The best windproof cycling jackets do two jobs: they stop the wind in its tracks so that it doesn't evaporate the sweat from your body quickly and cool you down too much, and they pack away into a pocket so they're ready when you need them. A windproof cycling jacket is most useful in cool, dry weather, letting you ride comfortably without the weight and bulk of a full-on waterproof jacket.
The best windproof cycling jackets make great outer layers for chilly morning starts; when things warm up, just stuff it in a pocket.
Cheaper windproof cycling jackets use generic tight-woven fabrics with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating; look for names like Gore, Polartec and Pertex on spendier jackets.
Look for features like a high collar, perhaps with a fleece lining, pockets, a long back and sleeves long enough to overlap gloves and seal out the cold.
Even at the height of summer, a packable windproof cycling jacket in your pocket or seatpack can get you out of trouble if the weather turns.
Most makers of windproof cycling jackets don't claim any great water-resistance, but we've found a couple that help keep the rain off as well as being small and light enough to stuff in a pocket.
The Assos Mille GT Wind Jacket is super compact in your pocket and more closely fitted than most wind/emergency jackets once on. That makes it ideal for donning before an Alpine descent or, in the UK, just keeping out the chilling winds, road spray and even light showers.
Tester Jamie writes: “It's cut to Assos' regular fit, but even so I found it less baggy than just about any other wind jacket I've tried. I'm normally towards the bottom end of a size medium, and this medium fits well over a few layers, but it's definitely more Italian sizing than Swiss. If you're on the cusp, size up.
“Hunched in an aero position and bombing down descents, the jacket is mysteriously quiet. Obviously, a lot of that is down to its slim fit, but Assos actually says it's designed to be 'acoustically innocuous'. It's surprisingly breathable for a windproof jacket. The material under the arms and down the sides is more breathable than the main stuff, and the elasticated cuffs keep the elements out without being restrictive. The Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating does a good job of keeping road spray out, and can even fend off patchy drizzle.
“While Assos Mille GT Wind Jacket is pretty expensive for a windstopper, the performance, usability and quality mean it earns the price tag. You can easily buy cheaper, but they just won't be as good.”
The 7Mesh Cypress Hybrid Jacket is targeted at cool mornings and windy days, when you need lightweight, form-fitting protection but don't need a full waterproof. Seriously light and compact, it disappears into a pocket before and after use. It's a 'Significant Birthday' price, mind.
The Cypress Hybrid features Gore-Tex Infinium on the front, a superlight, super-breathable windblocking fabric that shrugs off light showers and road spray, but isn't actually waterproof. The forearms and rear of the jacket is a four-way stretch and super-breathable fabric treated with a DWR coating, so water just beads straight off. Again not waterproof, but good enough to shed a light shower while remaining supremely breathable.
The sensation of your front half being protected while your rear half cools by evaporation is initially unnerving – I wondered if I would then be too cold on the following descents – but no, it all balances out. Once the sweat load is gone, thanks to the Cypress Hybrid's amazing breathability, a good merino base/jersey combo then works to insulate.
If you want a packable jacket that’s also reasonably waterproof Galibier's Tourmalet 3 jacket is breathable, the cut works well, and it packs down small enough to put in a jersey pocket. It's a steal for £68; as good as jackets two or three times the price.
Tester Iwein writes: “The HydraStop fabric that Galibier uses in both the Tempest Pro and Tourmalet jackets is impressive in how long it stands up to rain and how good it is at keeping you at a comfortable temperature without overheating and giving you that dreaded boil-in-the-bag feeling.
“Overall, the Tourmalet jacket is really good at keeping the rain off — and therefore the wind and chill too — while keeping you from overheating. It fits well, although like other waterproofs it's a bit tight on my forearms. It can be folded up small enough to easily fit in a jersey pocket, and performs as well as jackets double or treble the price.
The cheapest windproof jacket in this article at just £29.99, the Van Rysel Ultralight Windproof is light enough to stuff into its own pocket about the size of a fist, and weighs very little so you can take it in a backpack, pannier or jersey pocket on all rides. The jacket is very light, if a little delicate feeling – treat it with care – but it still does a very good job of blocking the wind. It'll even keep out a light shower if you get caught out.
Galibier's Gino Pro Wind Jacket is one very impressive piece of kit, blocking out the breeze without creating a humid micro-climate on the inside thanks to great breathability.
Galibier has used UPF200 Windstop fabric by Miti for the front panels, a high thread-count material which is then laminated to create the windproofing. Nothing gets through at all. To test how insulating the Gino was, I went out on a night ride with the temperature just half a degree below freezing and a cold north-easterly wind blowing in. Underneath, all I had on was a mesh short-sleeved baselayer that I normally wear in the warmth of summer. My temperature was very comfortable, even on my arms, where under the sleeves of the Gino my skin was exposed.
Unlike most of the jackets here, Endura's FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape is fully waterproof, with a breathable fabric and taped seams. But in practical terms it has lots in common with most merely water-resistant windproofs in that it can be easily packed into a pocket.
This is a great garment, proving breathable race capes can be relatively affordable. Packable race-light 'shells' are usually either super-expensive yet breathable and comfortable, or cheap and boil-in-the-bag. I'm delighted to report here that the FS260-Pro straddles the two definitions.
It performs very well. Of course, there's a limit to how effective any breathable fabric can be. Even industry standard Gore-Tex meets its match in the right (or wrong) combination of humidity, warmth and exertion. But, if you're riding at a high tempo, the Endura keeps you as dry as I've experienced in a shell such as this. It works best in cooler conditions – and layering up too much negates its effectiveness – but it really is quite impressive.
