There’s nothing wrong with cycling in casual clothing. A cotton t-shirt will keep you cool – for a little while, and then you’ll be drenched in sweat. You can sweat litres on a hard ride and cotton gets damp, chafes and give you a chill when the wind picks up or the temperature drops.
However, a cycling jersey is made to be breathable so you stay and dry and cool on your ride, even on long rides in hot conditions. Fast wicking fabrics draw sweat away from your skin so it can evaporate quickly. In cold weather you can also get thicker long sleeve cycling jerseys with a brushed fleece inner for thermal insulation.
Essentially a cycling jersey is there to keep you comfortable on your whole ride, and they’re a crucial part of any cyclists’ layering system.
Polyester or a blend of synthetic materials like polyamide and elastane are the mainstay of cycling jerseys. They are very lightweight and offer exceptional breathability – just what you want in hot weather.
Synthetic fabrics are also extremely good at wicking moisture away from your skin and can be treated with sun protection. They’re also quick drying.
Usually natural fabrics mean wool, particularly merino wool. Merino has some great features. It helps regulate your body temperature and it stays warm when wet, so you don’t catch a chill.
However, the big benefit is that wool is naturally antibacterial. You can wear a merino jersey a few times before it starts to smell. The fat molecules in your sweat can’t bind easily with the natural fibres of wool like they can with manmade fabrics.
Merino wool also wicks and dries well. It is also very soft against your skin – great to prevent chafing and rubbing.
More expensive cycling jerseys are built with advanced fabrics. They are designed for improved breathability so you can ride harder, whilst staying cool and dry.Also you’ll get a better fit, and fit is very important with a cycling jersey.
For road cyclists you want a snug fitting jersey with minimal excess fabric. This will help wick sweat faster and it’ll also improve your aero performance as there is less fabric flapping in the wind slowing you down. Casual riders, commuters and mountain bikers should look for a looser fit so air can circulate around the skin easier. They also look more stylish for off-the-bike use.
Higher end jerseys will also be designed with a cycle specific cut. You’ll find extended tails at the rear to cover your lower back and articulated arms that are comfortable when you’re bent over in a riding position.
Cycling jerseys are an essential piece of any cyclists’ wardrobe. They’re designed to keep you comfortable, no matter how hard you ride. Advanced fabrics work to wick sweat away quickly to leave you cool and dry.
The more you spend the better the jersey will keep you comfortable. Look for a few key features when choosing a jersey such as multiple pockets, mesh panels and an elasticated hem for added comfort.