A regular tee is fine for tooling around town, but for more vigorous rides a cycling-specific jersey is ideal. Jerseys that resemble more casual “street” clothes are now more widely available, enabling you to be fashionable in your performance gear at the park or the pub or wherever your pedaling takes you. But like cyclists, not all jerseys are designed to excel at the same things. This guide will help you learn to choose the best cycling jersey for your needs.
Materials: Brands design cycling jerseys from materials that dry quickly, breathe well, and feel good against the skin during a long day on the saddle. Most are light and airy to promote coolness during high output. Winter-specific jerseys will have long sleeves, heavier fabric and a brushed lining to increase warmth. Here are a few of the materials you’re most likely to come across when shopping for a jersey:
Technical polyester: Blends of synthetics are the standard for the bulk of jersey manufacturers. The lightweight material offers exceptional breathability and moisture wicking capabilities. It also provides protection from the sun during long days in the saddle.
Merino wool: Wool is retro, but legitimate. While sythetics are prized for their moisture-wicking capabilities, Merino wool provides a soft hand, natural feel and still dries quickly and wicks well. This does mean it takes longer to dry. An added bonus, Wool is naturally anti-bacterial and prevents funky smells from fouling your garment. Wool is also renewable and sustainable. Wool jerseys are more expensive for riders on a budget but cheaper than a washing machine.
Fit: There are two main cut types for cycling jerseys: the European form-fitting racer style and the American inspired club or relaxed fit. The slim fitting versions provide both and aerodynamic advantage and quicker wicking of perspiration. The club cut can feel cooler as air is allowed to circulate against the skin and may also be more comfortable for riders new to jerseys.
As with other cycling garments, European brands’ sizes tend to run smaller than those of their U.S. counterparts.
Zipper: These fall into the personal preference category. The shorter, previously standard, 5-inch zipper is best left for casual riding. For more intense or hot-weather riding a half, 3/4, or full zip will allow for much better ventilation and the ability to adjust on the fly.
Pockets: Depending on the brand, size and purpose, the average jersey will have between one and three pockets sewn to the back. The pockets, which have elastic cuffs, can be used to hold everything from your keys to snacks to tubes and patch kits for safe and easy to access.
For mountain biking, look for zippered pockets, as an endo or yard sale crash may launch valuables into bushes, creeks or ravines and leave them damaged or irretrievable.
Dedicated media pockets with cutouts for cords are becoming popular, as riding with cell phones is becoming more prevalent.
Many jerseys feature bright graphics, which at first might seem flashy or even garish, but they have a practical side in that their true intent is to help you be seen by motorists. Some jerseys will also have reflective trim to aid visibility. Remember, to ride safe, you have to be seen.