This post compares 7 of the best windproof cycling jackets in a chart and brief product reviews, so that you can decide which one is right for you. Every cyclist needs a great windproof jacket tucked in their pannier. They are the perfect mid-weight option for spring and fall cycling, when temperatures are roughly in the 35 – 60°F (2 – 15°C) range. A great windproof cycling jacket will keep you warm and dry while your heart rate is up in windy or damp weather. But it’s important to get a jacket that is lightweight, durable, and does the job. This post is long, so I will outline how it goes. First I have a chart comparing 7 of the best windproof cycling jackets. Then the 7 best windproof cycling jackets are listed, with details about what makes them a good buy. Finally, there is is a whole lot of information, including the answer to the question: What IS a windproof cycling jacket? This includes a table showing the differences between fleece jackets, softshell jackets, and hardshell jackets. Windproof Cycling Jackets are softshell jackets.
Chart Comparing 7 of the Best Windproof Cycling Jackets
|7 Best Softshell Cycling Jackets|
|Yes, thanks to the WIND- STOPPER laminate which is designed to keep wind out and let sweat escape||Cyclists who want to bike comfortably all the way through spring and fall, and have a lot of options to cool down. Also aimed at mountain bikers||Gold standard of softshell cycling jackets. Snug-fitting but comfortable; protects from wind. Zippered Napoleon pocket! Versatile - unzip armpits or remove sleeves||Shell: 100% Polyester; Windstopper Membrane, 100% Polyester; Stretch: 92% Polyester, 8% Elastane Windstopper Membrane, 92% Polyester, 8% Elastane|
|Yes, thanks to the WIND- STOPPER laminate which is designed to keep wind out and let sweat escape||Designed for serious cyclists and commuters who want a versatile softshell for comfortable cycling in the spring and fall||Excellent softshell jacket, comfortable, 4 pockets, zip-off sleeves, and WINDSTOPPER fabric.||Shell outside: 100% polyester/gore WINDSTOPPER membrane inside: 100% polyester/stretch fabric: 85% polyamide/15% elastane.|
|Yes, thanks to the WIND- STOPPER laminate which is designed to keep wind out and let sweat escape||Bike commuters who want a slim fitting, good looking, functional jacket||Extremely highly rated for windproofness; under-arm ventilation; easy to move in even though it is slim-fitting||100% Polyester, Windstopper®Membrane|
|Yes, good breathability thanks to ELITE softshell fabric||Commuter cyclists who want to cycle in comfort in spring and fall||Made from Pearl Izumi’s ELITE softshell fabric; windproof, water resistant, and keeps you warm. Thermal panels. 2 zippered chest pockets; zippered back pocket.||ELITE softshell fabric; 100% Polyester|
|Yes, good breathability||Cyclists who want to ride fast with minimal wind resistance||Dual core vents and upper back vent to keep you ventilated. Form fitting. Zippered cuffs. Good windproofing and water resistant||49% Nylon; 51% Polyester|
|Breathability good as there is no wind- stopping laminate||Cyclists looking for a cheap but warm softshell jacket||Very cheap and popular, no. 1 best seller in men's recreational jackets. 2 zippered pockets.||Lycra and fleece|
|Breathability good as there is no wind- stopping laminate||Commuter cyclists and mountain bikers||High, double layer collar enhances warmth; elastic cuffs; 3 zippered pockets; elastic waistband; 3-layer material||100% nylon; fleece|
I rate the Gore Bike Wear Alp-X 2.0 Soft Shell WINDSTOPPER Jacket as the gold standard of softshells because it offers pretty much everything anyone could want in a softshell cycling jacket. Gore has always led the field in cycling jackets, and this jacket is no exception. First, it protects you from the wind while still offering breathability, thanks to Gore’s WINDSTOPPER laminate. WINDSTOPPER fabrics combine complete windproofness with a lot of breathability. See below in this post for much more information about WINDSTOPPER.
