It’s tempting to hit Zwift as soon as the clocks go back and the temperature drops, but while indoor cycling apps might allow you to train consistently without having to worry about the weather, you’ll be missing out on the adventure and sense of achievement of a challenging outdoor ride (not to mention the coffee and cake). There’s also the camaraderie of the club run combined with the mental toughness that only ‘real’ winter riding can bring.
It goes without saying that you’ll need a good jacket if you’re going to ride rather than hide, and the good news is that the best technical fabrics offer not only insulation from the cold but also water repellency, wind proofing and breathability.
In fact, the top brands are so confident that their jackets can keep you warm and dry in a wide range of temperatures and conditions that they’re claiming you don’t need anything else – a “one jacket solution” with no separate hardshell necessary.
And they’re super stylish too. Not so long ago a softshell winter jacket was Michelin Man-like in its bulk and had the water resistance of a sponge. Now, using the latest lightweight, stretchy, three-layer fabrics with breathable waterproof membranes and durable water repellent (DWR) coatings, they are close-fitting and comfortable like jerseys, and although it’s still a good idea to refer to each one’s waterproof rating, they will keep you dry in all but the heaviest rain.
We tested the top brands’ winter jackets from when the leaves first started turning brown up to just short of the first snowfall – and at that point you’d be wise to hit Watopia instead.
Santini Adapt Multi
Super capable softshell for colder conditions that will take anything winter throws at it
The Adapt Multi is, in Santini’s words, “incredibly versatile… designed to fit and feel like a jersey but it works like a jacket.” I’d agree with all of that.
It’s made from Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric, a stretchy, breathable, waterproof and windproof softshell fabric. It’s a three-layer laminate with a 'hydrophobic' outer, a polyurethane breathable membrane and a soft, grid-patterned inner that has a waterproof rating of 5,000mm (the minimum height of a water column standing on the fabric before it penetrates) which is more water resistant than fully waterproof.
Polartec doesn’t use PFAS ‘forever chemicals’, yet claims that in its testing Power Shield Pro is on a level with ePTFE fabrics that are made with soon-to-be-banned PFAS. It’s also created in a Bluesign-certified facility, denoting responsible and sustainable manufacturing and the membrane is made from sustainably farmed bio-materials.
The Adapt Multi’s seams are all taped, including the ones down the sides and inside the sleeves and not just forward-facing ones. There’s no separate cuff fabric, avoiding the risk of extra seams leaking.
I’m 178cm and 69kg and went with the size M, which fitted perfectly. Two years ago I found the Santini Vega Multi jacket – also made from Power Shield Pro – had sleeves that were a little short, a body a little too long and pockets on the small side, but with the new Adapt Multi Santini has fixed all this: it is shorter and more flattering on the torso but with longer sleeves that don’t leave a gap when reaching forward to the bars, and the pockets are higher and deeper.
According to Santini the Adapt Multi works in conditions from 1-10°C. At the top end of that range you just need a summer base layer and, because this jacket is very warm, probably some extra venting via the two-way zip, which has a big ring-shaped puller that’s easy to grab with gloves.
For deep winter, with an extra insulating layer underneath and the snug, high collar zipped right up it will easily go down to zero. I’ve been really impressed with the Adapt Multi. It has the performance and the looks – I can’t fault it.
Weight 343g (size M)
- Very warm
- Good breathability
- Form-fitting cut
Castelli Alpha Doppio Ros Jacket
An exceptional, masterfully constructed jacket that will become a go-to item in your winter wardrobe. But it comes at a price
The Alpha Doppio RoS jacket updates the previous Alpha RoS 2 and “provides better weather protection than ever”, according to Castelli. The jacket should keep out the “majority of rain and all wind, while also offering comfort and breathability”, said the brand, thanks to the Gore Tex Infinium outer layer paired with the Polartec Alpha Direct inner layer.
The inner layer, a fleece-like zip layer sewn into the jacket, certainly begs questions when you show it to people, but I found it to be really effective. While it helped maintain the jacket’s snug fit, it was also impressively effective at keeping you warm. That being said, with an extremely mild winter so far in the UK I perhaps did not experience the full effect of this layer, and on a few occasions had to undo it to allow a bit more air to flow through.
What the UK winter has had however is rain, and the outer of the jacket has been superb at keeping the rain off. In very heavy showers I have continued to pair it with a rain jacket, but overall it’s perfect for any showers or short downpours you might encounter. After a few washes it hasn’t deteriorated either, but it will be interesting to see how it continues to perform in the long-term.
