The perfect jacket for biking to work has to keep you warm, dry, visible, and, in some cases, looking like you didn’t just ride through the rain over the Williamsburg Bridge. Sure, lots of us are still working from home. But for the people who do go into work at actual offices, schools, and stores, biking has become a much more popular way to commute. Depending on your job, the jacket you wear might have to take you from fighting your way through traffic right into a meeting in style.
Seeing as this is a very tall order, we talked to men who’ve been biking to work for years (many of whom still bike to an in-person job), so you can benefit from their wisdom. Here are their secrets, from mastering layering to fitting your helmet in your hood to keeping from getting hit by a taxi to preventing your gloves from getting wet. And of course, there are also some pretty great jackets you should check out right now.
“The best jacket to wear when cycling to work is a trick question, because there are two,” says Mike Radenbaugh, co-founder and CEO of electric bike company Rad Power Bikes. He starts with a down jacket as a base layer and recommends Patagonia’s Micro Puff Hoody because it’s warm and windproof and the cuffs have elastic that keep water and wind out. For the outer shell, his pro tip is to find a jacket that is waterproof and reflective with arms long enough to go over your wrists so that water will not trickle down into your gloves. And make sure it has a hood. “When conditions get very tough, I have enjoyed having a jacket with a large hood (actually designed for skiing and snowboarding) that is large enough to go over my bike helmet.” Although his original recommendation, Mountain Hardwear’s Superforma jacket, is sold out, this one from Mountain Hardwear is very similar.
Jonathan Lee, a cycling coach and elite cyclist/cycling commuter in Reno, California, agrees that buying two jackets that you can wear separately or layer together is a solid investment. His go-to for dry and moderately cold conditions (45–60, degrees he tells us) is the Black Diamond Coefficient Fleece Hoodie, and for similar temperatures with rain or other precipitation, he uses the Rapha Men’s Hooded Rain Jacket. When it’s colder out, he uses them together. “The CoEfficient Fleece Hoodie breathes extremely well and stops me from arriving at work in need of a shower, and the Hooded Rain Jacket does a fantastic job of keeping me dry, allowing me to use the hood with a helmet, and acting as a wind barrier on those particularly frigid mornings,” he says. The fit of the CoEfficient Hoodie is slim, he says, but not uncomfortable, and the longer cut of the Hooded Rain Jacket is very effective at keeping road splash to a minimum. Finally, he likes that both jackets have a more casual, stylish aesthetic than the more serious cycling gear he wears for training.
On nice days, Robert Evans, CEO of Cycling Quests, opts for a classic Levi’s denim trucker jacket. “If it’s not wet and I’m feeling kind of hippy-ish, I’ll wear spandex shorts and a jean jacket on top,” he says. Evans has several jean jackets that are all Levi’s. “Levi’s has that iconic styling. The rest just don’t look as cool,” he says. For added warmth on dry days, he’ll layer a Smartwool full-zip under his Levi’s jacket. Like a lot of other Smartwool products, the jacket is breathable and moisture-wicking, but it’s still able to protect your core from high winds, thanks to a nylon-polyester shell. He also likes the headphone access port that’s built into the chest pocket.
For rainy or snowy days, Evans wears this lightweight jacket from Kühl because it does a really good job of beating off water but never makes him overheat. “In the wintertime, here in Idaho, I actually put this over other layers because the snow just falls right off of it, and it definitely lets all the sweat and evaporation out,” he says. He does warn that it can flap in the breeze and suggests ordering down a size if you’re a serious cyclist or racer. The jacket is quick-drying with sealed zippers and taped seams to keep you and your stuff bone-dry in even the nastiest storms.
Bryan Ray, co-founder of bikingapex.com, says the weather where he lives in Florida can be unpredictable, going from sunny and hot to a huge downpour on the same day. His go-to jacket for keeping his work clothes dry is REI’s Co-op Junction Cycling Jacket. “The biggest reason I love this jacket is the hood,” he says. “It fits perfectly over my helmet and it makes it easier to see when it’s really pouring. And it’s super lightweight and does a good job of keeping my shirt dry if it’s raining in the mornings.” While it’s definitely too hot to wear this jacket in the summer where he lives (unless it’s raining), when it cools down a bit in the fall and winter, he says it’s enough to keep him warm.
Torben Lonne, founder of DiveIn, lives in bike-friendly Copenhagen, where he regularly commutes to work by bike. His current favorite jacket to wear is this C5 GORE-TEX Trail Hooded jacket because it’s great for riding in the rain. “We have a lot of rain in Denmark, and I need to make sure I stay dry when I’m going to work. I love that this jacket is very light and keeps me dry at all times. It’s completely waterproof and actually pretty slim, which helps in case there’s strong wind,” he says.
For a significantly cheaper rain shell that will do a good job protecting your work clothes, Max Bodach, a PR associate in Washington, D.C., who bikes four miles to work and back every day, suggests this jacket he picked up on a trip to Costco (it’s also available at Amazon). “It’s super lightweight, easy to pack down, stretchy (so I can put it over my bag rather than pulling out a rain cover), and relatively breathable,” he says.
“For me, bright colors are important so cars won’t hit me. I’m often biking to work in the dark because the school day starts so early,” says Jacob Cohen, an elementary teacher at the Co-op School in Brooklyn. He wears this sunflower-yellow windbreaker shell while biking to work in rainy weather because it’s lightweight and the armpit vents are very helpful with airflow. When temperatures drop, he just adds a layer underneath.
For high visibility in really cold and wet weather, Evans likes this Reflect 360 jacket from Proviz Sports. “If you shine a flashlight on one of these jackets in a dark room, you will illuminate the entire room just with the reflection,” he says. It’s definitely a heavier and less breathable jacket than his others, however, so he saves it for winter rain, sleet, and snow. In addition to the reflective material that “literally illuminates you like Casper the Friendly Ghost in car headlights,” he likes the cool, stylish cut.