Second, the Gore Bike Wear Alp-X 2.0 Soft Shell Zip-Off Sleeves Windstopper Jacket has all the pockets you need, including a Napoleon (chest) pocket so that you can keep your phone handy. For me, this is vitally important in a cycling jacket. Third, it is incredibly versatile. You can unzip the armpits, and it even has removable sleeves. Who hasn’t had the experience of getting too hot while cycling? Being able to get air to your armpits or even remove the sleeves means you can cool down, while still keeping your core protected and warm. Plus removing the sleeves completely means you have effectively turned a jacket into a vest. Fourth, stretch inserts make it comfy, even though it is close fitting to cut down wind resistance.
Clearly, this is a versatile and effective softshell jacket that is well worth the price. It’s a jacket, jersey and vest all in 1, making it ideal for spring and fall cycling.
Note that there is also an excellent women’s version of the Gore Bike Wear Alp-X 2.0 Soft Shell Zip-Off Sleeves WINDSTOPPER Jacket. However, the sleeves do not come off on the women’s version. Nonetheless, it is very highly rated by users.
This was such an incredibly close second – both of these top two jackets are stellar. Eventually I based the choice on the fact that the Alp-X has a Napoleon pocket for your cell phone. If that doesn’t matter to you, then this no. 2 choice might be your no. 2 choice. The Phantom 2.0 is a much loved softshell cycling jacket that was designed for serious cyclists and commuters who want a versatile softshell for comfortable cycling in the spring and fall. This jacket includes a WINDSTOPPER membrane to keep out wind.
One of the great things about softshell cycling jackets is that you can wear them on or off the bike. That makes the dazzling array of color choices for this jacket really handy – you can pick out a jacket you can happily wear all day, on a hike or on your bike!
The Gore Bike Wear Phantom 2.0 WINDSTOPPER softshell jacket is a great jacket with a comfort cut, which is always a happy surprise in cycling jackets.The front of this jacket is laminated with WINDSTOPPER to keep the wind out, while the rear is much more breathable and lets sweat out. Personally I sweat the heaviest on my back, and especially on bike rides when my chest is cooled by the wind but my back is not, so this is an ideal setup. And of course, the zip-off sleeves option makes this a great choice. You can see how the sleeves zip off in this video:
The arms are long enough to keep your wrists covered, and the tail is long enough to keep your lower back warm. There are 3 stretchy pockets on the back (although there is no front pocket for your phone, which is a problem for me, although it might not be for you). This jacket also offers the versatility of zip-off sleeves, making it an ideal jacket to get you all the way through spring or fall.
In summary, this is a comfy jacket that blocks wind well at speed, while letting you sweat through the back. Once you warm up all over, it is easy enough to take the sleeves off and stuff them into the rear pockets. The versatility with the sleeves also makes it easy to wear this softshell cycling jacket all day long – on your bike ride to work, on your walk at lunch time, and then back home in the evening! Clearly, this is a jacket that totally meets the requirements of a great softshell cycling jacket – it is COMFY, it keeps you warm and cozy between 35 and 60°F, it protects you from the wind, and it lets you sweat and get a great workout.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for The Gore Bike Wear Phantom 2.0 WINDSTOPPER Soft Shell Jacket|
Note that there is also an excellent women’s version of the Gore Bike Wear PHANTOM 2.0 WINDSTOPPER Soft Shell Jacket. For unknown reasons, it is ridiculously priced at Amazon (unusual for them), but very well priced at Competitive Cyclist.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for The Gore Bike Wear Phantom 2.0 Women's Softshell Jacket|
This slim-fit windproof jacket looks great and feels great, according to Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist, who did the test riding. Like all great softshell cycling jackets, it has built-in versatility to get you from the beginning to the end of a long day or a long ride, all the way through spring or fall. Versality is provided by the close fitting, fleece-lined high collar to keep you warm in colder temperatures, while underarm ventilation and good freedom of movement keep you cooler when things warm up. Plus, it offers the technological innovation of a Gore WINDSTOPPER lamination to keep the wind out when you get your speed up, while the fleece will keep you warm.