I really love the fit of the Alpha Doppio Ros Jacket. At 193cm and 83kg, I chose a size large, which fit perfectly for me with a close-fitting racing cut that wasn’t overly restrictive. There’s some lovely details which make this jacket stand out too. The sleeves are an ideal length anyway, but a dual cuff at the wrists allows you to fit the inner layer under your gloves and prevent any gaps appearing and drafts getting in. The jacket also features a high neckline with a fleeced collar to add extra warmth, as well as a silicone seam around the bottom of the jacket to prevent it riding up.
The pockets are maybe slightly on the small side but are easily accessible, though there is no zip lock pocket at the rear. Instead, there is a small zip pocket at the front of the jacket. This was ideal for anything small, like keys, to go in, but I would hesitate to put too much in here and create a bulge around the front of my torso.
Overall, the Alpha Doppio Ros was my favourite of the jackets I tested. An exceptional, comfortable fit and great performance meant I reached for this jacket first a lot of the time. At £350, it’s more expensive than many of the competitors here, but for the money you’ll have a superb jacket that should last many winters.
- Excellent fit
- Very warm
- Quality construction
Sportful Fiandre Pro
A stretchy, lightweight softshell jacket with one of the best performance-to-weight ratios out there
Lightweight, breathable, stretchy and waterproof Polartec NeoShell makes the Fiandre Pro Sportful’s “most advanced” version in its Fiandre winter clothing collection.
It’s only 26g heavier than Le Col’s Pro Rain Jacket II but is an all-rounder garment that works in the wet or the dry.
NeoShell is lighter than the Polartec Power Shield used for Santini’s Adapt Multi and has a higher waterproof rating (10,000mm), but no brushed inner, so doesn’t feel quite as insulating and isn’t aimed at the same cold conditions. Sportful says 5°C upwards.
The size medium was perfect for me (178cm, 69kg). The Fiandre Pro is designed to be close fitting like a jersey and it’s cut so that it doesn’t pull in any one place in the on-bike position, with the sleeves staying down over the wrists even with arms stretched forward to the bars.
The fit is one of the great things about it. The length is perfect - high enough at the front so that it doesn’t bunch, and with a stretchy drop tail that’s subtle and black (regardless of the main jacket colour) to blend in with tights.
The three rear pockets are a good size but thanks to the elasticity of NeoShell there’s no sag when they’re loaded. There’s no zipped valuables pocket, but the Fiandre Pro is all about being as minimal as possible while providing maximum protection.
I rode it down to around 5°C with a winter base layer and up to 15°C with a summer one. A great deal of UK riding either side of summer takes place within this range. Basically, as soon as it’s cool enough for arm and leg warmers the Fiandre Pro can be deployed, and it’s only when it starts to get really Baltic that you’ll need something more substantial.
NeoShell does wet out in heavy rain: after around an hour, water got through to my shoulders and fronts of my arms. However, lighter showers and spray bead off. It’s true that NeoShell can feel a little cold against the skin at first compared with Power Shield Pro. It doesn’t have the cosy lining for trapping body heat in – but once you’re pedalling and generating heat, equilibrium is quickly reached.
This jacket is truly small but mighty and packs one of the best performance-to-weight ratios out there.
Weight: 258g (size M)
- Comfortable, flattering fit
- Great weather protection
- Wets out in heavy rain
Maap Training Winter Jacket
A simple, durable, and effective winter jacket that does exactly what it promises
What I’ve loved about the Maap kit I’ve tested in the past is its uncomplicated approach. Not just in the aesthetic of much of its range, but also in understanding exactly what it is offering, and more importantly, backing that up with performance.
The Training Winter Jacket is no different. Designed to be a waterproof, windproof, and breathable jacket, it also comes with a feeling of practicality in its more relaxed fit and large storage pockets for winter riding.
It more or less ticks all these boxes. Outwardly, the jacket features a simple block colour design with two Maap logos. As usual with Maap, there’s an impressive range of colours on offer. The fit in a size large was snug enough but certainly not a racing-fit, and there’s room to layer up in extra cold conditions should you need to. With jackets like this I often worry about excess material under the arms or around the torso, but I didn’t find that to be the case here. The Training Winter Jacket has a good length too, and the elasticated silicon gripper at the back keeps it firmly in place.
I’m used to layering up slightly thinner layers than opting for an all-out winter jacket like this, so it does have a certain bulkiness about it compared to some of the other jackets in this guide.
