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8 best men’s cycling jackets: Keep warm on winter rides

From insulated to lighter, packable designs – we took these styles for a spin

Paddy Maddison
Thursday 23 September 2021 12:59
<p>Though not fully waterproof, our top picks allow your body vapour to escape – perfect for sweatier rides </p>

Though not fully waterproof, our top picks allow your body vapour to escape – perfect for sweatier rides

As tan lines fade and summer draws to an end, it’s time to start re-evaluating your kit choices and stocking your winter cycling wardrobe.

The garment at the very top of your shopping list should be a solid cycling jacket; one that’s well made, functional and offers all-important protection from wind, rain and frigid temperatures.

It’s a cyclist’s first line of defence when the weather takes a nosedive, and investing in a good one will allow you to keep riding for longer.

The best autumn and winter cycling jackets offer protection from the rain, wind and cold. They might not be entirely waterproof, but this is by design, as waterproof fabrics aren’t as effective at letting body vapour escape. In other words, they might keep the rain out, but you’ll be drenched in your own sweat instead.

How we tested

To help you pick the right autumn and winter cycling jacket, we put a range of options through their paces. We tested these jackets in a variety of conditions around the north of England and Scotland, where they were faced with everything from torrential rain over the north Pennines to icy winds on the Northumberland coast.

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Below are the ones we liked best and the reasons why – from lightweight layers for changeable autumn days to heavy-duty protection that’ll keep you warm in the darkest depths of winter, these are the best cycling jackets to shop for in 2021.

The best men’s cycling jackets for autumn and winter 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Rapha classic winter jacket: £270,
  • Best for lightweight rain protection – Albion rain jacket 2.0: £175,
  • Best for mid-weight rain protection – Maap ascend pro rain jacket: £260,
  • Best for packability – Pas Normal Studios stow away jacket: £175,
  • Best for lightweight insulation – POC pro thermal jacket: £185,
  • Best for cold weather performance with style – Pas Normal Studios control winter jacket: £330,
  • Best value for money – Dhb aeron all-winter softshell jacket: From £78,
  • Best for all-round winter protection – Castelli alpha ros 2 jacket: From £159,

Rapha classic winter jacket

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

We took a leap of faith and first tested Rapha’s classic winter jacket on a 250-mile ultra-endurance ride with less-than-favourable conditions. It didn’t disappoint and has been our go-to ever since. The quality is, quite frankly, on another level compared to the competition, and we feel that the “winter” in the jacket’s name actually belies its versatility.

The jacket is made from “Gore-Tex infinium” fabric. It’s not waterproof, but it is highly water resistant and offers unparalleled protection from the wind. It’s uninsulated, but this, in our opinion, makes it more versatile and it’s still seriously warm when paired with a jersey and baselayer.

We love how visible this jacket is on dark winter roads too, with its high-vis colour and reflective details, and found the chest pockets to be useful, not just for storage (ideal size for a smartphone), but also for ventilation when the pace picks up. All in all, it’s a seriously stylish and well-put-together piece of kit that’s very difficult to fault.

Albion rain jacket 2.0

Best: For lightweight rain protection

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for a light, packable jacket to whip out when the heavens open then this delightfully minimalist option from the ever-excellent Albion is what you want. It’s made from a three-layer fabric that, while totally waterproof, is also highly breathable, and pieced together in Italy, so you know the quality is going to be on point.

We love the look of Albion’s kit and this jacket is no exception to the rule. The design is understated and simple, which flies in the face of the cycling-apparel industry’s obsession with branding and excessive detail. Clean, simple and stylish, with two solid colour options to pick from: hi-vis orange or black.

Out on the road, we found this jacket to be comfortable, easily packable and great at deflecting rain and wind. We were glad of the two-way zipper too, which makes it nice and easy to access jersey pockets and is also handy for ventilation.

Maap ascend pro rain jacket

Best: For mid-weight rain protection

Rating: 8/10

Australian brand Maap makes premium cycling kit that looks the business. This mid-weight shell jacket is a real head turner with its vibrant colour and contrasting accents, but this isn’t a case of form over function. In fact, the ascend pro rain jacket performs brilliantly out on the road, sealing the rain out, deflecting the wind and keeping us warm on even the longest days in the saddle.

This is all made possible thanks to the jacket’s three-layer SympaTex fabric, which is designed to keep you dry while allowing water vapour to escape from within. In this way, it’s very similar to Gore-Tex. However, unlike Gore-Tex, SympaTex is not porous. Instead, vapour escapes from within via absorption and evaporation. This means that it isn’t affected by pores becoming blocked by contaminants and dirt like some other waterproof membranes can be.

The fit is great and the cut is perfect for a natural position on the bike. The chest pocket is really handy for a smartphone or a gel too, and we love the pink elastic trim to the hem (even if you can’t see it when the jacket is on).