The jacket has zippered pockets front and back, which is convenient. You can adjust the hem length with covered cord stoppers and an elastic draw-cord. And Maggie just looks drop-dead gorgeous in this color, which Gore calls Waterfall/Ice Blue!
This great windproof cycling jacket is the top of the line in Pearl Izumi’s spring and fall line. It is a three-layered jacket made from Pearl Izumi’s ELITE softshell fabric, which is windproof, water resistant, and keeps you warm. It enables superior moisture transfer, while still keeping you warm. The high neck protects you from the wind. The insulation is enhanced by thermal panels down the center of the back, and on the sides. This keeps you warm, while still leaving ample fabric area where you can vent sweat. Once you have warmed up, you have the option of venting more heat with a full length zipper and two well placed vents on each side of the front panel. An important detail is that the zip has a large handle, so it is easy to unzip while cycling – even if wearing spring-weight, full-fingered gloves.
The jacket has a soft stretchy feel to it (thanks to being a softshell). Despite being comfy, it has a wind-efficient form fit. Finally, it does have some reflective elements.
My favorite thing about this jacket is that it has TWO zippered chest pockets, so you can keep your phone AND your wallet handy. It also has a zippered back pocket.
At time of writing the Pearl Izumi jackets for men and women are VERY competitively priced at Amazon – check below to see if that has changed.
|Buy it now! Find the best price for Pearl Izumi Ride Elite Escape Softshell Jacket|
There is also an excellent women’s version of the Pearl Izumi Ride Elite Escape Softshell Jacket.
This jacket features dual core vents and an upper back vent that are intended to facilitate air flow and keep you ventilated. It is form-fitting to reduce wind resistance. An odd little feature are zippered cuffs, intended to let you cool your wrists and get a bit of air flow up your sleeves. It offers good windproofing and is water resistant.
This jacket is very cheap but gets very good reviews, and I have noticed that a lot of my readers buy it and don’t return it. In fact, it is ranked as the no. 1 best seller in men’s recreational jackets on Amazon, and I know that they take returns into account when they calculate those ratings. It does not offer any advanced technology, such as WINDSTOPPER. Not that I would expect that, at this price point. It comes in several different colors, and includes two zippered pockets.
The product description claims it is windproof and waterproof, but given the materials it is made from, that is scientifically impossible. However, it does do a good job of keeping you warm while cycling in spring and fall weather. And when I tried it out in LIGHT rain, it kept me dry for almost an hour.
Another jacket that is very cheap and yet very highly rated. It has some nice features, including a high, double layer collar to help you keep warm. The Baleaf Softshell Jacket has 3 zippered pockets, one at the back and two on the sides. It has an elastic waistband and elastic cuffs to seal in warmth, and is made from a three-layer material. Like the early Fords, you can buy any color, as long as it is black!
What is a Softshell Cycling Jacket?
The easiest way to understand what a softshell cycling jacket is, is to see them on a continuum of three kinds of jackets, with varying levels of breathability and waterproofness, like this:
|Waterproof?||Not at all||Usually water resistant, due to a DWR coating on the exterior. Not waterproof||Aims to be completely waterproof, using a hard shell - such as a woven fabric with a laminate coating, such as Gore-Tex|
|Breathable?||Extremely breathable||Much more breathable than hardshell jackets, but less breathable than fleece jackets||Very limited breathability, because keeping out water has the obvious side effect of keeping water IN. Quality hardshell jackets strive to incorporate SOME breathability, by using the advanced micro pore technology developed by Gore-Tex to allow water vapor molecules to escape|
|Windproof||No||These vary from a little bit windproof to completely windproof. Some have a woven face to increase windproofness. And Gore uses WINDSTOPPER, a laminate that is sandwiched together with other textile layers to create a single fabric that is windproof but breathable||Yes, they are especially designed with laminate and sealed seams to exclude wind completely|
|Do they make a noise?||No||These are usually quieter than hardshells, as they are softer||These jackets can make a noise as you move, due to the hard materials|
|Texture||These are the softest jackets||These are the second softest jackets||These are the least soft. Nothing soft and cozy about these jackets, as they strive to exclude the elements|
|Packable||Quite thick, not designed to pack away in a pannier||Not as thin as hardshell jackets, as they include a fleecy layer. Harder to pack than hardshells||The thinnest, as they have no fleecy layers, so they pack well into a pannier|
Cycling jackets may be fleeces, hardshell or softshell jackets. A hardshell cycling jacket is waterproof or windproof, or both. It is intended for more extreme weather and is typically worn in winter. However, it is not designed to keep you warm. The basic principle of dressing for cycling is to wear layers. Your hardshell jacket will be the outermost layer in cold and rainy conditions, and you would wear insulating layers underneath it to keep warm.