There’s some nice functional touches added to the jacket. The trio of fleece-lined rear pockets are deep and easy to access, offering plenty of storage for long winter rides. There’s also an additional waterproof zip pocket at the rear too, so you can ensure your phone or valuables don’t get a soaking. That zip, like the coat’s main zip, is a YKK Aquaguard to ensure the weather stays out. I like this idea, though it did make it a little bit stiffer than a regular zip and marginally more difficult to open while riding. It is a two-way zip too, which I found useful when trying to access a layer beneath.
In terms of performance the Maap Training Winter Jacket is very warm and expertly adept at keeping the elements at bay. I found the soft inner and more relaxed fit made it one of the most comfortable jackets I tested. The breathability was good, although I think it came into its own at slightly colder temperatures than the 10 degrees Maap has suggested. Anything slightly above 10 degrees I found I did overheat and sweat much more noticeably.
At £270 it stands as a big investment, but I found the Maap Training Winter Jacket one of the most durable I tested. That, combined with simple good looks, means it should stand the test of time.
- Looks good
- Deep pockets
- Comfortable fit
- Breathability could be better
Velocio Signature Softshell
High-quality, well-thought-out and super stylish garment from SRAM’s clothing label
Velocio says the Signature Softshell is a “one-jacket solution to winter riding” and claims it’s suitable for temperatures from 0-10°C. Like the Santini Adapt Multi, this jacket is aimed more at cold winter days than wet ones, though its fabric will fend off showers like all DWR-coated softshell jackets.
It’s made from a proprietary three-layer Velocio/eVent membrane fabric that the brand rates 8/10 for water resistance and 7/10 for breathability. It’s not as stretchy as the Polartec fabrics that the Santini and Sportful jackets are made from, so the Velocio incorporates elastic panels at the waist and cuffs to ensure a wrinkle-free fit.
On the subject of fit, I went for the small, as recommended by Velocio’s size chart and it fitted me (178cm, 69kg) exactly. It’s not as form-fitting as the Santini or the Sportful due to the lack of stretch, particularly on the arms and the collar, but the ergonomic cut – ie the way it fits in the on-bike position – is exceptionally good, with the short front zip unbunched and no dragging on the shoulders.
The zip is a double one so that you can ventilate from the bottom if you wish, and the tactile puller can be operated easily with full-finger gloves. There are the standard three pockets at the rear, which are well placed, high and deep enough, plus an extra zipped Napoleon pocket at the front
At around the same weight as the Santini, the Velocio performs similarly well in cold conditions, and thanks to the slightly roomier arms and neck you can extend its range further as I did by wearing a mid-layer like Velocio’s Alpha Long Sleeve, which is made from cosy Polartec Alpha fleece and Merino wool, and stay warm when it’s really cold.
The Signature Softshell will keep you dry in showers, but in heavy rain the eVent fabric wets out, and since the seams aren’t taped there’s more water ingress at the panel joins. Velocio says it will “ward off all but the most torrential downpours” and that’s a fair summing up.
A high-quality, well-performing and super stylish garment that works superlatively well in cold, dry conditions.
Weight: 358g (size S)
- Nice cut with space for a mid layer
- Quality look and feel
- Seams aren’t taped
Pas Normal Studios Men's Essential Thermal Jacket
A stylish and well made jacket that suffers from fit issues
Pas Normal Studios may be one of the relatively new kids on the block when it comes to the mass market, but it's already forged a reputation for producing stylish and high-functioning cycling kit.
The brand’s Essential Thermal Jacket is no different. It looks great with its block colourway and front and rear logos, while it is clearly excellently put together. The outer Polartec fabric is soft to the touch and the fleeced-lined inner is warm and comfortable. The internally taped seams and high neck collar are well made for keeping the weather out, while a longer tail at the rear meant my rear kept a bit cleaner on rides without mudguards.
But what I think this jacket does best is breathability. Two zipped side vents under the arms and what Pas Normal calls a “grid backing” to the jacket made one the better ventilated jackets I tested. I never felt significantly overheated, and appreciated the ability to be able to increase ventilation if I needed to.
The pockets on the rear weren’t quite as large as the Maap jacket, but were on par with the other jackets I tested. The elasticated top was great at ensuring items stayed put, but combined with the slightly narrower shape of the pockets I did struggle to get my hand in when wearing winter gloves.
However, as much I loved the performance features of the Essential Thermal Jacket, I felt it was let down by the fit. I chose a size large and found it to be an ideal length and around the chest and lower torso was happy with the fit. But I did find there to be excess material under the armpits and around the arms in general, while I felt the length of the arms was excessive. I’m unsure if sizing down would solve this issue as I assume I would find the body fit too tight. This might be amenable given the stretchiness of the fabric, but I think it would leave little room for layering up.
