycling jacket can achieve.
With a double layer design, the inside sees a warm insulating layer that sits separate from the outer waterproof layer. A double cuff design means there’s no longer a choice between putting the sleeves inside your gloves or out, and the taped shoulder seams keep any rain and spray on the outside.
The jacket uses Gore’s Infinium Windstopper 150 fabric, three pockets at the rear – all of which feature drainage holes, for the worst of the rainy days – with the addition of a zippered ‘security’ pocket. Reflective detailing is used to help keep you visible at night.
The Assos Mille GT Jacket Ultraz Winter uses a combination of multilayer fabrics that offer brilliant breathability and stretch, but also waterproofness to over 10,000mm. Unlike DWR treated fabrics, this waterproofness is permanent, as the fabrics use a PU bonded membrane to achieve this, rather than a coating applied post-manufacturing.
These various fabrics are strategically placed to maximise performance – with heavier fabrics on the chest, tops of the arms and shoulders, and lighter, stretchier fabric across the lower back for a form-hugging fit. There is also an internal RX fleece lining and an integrated snood for added insulation and comfort.
The design is typically Assos, with the premium details and high-quality construction you would expect, and there are five colour options available including an extremely bright orange. The only downside is that this quality and performance doesn’t come cheap.
As usual, dhb’s Aeron Deep Winter Softshell jacket packs in features and performance well beyond what its price tag would suggest.
Constructed from a multi-layer softshell fabric, it has a true wind and waterproof membrane – rather than a DWR surface treatment that would eventually wear out and need to be refreshed.
The company rates the jacket as suitable for temperatures ranging from -2 to 10-degrees Celsius, so it should be suitable for the majority of winter days out on the bike. It’s so warm that dhb actually recommends another winter cycling jacket (the dhb Aeron All Winter Softshell Jacket) in its range for those that run hot.
It also includes reflective details – dhb Flashlight Technology (FLT) – on the front, back and sleeves for added visibility.
The Perfetto ROS Convertible Jacket is essentially Castelli’s much loved Gabba jersey/jacket (which had its breakout moment in the snow at the 2013-Milan San Remo) with removable half sleeves.
The addition of taped seams and updated fabrics bring new levels of waterproofness and comfort, without increasing the jacket’s bulk – so it’s still cut for racing. If you want to layer up underneath it, consider sizing up.
Castelli recommends a wide temperature range of 4 to 16°C, so while this jacket won’t be suitable for the coldest winter days, it might be the most versatile jacket on this list.
The Rapha Pro Team Winter cycling jacket is the British brand’s highly versatile top tier winter jacket. Like the rest of the Pro Team range, it’s designed at the cutting edge of Rapha’s fabric technologies, and performs dutifully in a range of temperatures. Designed to be worn either with a base layer or over a base layer and jersey combo on those super-cold days.
There’s a neat pocket on the chest for easy access to your essentials, and three traditional pockets at the rear to hold the bulkier items. Designed with a particularly race-ready fit, the jersey features a dropped tail for extra protection against the elements at the back. There is also a selection of high-visibility details dotted throughout to keep you lit up at night.
Rapha has used thicker wind- and splash-proof fabrics on the front of the jacket, as well as a raised collar and elongated cuffs, all in the name of keeping the chill on the outside.
Having refined the fit for 2020, Velocio’s Signature Softshell jacket is inspired by touring motorcycle jackets, in particular the shape of the sleeves, the articulated shoulders and chest area, and the curved shape of the back. This helps the jacket to mould nicely around the body while in the cycling position.
The fit is trim and flap-free, while also offering room for layers and full mobility of movement. Velocio partnered with eVent to develop a three-layer softshell construction which combines Direct Vent stretch membrane with Primaloft for superior insulation, topped with a DWR-treated outer layer for 10K waterproofing.
Though Alé only launched in 2013, the Italian company behind the brand has actually been manufacturing professional level cycling for over thirty years. Bright, bold colours are a big part of Alé’s brand identity, and even the black versions of the Race Nordik jacket gets fluorescent detailing.
Designed for use in temperatures from -3° / +6°, even the skinniest racers should be able to keep warm in this jacket. The Race Nordik uses two types of fabrics to optimise protection, fit and breathability. A heavier, Thermo Winter 3L DWR covers the front of the chest, arms and shoulders, while a lighter, laminated Micro 3L DWR fabric is used on the back and under the armpits for better breathability.
The fabrics are also DWR treated, for added water repellency, and there are large zippered vents on the sides of the chest, so you can easily regulate the ventilation during a ride.
