Best waterproof jackets for road cycling and commuting 2020 | 15 tried and tested by our experts

The best cycling jackets for road cyclists and commuters

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Best waterproof jackets for cyclists

Although we’re always hoping for a wet Paris-Roubaix, we’ll acknowledge that riding in the rain isn’t generally a pleasant activity. But unless you live in a desert, it’s an unavoidable fact of life for most cyclists.

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Luckily for you, we’re happy to put in the hard miles to find the best waterproof jackets for road cycling.

Old advice might have been to toughen up – a baggy, ‘boil in the bag’ rain cape would soak you through with sweat anyway – but waterproof fabrics have evolved massively over the past few years, and the holy grail of waterproofness and breathability isn’t the impossible combination it once was.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best waterproof jackets for cycling in 2020.

Our expert testers have ridden in all conditions to bring you great options for both road cycling and commuting. So, no matter what kind of riding you do, you’re sure to find something that will suit your needs.

Best waterproof cycling jackets in 2020

  • Gore C5 Shakedry 1985 Viz: £250 / $300 / AU$360
  • Castelli Idro 2: £300 / $300 / €270
  • Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II: £165 / $224.99 / €199.99
  • Lusso Aqua Pro Extreme: £165 / $215 / €197 / AU$325
  • Madison Apex Waterproof Storm Jacket: £135
  • Madison Road Race Premio: £120
  • Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Gore-Tex Shakedry: £220 / $295 / €260
  • Sportful Stelvio: £270 / $299 / AU$463
  • Altura Firestorm Waterproof: £80 / €100
  • Decathlon Triban RC500 Rainproof: £40 / €50
  • dhb Aeron Rain Defence Polartec: £130 / $180 / €160
  • Castelli Gabba 3: £160 / $179 / AU$230
  • Métier Beacon: £250
  • POC AVIP rain: £295 / $300  / €350
  • Santini Vega Multi Jacket: £220 / $322 / €240

Gore C5 Shakedry 1985 Viz

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Gore’s C5 Shakedry 1985 Viz addresses many of the issues we had with the original jacket
Gore’s C5 Shakedry 1985 Viz addresses many of the issues we had with the original jacket.
Immediate Media
  • £250 / $300 / AU$360
  • Fixes many of the issues with the original jacket
  • Ludicrously light and breathable
  • Weighs 134g

Made from Gore’s now-legendary Shakedry material, the C5 Shakedry 1985 Viz jacket is an update to the original model and addresses many of the issues we had with that jacket.

The new model is available in a range of high-vis colours, is ridiculously light, has unrivalled breathability and it’s better than the old one – what’s not to love?

Castelli Idro 2

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Black waterproof road cycling jacket with red trim from Castelli
The Idro 2 is a minimalist jacket with a more fitted cut.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £300 / $300 / €270
  • Amazingly waterproof and breathable
  • Race cut
  • Weighs 105g

As with other Shakedry jackets, the combination of low weight, packability, total waterproofness and excellent breathability never fails to impress.

Castelli’s version distinguishes itself with its excellent race cut and smart features, such as the pull tag extension added to the zip to aid in use while wearing winter gloves.

The only drawback is the price, but racers that demand the best won’t be disappointed.

Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II
The three-layer ExoShell40 fabric with sealed seam construction is brilliantly waterproof.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £165 / $224.99 / €199.99
  • Robust, breathable waterproof jacket
  • Good price
  • Weighs 175g

Endura uses a more traditional three-layer fabric for its Pro SL Shell Jacket II. This does add a little weight, but also means it feels more robust and is available in colours other than black.

Waterproofing and breathability is excellent, and our tester found the fit spot on too, with no excess material flapping in the wind.

£165 / $224.99 / €199.99 isn’t cheap, but compared to other high-end jackets we think Endura’s Pro SL Shell Jacket II offers good value.

Lusso Aqua Pro Extreme

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Waterproof and thermal cycling jacket for road cycling from Lusso
This is Lusso’s cold and wet-weather jacket designed for British riding conditions.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £165 / $215 / €197 / AU$325
  • Versatile design
  • Designed for tough UK conditions
  • Weighs 405g

The Aqua Pro Extreme is a different type of jacket to most on this list, rather than focusing on absolute waterproofness and packability, it prioritises protection from foul weather of all kinds.

There are compromises, such as increased bulk and reduced waterproofness in absolute terms, but it makes massive gains in versatility.

It’s possible this jacket could handle almost everything the weather throws at you from autumn through to spring.

