The Cycling Jacket, Your Foul-Weather Friend3 Min Read
There was a time when winter cycling jackets were little more than lightweight rain shells that repelled water but trapped body heat. Or they expelled body heat but didn’t really keep out the rain. Either way, you were going to get wet from sweat or rain—and that meant you were going to get cold. Thankfully, today’s high-tech fabrics allow for functionally brilliant jacket designs that protect you from the environment while still allowing you to ride as hard as you want without the constant threat of overheating. Follow the guide below to find your cold-weather beater.
Cycling Jacket Decision #1 – Stay Warm or Stay Dry?
While today’s cycling jackets are better than ever, they still fall into two broad categories: waterproof cycling jackets and cold-weather cycling jackets.
Waterproof cycling jackets – These have one focus: keep water out. With this singular job, they’re often lighter than cold-weather jackets and can easily be stuffed in a cycling jersey pocket. High-quality versions feature a slim-fitting, aerodynamic cut and waterproof-breathable fabric. By themselves, they can feel a bit underweight for cold, wet days, but that’s by design. A good waterproof jacket should be a flexible part of your winter cycling kit, one that starts with a base layer to keep your skin dry, covered by a long-sleeve cycling jersey to keep you warm, and the cycling jacket on top to block the wind and rain.
Cold-weather jackets – These can be waterproof but are often water resistant. Their number one task is to keep you warm in the cold and wind—and somewhat dry if that rainy forecast actually materialises. Cold-weather cycling jackets use thicker, plusher fabric like soft merino wool to retain heat and a relatively looser fit to go over your cycling jersey. Some jackets feature a combination of materials with a more durable, wind- and rain-resistant fabric on the outside and a soft thermal lining inside for warmth. In extreme cold-weather riding conditions, it’s easy enough to throw a waterproof cycling jacket over a cold-weather jacket for a fourth barrier from the cold.
Cycling Jacket Decision #2 – Wind Protection Matters
Wind is the oft-overlooked evil element that can undo a ride in the frigid winter temps. If that wind gets to any moisture on your skin, whether from perspiration or rain seeping through your kit, it can take all the fun out of your ride. For an example of what we mean, think of a basic fleece jacket. It feels warm and cosy when you’re sitting down, but if a breeze or wind gust hits you, you quickly find out that fleece is useless. The same goes for winter cycling jackets. To keep the wind off your body while still allowing excess body heat to escape involves an intricate dance between strategically placed fabric and weaves, covered or taped seams, and the cycling jacket’s cut—a slimmer, form-fitting design reduces your exposure to wind.
Cycling Jacket Decision #3 – It’s All About the Fit
At first glance, a cold-weather or waterproof cycling jacket may look like any other rain gear you see on a hiking or running trail. They’re not. A proper cycling jacket will have a slimmer cut to reduce aerodynamic drag; tighter fitting, articulated sleeves for the same reason; and a tall, tight-fitting collar that covers the back of the neck. The jacket’s bottom rear will fall significantly lower than its front, low enough to almost cover your rear when you’re on the bike. When cut right, the jacket should fit most comfortably when you’re on your bike with your arms outstretched on the handlebars and torso bent over your legs.
Pro tip: When considering the fit of a cycling jacket, pay attention to how the cuff of the sleeves matches up to your cold-weather cycling gloves. Ideally, you want your cuffs to fit over the gauntlet of your gloves—the bit that wraps around your wrist—leaving no skin exposed.
For a winter cycling jacket that nails all the features above, check out Megmeister’s 4 Seasons Winter Jacket. It uses a three-layer fabric system to keep you warm but not overheated during winter rides. Its merino wool lining retains heat, and its breathable middle membrane layer blocks wind. At the same time, the elastic outer fabric, coated for water-resistance, further shields you from wind and moisture but still allows excess heat to escape. Taped seams contribute to the jacket’s water- and wind-repellent properties. Looking for a compact emergency piece to pull out of your jersey pocket? Megmeister’s Hybrid Wind Vest will help keep your core warm and dry on long, fast descents in frigid temps. Then when you get to the bottom and warm up again, just slip it off and stuff it back in your pocket.
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