Endura is a Scottish brand, known for its long-running partnership with Movistar Team (although that’s now come to an end). With all that experience of cold Scottish winters and WorldTour racing, it knows how to make a good winter cycling jacket.
Featuring a high stretch, windproof soft-shell fabric with thermal lining and high wicking side panels, the Endura SL Thermal Windproof Jacket II is designed for hard rides in cold conditions.
The collar is also double layered and high cut, for extra warmth and comfort, and the cuffs are usefully extended so that they integrate with your gloves – another area where the cold could otherwise easily creep in.
The cut is slim but it’s not Italian, so there should be room to layer up underneath on really cold days. Endura also offers a 90-day satisfaction guarantee on its Pro SL range, meaning you can test it out and send it back for an exchange or refund if you’re not completely happy.
There are only two colour choices – black and bright blue – so if those aren’t to your taste, you might have to look elsewhere.
It’s made from the super stretchy, wind and waterproof Polartec NeoShell fabric – which Polartec claims is the world’s most breathable waterproof fabric technology – and features fully taped seams, plus a waterproof zipper for even greater protection from the elements.
As the ‘Pro’ moniker suggests, the cut is designed for the lithe bodies of professional cyclists, and it fits best when riding in a racy position. It’s definitely one you want to consider sizing up if you’re simply a normal person or just want to be able to layer up underneath.
Direct-to-consumer brand La Passione cuts out the middlemen to offer a pro-cut Prestige winter cycling jacket at a more affordable price.
Designed to be used in cold temperatures, the Prestige Winter cycling jacket features a three-layer construction which thermoregulates body temperature and makes the jacket windproof and water resistant.
Fit is cut close and the stretchy materials eliminate any unnecessary flapping. The high cut collar, ergonomic cuffs and rear jacquard elastic band with silicone gripper batten down the hatches to assure that no cold weather sneaks inside the jacket. Two rear pockets provide storage plus a zipped valuables pocket that has extra waterproofing.
Finished with reflective trimmings to help you stay visible in the dark, the Prestige winter cycling jacket should see you through the season comfortably.
How to choose the best winter cycling jacket
While the wind helps keep you cool and dry in the summer, it’s one of your worst enemies in the winter. Windproof fabrics do just as they say and block the wind from passing through the fabric and cooling you down.
It used to be that windproof fabrics lacked breathability and you would, therefore, end up cold and wet simply from your own sweat. But modern fabrics have vastly improved in this regard.
Many brands also strategically use panels of different materials across their jackets – with heavier, less breathable fabrics on the front, and lighter, more breathable fabrics on the rear, for example.
Alternatively, some jackets, especially those which use heavier fabrics, incorporate zippered vents that can be opened and closed to further regulate ventilation.
Along with lower temperatures, winter also brings rain. In constant rain, you’ll likely be better off with a fully waterproof jacket. But on more changeable days, a softshell jacket with water repellent fabrics or Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment is best.
These jackets can shrug off road spray or a short shower, but usually offer better fit, comfort and breathability than a dedicated waterproof jacket.
There can be a downside though – these treatments and membranes can often reduce breathability, although the penalty with high-end modern fabrics is small. The perfect jacket for a slightly warmer, wet day might not be best for a cold, dry day, where you really don’t want your own sweat to make you cold.
As with all cycling clothing, winter jackets come in a range of fits. Some will be designed to be form-fitting and aerodynamic, often with racers in mind. Others will have looser fits, with consideration for fit off the bike, and the ability to layer up underneath for added versatility or protection.
There are some jackets that try to do it all, but most specialise and target a specific type of rider and usage.
The jackets chosen here have been selected with road use in mind, and therefore largely prioritise a close, aerodynamic fit, to varying degrees. While any of these will work just fine for off-road or MTB use, we’d still suggest looking for mountain bike jackets that have been specifically designed for those disciplines if you’re intending to dedicate a lot of your riding time to them.
Reflective detailing or high-visibility colours
It goes without saying that if you’re riding in the dark, you need to take a look at our guide to the best bike lights. Don’t overlook reflective detailing and/or high-visibility colours for your clothing, however.
If the clouds close in, or if you end up staying out slightly longer than planned, light levels can drop, and bright colouring or added reflective elements will help other road users spot you out on the road.
Furthermore, high-visibility doesn’t have to mean you look like you’re wearing safety equipment anymore, with many brands now offering a range of colours beyond fluorescent yellow.