In the depths of winter, thin, pretty summer cycling jerseys and bum-padded shorts just don’t provide enough insulation to make cold-weather cycling comfortable (or enjoyable). Trust us, we’ve been on plenty of cycle rides where we’ve ended up chilled to the bone after stopping for a mid-cycle coffee and realising we weren’t wearing enough layers.
So, this winter, whether you’re attempting to commute by bike whatever the weather, or need something to keep you cosy and warm for sunrise laps around Richmond Park – learn from our mistakes and invest wisely in a cycling jacket, or two.
From packable, protective shells to lightweight windbreakers and fully insulated jackets. The best cycling jacket for you completely depends on the weather conditions – and what you tend to use it for.
A bike commuter probably doesn’t need a body-hugging performance insulator, while most cyclists attempting longer weekend group rides won’t want an anorak style jacket with a flailing hood.
The best cycling jackets are the one’s that keep you warm as you face the harsh winter weather with a smile. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.
How we tested
We tested our selection of cycling jackets and long-sleeve thermal jerseys on crisp, wintry, sunny mornings and bleak afternoons, through sharp, piercing winds and even in rainstorms. We checked each of the jackets’ materials and features – testing zips, pockets, vents, seams, sizing, and style. We aimed to include a range of reputable cycling brands, prices and fits – from the simplest shapes to more performance options that were flattering on different bodies.
The best women’s cycling jackets for winter 2021 are:
- Best overall – 66ºNorth x Café du Cycliste Landmannalaugar cycling jacket: £225, Cafeducycliste.com
- Best for serious training – Rapha women’s pro team winter jacket: £180, Rapha.cc
- Best waterproof – The supreme rain jacket: £450, Pocsports.com
- Best for commuting – Sweaty Betty commuter waterproof cycling jacket: £185, Sweatybetty.com
- Best breathable waterproof – Universal Colours chroma women’s rain jacket: £200, Universalcolours.com
- Best windproof – Women’s ascend pro rain jacket: £182, Maap.cc
- Best thermal – Rich ochre women’s long sleeve winter jersey: £75, Paria.cc
- Best for early morning sessions – Womens sport jacket II: £170, Lecol.cc
- Best reflective – Reflect360 women’s performance cycling jacket: £79.99, Provizsports.com
- Best for layering – Black Sheep Cycling elements thermal womens long sleeve jersey: £124, Sigmasports.com
- Best durable – Rapha women’s classic winter gore-tex jacket: £270, Rapha.cc
- Best for added warmth – Women thermal winter jersey: £119.95, Shop.megmeister.com
- Best for urban riders – Brompton x Protected Species city rider in burnt horizon: £180, Brompton.com
66ºNorth x Café du Cycliste Landmannalaugar cycling jacket
As part of a limited-edition, special collaboration, Iceland’s 66°North have teamed up with French cycling brand Café du Cycliste to create the ultimate sleek and soft fleece cycling jacket for winter – and we love it. Designed for the worst weather on earth, this distinctive patterned, thick fleece, made from recycled polyester, and inspired by the harsh – and unique – landscape of the Icelandic nature reserve, Landmannalaugar, promises to keep you riding through the extremes of winter.
With three large “drop” pockets on the back and a small, zipped pocket on the chest, there’s plenty of space for essentials. While the stretchy fabric on the elbow part of the sleeves helps with the range of movement needed for cycling. There’s also reflective detailing for increased visibility in low light conditions and we found it fits true to size.
Rapha women’s pro team winter jacket
Best: For serious training
The performance-orientated women’s pro team winter jacket from British cycling brand Rapha is perfect for riders who want to ride hard and fast throughout the colder months without sacrificing speed. Designed to be worn as either the second layer (with just a base layer underneath) or layered up as the third layer (with a base layer and jersey) depending on the temperature, this smart cycling jacket offers the same storage space as a jersey – with three drop-down pockets on the back and a smaller zipped pocket for valuables – while protecting you from the weather.
