If you are in the market for a new jacket a bike specific one would be a good option and a great investment to keep you riding.  What would be the best bike jacket for cycling?  Well… this totally depends on where you want to ride, the climate you live in and how determined you are to ride in adverse weather.  In this story I am going to look at what to look for in a jacket that is matched to specific types of riding.

All bike jackets will be designed with a specific function or combination of functions in mind – keeping you dry, keeping you warm, deflecting the wind, making you more visible.  They will probably share some bike specific features like good pockets, reflective strips, vents for airflow.

Staying warm on a bike can be challenging as the temperatures drop following a change of season.  Combine this with rain and/or wind and being comfortable requires some planning and the right type of gear.  We would love to see you riding all season round but to do this in a way that makes you want to ride or to keep you smiling while riding you need protection.

Navy Poncho. Seam sealing. goRide
Technical Terms Defined

Waterproof – Technically means that it is impermeable to water, no matter how much time it spends in water.  No water in or out. It will have a coating on the outer fabric along with fully taped seams (seam sealed, see photo) and it may have a built in membrane lining.

Resistant – This type of jacket will be able to resist the penetration of water to a certain degree but not entirely so is considered water resistant or water repellant or showerproof. It will often bead up rainwater, forming drops on the surface.

Breathability –  Is a measure of how quickly moisture vapour, generated from your body when you are exercising, is able to pass through a fabric from the inside to the outside environment.

For more detailed information on this important subject see Waterproof or Breathable – Bike Jackets Explained

The Best Bike Jacket for Cycling in Town

Town riding usually sees you in everyday style clothing as you do chores or commute to work.  Jackets will need to be waterproof to get you to where you are going and still be relatively dry… Choosing a long length or combining your jacket with waterproof pants is a great idea for committed commuters. An urban jacket should help with your visibility so choose a bright colour with lots of reflective elements.  For many cyclists it is important this type of jacket is light weight and packs down.  This makes it really easy to carry when it is not being worn.

Yellow Rain Poncho - town riding

Waterproof Poncho – great coverage for town riding

Waterproof jacket - Scribbler on bike

Waterproof Jacket – long length for town riding

The Best Bike Jacket for Recreation Riding

A thermal or wind/chill protection style of jacket is a great addition to your riding wardrobe.  These types of jackets work well for days when you know it’s not going to rain but it’s still cold.  You may also be a recreation rider who only chooses to go out riding when the weather is relatively good.  Look for warm fabrics, built up neck protection & zips finishing under you chin.  Any additional windproof protection through the chest area is also a bonus.  Known as soft shell jackets, they offer water resistance, breathability and warmth. Great as a lightweight outer layer or a breathable mid-layer.  This is a jacket for people who do not intend to ride in the rain.

Thermal Jacket - reflective banding. goRide

Fitted Thermal Jacket – reflective bands

The Best Bike Jacket for Cycling Visibility

Any bike jacket style can be best in category for visibility.  This is all about your colour choice and reflective stripping or bands.  Bright colours that will attract the attention of drivers include anything fluorescent, orange, yellow, green, bright blue or red.  Reflective materials are picked up by car lights in limited visibility weather or at night time.  These can be placed on the back or front of the jacket and piped around edging.

The Best Bike Jacket for Mountain Bike Riding

Most jackets that are a good match to mountain bike riding will need to be lightweight, packable & water resistant.  This type of jacket is often a protection against wind chill, get me home somewhat dry.  After a hard up hill climb a mountain biker who is sweating & therefore damp benefits from wind chill protection on the downhill.  Especially if they are riding in cold conditions or are in an exposed mountain bike park with no cover from the wind.  These jackets will pack down into a pocket or collar so are easy to carry as a back up.

The Best Bike Jacket for Cycling on a Tour/Multi Day/Back Country

When you plan to ride your bike into places that are remote you need to have performance level bike gear that will keep you safe.  A waterproof jacket for protection against being wet is essential.  Because you will be working on your bike – in these types of locations – breathability is key to keeping you dry on the inside of the jacket as well.  This balance of waterproof yet breathable is a fine balance that many jackets do not achieve.  So know what you are buying. This jacket will use a 3-layer construction with a durable face fabric that will be very resilient in a wide range of conditions.  Seam & zip sealing becomes very important.

It will also need to pack down well so it is easy to carry.  These jackets are generally expensive.  They will have many added features like seam sealing, zippers for venting & waterproof fabric treatments/membranes with high ratings.

Be Safe – Signs of Hypothermia

If you are bike touring in conditions with a significant Cold ChallengeTemperature, Wetness, Wind combined with fatigue, poor food intake and/or dehydration you need to be aware of the risk of mild hypothermia

  • Watch for the “Umbles” – stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles which show changes in motor coordination and levels of consciousness
  • Shivering – not under voluntary control, not easily stopped
  • Can’t do complex motor functions (single track riding) can still walk & talk
  • Numbness in periphery (hands, feet)

Heat Retention + Heat Production is less than Cold Challenge = Hypothermia

What can you do for mild hypothermia?
  1. Reduce heat loss by adding layers of clothing, getting dry clothing on, increasing physical activity or providing shelter.  Use a survival blanket
  2. Add fuel & fluids. It is essential to keep a hypothermic person adequately hydrated and fuelled
  3. Add Heat – Fire or other external heat source.  Body to body contact. Get into a sleeping bag, in dry clothing with a normo-thermic person in lightweight dry clothing

(Source: Outdoor Action Guide to Hypothermia & Cold Weather Injuries.  By Rick Curtis)

This advice gives you a starting place to help someone who has injured themselves or is showing signs of mild hypothermia.  Nothing replaces training, so if no-one in your group has training or a medical background consider adding this to your list of things to “get better” at before you go bike touring or on multi day adventures.

womens goUnders endurance - cycle trail riding
Waterproof jacket. Keep Warm on a bike. goRide
waterproof town jacket. Yellow goRide
get Ready and goRide –  The Best Bike Jacket for Cycling…

Thanks for reading. Used together our stories, resources & products support you to achieve and develop as a rider.

Related Resources:

Riding Clothing – Fabric Choice

Bike Jackets

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