Wearing the right cycling jacket allows you to stay comfortable, warm and dry on the bike so that you can pull out your best performance whatever the weather.

Our cycling jackets are specifically designed to keep out the elements while simultaneously letting excess heat that you’re generating escape. That’s why you’ll find technical fabrics are windproof, water repellent and breathable working alongside features such as strategically placed venting, lighter-weight panels and removable neck warmers.

Modern road cycling jackets have anatomical fits, meaning they are cut for the riding position. Armholes will be positioned so that they don’t drag on your shoulders when you’re bent over the bars, sleeves are longer so that gaps don’t appear at your wrists, and the rear might have a dropped tail that keeps your back covered when you’re tucked in the drops on a road bike.

There’s a cycling jacket for every type of weather condition, from insulating softshell for a crisp, dry January morning to lightweight packable to take with you on a humid, showery summer evening. The shoulder-season garments, such as the gilets, are designed for a range of spring and autumn temperatures, helping you perform that balancing act to cover all combinations of weather you might encounter throughout the year.

Let’s take a more detailed look at the different types of jacket, their constructions and what sort of weather they perform best in.


Dry, cold weather: softshell

A softshell jacket focuses on warmth. It is made from stretchy fabric that supplies a high level of insulation via a fleecy lining while a windproof membrane keeps out cold draughts. The softshell jacket is not waterproof like a hardshell: it is water repellent, meaning it will keep you dry in light rain or drizzle and will protect you from road spray.

An effective softshell like our Triban RC500 Winter Jacket can be worn with just a baselayer underneath, from around 10°C down to the very lowest single figure temperatures. Its fabric is highly breathable, and to regulate temperature further it has zipped vents under the arms and a removable neck warmer. Meanwhile the Van Rysel Cold Weather Extreme Racer jacket, developed with the Ag2r-La Mondiale U19 team, has a removable hood and breastplate.

Since the softshell is designed to be both outer and mid layer (you don’t need to wear a jersey underneath) it has its own pockets.

For pacier workouts in not quite so frosty conditions, the B’Twin Light Winter Racing Jacket supplies a light, close fit without sacrificing the wind and water repellency of the Triban RC500 Winter Jacket.

The women’s-specific Van Rysel Cold Weather jacket also packs the same winter tech and comes in a fluo yellow as well as black to keep you visible through the dark months.

Look out for: High collar, long cuffs, fleecy lining, durable water repellent coating (DWR), rear pockets, reflective elements.


Wet weather: hardshell

If the forecast is for rain but you’re going to ride anyway, head out with a hardshell as your outer layer, layering up underneath according to air temperature.

A hardshell jacket has a waterproof (rather than water repellent) single layer of fabric. The fabric is made waterproof by either a membrane – a type of very thin micro-perforated plastic film that is also breathable – or a durable water repellent coating (DWR). Using a membrane makes waterproof jackets lighter, suppler and more durable than a DWR does.

The construction of a waterproof jacket is just as important as the fabric: taped seams and a waterproof zip ensure minimal water ingress.

The Triban RC500 Cycling Rainproof jacket has membrane waterproofing, taped seams and a waterproof YKK Aquaguard zip. There’s also a retractable flap that, when down, protects against spray from the rear wheel and folds up invisibly into the jacket when not in use.

There is a waterproof jacket for every budget in our range. The RC100 and RC120 Rain Jackets offer great value for money and a high level of weather protection thanks to their simpler construction and DWR waterproofing.

Look out for: Fabric with a high waterproof rating, taped seams, long tail or retractable flap, breathability, reflective elements.


Changeable weather: lightweight packable shell

If it’s not quite wall-to-wall sunshine, there’s a slightly chilly breeze or you have a long descent on the agenda, it’s worth rolling up a lightweight packable shell and sticking it in your jersey pocket.

Formerly known as a ‘race cape’ and once notorious for the boil-in-the-bag effect on its wearer, the packable shell has come a long way thanks to advances in both breathable fabrics and construction.

Our top lightweight shell, the Van Rysel RR900 Ultralight Cycling Rain Jacket, tucks into its own inside pocket for easy stashing. When you need to deploy it, it has a waterproof rating of 2,000mm, equivalent to a two-hour rain shower. The fabric itself is not only breathable but also has underarm and rear-side vents to help channel out perspiration.

The latest lightweight shells have a degree of stretch, making them close fitting and helping to reduce unaerodynamic and noisy wind flap.

Meanwhile, although it’s a notch down in terms of its price and performance, the Van Rysel RR500 Ultralight Cycling Rain Jacket is lighter at 91g for the size large compared to 140g for the RR900.

Look out for: Packability, light weight, wind and water repellency, breathability, close fit to eliminate wind flap.


Weather that’s not quite warm or dry enough: gilets

The gilet is one of the most useful and versatile garments in the cyclist’s wardrobe. Perfect for early starts, long descents or when midsummer isn’t quite here yet, the windproof, sleeveless zip-up outer layer keeps the torso snug and if it’s also water repellent, like the Van Rysel RC500 Ultralight Windproof Cycling Gilet, it’s indispensable if you’re caught out in showery weather.

Gilets can be a useful secret weapon in mid winter too: wear one over the top of a softshell jacket and you’ll add a crucial layer of extra windproofing.

The top-of-the-range Van Rysel Team Windproof Road Cycling Gilet was developed with our sponsored race team and is designed to be close fitting, aerodynamic and almost invisible, making up a thin but essential barrier with its windproof/water repellent front and lightweight mesh back to let heat escape efficiently.

Look out for: Windproof and water repellent front, mesh back, close fit.

Conclusion

As the Scandinavian mantra goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather – just bad clothing. So get yourself properly kitted out to get the most out of your cycling all year round.

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Fabrics in numbers

Breathability

To determine a fabric's breathability we measure its evaporative resistance or RET (based on standard ISO11092).

The lower its resistance, the more the fabric will let water vapour produced by the body escape, and therefore the more breathable it is.

• RET < 6: Extremely breathable, good for intense workouts

• RET 6 to 12: Very breathable, good for moderate workouts

• RET 12 to 20: Moderately breathable, uncomfortable during heavy exertion

• RET > 20: Hardly breathable, unsuitable for exercise

Waterproofing

A fabric's waterproofing is determined by measuring its resistance to the pressure exerted by a water column, measured in millimetres (based on ISO 811 standard). The higher the pressure, the more waterproof the fabric. A 1,000mm rating is usually the lowest to be considered waterproof, only keeping out a light shower, while 10,000mm might be for the fabric a tent designed to keep out prolonged heavy rain.