Winter riding can be a grim affair, especially if you don’t have the right kit to keep you toasty and protected from the harsh elements. Keeping that core temperature stable is a must, and that’s where a good thermal jacket can make all the difference.
All jackets on test here are softshell options, with varying degrees of weatherproofing. Wind and shower resistance is a plus in unpredictable British weather, but our priority in testing was the warmth provided by each jacket, as well as the comfort in the fit and practicality when in use.
For this, we looked out for comfortable inner linings, stretch in the fabric for a personalised fit, secure pockets for stuffing those essential bike snacks, and zip garages to avoid any pinching.
If you’re venturing out without an outer shell over your thermal layer, pick an option with bright colourways that will not only keep you warm, but also safe on the roads.
Looking good is important but visibility is the new black, so look for options with fluro or reflective detailing for extra safety. We’d also recommend you invest in a good quality set of bike lights – check out our top front and rear bike light picks here.
For our test, we took four men’s and four women’s thermal jackets for a spin along the rolling Cotswold roads, battling torrential downpours and those chilly, early winter nights. Here’s what we discovered…
Best men’s winter bike jackets
Santini Vega Multi jacket
The Vega Multi costs almost 10 times as much as the Lomo, left, but the difference is stark. For that extra cash, you get better fabrics, features and performance.
The Polartec Powershield Pro does a fine job of blocking the worst of the weather, with cold wind and rain being shed effortlessly. Meanwhile, the high collar is luxuriously soft and keeps cold air out, as do the long, closefitting sleeves.
However, the Vega Multi is not the most breathable and there are no vents to help regulate your temperature. Although Santini offers a temperature range of 5°C to 15°C, we found it a little too warm at that top end.
Feature-wise, a dropped tail offers excellent protection, while three jersey pockets and one zipped pocket provide ample storage.
Verdict: Expensive but impressive weather protection
Lomo Winter Thermal
Yes, you read that right, Lomo’s entry to this test costs just £25. Unsurprisingly, this means performance doesn’t quite match others here.
The fit is baggy and catches the wind, the sleeves creep up, allowing cold air to creep in, and the collar fits loosely. There are three deep jersey pockets and one zipped pocket, but when in use they sagged, as does the drop tail, which is particularly baggy.
That said, we had no issue with the garment riding up due to its length, and it was comfortable to wear and reflective strips helped visibility.
But on the flipside again, it lacked wind and water resistance, and is more akin to a warm longsleeved jersey than a jacket.
Verdict: lacks weather protection, but a good layer
HUUB Core 3 Peaks Fluro
As you’d expect from Huub, the Core 3 Peaks Jacket provides a snug race-fit. The sleeves were an ideal length and, along with the comfortable high collar, kept cold air out well.
The material also proved to be entirely windproof and shed rain well too, but water did start to creep in at the seams in sustained deluges. Two small vents on the front of the torso are designed to help with temperature regulation but didn’t have a huge impact.
Huub recommends this jacket for use between –2°C and 13°C, but the middle of that range is where the jacket really excels. Three jersey pockets and a zip pocket on the rear offer decent storage, while the bright yellow design and reflective detailing aids visibility.
Verdict: great performance and weather protection
Endura Pro SL 3-Season
Endura’s Pro SL 3-Season Jacket is incredibly versatile. It comes with a jacket and a removable PrimaLoft gilet, allowing you to add or remove warmth as needed.
The jacket itself blocked wind well, as did the high neck collar and closefitting cuffs. Light rain also ran off the outer, but a lack of taped seams means you’ll get wet in heavier downpours.
Vitally, there are large vents on the arms, torso and back that allow you to regulate your temperature; Endura suggests between –5°C and 15°C and we’d be inclined to agree.
The jacket has a close fit, but there was some excess fabric on the arms. Three jersey pockets and a zip pocket take care of storage, while reflective detailing helps boost visibility.
Verdict: impressive jacket that delivers versatility in spades
Best women’s winter bike jackets
DHB has been taking the affordable tri market by storm since its inception, and the Moda is no different. Though the floral pattern may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s certainly not a boring piece of kit.
True to size, the Roubaix fleece lining feels soft but not overly stuffy, though there’s a distinct lack of breathability to the jacket. Wrist cuffs, full-length zip and silicone hem keep the layer in place and doing its job; the windproof outer coating protects from mild gusts, though it doesn’t claim to be waterproof.
Visibility is key for winter jackets, and we like the reflective detailing along the back and the large rear pockets, which can fit plenty of snacks. There’s even room enough to stuff your phone in the zip pocket if desired.
Verdict: a well-made thermal layer, but style won’t be for all
Proviz Classic Softshell
Experts in hi-vis clothing, Proviz’s softshell bike jacket focusses primarily on protecting from the elements rather than providing a warm, thermal layer.
That being said, you’ll soon work up a sweat due to a lack of breathability; the flip side of this is that it has great weatherproofing.
The outer shell is made from triplelayered 30D Interlock four-way stretch fabric, complete with TPU waterproof coating that Proviz claims is extremely waterproof (up to 20,000mm) thanks to neatly taped seams and cinched wrists.
Of all the jackets on test, this would certainly be our top pick for a rainy ride, but we’d add an extra thermal layer underneath if venturing out in chilly conditions.
Verdict: super bright and weather-proof, but not breathable
Weighing twice as much as the Alpkit jersey, the Liberty seems like a jacket much better suited to winter riding in dark conditions, especially those looking for a visible layer for commuting.
The four-way stretch StretchTec fabric is soft enough to feel comfortable yet is strong enough to resist wind and light showers.
The Liberty also has built-in side zips to avoid overheating (though unzipping these on the fly requires some skill and practice), a neat small zip pocket on the right arm and a huge rear pocket.
Adjustable wrist cuffs keep the fit snug, but are yet another thing to have to fiddle with. The scoop back does help to keep back spray off, but we can’t say this felt like a particularly aero jacket like some of the men’s on test.
Verdict: a decently-priced thermal layer with lots of visibility
Alpkit Rhythm Thicky
Designed for cold winter spins, Alpkit’s thermal offering is the thinnest option on test, so you’ll probably still need a thick jacket or gilet to layer up during adverse conditions.
Saying that, the brushed inner is supremely soft and stretchy, providing a flattering fit with tapered seams and leather-look piping along the three back pockets.
A dropped rear hem with silicone lining stays in place and an unobtrusive zip garage adds to the comfort. We like the thick wrist cuffs that help keep the wind out, but these could feel restrictive to some.
Alpkit claims this jersey is ‘highly wind resistant’ with the DWR coating protecting against light showers, but we’d go for a light overlayer if rain threatens.
Verdict: Thin and comfy layer for mild weather