Best bike jackets 2014
We continue our guide to 2014's best bike jackets with a 220 favourite...
Rapha Classic Softshell
Price: £260 from www.rapha.cc
The Classic Softshell is a staple of the Rapha range – it’s been around since 2004 in various different guises – and it is an undoubtedly top-quality product. The water-resistant material keeps off all but the heaviest rain and the stowable storm flap at the back adds another welcome level of protection against the elements. It’s also windproof and provides an excellent top layer on even the coldest of days, while the zipped underarm vents give you the opportunity to regulate body temperature.
Three pockets at the back – one with an extra zipped compartment – provide excellent storage, plus there’s a small zipper pocket on the side that’s the perfect size for your keys. The cuffs on the wrists are a welcome feature for really cold days and, while the all-black design isn’t great in visibility terms, it’s the one less-than-superb point about a jacket that is versatile enough to be used in a wide variety of different conditions.
Verdict: Great in the wet, dry and cold, this jacket can do a bit of everything… and it does it all extremely well, 90%
Sugoi RS 180
Price: £109 from www.cyclingsportsgroup.co.uk
The RS 180 is a midweight winter jacket that’ll do the job nicely when it’s chilly, but will need some extra layering when it’s really cold. The fabric is stretchy, which makes it very comfortable to ride in, and it offers a decent amount of wind protection, coupled with water-resistance to ward off light showers. The high-cut collar and cuffs on the sleeves also play an important part when it comes to keeping the heat in. The cut is very nice: snug but not at all restrictive.
Sugoi describe it as ‘pro fit’, which clues you into the fact that it’s made for those with an athletic build and sits very close to the body. The three rear pockets offer a reasonable amount of storage, but the openings at the top are perhaps a tad looser than we’d ideally like, although it doesn’t matter so much if you fill them to capacity. If space and weight are a concern, the Sugoi is notably light and would work well if you want something to keep the cold out but don’t want to add a lot of bulk.
Verdict: Midweight jacket with comfortable stretchy fabric that you could ride in all day, 80%
Pearl Izumi Pro Softshell 180
Price: £139 from www.madison.co.uk
Crammed full of tech, Pearl Izumi’s Pro Softshell jacket is certainly one of the most impressive offerings on paper. And in practice it performs great, sealing in heat well and keeping you extremely warm. In fact, given that the temperature rating for the jacket is +/-5°, it’s definitely one for the depths of winter and can actually be too warm even when the temperature is only around 10-12°C. Again, this is another jacket that has gone for the zippered option on the pockets at the back – one large one in this case – but we’re just not convinced.
They’re too fiddly to operate on the go but aren’t much better to access once they are unzipped. A small annoyance,
but an annoyance nonetheless. The fit is ergonomic and comes up nice and close, so it’s just as well that you won’t need to layer much underneath it. One other thing to note is that it won’t provide much protection from the rain, so it’s one for cold, dry rides.
Verdict: Excellent jacket for keeping warm, but fiddly zips and limited to really cold/dry conditions, 80%
Endura Windchill Jacket II
Price: £75 from www.endura.co.uk
Endura’s Windchill II combines thermal Roubaix fabric under the arms, on the side and on the back and waterproof panelling on the front and sleeves. Together that results in a pretty versatile jacket, and it’s one of the best on test when it comes to stopping both wind and rain. Zipped under-arm vents also allow for a bit of temperature regulation. Storage is handled by three rear pockets and one small zipped pocket, plus there’s a concealed compartment on the front complete with glasses wipe, which can come in pretty handy.
There’s a laser-cut inner storm flap at the back – always a nice touch when the rain comes down – which is effective at keeping your shorts chamois dry and comfy. Fit-wise, the Endura came up larger for a medium than any of the other jackets on test here, so we recommend trying one on before you buy if possible. But overall it’s a very proficient, warm winter jacket coupled with decent rain protection at an excellent price.
Verdict: Versatile performer that’ll keep you warm and dry, but check the sizing before you buy, 79%
No jacket tested absolutely bombed, but a couple are a cut above the rest.
Modern fabric technology means that almost every brand these days can offer a jacket that’s warm, breathable, ergonomically fitted and comfortable. It also means that the differences between jackets are smaller than ever before, so choosing is more difficult.
The Endura is the epitome of this, offering excellent quality and plenty of technical features at a price point that continues to astound. It might not have scored as highly as others on test here, but coming in at £30 cheaper than the next least expensive jacket, it’s a great choice for anyone on a budget.
At the other end of the scale, if you want something stylish and rather specific, Poc has made a jacket that’ll catch the eye and is full of nice little extras. As a brand, Poc has grown massively over the last few years, and its almost Rapha-esque commitment to function and style has made it one of the en-vogue choices of the wealthy cyclist.
But there are two jackets on test that stand head and shoulders above the rest. The first is Storck’s Winter Jacket. The understated design is attractive, and that, coupled with the superb fit, excellent warmth and plenty of storage, makes it one of our go-to bits of winter kit. The price might be high, but it really is a premium jacket.
The winner, however is the Rapha. It’s a softshell jacket with incredibly impressive waterproofing properties. For this alone it stands out. But everything about the jacket exudes quality, from the construction to the design, from the storm flap with reflective logo to the subtle pink drawstrings at the bottom. It might be an extortionate price, but you’ll own one of those rare bits of kit that you’ll want to, and will be able to, keep for years and years. Plus, their excellent crash repair policy means that if you come off, you can have it fixed for free. Genius!
... don't forget to check out our other 2014 round-ups: best aerobars, best tri bikes, best tri bike shoes, best wetsuits, best lightweight run shoes, best trail shoes, best energy bars, best bike helmets, best TT helmets, best recovery drinks and best tri-suits.
What's your favourite bike jacket for winter? Let us know in the comments below!