9 best women’s cycling jackets: Weatherproof and high-vis layers

Liz Dodd
·7 min read
A good cycling jacket balances keeping the weather out while letting enough air in to stop you from overheating (The Independent/iStock)
A good cycling jacket balances keeping the weather out while letting enough air in to stop you from overheating (The Independent/iStock)

Don’t let changing seasons put you off your cycle commute – whether you’ve been riding for years or picked up the habit during lockdown.

A good cycling jacket balances keeping the weather – in particular rain and cold wind – out, while letting enough air in to stop you from overheating. Because this is such a fine balance, it’s worth investing: the jackets we’ve picked out below are really durable and adaptable – they will see you snugly all the way through to next summer and beyond.

What you’re looking for in a cycling jacket depends on when and where you ride. If you expect to cycle at night, whether in the country or the city, prioritise a super reflective jacket. If you’re planning to ride for a long time in bad weather, it is worth investing in something with a fully waterproof – not just water resistant – shell.

If you feel the cold, or expect to ride somewhere it might drop below freezing, pick a down insulated jacket or a shell-style jacket with a slightly baggier fit that means you can wear multiple layers underneath. Windproofing – both the material and things like sleeves and collars – is also important for cold weather riding, or if you ride a lot of hills. A freezing cold descent is not the way to celebrate a difficult mountain pass.

We tested these jackets on simple commutes and weekend rides, but we also had some of them reviewed by some of the toughest cyclists out there: delivery riders and couriers. This meant they had to be sturdy and very waterproof, but also packable (for when the sun comes out), and ideally have a flash of hi-vis or reflective material for nighttime rounds. Some of them came bikepacking with us, which meant putting up with rough weather, rough terrain and even rougher treatment on overnight trips.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

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Rapha explore women’s pullover

Best known for its ultra stylish, race-ready professional kit, Rapha has recently expanded its range to include more bikepacking/expedition kit. Our reviewer lives in Rapha kit on ultra long distance rides, and this pullover jacket is her new favourite. It’s lightweight but absolutely weatherproof, comes with a hood – an often forgotten, extremely useful feature for a cycling jacket – and has a generous map and phone-sized pocket on the front. We love how this looks on, as it combines Rapha’s signature tailored look with a looser (but not baggy) fit, which also makes it easy to pull on over your baselayer.

Buy now £250.00, Rapha

Proviz switch women’s cycling jacket

Proviz’s ultra reflective jackets are our favourite for nighttime riding, particularly in the city: in testing, our reviewer noticed a remarkable improvement in driver behaviour when she wore it reflective-side out. The “switch”, a reversible jacket with one ultra reflective and one normal side, solves the only issue we ever had with Proviz jackets by letting you swap to a less effervescent coat during the day, or if you’re popping into a shop. It’s completely water and windproof, like the original, and somehow manages to stay breathable.

Buy now £99.99, Proviz

Gore Wear women’s active jacket

A seriously durable, well-fitted jacket that’s ideal for autumn and spring riding. The slightly closer fit of this jacket makes it ideal for speedy commuters or casual competitors – but it isn’t aggressively snug, either, so it’s perfectly comfortable for a weekend ride or a shopping trip. If you want to wear it in winter over a padded jacket or more than one base layer, it’s best to size up. Gore Wear is the market leader in wind and waterproof kit, and we rode through a downpour in this jacket, fully zipped up, without either breaking a sweat or seeing any water leaking in through zips or seams.

Buy now £189.99, Gore Wear

Lululemon pack it down jacket

Making a down jacket that’s suitable for cycling is an art: moisture is down’s worst enemy, and when you’re riding, that can come from the road, the sky, or from you. We (anxiously) tested this stylish, snuggly jacket in heavy rain and it was absolutely fine – the outer is water resistant, and the rain ran right off it. Featuring the same goose down fill power as some of our sleeping bags, it is a lifesaver on cold winter rides and late nights – and packs down beautifully, so you can stow it when the sun comes out. The hood is a glorious touch, but is removable if you find it gets in the way of your backwards glances in traffic.

Buy now £168.00, Lululemon

dhb MTB trail hooded softshell jacket

While it’s designed to take the worst that rough offroading can throw at you, this cool MTB jacket looks at home on city streets. It’s got a slightly more tailored fit than we expected, but isn’t tight; it is gloriously warm, with well-fitted sleeves and a secure zip to keep the wind and rain well out. It has plenty of pockets – enough for keys, a mask and a phone, or gels if you’re on a longer ride. Its mesh-lined pockets convert into vents if you’re riding hard or the weather warms up. Great weatherproof performance for the price.

Buy now £95.00, Wiggle

Pearl Izumi rove barrier jacket

One of the most stylish jackets we tested, this rainproof jacket is among the least aggressively “athleisure” options we found: as well as riding in it, we took it to restaurants and out for socially-distanced drinks. It’s tailored without being tight, with a low profile hood that stays out of your eyeline when you’re riding, and a tail panel you can deploy from the back if you’re worried about splashback from the road. It’s very comfortable and flexible, particularly given it’s so weatherproof and technical, and we loved the two-way zip – perfect for some extra ventilation when the weather improves.

Buy now £129.99, Freewheel

Madison Stellar reflective jacket

A dazzlingly bright reflective jacket that’s perfect for commuting and urban riding. One of our favourite jackets to throw on in really bad weather, it cinches in around the waist and zips up snug around the neck to keep even the heaviest rain and wind out. The seams are absolutely watertight, even in the worst weather we tested, but the jacket somehow manages to avoid boiling you: the rear vent and underarm vents are very effective. The internal pocket is a great and secure option for carrying your phone in the rain, although the accessible front pocket is perfectly waterproof.

Buy now £62.99, Freewheel

Altura nightvision storm jacket

A wonderfully warm jacket that’s ideal for cold winter mornings and nighttime commutes. The slightly more relaxed fit makes it perfect for slipping on over a base layer – we could even get ours on over a down vest – without feeling baggy. The fleece-lined neck was our favourite feature – we didn’t need to wear a buff or scarf underneath, even in very cold weather – and the constellation of reflective dots that cover the arms and shoulders were effective without being too dramatic to wear indoors or during the day.

Buy now £79.99, Altura

Patagonia nano puff

We love cycling in a down jacket when the weather gets really cold: often, the only thing that can get us out from under the duvet is the idea of cycling to work wrapped in another duvet. This snuggly offering is super lightweight, well-fitting and water resistant, everything you want in a winter sports jacket. But best of all are its eco credentials: the down is synthetic (so vegan-friendly), made from recycled polyester, using reduced-emissions technology, all wrapped up in a recycled outer.

Buy now £180.00, Patagonia

The verdict: Women’s cycling jackets

We loved Rapha’s adventure jacket, as it proves that super high-tech kit doesn’t have to look aggressively sporty. Patagonia’s eco-friendly warm down jacket was our top pick for cold, dry days.