Buying a waterproof jacket to help keep you dry on rides needn’t cost a fortune – and our round-up of the best-value waterproof jackets tested by BikeRadar is evidence of that.
Fortunately, budget waterproof jackets are now made with breathable laminates that let water vapour out, so you don’t end up with that boil-in-the-bag feeling when riding.
They’ll often have many of the same features as more expensive waterproof jackets, but may just not have as close a fit (which may be an advantage) or be as compact to stuff in a pocket.
It’s relatively easy to reproof your waterproof cycling gear, so there’s no reason why a budget waterproof jacket shouldn’t last as long as a flashy number, if you look after it.
Here’s our pick of the best value waterproof cycling jackets that we’ve reviewed here at BikeRadar, while below is a buyer’s guide to what to look for in a budget jacket.
The best-value waterproof cycling jackets tested by BikeRadar
Troy Lee Designs Shuttle jacket
- £100 (as tested)
- Adequate water resistance for mixed days, but not fully waterproof
- Breathabilty and vents keep things comfortable when working hard
Although it’s not billed as waterproof, the Troy Lee Designs Shuttle jacket offers a decent level of protection for mountain bikers looking to fend off mixed conditions, but who don’t want a full-on waterproof jacket. It would serve commuters and more relaxed roadies well.
The plus side is it’s lighter-weight, easier to carry and breathes well. It’s cut closer than many mountain bike shell jackets, although there’s still room to layer up underneath.
Gill vents at the rear and under the armpits mean you don’t get sweaty. A single rear pocket provides carrying room.
Van Rysel RCR Ultralight Packable jacket
- £45 (as tested)
- Very light and compact
- Not highly waterproof, but fine for showery weather
Decathlon’s Van Rysel brand is geared to performance wear and the Ultralight Packable jacket is exactly what its name says.
The waterproof rating is just 2,000mm though, so it’s showerproof rather than protecting you from a downpour, although we found it fine for a ride of a couple of hours in mixed conditions.
On the other hand, it’s very breathable, augmented by vents, so you don’t end up sweaty. The fit is fairly close, with a little stretch, and there’s no problem with wind noise from flapping fabric. There’s a small side pocket, which is good for keys.
- £80 (as tested)
- High hydrostatic head
- Pixelated fabric gives good all-over visibility
The Altura Firestorm jacket benefits from Altura’s all-over subtle reflectives. These make it really stand out in the dark without hi-vis strips showing everywhere when riding in daylight.
The 15,000mm head and taped seams are impressive in a lower-priced jacket, although breathability isn’t the best.
There’s a single rear pocket that’s larger than a jersey pocket, so there’s a reasonable amount of storage room and the Firestorm folds down to a small package that’s easy to carry.
The semi-fitted cut means there’s room to layer up or wear work clothes underneath, but still avoids windflap.
Decathlon Triban RC500 rainproof jacket
- £39.99 (as tested)
- Decent waterproofing and taped seams
- Stretchy fabric with good breathability
Decathlon has demoted its RC500 jacket, now calling it showerproof rather than waterproof, but it’s still a great budget option and would be our go-to for wet-weather rides.
It isn’t the best option for truly awful conditions, with a hydrostatic head of just 8,000mm, but it’s made of stretchy fabric, so it fits well.
It’s seam sealed and has a waterproof YKK zipper to up its water-resistant credentials. It’s also breathable and includes a front and a rear pocket, plus reflectives and a rear tail that can be hooked up out of the way with a Velcro tab.
It looks and feels like a jacket that should cost much more.
Madison Peloton waterproof jacket
- £90 (as tested)
- Quite a casual cut and no pockets
- Inclined to get sweaty on hard efforts
The Madison Peloton jacket comes with a mid-level waterproof rating of 10,000mm and taped seams.
Although it does a decent job of keeping rain out, it’s inclined to get sweaty inside. The cut is more casual than racy, with a slight drop to the rear hem and enough room to add layers beneath.
