Waterproof jackets explained
At Wiggle we have a vast array of cycling specific jackets, including windproof jackets, gilets and waterproof jackets. The later is our focus in this guide; jackets that are designed to keep you dry and comfortable whilst you are out on the road or trails.
Waterproof jackets can vary significantly in design and appearance; from thick highly water-repellent materials with inner linings for warmth, to thin lightweight packable jackets that can be stuffed in a jersey pocket or bag when the showers have passed.
Waterproof jackets tend to be differentiated by a number of features:
- High collar - to protect from windchill.
- Taped seams - To prevent water ingress.
- Dropped tail - to reduce splashing from the rear wheel.
- Under arm zips - to increase ventilation and breathability.
- Pockets - to stash your essentials.
- Longer sleeves - (on some jackets) to allow you to adopt a more aggressive position on the bike.
- Hoods - (on some jackets) to offer increased protection when you take a break from riding
What will you be using your jacket for?
It’s important to think hard about your main usage of the jacket before making your selection, as cuts do differ quite considerably from one jacket to the next. Below are some examples categorised by their cut and most suitable use.
A performance jacket will have slightly longer arms and a tighter cut to reduce loose material. These jackets are designed to keep you dry with the minimum impact on performance.
These jackets will have a slightly looser fit to allow more freedom of movement and layering underneath the jacket. High visibility colouration in this selection is also suggested to increase safety in high traffic areas.
These jackets have a similar cut to full waterproof jackets, but are constructed from lighter materials. Waterproof protection is therefore not as great as a full performance jacket, but these are ideal to put in your pocket when the weather is changeable. They can come on "performance" style close fitting cuts or looser "relaxed" fits.
Fit, sizing & gender specific jackets
Sizing is important for cycling jackets, to avoid having too much material flapping around in the wind, or to avoid uncomfortable creasing under the armpits if the cut is too small.
Each of the cycling jackets that Wiggle sells has its own unique sizing guide, which allows you to pick the best size for your measurements. It is worth noting that "race cut" performance orientated jackets from brands such as Castelli, Gore Bike Wear and Sportful have a closer fitting cut, and therefore if you want to wear multiple layers underneath your jacket, you may require a size larger than normal.
Wiggle stocks both male/unisex jackets and female specific jackets. These have tailored cuts to suit the different profiles of the different sexes. You can use the left hand navigation pane on the Wiggle jacket product pages to filter down to just female specific jackets, and just male/unisex specific jackets.
Features to consider
Lined or unlined
Some jackets have an inner mesh lining, which can dramatically increase warmth and comfort in a jacket. This is because your skin is not touching the outer layer of the jacket, and therefore there is a reduced chance of moisture build up. The mesh layer also helps to trap in air as an insulating factor. The disadvantage of the system is that in the summer when it is raining and you want to wear your jacket, a jacket with a lining may be a bit warm. A lined jacket also has more bulk, so linings tend not to be used on "packable" jackets or "shell jackets".
High visibility options
If you are going to be using your jacket for commuting or riding on the road, then it is well worth considering a high visibility jacket. The visibility of a jacket can be increased both by the colour of the jacket (e.g. neon yellow) and added reflective detailing on the sleeves and shoulders.
Mountain bike jackets vs. Road cycling jackets
Road cyclist and mountain bikers have distinctly different demands for their apparel, and waterproof jackets is one area where the difference is particularly evident. Road cycling jackets are close fitting, often with high visibility detailing, and long arms; these features are designed to avoid flapping material at high speed, increase your "be seen" factor for following traffic, and ensure that your arms are still covered when you are in the more out stretched position on a road bike.
By contrast, mountain biking jackets are designed to be able to deal with both the rain falling from the sky and the mud coming up from below. They are also made so they are comfortable for being worn off the bike, when you might be trekking up to the next downhill or waiting for the next uplift service. As a result, they are made of more robust materials, can have pockets to stuff your hands in to keep them warm, and can also have a hood to protect your head from the rain when you take your helmet off. Mountain bike jackets also tend to have a more relaxed fit, with a focus on comfort rather than streamlining.
The level of breathability of a jacket will have a significant effect on the comfort and perceived performance. If you just want to use your jacket to keep you dry as you nip to the shops, then the breathability is not a major factor, however if you are going to be pushing hard and working up a sweat, then you want a fabric that will allow that moisture to evaporate into the atmosphere through the material. At the top of the breathability range there is Gore Tex, available in waterproof cycle jackets through Gore Bike Wear. However other brands provide similar high level breathability, such as the NoRain fabric used by Sportful, or the high level polyester fabrics used by brands such as Polaris and other firms. With breathability there is very little to cover the fact that "you get what you pay for" higher end fabrics cost more to develop, and therefore you will get a higher level of breathability in the higher value jackets.