Benefitting from some of the material innovations and fashion-forward styling of the run and hike categories, cycling jackets have gotten lighter and more breathable, making them more comfortable both on and off the road. Our guide on how to choose the best cycling jacket will help you find the right style for your needs.

CUT: Also known as fit, ergonomic cuts in cycling jackets are pretty standard, with varying degrees of performance from race track to bike path. Thankfully, the days of “shrink it and pink it” are gone as women’s styles are just as prevalent as men’s. Ergonomic, form-fitting sleeves, tapered collars, and cape backs are all part of specialized cuts—the idea being that the jacket is meant to be worn while you’re bending over on the handlebars. Therefore, form-fitting cuts are more prevalent for road cycling jackets, whereas cuts on mountain biking jackets tend to be a little looser. Even more casual in fit—but in many cases equally as functional—are crossover jackets for bike commuters and urban riders.

As you begin jacket shopping, consider just how streamlined you need to be, whether you need it for your weekend group ride, racing a crit, or cruising to the coffee shop.

POCKETS: Pockets on cycling jackets are one of the most important and talked about features. They range from being open with a little bit of stretch at the top, to Velcro flaps, to a zipper. Look for pockets that suit your needs—a waterproof pocket for a smartphone, integrated cord management for your tunes, a small zippered pocket for a hotel key, or three large back pockets for food, layers, and tools. Many jackets can be stuffed into their own pocket and zip up for easy carrying. In addition to storage pockets, consider front hand warmer pockets, commonly found on recreational-level and mountain biking jackets.

MATERIALS: This is where jacket buying becomes a riddle wrapped in an enigma, like a game of Clue where everyone is trying to throw you off course. Why does it have to be so complicated? The textile world is constantly evolving and different brands have their own names for essentially the same fabrics, not to mention special-made materials that vary slightly only so they can be branded as proprietary. In the end it’s all great stuff, so don’t let material jargon overwhelm you. Most jackets are made from variations of polyester, Lycra, Nylon and other synthetics with and without treatments for wind- and water-proofing. The main consideration is to find a balance between waterproof and breathability, much like the balance between weight and price. You can’t have it both ways, not perfectly at least, so consider when and where you’ll most often be using your new jacket. While some jackets are mostly just for wind, others are strictly for rain, with no breathability whatsoever. A good all-around foul weather cycling jacket should have a balance of breathable waterproofness; and many will throw a completely waterproof “slicker” in their kit or car as well. Furthermore, a mix of materials is becoming more and more common in a design concept known as body-mapping. Look for a jacket with insulation in the chest, a nice high collar with a full zip, breathability in the back, and sleeves with high-mobility.