You don’t get any pockets, but in compensation the Peloton jacket will roll up to fit in a jersey pocket. The fabric feels durable and the bright yellow and orange colours should ensure visibility.
While the following jackets didn’t score at least four stars in our reviews, they are still worth considering.
Altura Classic Waterproof jacket
- £100 (as tested)
- Very lightweight and compact
- Quite a loose fit, resulting in rustling when riding
The Altura Classic waterproof jacket is lightweight, very compact when not in use and weighs just 115g. Taped seams and 15,000mm waterproofing keep the rain out well.
Its breathability is rated at 15,000g/m², although we did find the Altura Classic got a little damp inside on harder efforts.
Although it feels thin and papery and is noisy when moving, the fabric stood up to use well.
Altura describes the cut as fitted, but there’s actually quite a bit of room, which is good for layering, but a little too much on the sleeves. The cuffs and hem didn’t fit our slim tester closely either.
As with Altura’s other jackets, the fabric is all-over reflective, so you should be noticeable to other road users.
Buyer’s guide to buying a bargain waterproof jacket
If you’re looking for a waterproof cycling jacket, even a low-priced one, the features to look out for are similar to the best waterproof cycling jackets across the price range.
The waterproofing quality of fabrics is measured by the head of water that a swatch of material can hold, measured in mm of water. A high-quality waterproof fabric will have a rating of 20,000mm or more, an intermediate value is between 10,000mm and 20,000mm, while a figure below 10,000mm suggests the fabric should cope with showery weather, but probably not a ride in a sustained downpour.
Alongside the fabric’s waterproof rating, taped seams are important to ensure water can’t get in and get you wet via the stitching.
After that, it’s down to the design of the waterproof jacket. Features such as elastic cuffs are important to stop water from finding its way up your arms. A dropped tail will ensure your rear gets less wet and a high collar will help reduce the amount of water running down your neck.
Waterproof jackets for mountain biking will often have a hood, but road cycling jackets usually omit this in case it interferes with your sideways vision. A commuter jacket may or may not have a hood.
Alongside waterproofing, breathability is important to stop sweat build-up and keep you comfortable. Wearing a non-breathable jacket, you can get as damp from the inside as from the outside.
Most cycling waterproof jackets, even budget ones, are now made of highly breathable fabric. Breathability is measured in grams of water vapour transmitted per square metre of fabric in 24 hours.
Fortunately for comparisons, the numbers come out in a similar range to those for waterproofing, so a highly breathable fabric might transmit 20,000g/m² and a less breathable fabric under 10,000g/m².
You’ll want a jacket that lasts if your financial saving in buying a good-value waterproof jacket is going to be worthwhile.
In general, the fabric on any waterproof jacket should be robust, although it may be more susceptible to tears if you’re riding off-road. It tends to be zips that give way first, so make sure they’re sturdy and have decent-sized pullers that are easy to operate when on the move.
You may find that waterproof fabrics wet out over time, as the outside DWR coating that repels water wears off or gets dirty. Once the face fabric wets out, the breathability will deteriorate, so you may find you’re getting damp inside.
It’s fairly easy to restore the DWR coating by washing and reproofing. Don’t be tempted to wash your waterproof cycling jacket with normal detergent because this will leave hydrophilic residues on the fabric that increase wetting out. Never use fabric conditioner. Always use specialist outdoor kit cleaning products such as those from Nikwax or Grangers.
Often, you won’t want to wear your waterproof jacket for your whole ride, so look at how packable it is. It’s less of an issue if you’re carrying a backpack or luggage, but if you’re relying on your jersey pockets, the ability to stash your jacket in one pocket, or less than a whole pocket, will give you room for the other extras you need to carry.
If it’s raining, you’ll be less easy for drivers to see, so it’s a good idea to look for reflectives on a value cycling jacket. Altura majors on these, but most brands will offer some hi-vis elements. A bright-coloured jacket is a smarter investment than a black one in this respect, even if it has smaller reflective areas.