Finding just the right jacket for bike commuting has been quite an expensive and tricky thing for me to do. That’s why I am writing this post: so you don’t have to go through the same hassle as me!
Key Points When Looking for a Bike Commuting Jacket
The problem is that most “cycling jackets” are little more than another waterproof jacket with a slight change in the design to help you cycle. Unfortunately, this is not going to be enough to give you peace of mind when bike commuting on a regular basis at rush hour.
As I’ve started to do more research, I’ve seen the designs of cycling jackets change dramatically over the last 5 or so years in one key area: visibility.
The key improvement has been making cycling jackets far more reflective, which is why I recommend the Proviz Men’s Nightrider waterproof cycling jacket for bike commuting. This jacket offers fantastic visibility in the form of a top half of reflective panels, while also having the fluorescent yellow color for the daylight hours.
Although the Proviz Reflect 360 waterproof cycling jacket offers almost total reflectivity, many buyers have noted its strange cut and lessened breathability, likely due to the entire covering of reflective material on the jacket. It’s certainly a well-made jacket for the safety conscious, but I feel that its tailoring and slightly lower level of comfort compared to the Nightrider jacket makes it a little less appealing to the everyday rider. Added to this is the fact that it costs more than the Nightrider jacket, making it more expensive for a potentially worse-fitting item.
A good budget option that still has waterproof qualities and reflectivity is the Mountain Warehouse 360 waterproof cycling jacket.
Top 3 Jackets for Bike Commuting
- Proviz Men’s Nightrider Waterproof Reflective Jacket
- Proviz Reflect 360 Waterproof Jacket
- Mountain Warehouse 360 Waterproof Jacket
Bear in mind that, when choosing a jacket for bike commuting, you will want to get one that will allow you to get the maximum use out of it since they are more expensive than a standard waterproof jacket, or even a running jacket, so those extra few dollars will mean that you need to
By this, I mean one that fits well. An ill-fitting jacket for any activity is going to be a frustrating garment to use regularly so prioritizing the right fit should be among your top concerns. Fortunately, most cycling brands are aware of this and post detailed descriptions of their jackets’ dimensions including sleeve length, chest size and more. It’s definitely worth looking at the details here before taking the plunge with a jacket for bike commuting.
Limits of Bike Commuting Jackets
It’s also worth noting that bike commuting jackets each have their limits. If you go for a non-waterproof thermal layer for bike commuting, then clearly you’ll need to either get soaked or have another jacket for rainy days. By contrast, if you opt for a fully waterproof jacket for your ride to work, something I strongly recommend, then you will have a bit of a hotter ride as, although these jackets are designed to be ‘breathable’, they still have an insulating effect which makes you feel warmer when riding.
Another key limitation of cycling jackets is that of those with hi-viz colors and those with reflective panels or detail, as will be explained below.
Hi-Viz and Reflective: NOT the Same!
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere many times on this site, hi-viz and reflective clothing are not the same thing and each has its own benefits. In terms of bike commuting jackets, you ideally want a mixture of both reflective and hi-viz. This is because hi-viz clothing might help you to stand out a little more on the roads during daylight, while reflective detail on your jacket helps you to be more visible to drivers and other motorists at night or in low-light conditions.
One reason why I have recommended the Proviz Nightrider jacket over the Reflect 360 jacket is because that Nightrider has both hi-viz and reflective elements and that having a bit less of the reflectivity seems to make it more breathable and comfortable as a result.
Remember that hi-viz clothing is no more visible than normal clothing at night, so it is definitely limited there. On the flip side, reflective clothing does not stand out visually in the same way during the day. With these two points considered, think about your commute and the light conditions during the times you will be cycling on the roads (or even nearby). If you will be doing most of your riding in low-light and dark conditions, then going for a reflective jacket should be your priority whereas cycling most in daylight means it is likely that you will want some hi-viz elements to your bike commuting jacket.
Why Price Matters
I must confess that I was a bit shocked when I first started researching a jacket for bike commuting a good few years back. I thought the prices were inflated for what was, to my mind, ‘just another waterproof jacket’. Looking back, after several years of bike commuting and 4 different jackets, I can see the reasons behind the heightened prices and would say that it is worth the investment overall.
The main differences between cycling jackets and normal sports/waterproof jackets are in the small details. For example, a cycling jacket is tailored to be lower at the back to allow you to hunch forward in a riding position without exposing the bottom part of your shirt/blouse underneath it to the elements (and getting wet/dirty!). This is also the same in the chest as riding a bike means that your arms will be in a slightly stretched position, making the chest area a little larger than in other active jackets. I can also say that I tried buying a budget jacket for my bike commute and it simply was not comfortable enough in the chest area to make it something that I would use on a regular basis.
Top Tips for Getting the Right Jacket for Your Bike Commute
So, as a quick summary, remember the following when choosing the right bike commuter jacket for your ride to work:
- Check the detailed dimensions of the jacket to make sure it is the best fit for your body shape
- Think about getting a balance of hi-viz and reflective elements to maximize your visibility to other roads users
- Or go all reflective if most of your riding will be in the dark or twilight hours
- Don’t go super cheap as it might be uncomfortable, not visible or just not last you very long