Waterproof is an easy concept to grasp. Applied to cycling it means water won’t get through, so rain won’t make you wet. But is sealing yourself away the best solution for hard-working cyclists? Not really.
When racing in the wet, riders used to throw a plastic rain cape over themselves until the weather let off. Over time fabrics got better, but the idea remained the same.
Then Italian firm Castelli realised waterproofing might not be the be-all and end-all. After all, a racing cyclist is a different animal to a slow-moving hiker or commuter. What if instead you could protect them via a flexible shell providing water and wind resistance, but still offered some breathability and included the amenities of a regular jersey, like pockets? Something that could also be left on all day...
The answer to this question, nursed into existence thanks to better fabric technology and better thinking, was the Gabba.
Using a Gore-Tex Windstopper membrane and a DWR (Durable Water Resistant) coating it protected from the elements, kept you dry, but it was still versatile enough for hard efforts. Other brands took notice. Some used Gore-Tex, others used other clever permeable membranes and surface treatments, but the effect was the same.
Jettisoning the need for an additional rain jacket, along with the conventional thinking the industry had imported from the outdoors market, this cycling-specific solution is now over a decade old. Having spawned a segment all of its own, the improved simplicity, fit, protection, and comfort of this style continue to make it a hit among racers and amateurs.
They're sometimes called jackets, sometimes jerseys, and in truth garments like this are all simply somewhere in between. It's an ideal sweetspot for the unsettled months of Autumn and Spring.
Here are seven of the best.
Castelli Gabba ROS
£175, Shop Castelli
First into a market it still dominates, Castelli has had plenty of time to refine its Gabba jacket. This fourth iteration has seen the brand secure exclusive dibs on the Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper fabric it developed alongside the American company. Now warmer across the front and more breathable across the rear, this latest Gabba is also more water-repellent than previous versions.
Hyped to the nines by team Ineos, other revisions include the switch to two rear pockets to make access easier for gloved hands, plus the addition of the distinctive external taping that prevents water working in at the shoulders.
In case you were wondering ROS stands for Rain or Shine, which pretty well sums up how the Gabba lets you get dressed without needing to check the conditions first.
Sportful Fiandre Pro Jacket SS
£115, Shop Sportful
Owned by the same parent company and sewn together in the same factory, Sportful is the sibling brand to Castelli. Unsurprisingly, it also makes splendid cycling clothing, although with a more international feel - if indeed that’s possible for a brand that once supplied the Mapei team.
Nowadays, Sportful's race-tested Fiandre Pro Jacket uses Polartec’s clever Neoshell fabric to cram in a puffer jacket's worth of insulation into something that’s still exceptionally light and breathable. With its taped seams doing little to inhibit the fabric’s natural flexibility, it comes in both long and short sleeve variants. Letting you choose between convenience, or versatility, either should be comfortable left on all day in conditions down to around 5°C.
Santini Vega Multi Short Sleeve Jacket
£135, Shop Santini
Another Italian firm, and another race-focused weather-resistant option available with either short or full-length sleeves. Based in Bergamo, over recent season Santini’s Vega jerseys have done a commendable job of protecting the Trek-Segafredo squad. Unsurprisingly, it’s a close-fitting option that’s unlikely to flap about on even the most precipitous of descents.
Using Polartec’s Powershield Pro material, this semi-flexible fabric is waterproof while remaining light and breathable. Made for extended soggy days, the Vega is unusual in being totally waterproof, thanks to all-over seam sealing. With an extended drop-down hem at the back, both this and the collar are lined with fleecy fabric to further lock in heat while providing its wearer something to snuggle against.
Le Col Pro Rain Jersey
£150, Shop Le Col
Given the efficacy of this style of jersey, it’s surprising how few brands actually produce one. Perhaps they’re put off by the investment costs needed to develop such complex garments. Owned by former racer Yanto Barker, either his experience in the peloton or growing up in Carmarthen, seems to have convinced him it was worth investing in something designed specifically for the rain.
To this end, Le Col’s Italian-made Pro Rain Jersey is uniquely designed for intense efforts on warm wet days. Lightweight and close-fitting, its emphasis on breathability and speedy drying means it does without excessive insulation. Besides keeping its wearer protected, alongside its three rear pockets is a waterproof spot for securing your phone – perfect if you need to call up and have the team bus collect you.
ashmei Passoni 3 Season Cycle Jersey
£235, Shop ashmei
Promising the protection of a jacket, the warmth of a mid-layer, and the breathability, comfort and fit of a jersey, this collaboration between British clothing maker Ashmei and Italian bike artisans Passoni could free up a chunk of your wardrobe. Employing a water and wind-resistant fabric, unlike other multi-layer alternatives, this is left unlaminated for enhanced flexibility and vapour transfer.
Further streamlined by details like laser-cut hems on the sleeves, these reduce bulk and improve the jersey’s aerodynamic profile. With a brushed interior, the 3 Season Jersey can be worn next to the skin or paired with a base layer for colder conditions. Coming with fixed full-length sleeves, it’s slightly less suited to wearing into the warmer months, although is a simpler choice to throw on at any other time.
Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall Aero SS Jersey
£240, Shop Assos
Five weather-resistant jerseys in. What’s the common thread? If you said Italy, pat yourself on the back. Italy has the racing heritage, clothing manufacturing know-how, and occasionally stern conditions to dictate the way we cyclists dress. South of the Alps, Assos is actually based in the Italian-speaking province of Ticino, Switzerland, but gets much the same weather. Known for pouring significant research and material development into its products, this Equipe RS jersey is designed for race-level efforts in the conditions that bookend the road season.
Made using the brand’s twinDeck construction, this sees a stretchy and protective outer panel married to a fleecy interior. Allowing its wearer to tailor their temperature without unzipping and spoiling the aerodynamic qualities of the top, twin valves on its shoulders automatically open as you move to the drops. Sucking in oncoming air whenever you hit the front or sprint off, it works without requiring any extra thought on the part of the rider.
dhb Aeron All Winter Softshell Jacket
£100, Shop dhb
One of only two jerseys featured that only comes in a long-sleeve option, this accessibly priced top claims to cover riders for temperatures between almost freezing to just north of ten-degrees Celcius. Made of surprisingly stretchy fabric that nevertheless provides water and wind resistance, the interior of this is divided up into little grids of insulation.
With the wind kept out, but sweaty vapour from the rider magically expelled, this results in a jacket that’s almost always both toasty and dry. Nicely finished, its laser-cut cuffs and a pleasingly structured hem provide both stability and a slimline fit. Finally, a stash pocket on the hip gives you somewhere to squirrel away your snacks, while reflective details help prevent squirrely moments while riding in traffic.