Madison Apex Waterproof Storm Jacket

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Waterproof jacket in orange from Madison for road cycling
The Apex is finished with subtle reflective details to help keep you seen.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £135
  • Ideal for truly horrible days
  • True to size
  • Weighs 445g

Madison’s Apex Waterproof Storm Jacket is a heavyweight waterproof jacket designed to be worn in the worst conditions. Its waterproof rating of 20,000mm is impressive for the price and breathability is solid too.

It’s not a packable jacket, but that also means it can stand up to a lot more abuse, so there’s less need to worry about wearing a backpack or taking it off-road.

Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Gore-Tex Shakedry jacket

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Rapha Gore-Tex Pro Team Lightweight
The Pro Team Lightweight is Rapha’s take on Gore-Tex’s Shakedry shell.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media
  • £220 / $295 / €260
  • Proven Gore-Tex Shakedry performance
  • Good fit and competitively priced
  • Weighs 125g (medium)

Surprisingly, Rapha’s Shakedry jacket is actually cheaper than much of the competition, which is a boon when you consider how impressive this package is.

As with other Gore-Tex Shakedry jackets, Rapha’s is lightweight, completely waterproof and impressively breathable.

The cut is also very good, and Rapha’s understated styling looks great too (as long as you’re happy with black).

Sportful Stelvio

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Sportful Stelvio has a proper race fit
The Sportful Stelvio has a proper race fit.
Immediate Media
  • £270 / $299 / AU$463
  • Proper race fit
  • Chunky hard-wearing zip
  • Weighs 165g

The Stelvio is Sportful’s lightweight and robust waterproof, and was originally developed in conjunction with Team Tinkoff for racing and intense training in foul weather.

The jacket is made with RainWick fabric, which was developed specifically for Sportful in Japan.

The Stelvio has a claimed hydrostatic head of 20,000mm – the measured height of a column of water the jacket can hold before it seeps through the material – and this was reflected in our experience out on the road.

The race fit means that most will have to size up unless you want a really close cut, but this also makes it a great choice for more lithe racers.

Altura Firestorm Waterproof

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Altura Firestorm Waterproof jacket
The Firestorm is a lightweight small-packing waterproof with taped seams.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £80 / €100
  • Clever reflective print
  • Excellent value
  • Weighs 110g

Altura’s Firestorm Waterproof jacket doesn’t have the highest spec in the world, but at under £100 it’s 15,000mm waterproof rating is competitive and breathability is good enough for all except the hardest of efforts.

Its standout feature is the clever reflective print that covers the whole of the jacket. It goes almost unnoticed during the day, but makes the jacket glow like a beacon when light hits it at night.

Ashmei Waterproof

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Ashmei waterproof jacket is stretchier than most
The Ashmei waterproof jacket is stretchier than most.
Dave Caudrey / Immediate Media
  • £238 / $258
  • Super-stretchy fabric
  • Well made
  • Weighs 240g

Ashmei might be a relatively new name to the cycling world, but this super stretchy-waterproof did not disappoint during testing.

The jacket is made from an extremely thin (7 microns!) fabric that is stretchier than most – a good thing given the cut of the jacket is relatively racy.

Uniquely, the jacket features three jersey-style pockets on the back. These feature drain holes, so shouldn’t cause any issues in wet weather.

Decathlon Triban RC500 Rainproof

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Decathlon Triban RC500 Rainproof jacket
The smart-looking RC500 is well cut from a stretchy waterproof, windproof and breathable fabric.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £40 / €50
  • Low price
  • Solid performance
  • Weighs 280g

Decathlon has really outdone itself with the Triban RC500 Rainproof jacket. Out of the box it looks and feels like a jacket costing much more.

It only has a waterproof rating of 8,000mm, so it isn’t the best option for truly horrendous conditions, but for shorter rides and commutes it’s perfectly adequate, and we’ve got no complaints at this price.

dhb Aeron Rain Defence Polartec

4.0 out of 5 star rating
dhb Aeron Rain Defence Polartec
The Aeron Rain Defence is a softshell jacket cut from Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £130 / $180 / €160
  • Warm and breathable
  • Good price
  • Weighs 255g

The dhb Aeron Rain Defence Polartec jacket is a lighter weight jacket made from a triple-layer softshell fabric that offers decent water and wind resistance and exceptional breathability.

It won’t keep you bone dry in a concerted downpour, but on those drizzly, cold days that we seem to get so many of here in the UK, it will keep you warm, dry and comfortable. As usual for dhb, it’s reasonably priced too.