One thing to note, though, is that we found the fit quite large. Even with a jersey and a base layer, we found the shoulders to be slightly too big on our medium test jacket. This is likely to be a common complaint given that we cyclists aren’t exactly famous for our broad shoulders and bulging upper-body muscles. For this reason, we’d recommend sizing down.

Pas Normal Studios stow away jacket

Best: For packability

Rating: 8/10

This lightweight layer from Denmark’s Pas Normal Studios isn’t going to keep you particularly warm in subzero conditions. However, of all the jackets we’ve tested, it’s the one we’ve found ourselves using the most.

This is mainly down to its combined wind-blocking performance and packability. You can roll this thing up and stuff it in a jersey pocket, but it really does take the edge off chilly, windy days when you unfurl it and pop it on. It’s perfect for the vast majority of autumn days here in the UK and looks great too.

If you’re looking for something to keep you warm on the coldest days, continue your search elsewhere. If, however, what you need is a lightweight, packable jacket that can fend off wind and light rain in style then this is one of the best options out there.

POC pro thermal jacket

Best: For lightweight insulation

Rating: 9/10

We first donned our POC pro thermal test jacket for an early morning ride in cold coastal weather and were blown away by just how warm it is for its weight. To touch, it feels light and thin, but the cleverly placed towelling insulation does a great job of trapping body heat while the windproof face fabric takes the sting out of that cold, winter air.

The insulation is arranged in an octagonal pattern and placed only where it’s needed – the front of the body, the shoulders, the front of the arms and the neck – which is designed to keep weight and bulk to a minimum. As a result, the pro thermal jacket is very packable and will happily roll up into a jersey pocket if it needs to.

The pocket arrangement is really neat too. There’s a large zip pocket to the lower back – home to an integrated stuff sack, but it’ll comfortably accommodate a smartphone and a few snacks too – and a slightly smaller zip pocket either side, which is ideal for any bits you might need to access easily while riding. The reflective details are great too, although the black colourway we tested might not provide enough visibility for some.

Pas Normal Studios control winter jacket

Best: For cold-weather performance with style

Rating: 8/10

Made from a fleece-backed softshell fabric, this robust winter jacket from Denmark’s most stylish cycling label delivers warmth on the absolute coldest of days. It’s supremely comfortable, beautifully made and comes with loads of cool features like zippered pit vents and reflective logos.

The fabric itself is actually Polartec’s “power shield pro”, which offers an unmatched blend of warmth, water resistance and breathability. These qualities make it perfect for winter cycling, an activity which can see body temperatures fluctuate wildly over the course of a ride. We found it to be extremely warm without feeling overly hot when on a long climb or attempting a sprint.

Then there’s the looks. Pas Normal Studios is famous for its fashion-forward take on cycling apparel, and this jacket, with its contemporary styling and understated colour palette, does nothing to diminish that reputation.

Dhb aeron all-winter softshell jacket

Best: Value for money

Rating: 8/10

Dhb is hard to beat when it comes to reliable kit at reasonable prices, as is proven by this budget-friendly softshell jacket. It’s a great option for mixed conditions in autumn and winter, and is rated for use between 2-12C – perfect for the typical winter temperatures here in the UK.

The aeron is available in several colours but we like the fluoro-yellow version for maximum visibility. The fabric is backed by fleece in a grid pattern and features extra insulation in the areas most likely to feel the cold. This has allowed Dhb to keep the weight down without sacrificing warmth.

The best part for us is the price. Cycling outerwear isn’t cheap and good-quality winter jackets can easily cost hundreds of pounds. This one’s prices start at just £78, which is an absolute steal.

Castelli alpha ros 2 jacket: From £159

Best: For all-round winter protection

Rating: 8/10

Castelli changed the winter cycling apparel game when it launched its iconic gabba jersey back in 2009. Since then, the Italian brand has been on a mission to improve upon one of cycling’s most successful garments, cementing its name as the king of cold-weather kit in the process.

The alpha ros (rain or shine) 2 jacket is designed to perform well in varied winter conditions. It’s warm on cold, dry days, breathable when things warm up and offers a degree of protection from rain showers. It’s the sort of jacket that’ll see you through three seasons, and the premium-level quality means it won’t be tapping out after a couple of years.

Some winter cycling jackets can be bulky, but this one is trim and cut close to the body for aerodynamics. It’s almost jersey-like in its fit, but still offers enough room for a jersey and base layer to sit comfortably underneath. Buy this jacket if you’re looking for a quality, versatile option and the peace of mind that comes with buying from one of the most trusted names in the game.

The verdict: Men’s cycling jackets for autumn and winter

We fell in love with Rapha’s classic winter jacket and really do think it’s the best on the market right now. However, the lofty price tag will place it out of reach for many, which is why we’d also recommend the Dhb aeron all-winter softshell. It’s a highly capable winter jacket that won’t break the bank, and it doesn’t look too shabby either.

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Want to saddle up rain or shine? Try out best men’s cycling jackets for autumn/winter

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