At £340 it’s an expensive jacket, but you are getting one of the most stylish brands around right now and a well crafted winter jacket. But I would triple check sizing to ensure the right fit is available for you.
- Looks great
- Quality construction
- Fit should be better
Le Col Pro Rain Jacket II
Le Col’s ‘fastest’ rain jacket is designed to keep you riding while your rivals wait for the rain to stop
British brand Le Col bills the Pro Rain Jacket II as “designed to wear from the off, when conditions are set to remain wet and testing for the entirety of your ride.” It’s a softshell that’s designed to work as a packable rain jacket and is made from a three-layer stretch membrane fabric that's similar in weight to Polartec NeoShell, though is slightly stiffer, and has the same 10,000mm water column rating.
Le Col says the Pro Rain Jacket II “packs down to easily fit in your jersey pocket should conditions change” and to this end its construction is minimal with no rear pockets.
It doesn’t pack down quite as small as a lightweight Shakedry-style pure rain jacket but if you don’t mind a hump which may or may not improve your CdA, it’s doable. And besides, Shakedry is now discontinued since it was made with forever chemicals. This jacket is PFAS free.
The fit of the Le Col jacket (size S for me at 178cm and 69kg) was spot on. Like all the premium jackets here, it’s carefully designed for the bike position with a shorter front zip, sleeves that don’t leave chilly gaps when reaching forward to the bars and a dropped tail for extra coverage. The cuffs are tight fitting, supplying a good tight seal against the chill, and the collar is also just right – keeping out draughts without throttling the wearer.
Le Col’s description set my expectations high: I found the Pro Rain Jacket didn’t quite live up to its billing. On a 1.5-hour ride in heavy rain the drops stopped beading on the surface and the fabric wetted out. At home I was able to induce the same wetting out by running it under the tap. On a showery ride it held up fine, and as a windproof shell it also works.
I’ve been told by another cycling apparel brand that with manufacturers moving away from PFAS-based fabrics in preparation for the forthcoming ban, we can’t expect the same level of performance from more eco-friendly membranes and DWRs.
A great-fitting, great-looking jacket, but its performance in rain is no better than that of the other waterproof softshell jackets here.
Weight: 232g (size S)
- Great fit
- All seams taped
- Chic looks
- Wets out in heavy rain
- No pockets
Isadore Alternative Insulated Jacket
Snug jacket for milder winter days from the Slovakian brand with a big sustainability focus
Isadore is the brand set up by former Slovakian pros Peter and Martin Velits. Its Alternative collection – which includes this jacket – is made from recycled materials in keeping with the brand’s commitment to being as environmentally friendly as possible.
Designed for “high-tempo rides in cold and dry weather conditions,” the front, shoulders and top of the sleeves are made from windproof, water-repellent Pertex Quantum Air with an insulating layer of fleecy Polartec Alpha Direct insulation underneath. On the back and insides of the sleeves is what Isadore describes as a “high-density recycled fabric to prevent unwanted heat leaks.”
The Pertex outer layer is treated with a PFAS-free DWR, but Isadore is clear that this isn’t a rain jacket and doesn’t supply a waterproof rating.
There are three good-sized back pockets at the rear plus one zipped compartment, and a zipped Napoleon pocket at the front. The zips, pullers and silicone tape around the bottom hem are also made from recycled materials.
The size S should have been the right size for me (178cm, 69kg) but the cut didn’t quite suit my body shape. For an ideal fit I needed more of a superhero V-shaped torso with wider shoulders, a larger neck and a narrower waist. However, even though the two-way zip was stretched around the waist it stayed closed when riding, and the softness of the fabric means that more material at the shoulders wasn’t noticeable.
At 10°C with just a summer base layer underneath it was ideal. Breathability is excellent and the jacket was dry at the end of the ride. For chillier riding I did notice that for me the collar was a little gappy compared to the Santini Adapt Multi’s, but that’s down to individual fit. Additionally, the Pertex front is not as windproof as the Polartec fabrics used by the Santini and Sportful jackets here.
For wet rides you’d need a dedicated rain jacket over the top, and since the Isadore Alternative is so lightweight this would work very well, without it feeling overly bulky.
Incidentally, Isadore does have the Signature Deep Winter Softshell jacket that would cover colder or wetter rides, but for most shoulder-season riding in conditions that aren’t too extreme, the Alternative Insulated Jacket is a great choice.
Weight: 258g (size S)
- Polar Alpha fleece feels cosy
- Surprisingly light
- Quirky colours
- Narrow waist and wide shoulders not for everyone
Cover image courtesy of Castelli