The first thing we noticed about this jacket when we tried it on was how incredibly soft it felt on the inside – the brushed inner makes it feel especially nice next to skin. We decided to size up in this jacket, as it’s made with a close race fit in mind – this means the arms are slightly baggy, but it still fits snuggly around the waist. Love.
The supreme rain jacket
Until you physically feel the material of this cycling jacket, you won’t quite understand how lightweight it really is. From Swedish manufacturer, POC, this unisex rain jacket will, unfortunately, make your bank balance weep (sorry), but when the heavens open and a downpour begins, there’s no other jacket that compares. As well as being ridiculously lightweight, it also packs into its own little integrated pocket on the collar – and it’s small enough to fit into a jersey pocket so you really can take it anywhere. It’s the rain jacket of rock stars.
Sweaty Betty commuter waterproof cycling jacket
Best: For commuting
Earlier this year, athleisure behemoth Sweaty Betty launched its first-ever cycling collection, offering a technical, but feminine and flattering, kit for women. The aim? To fill the void created by the “bike boom” of lockdown, of women who wanted cycling gear to reflect the same style and performance as the rest of their workout kit. Because cycling doesn’t have to be dull. And dull this jacket is not. With Bauhaus-inspired geometric print, this fun lightweight women’s cycling jacket has reflective details to keep you dry and seen. With a hood and longer hem at the back to catch the spray from your wheels, it’s ideal for commuting.
Universal Colours chroma women’s rain jacket
Best: Breathable waterproof
We’ve been huge fans of brand Universal Colours ever since it launched last year, challenging the status quo and creating modern, chic, progressive cycling clothing. We still live in the stylish Spectrum jersey (£100, Universalcolours.com).
The lightweight chroma women’s rain jacket – made from waterproof, breathable SympaTex fabric and finished with a durable water relent (DWR) treatment – carefully balances the fine line between breathability and waterproofness, with clever little armpit zips and a mesh vent system on the back to help regulate temperature. This is no sweaty, flappy, boil-in-the-bag rain jacket of years gone past.
The only downside we could find was that the armholes are particularly small, which causes tightness under the armpits and restricts movement ever-so-slightly. Other than that, the reflective detailing ensures good visibility to other road users – especially in gloomy weather, in which it’s designed to excel in.
Women’s ascend pro rain jacket
Similar to the Universal Colours jacket (£200, Universalcolours.com), MAAP’s ascend pro rain jacket uses a three-layer Sympatex membrane material to provide both breathability and protection against rain. We particularly loved the soft face-fabric of this jacket – the full windproofing keeps the chill off your core, so it’s perfect for wearing when you know the ride is going to involve bad weather and hard miles.
With elasticated cuffs, a two-way zip and an easy-to-reach zippable chest pocket, there’s a lot to love about this jacket. We only wish we’d sized up, as the performance nature of MAAP mean its items run a little on the smaller side (which is fine for a jersey, but the added tightness across the chest and under the armpits in a jacket is a little unwelcome). Get the size right, however, and you won’t need – or want – another cycling jacket hanging in your wardrobe.
Rich ochre women’s long sleeve winter jersey
If there’s one winter jersey we reach for time and time again, it’s this one. Perfect when worn with just a base layer – but also ideal for layering up with a gilet or a lightweight jacket, this mid-weight fleece thermal long-sleeve cycling jersey from Paria is ideal for colder weather.
Available in a wine or rich ochre colour, we were slightly worried that on a harder ride your sweat might start to seep through the golden hues – but we needn’t have, as after testing, the jacket remained sweat-patch free. Super soft and warm, with a cosy brushed inner, the stretchy fabric ensures movement is unrestricted, while the silicone grippers in the hem keep it in place throughout your ride. What’s more, the slim fit design is super flattering – and it’s true to size.
Womens sport jacket II
Best: For early morning sessions
There’s nothing worse – and more dangerous – than blurring into the background on frosty, misty mornings. You want to be seen, and you need to be safe. This bright sky blue jacket from Le Col will help other road users see you, without compromising on style. We particularly love the double duty aspect to this cycling jacket – the bright blue panelling is windproof and showerproof, while the navy side panels, undersleeves and back provide stretchy comfort.
