When you don’t have time to mess around, you go to the source of the technology, and in the case of windproof and waterproof shells, that’s Gore. The brand is well-known for its technical fabrics, and also has a penchant for keeping things highly visible and reflective, which is handy for this round-up.
It’s not mandatory to wear bright colours with reflective elements while out on your bike, but many cyclists feel a lot more comfortable in gear that shines obnoxiously the minute a car creeps up behind them. Particularly when commuting on rural roads or during a pre-dawn jaunt, a reflective jacket could make you feel safer, and more likely to regularly get out on two wheels.
A decent jacket will also provide protection from the increasingly elemental weather that arrives with shorter nights. Due to the nature of cycling, it’s actually a pretty interesting corner of the waterproof coat market (stay with us). Because you’re unlikely to regularly ride through brambles, durability can take a little bit more of a back seat than with coats intended for hiking. But because you’re also likely to be working hard, breathability is a big concern for manufacturers. As waterproofing always results in a trade-off between these factors, different brands decide to pitch their products at different points on the spectrum.
For our review, we’ve attempted to take in models that subscribe to a range of philosophies: from totally taped-up, highly waterproof commuter jackets, to lighter-weight roadwear that is only intended to keep you comfortable until you can identify the nearest cake stop. There are even a few on our list (spoiler: the expensive ones) that purport to do all of the above.
We tested this mix of hardshell and softshell jackets in both genders where that was an option, and on a wide range of differently sized humans. A word of warning: sizes can be skewed in the cycling world. You may have to order your jacket in a size a couple above your usual, and more if you want to add layers underneath. Definitely measure up and make use of any relevant size guide – plenty of these brands also have generous returns policies, and we’d advise shoppers to make use of them to find the right fit.
Finally, we rejected some very swish brands (looking at you, Le Col and Pas Normal), because their options just weren’t reflective enough. We judged that the jacket had to have more than just a logo or some well-placed piping to make it into our round-up. We also tried both high-visibility and more-muted options, as not everyone wants their reflective jacket to make colleagues squint over pre-commute pints.
How we tested
We had a coat party. A range of cyclist testers came around to our house, where we tried on all the jackets for fit. We then took them out on rides in all conditions (and occasionally popped them under the shower, when the weather was being kind) to grade their waterproofing and how they made us feel while exercising, rating the results from barely there to bin-bag.
The best reflective bike jackets for 2023 are:
- Best overall – Proviz reflect360 CRS plus cycling jacket: £119.99, Provizsports.com
- Best value – Decathlon city cycling EN1150 certified rain jacket: £64.99, Decathlon.co.uk
- Best for warmth – Shower’s Pass hi-vis roch e-bike jacket with beacon lights: £199, Showerspass.co.uk
- Best all-rounder – Dhb flashlight spectrum jacket: £120, Wiggle.co.uk