The Bontrager Circuit Cycling Wind Jacket is a lightweight, packable shell with impressive windblocking prowess. It's showerproof rather than waterproof, but will hold out against heavy rain for half an hour or so. It's a good option for the sort of chilly, showery conditions commonly experienced on early and late season rides.
Tester Shaun writes: "Given the polyester fabric is so very thin, I was genuinely impressed by its ability to block icy blasts. Obviously, a decent long-sleeve base and midlayer are crucial to this equation, but I've been comfortably hustling along for two or three hours with no problems.
"When things turned milder, the thin fabric, together with vents under the arms, on the shoulders and across the back, have ensured things remained comfortably dry.
"Water resistance is also very reasonable. The fabric has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, designed to offer lasting protection from showery rain. It fended off light snow and sleet showers for an hour, and held back heavier rain for 30 minutes or so before it started seeping through. It does dry quickly, given a break in the cloud."
Tester Stu Kerton thought the Sportful Fiandre Strato Wind Jacket was "perfect if you like to keep the cold out without having to bulk up with lots of layers. The combined setup blocks the wind without seeing you overheat on the climbs, and the race cut means you won't have to worry about fabric flapping about when you are in the drops."
The front and side panels are made from Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper material which works brilliantly to keep out chilly winds. The lighter fabric of the arms gives plenty of freedom of movement, though it does mean your arms might not be as warm as you'd like on very cold days.
This is very versatile windproof cycling jacket that you can tune to a wide range of conditions just by changing the weight of the layer or layers underneath it.
The Pearl Izumi Men's Pro Barrier Jacket is a great lightweight option that'll keep you dry should you need it in the summer, and will also work well as an outer layer as the days get cooler.
The Pro Barrier is tailored for performance riding; it's for getting hunkered down on the bar and smashing out the power. The cut is close, and you get a dropped tail for good coverage when it's raining, and plenty of length in the arms.
The high-stretch fabric not only provides an excellent fit, it's windproof and uses PI Dry, a hydrophobic technology that makes it both water repellent and breathable.
The Sigr Näckrosleden Transparent Pro Cycling Wind/Rain Jacket doesn't look too dissimilar to a lot of jackets of this style, yet it manages to be much more waterproof than many, dealing with summer deluges as well as prolonged rain in the winter. The close fit will suit those with fast and hard riding in mind, and the see-through look is ideal if you need to show your club or team kit.
Tester Stu writes: "The overall quality is impressive. It looks and feels to be very well made, and while I've snagged it a few times, the material itself is very durable. It is very light at 117g, though, and packs down small enough to fit in a rear jersey pocket.
"The Näckrosleden will withstand most downpours and prolonged rain, as long as it isn't too heavy for too long. For most conditions I encountered, the jacket worked surprisingly well, with only a ride of four hours in heavy rain seeing water slowly seeping through."
A lightweight windproof cycling jacket can prevent you being caught out in the wrong kit if the weather turns during the ride, or you’re out longer than planned. They add a lot of flexibility and versatility to your cycling outfit. Most lightweight windproof cycling jackets can be rolled up very small and will fit into a spare jersey pocket, and most use technical fabrics that are very breathable if you need to wear for the entirety of a ride.
Fabric is key in a windproof jacket. There are quite a few options on the market. How much you pay will dictate the quality of the fabric, and typically the more you pay the lighter and thinner the fabric. Breathability - the degree to which a jacket lets your sweat vapour escape - differs from jacket to jacket too.
Gore Windstopper is a very popular choice. It’s manufactured by laminating a lightweight PTFE microporous polyurethane membrane to a fabric. Unlike Gore-Tex, which is waterproof, Windstopper is designed to just keep the wind out. That said, it does a fine job at keeping quite a bit of lighter rain out too.
Other choices include fabrics made by Polartec, which usually have a polyurethane membrane bonded onto the face of the fabric, and Pertex which combines a moisture moving inner layer with a tight weave outer layer that stops wind getting through.
While only designed to deal with the wind, some windproof fabrics are reasonably adept at keeping rain out. We’re not talking here about torrential rain, but they can often keep you dry if you have to cope with several short showers during a ride.
Lightweight windproofs don't provide much insulation. They're intended to be used in conjunction with insulation layers to provide the warmth. These jackets purely stop the wind from getting through to those layers.
Fit is very important. Jackets range from generously sized to race fit, the right one for you depending on the type of riding you do. If you’re commuting you probably want a relaxed cut that can go over a couple of other layers easily. If you’re racing or training, you want to minimise any excess material flapping in the wind so choose a close and slim cut.
It’s always worth trying a jacket on before buying if possible. Sizing can vary so much between manufacturers, and details like the length of the arms, how much the tail drops down, and the fit around the shoulders and waist, can change from one brand to another.
To keep the weight down, you don't usually get many features. All lightweight windproofs will have a full-length zip, and some might have ventilation ports around the arms or in the side panels to boost ventilation. You don't normally get pockets, but some of the jackets below do provide pockets, it all depends on the type of cycling you do and your requirements.
High-collars can be good for ensuring the wind doesn't sneak in around your neck. A dropped tail and raised front will give a better on-the-bike fit, and elasticated waist bands can stop the jacket riding up. Some jackets will have a pocket that doubles as a pouch to stuff the jacket into, as the photo above shows.
Lightweight windproofs are made from thin fabrics so they pack away very small and will easily disappear inside a jersey or backpack pocket when not in use. If you commute by bike, it's worth having one in your backpack/pannier at all times, so it's there if you need it.
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.