Cycling jerseys are considered a mid-layer garment, in that they are used in conjunction with inner (base) and outer (weatherproof) layers to provide cold and wet-weather protection, or can be worn on their own in the summer. An essential – just like our best cycle jerseys buying guide.
Why do I need a cycling jersey?
As with most cycle or sport-specific clothing, cycle jerseys are made using modern synthetic fabrics that help to keep you dry by transporting moisture (sweat) away from the body to the outer surface of the cloth, a process known as ‘wicking’. These fabrics will also be breathable, allowing water vapour to escape through the fabric and evaporate, rather than condensing on the skin where it will cool down and leave you freezing in cold conditions (for this reason cotton is not suitable for cycle clothing as it is not breathable).
Some common materials of cycling jerseys:
Merino Wool – one of the best natural fabrics for cycling jerseys due to its lightweight properties, merino wool is very efficient at wicking away moisture from the skin. Allowing you to stay cool during the summer but also warm in the winter. Often blended with synthetic material to provide a more all-round jersey that fits well.
Lycra – A synthetic fabric well known for its elastic properties as it moulds to your body to provide a tighter and more aerodynamic fit. Very popular in road jerseys as the fit allows for movement of the body without rubbing and chafing which allows for a more comfort and faster ride.
Polyester – Excellent at wicking away moisture from the skin it is often used for all kinds of exercising clothing. Used in both MTB and Road Jerseys the synthetic material is excellent at handling wear over long periods of time.
What jersey is best for me?
Before exploring the world of cycling jerseys there are some key features to look out for to ensure you are getting the most out of your purchase.
Some common features to look out for are:
Breathability – How well a fabric can get rid of perspiration.
Cuffs – On long-sleeve jerseys the cuffs must be secure enough to prevent cold air and water getting in but not so tight as to chafe.
Microporous membrane – Waterproof layer with tiny holes (pores) that allow moisture vapour (from sweat) out but prevent bigger drops (rain) from getting in.
Stretch panelling – Stretchy Lycra panels used in areas where flexibility is important (e.g the shoulders).
Ventilation – Many jerseys feature mesh panels on the back or under the armpits to allow heat escape and to help cool air flow through the garment.
Wicking – The ability of a fabric to transfer sweat away from your under layers or skin to the outside face of the jersey
Windstopper – Popular weatherproof fabric with increased breathability/wicking properties. Sometimes used for the front panel of winter/cool weather jerseys.
Zipper – Full or half-zipper is a personal choice. Look for a zipper with a rubberised tag that won’t catch or chafe and is easy to pull with a damp, gloved hand.
Cycle jerseys will also feature an ergonomic cut to reflect the position of the body on the bike – more so with tighter-fitting road and MTB race jerseys, as gravity MTB jerseys will have a looser cut to reflect the different on-bike positioning and enable armour to be worn underneath. Cycle jerseys are also characterised by additional features such as rear pockets (for your food stash and spare tubes) in road/XC jerseys and reinforced sleeves in trail MTB jerseys.
MTB – Long Sleeve
Mid-layer MTB jerseys with long sleeves (or ‘baggies’) differ from road cycling jerseys in being a slightly looser and more casual cut, reflecting the more upright riding position, the necessity to shift weight more on the bike and the lower priority of aerodynamic efficiency. They are generally worn by trail riders in the cooler months from autumn to spring, often as part of a layered clothing system (with base and outer layers).
Look for breathable fabrics with wicking properties, snug-fitting cuffs as well as zip vents at the throat to allow cool air in (full-length zips also common). Many long sleeve MTB jerseys will feature reinforced panels on the sleeves and forearms to prevent tearing from trailside thorns and offer some level of additional protection in the event of a fall.
Downhill (DH) and Freeride (FR) jerseys are meanwhile typically long-sleeved, loose-fitting and pocket free, with riders often choosing a size larger than normal to allow body armour to be worn underneath.
MTB – Short Sleeve
Short sleeve MTB jerseys can be a casual cut or a tighter and more aerodynamic ‘racing’ fit similar to that of road jerseys. In fact, ‘racing’ MTB short sleeve and road short sleeve jerseys are materially similar, with the road fraternity’s prevalence for pro team logos being the only difference.
MTB jerseys are often t-shirt style using fabric used for exercise. These are lightweight garments intended for summer season use so look for jerseys that offer breathability, good wicking properties and excellent ventilation. Popular in all disciplines of MTB but often used by gravel riders due to the more loose fit and flexible in shifting movement on the bike unlike the tighter, more aerodynamic road jerseys.
Road – Long Sleeve
Road jerseys are generally designed with ergonomics more to the fore, reflecting how a road cyclist’s body shape changes when he or she is in a riding position, crouched over the handlebars. This position will pull up the rear and sleeves of the garment so arms are longer to ensure full coverage. Road jerseys will often feature an extended back or ‘drop tail’ at the rear to prevent them riding up and exposing your back (useful for protecting against wheel spray).
Many manufacturers will also offer jerseys with stretchable Lycra panels around certain areas (e.g. the shoulders) where flexibility is required. Some jerseys, meanwhile, may feature a wind or waterproof membrane on the front.
Long-sleeve road jerseys are generally worn while riding or training in the colder autumn-to-spring months, often as part of a layered system of cycle clothing (base layer, jersey, gilet or jacket) or on their own when the weather starts to turn warmer. They may feature more insulation than short sleeve jerseys and less emphasis on ventilation (mesh panels etc.) owing to their intended use in cool weather.
Road – Short Sleeve
The short sleeve road jersey is the ‘classic’ cycle garment worn in the summer months by leisure riders and the pro peloton alike, and is ideal to keep you cool and ventilated during long, hot days in the saddle.
It will feature rear pockets that sit on the small of the back, perfect for stashing bananas, power gels, energy bars or even outer layers.
Wearing a jersey in warm weather will actually keep you cooler and more comfortable than a light vest or no jersey as the fabric will offer more effective moisture management and a degree of UV protection. Look for a comfortable fit, quality breathable fabrics and adequate ventilation – the most obvious ventilation intake being the front zip (full- or half-zipper) which is open on descents, but many summer jerseys will also feature mesh panels at the rear or under the armpits through which cool air can flow.
Many road riders will use a short sleeve jersey in tandem with a pair of arm-warmers for colder days, which can then be removed or pulled down once the rider has warmed up.