Métier Beacon

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Beacon’s inbuilt lights are more useful than you might imagine
The Beacon’s inbuilt lights are more useful than you might imagine.
Immediate Media
  • £250
  • Inbuilt lights genuinely boost visibility
  • Soft touch lining feels great
  • Weighs 404g

Metiér’s four product lineup is focused solely on jackets and gilets fitted with its signature integrated lighting technology. The Beacon is its all-round shell jacket.

The jacket is easy to live with and comes with a dedicated wash bag and cleaner, alongside extensive care instructions.

Sizing is snug, so pay attention if you can stomach the £250 price tag.

Rapha Commuter

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Rapha Commuter jacket is a relatively affordable offering from the premium British brand
The Rapha Commuter jacket is a relatively affordable offering from the premium British brand.
Immediate Media
  • £100 / $135 / AU$175
  • Feature-packed jacket with smart details
  • Range of bright colour choices (and black)
  • Weighs 280g

Coming in at a surprisingly cheap (for Rapha) price, the Commuter jacket is nevertheless a fully-featured waterproof.

Designed, as the name suggests, for commuting, it’s available in a selection of bold colours – though black is still offered.

Features such as zipped front pockets, a relaxed fit and a hood that can be worn under a helmet, help it stand out from standard road cycling jackets.

The jacket breathes reasonably well thanks to its 2.5 layer fabric and shoulder-width vent, but this isn’t a piece for fast road riding. The dropped tail also offers some protection from road spray and is covered with a reflective print for increased visibility.

Santini Vega Multi Jacket

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Waterproof road cycling jacket in black with orange trim from Santini
It seals well all round with a tall, soft collar and contrasting cuffs.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • £220 / $322 / €240
  • Waterproof softshell
  • Warm and cosy
  • Weighs 325g

The Vega Multi jacket is a do-it-all softshell jacket with a waterproof rating of 5,000mm.

This is at the lower end of the scale for waterproofness, but it’s more of a multi-purpose cycling jacket designed to help you deal with the cold and wind as well, rather than something you only put on when it rains.

Think of it as a classic winter jersey with added waterproofing and it starts to make a lot of sense. As long as it’s not pouring for hours on end, the Vega Multi jacket can keep you warm and comfortable on those long winter rides.

What to look for in a waterproof jacket for road cycling and commuting

A waterproof jacket used to mean a hard-shell garment made from a fabric that felt more like plastic. However, we’re now seeing the rise of the ‘jerket’ or rain jersey.

These are softshell tops that feel like a jersey but use a waterproof membrane or DWR  (durable water repellent) treatment to repel precipitation.

Things would be easier if it were simply a matter of keeping the rain out, but pedalling makes you hot and sweaty, and the heat and moisture you generate needs an escape route.

The trouble is, the properties that allow a waterproof jacket to keep the rain off also make it difficult to deal with the damp building up on the inside.

The ideal solution, therefore, is a cycling jacket that combines being waterproof with breathability, which is difficult, but by no means impossible. Some garments manage it by using advanced materials, others solve the problem by incorporating vents into their designs.

Aside from being waterproof and breathable, it’s worth seeking out a jacket that packs down into a tiny package that’s easy to stow. Better still, if the rain stops, you can take it off and put it away rather than keep wearing it long after it’s done its job.

How waterproof fabrics work

GoreTex, eVent and Windstopper membranes all use a similar construction
GoreTex, eVent and Windstopper membranes all use a similar construction.
GoreTex

Waterproof fabrics are either multi-layer laminate fabrics or regular woven fabrics that get a DWR treatment designed to keep water out. While both achieve the same goal, they work slightly differently.

DWR

Durable water repellent or DWR is your wet weather gear’s first line of defence. It’s not a laminate or coating but a treatment applied to the fabric’s outer surface.

All waterproof garments, except those where the membrane is the outermost surface, receive a DWR finish.

The treatment does not inhibit breathability because it doesn’t fill the gaps between the fibres, instead it bonds the individual fibres to help the garment shed water and prevent saturation.

DWR treatments shed water because they increase the contact angle of moisture on a fabric by forcing a water droplet to maintain its surface tension; so when you see water beading on a fabric, the DWR is hard at work.

When the DWR is applied to a fabric it creates micropegs or microspikes that protrude from the fibres and prevent water from spreading out, forcing it to form beads that slide off the fabric without seeping in.

However, DWR treatments wear off over time, accelerated by abrasions and some detergents. When this happens, the fabric no longer causes water to bead and will become saturated and heavy.

Not to fear, though – refreshing and retreating a garment is simple and there are plenty of spray-on or wash-in options available. Check out our guide on how to rejuvenate your waterproof cycling gear.

Laminate fabrics

Most waterproof breathable fabrics are made from laminate materials, which usually consist of an inner fabric optimised for wicking moisture, a waterproof membrane and an outer face fabric with a DWR treatment.

Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, Polartec and eVent are all internal membranes that are sandwiched between two other materials – usually something abrasion-resistant on the outside, with a soft liner on the inside. Even the Castelli Gabba Jersey is made using a Windstopper laminate fabric.

The reason these lamination techniques allow for water repellent characteristics is that the inner membranes are full of holes. This may seem counterintuitive, but a Gore-Tex membrane boasts nine billion pores, each 1µm – a millionth of a metre – wide per square inch. The holes are big enough to allow water vapour created by sweat evaporation to escape, but are too small for water droplets to sneak through.

These internal membranes are quite fragile, which is why there’s an abrasion-resistant layer on the outside of the garment. This outer layer receives DWR treatment and, as we mentioned before, the problem with DWR treatments is they eventually wash away, causing a jacket to ‘wet out’, meaning the moisture escaping from inside and landing on the outside saturates the outer fabric, clogging the pores of the membrane and eliminating breathability.

When a jacket stops breathing, the moisture your body creates gets trapped inside, creating that unpleasant, steaming-hot sensation.

Most outerwear today is based on this two and a half- or three-layer lamination, but the fabrics and membranes are continuing to evolve and we’re now seeing jackets eliminating the outer fabric.

Pioneered by Columbia with its OutDry fabric, brands have figured out how to toughen up these membranes and eliminated the DWR-treated outer fabric.

We’ve now seen a few cycling specific jackets using versions from GoreTex too, the One Active and Shakedry fabrics, which allow the membrane to be used as an outer ‘beading surface’.

The advantage of these fabrics is they can’t wet-out because there is no face fabric to saturate, and weigh next to nothing and breathe better too.

What to look for when buying a waterproof cycling jacket

Waterproofing

To be officially waterproof a garment has to withstand the pressure of 1,000mm of water without leaking. This test concentrates on jackets that keep moisture managed so you stay warm however foul the forecast.

Usually, this is achieved through an internal membrane like those from Gore-Tex and eVent.

Waterproofness is generally measured in terms of how much water, in mm, can be placed on top of a fabric in a column until it seeps through (though some companies dispute whether this testing method accurately represents real world conditions). In simple terms, bigger numbers ought to mean the garment’s fabric can withstand more water before any leakage occurs.

However, as with anything, the raw numbers don’t always tell the full story. How a jacket is constructed plays a big role too, because water can also get in through poorly sealed seams or zips, or via the collar or sleeves if they don’t fit correctly.

Breathability

It’s no good keeping rain out if you get soaked by sweat from within. Different fabrics have different water vapour transfer rates but cut, lining, membranes and vents all make a significant difference to how dry you stay.

Taping

Taping is used to seal the seams in a waterproof jacket on the inside. It does add bulk and reduce a jacket’s breathability. So some of the jackets in this list trade a bit of seam leakage for a better overall performance.

Care

The worst enemy of your wet-weather gear is your washing machine. Detergents (biological ones especially) strip off waterproof coatings and conditioners clog the pores and fibres that help fabric wick and breath.

Still, it’s important to keep waterproof fabrics clean because dirt and oil can clog membranes (limiting the fabric’s ability to breathe) and degrade DWR treatments, too. Always read washing instructions carefully.

Often overlooked is the outer DWR treatment. If your jacket is wetting-out as described above, there are ways to revive the treatment on your jacket.

Some manufacturers say to throw the garment in the tumble dryer for a few minutes on low to medium heat, others recommend ‘touch ups’ with an iron on the warm setting. Again, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Finally, if the existing DWR treatment can’t be saved you can re-treat it. There are quite a few spray-on and wash-in products available from brands such as Granger’s and Nikwax. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Features

Pockets, hoods and zippered vents might seem like a good idea on a hanger, but not if they make a jacket too bulky to shove in your back pocket. Extra features all add to the cost too.

That said, features such as a dropped tail can protect your bottom from road spray if you don’t have mudguards, and reflective details can help keep you visible in low light, so consider which features you actually need for the type of riding you do.

Visibility

There’s currently no requirement (in the UK at least) for cyclists to wear high-visibility clothing at any time of day or night (front and rear lights are a legal requirement in the UK at night however), but for some it’s an important consideration.

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Whatever your opinion on the subject, it’s always good to have choice and hi-vis doesn’t have to mean fluorescent yellow anymore. Though it was once the case that the majority of waterproof cycling jackets were either clear, black or designed to look like building site safety equipment, many brands now offer waterproof jackets in a variety of bright, dare we say even fashionable, colours.