It might not be the most glamorous part of the cycling season, but riding during the winter 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 has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years.
The best winter jackets for cycling in 2020
Alé Race Nordik Jacket
A jacket designed for the deepest of winter riding
Weight: 440g | Pockets: 3 | Colours: 3 | Fit: Slim
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.
Assos Mille GT Jacket Ultraz Winter Jacket
Highly breathable and water resistant softshell winter cycling jacket
Pockets: 3 | Colours: 5 | Fit: Slim
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.
Castelli Perfetto ROS Convertible Jacket
Castelli’s famous Gabba jersey with the versatility of a full jacket
Pockets: 2 | Colours: 5 | Fit: Race
Updated for winter 2019/2020, 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.
dhb Aeron Deep Winter Softshell Jacket
Great value winter jacket for riding in the coldest conditions
Pockets: 4 | Colours: 3 | Fit: Slim
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 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.
Endura SL Thermal Windproof Jacket II
Simply styled, well priced jacket with satisfaction guaranteed
Pockets: 4 | Colours: 2 | Fit: Slim
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 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.
Rapha Classic Winter Jacket
Versatile and stylish winter jacket for mile-munching
Pockets: 4 | Colours: 2 | Fit: Slim
The simply named Rapha Classic Winter Jacket is the result of ten years of development from the British brand.
Cut from wind and waterproof Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric, it’s designed to keep you warm, dry and comfortable while getting in the base miles – the long, steady rides that prepare your aerobic system for summer racing.
There are plenty of smart details that help justify its relatively high cost, like reflective detailing, taped inner seams, zippered arm vents and drainage holes in the rear pockets.
And as always with Rapha, the construction quality and the fit are excellent, and as with other Rapha Classics products, there’s a 30-day no-quibble riding guarantee. Rapha will also repair your garments for free if they get damaged in a crash – something that’s sadly not as rare as we'd like.
Sportful Fiandre Pro Jacket
WorldTour-proven jacket for training and racing in foul conditions
Pockets: 3 | Colours: 4 | Fit: Race
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.
What to look for in a 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 lights for your bike. 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.