A softshell cycling jacket is intended for less extreme conditions. It is more windproof and water resistant than a fleece, but it is softer, lighter, warmer, more breathable, and more flexible than a full waterproof hardshell cycling jacket. All of which makes it perfect for days when the weather is less extreme, but you still need a bit of help keeping warm and dry.
How Does WINDSTOPPER work?
When the wind blows through a jacket that’s not windproof, it destroys your own microclimate, which is the warm layer of air next to your skin – and you are instantly uncomfortable. Gore developed their revolutionary WINDSTOPPER fabric to keep out wind while still keeping the jacket soft and comfortable. WINDSTOPPER is a high technology fabric designed to keep the wind out, while allowing moisture (i.e. your sweat) to escape, so you can stay dry while being protected from the wind. WINDSTOPPER is a laminate that is sandwiched together with other textile layers to create a single fabric. The WINDSTOPPER laminate is a super light, extremely versatile polymer which has 1.4 billion micropores per square inch. These micropores are 900 times larger than water vapor molecules, so that water vapor can easily pass through them and disperse into the surrounding air. Of course, this does mean that WINDSTOPPER fabric is NOT waterproof.
Typically, WINDSTOPPER is laminated with fleece, to provide insulation as well as windproofness. Of course, because of this WINDPROOF laminate layer, these fabrics are LESS breathable than softshell fabrics such as those made by Polartec that do not use laminates. However, they are MUCH more breathable than waterproof fabrics that are made waterproof with a Gore-Tex laminate.
With a softshell cycling jacket, you might not have to layer
With a hard shell cycling jacket, you might be wearing that hard shell waterproof jacket as your top layer, plus a fleecy jersey and a base layer, which might be an Under Armor type layer. This three layer approach is shown below, and would be ideal for a cold winter day with moderate to heavy rain.
Softshells take the opposite approach – they try to combine most of the layers in one garment. They will typically have an outer and mid-layer, to keep the elements out (make sure you don’t get damp) and provide insulation (keep you warm). Softshell cycling jackets are softer and more flexible than hard shells, so they are more comfortable, even if you wear them right next to your skin. Most commonly, they are worn over a base layer, even a short sleeve base layer.
Softshell jackets were first introduced in the early 2000s, and were intended for outdoor activities like cycling and climbing — aerobic activities in variable weather conditions, in which a water resistant, highly breathable, somewhat windproof garment could keep the athlete reasonably dry and warm. Since then, softshell jackets have become very popular, mainly because you can wear them on and off the bike, and they can protect you in a wide range of cycling conditions. Of course, they are ideally suited to cycling in the Spring and Fall.
Soft shells can also be worn over a base layer of your choice when it’s a little colder. And you can carry a lightweight, packable waterproof jacket for sudden heavy rain. Clearly, this makes soft shell cycling jackets the best solution for cyclists looking for a do-everything spring and fall jacket.
Because softshell cycling jackets are not cheap and you will have the one you choose for a long time (if you buy a good one), it is essential to do your research first and make sure you get the best softshell cycling jacket for your own specific needs. I hope this post has provided all the information you need to know about how to buy the best softshell cycling jacket. Make your choice based on the climate where you live, and your cycling needs. A great softshell cycling jacket will last for years, and help you to enjoy your cycling in cozy comfort!
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