Designed to mould to the body, the soft brushed inner helps retain heat, and the three drop back pockets provide plenty of space for carrying food and extra clothing layers. The design is completed with a reflective back strip that improves visibility on gloomy roads. So stop hitting the snooze button and get your kit on.
Reflect360 women’s performance cycling jacket
Talking of visibility, for those who prefer the glow in the dark look, then Proviz is the brand you need on your radar. You’ll be virtually impossible to miss wearing this Reflect360 women’s performance cycling jacket. It’s not the slimmest cut (especially in comparison to the other go-faster style jackets on this list) or most breathable – and we found it difficult to pack down into a jersey pocket, because of its extra bulk. But its innovative material – made with millions of tiny-but-reflective glass beads that pick up and bounce back the light – will make you glow.
Black Sheep Cycling elements thermal womens long sleeve jersey
Best: For layering
For days when a short sleeve jersey and arm warmers just won’t protect you from the elements, but a heavily insulated jacket seems a bit OTT, this elements thermal women’s long-sleeve jersey from Australian Black Sheep Cycling is the ideal in-between.
There’s a range of brilliant bright colours to choose from, we personally love the neon pink. It has a long-sleeve, slim-fit design similar to what you might expect from a summer garment, only with more insulation, extra coverage over the neck and lower back and improved reflectivity for riding in low light conditions. It’s also made from the luxurious Italian Thermodream fabric, is super soft, stretchy and warming, and helps to regulate temperature. We’ll be donning this on drier, milder days when there’s no chance of rain.
Rapha women’s classic winter gore-tex jacket
Made with Gore-tex Infinium technology – this smart Rapha jacket, featuring the classic white armband strip, is designed for the coldest and harshest of winter temperatures, to be used as part of a layering system. Big enough to fit both a base layer and a mid-weight long-sleeve fleece jersey underneath, the classic winter jacket’s slightly more generous cut makes it a great winter option for wearing over warm layers. Other credentials include; outstanding breathability and durability, long-lasting waterproofing and very low weight. We also liked that the hem of this jacket has adjustable elastic, to keep heat locked in and road spray out. Win, win.
Women thermal winter jersey
Best: For added warmth
The brushed inner face fabric of Megmeister’s women’s thermal winter jersey provides the insulation, with the Thermoroubaix fabric and DRW treatment adding protection against cold winds. Cut to fit close to the body, we’d wear this jersey either on its own or layered underneath a shell jacket when the temperature drops below 5C. Offering a sleek, low profile silhouette, we sized up when testing this wine-coloured jersey – and it still fits well, with the stretch panels keeping the fit snug for improved warmth.
Brompton x Protected Species city rider in burnt horizon
Best: For urban riders
For those looking for a cycling jacket that can also double up as a walking jacket, or be worn everyday without looking out of place, then look no further. Folding bike company, Brompton, teamed up with women’s outerwear fashion brand, Protected Species, earlier this year to create a range of timeless, versatile and sustainable products, built for the demands of city life. We love the “city rider” jacket in burnt orange – that combines style (hello, asymmetric front zip) with performance (dropped rear hem, reflective elements, high neck and stowable hood). The ideal jacket for women who choose two wheels as their mode of transport.
The verdict: Women’s cycling jackets
Unfortunately, a decent fully-waterproof winter cycling jacket doesn’t come cheap. But when you are 50km away from home (and nowhere near a station to quickly get a train back) and it starts chucking it down, then the money will soon seem like an investment well spent.
For the absolute coldest of days, we love 66ºNorth x Café du Cycliste limited-edition Landmannalaugar cycling jacket. But if it’s going to rain, we’d want to be wearing either MAAP’s ascend pro rain jacket or Rapha’s classic winter gore-tex jacket. The key is to be comfortable, no matter what the weather throws at you.
For the latest discounts on bikes and other cycling kit offers, try the links below:
For more cycling favourites read our best cycling gloves for staying toasty on every ride.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in