Feel Good, Ride Good: 3 Windshells Designed for Biking

In the northern hemisphere, there’s a crisp bite in the air, and it’s time to pull out the long sleeve jerseys and second layers to enjoy some autumn trail time. If you’re looking for a warm wind layer to keep the heat in on dry days, one of these three jackets should fit just right.

Patagonia Women’s Dirt Roamer Jacket

The Patagonia Women’s Dirt Roamer Jacket is specifically designed for mountain biking and allows you to ride confidently during changing weather and windy temperature drops.

The 100% recycled nylon fabric is surprisingly breathable which is a refreshing surprise compared to other windshell jackets. With a DWR (durable water repellent) finish, this jacket is meant to keep you dry during misty mornings or if you’re caught in a drizzle out on the trails. Throughout the interior of the jacket, you’ll also find reinforced seams to keep things dry.

The jacket is form-fitting and follows the body shape nicely while the longer rear hem prevents air or debris from going up your back. It’s also flexible enough to allow unrestricted movement while riding. I cannot emphasize enough, that it’s very important to check the sizing guide for each item you purchase. I opted for the large size by following the sizing guide. The fit is described as ‘standard fit’ and can also fit over a long sleeve base layer for colder temperature rides. 

The Dirt Roamer jacket features a helmet-compatible hood with a semi hidden elastic adjuster to lock in place. The hood can be rolled up and tucked out of the way with a hook-and-loop stow system. I wouldn’t zip this all the way up during a ride, but it’s nice to know that it zips up to your chin for optimum coverage from the wind. Following the trend with windshell jackets, the rear zippered pocket doubles as a storage pocket when you’re ready to pack it away for your next ride.

Patagonia uses recycled nylon which is made from post-industrial waste fiber and discards from weaving mills and post-consumer fishing nets. Using recycled nylon fabrics aids in reducing CO2 emissions when compared to virgin nylon fabrics. Patagonia reports this has resulted in over 3.5 million pounds of CO2 emission avoided as of fall 2020. 

The Dirt Roamer misses out on the convenient, two-way zipper that’s featured on other comparable windshells. This will be my go-to for this upcoming fall season in Northern California.

At a Glance:

  • Pockets: 1 external small zippered pocket at back
  • Fabric:  100% Recycled Nylon
  • Distinguishing features: weighs 201g, DWR finish
  • Fit: regular, true to size
  • Colors: Steller Blue (tested), Camp Green, Smolder Blue
  • MSRP: $249, available at Patagonia, REI, and evo

Pearl Izumi Women’s Summit Shell Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Women’s Summit Shell Jacket is lightweight, water-resistant, and packs into its own envelope pocket. If you’re like me and like to always be prepared out on the trails, this storable jacket is your ‘just in case’ essential garment to carry. 

The 100% nylon fabric is perfectly windproof but the nylon is not as breathable as other materials. Tapered in the front with a long contoured back, this biker-specific jacket sits well on the body while riding without hindering movement. A Pearl Izumi logo is strategically displayed on the upper left chest and at the lower middle back, made of BioViz® reflective material for low-light visibility and nighttime riding. I always enjoy little details like this. 

There is a two-way YKK Vislon® front zipper for easy on and off. Slide the bottom pull up for maximum ventilation, and zip it down a bit if temperatures are relatively low. This simple feature lets you be in control of how much air can come in. The smooth zipper did not get caught or stuck. The zipper easily pulls down with one hand but two hands are required to zip it up. 

As with all apparel, it’s important to check the sizing guide. I usually wear a medium but by following the size guide, I opted for the size large. The fit is described as ‘standard fit’ and it can fit over a long sleeve base layer for colder temperature rides. 

I must admit on the first test ride I thought the hood was supposed to be worn over the helmet (thus the photos here). I was initially very perplexed as to why it felt so small and uncomfortable. I later figured out that the hood is actually meant to be worn underneath the helmet! What an “aha!” moment.  

It would be nice to have some hand pockets, or at least a small zippered pocket – although there is a small interior “envelope pocket” designed to pack the jacket that can also be used as a pocket to put a small item in. An aesthetic downside of this jacket is how wrinkled the fabric can get after packing and unpacking it, but that’s just superficial.

The Women’s Summit Shell Jacket is definitely a multisport piece of apparel that can be worn for other outdoor adventures like hiking, jogging, or running errands. It runs $100 which is fairly standard for a jacket in the lightweight category.

At a glance

  • Pockets: 1 internal  “envelope pocket” designed to pack the jacket
  • Fabric: 100% Polyester
  • Distinguishing features: weighs less than 100g
  • Fit: regular, runs small
  • Colors: Sunny Lime (tested) and Teal
  • MSRP: $65-80, available at Amazon and Moosejaw.

The REI Co-op Link Packable Cycling Jacket is a lightweight windbreaker that keeps you warm during those cold windy days. 

Made with 92% nylon and 8% spandex fabric, this jacket has a slight stretch that makes it comfortable during rides. As with other nylon clothing, the breathability isn’t great, but it does keep the wind out and the warmth in. Although it does not have a waterproof lining, it comes with a DWR coating on the outside allowing for better moisture transfer and wicking capabilities.

With a regular fit, this jacket is comfortably looser, with a longer back for coverage.

The helmet-compatible hood is spacious and has an adjustment feature to fine tune your preferred fit to wear with or without a helmet. During a windy ride, pull up the hood, dial in the cord, and the hood will stay locked on your head for the rest of the ride. 

The front zippered pocket on the chest doubles as a stowaway pocket so you can pack it away in your hip bag. It is a relatively small pocket that’s perfect for throwing in an ID and some cash. You could probably get way with stashing some nutrition gels in there. 

There are some reflective accents on the zipper, back, and arm to help keep you visible during twilight rides. This jacket also has a two-way zipper to control airflow.

It would be nice to have some additional hand pockets, but this isn’t a problem when wearing a hip bag.

I’ve owned this jacket for a couple of years now and it has lasted through many wash cycles, wears, and trail rides. Remember, you can always use this jacket when not biking. It’s perfect for a quick trip to the store or taking your furry friend out for a walk. 

At a glance

  • Pockets: 1 external small zippered pocket on chest
  • Fabric: 92% nylon / 8% spandex 
  • Distinguishing features: weighs 136g, DWR finish
  • Fit: regular, true to size
  • Colors: Blue Ether (tested) and Forest Green
  • MSRP: $89.95, available at REI.