If you are reading this article, then you must have recently bought a bike or have found yourself new to the fun and exhilarating sport of cycling. In either case, we’d like to say congratulations! Cycling is a great way to get and stay in shape, meet interesting people, see the countryside in an all-new way and have a ton of fun.
But you might be wondering about the silly outfits cyclists wear…namely the skintight shorts and jerseys.
To be honest, just about every cyclist has been where you are. We’ve all looked at all guys and girls on the road or trail in Lycra and wondered if we could ever succumb to wearing something like that. But the fact of the matter is that you’ve come to really love the time you spend on your bike and the problem isn’t that you don’t feel cool in your t-shirt…it’s the impracticality of a t-shirt when it comes to even short rides!
Making a decision with regard to a jersey can be a bit daunting. There are hundreds of choices with an equally diverse range in prices.
The below tips will help you understand what it is you're getting for your money and what a jersey can do for you and your ride.
Believe it or not, but the first thing you should take into consideration is the fabric. In most cases you’ll find that cycling jerseys are made out of some variation of polyester. While you might be inclined to resist polyester and go with something like cotton, you’ll actually be sorry you did. Cotton can be extremely uncomfortable. It soaks up moisture (sweat) and keeps it near your body while riding. Polyester fabrics provide breathability and help to wick or pull the moisture away from your body so you don’t feel cold and wet as you are cycling.
Higher priced jerseys are usually constructed with more panels of fabric. More panels means a better overall fit since the jersey is designed to follow the curves of your body (more on fit below). But more panels also allow for the strategic use of a variety of fabrics to increase the technical performance of the garment. In other words, windproof fabrics can be used across the front and shoulders while wicking or stretchy fabrics are used under the arms and across the back.
It’s a good idea to spend wisely and invest in a jersey designed specifically for cycling and even for the particular type of cycling you’ll be doing (road, mountain, etc.). Your money will be well-spent when you get you a fabric that balances body temperature, improves breathability, and can even incorporate UV protection alongside anti-microbial properties.
You might be inclined to choose a jersey that is completely unlike the form fitting ones you see the pros wearing. But the fact is: the better the fit, the less wind drag you’ll experience due to all that extra material. A flapping jersey will only slow you down and on long rides will actually zap some of your energy. So, while you might not opt for a skintight aero skin-suit, you’ll want something that fits well and helps increase your performance on the bike.
Similarly, make sure the jersey you select is long enough as well. You don’t want to have to keep pulling it down as you are riding. The best designed jerseys are short in the front so you don’t get a ton of material bunched up when you are in your riding position while also being long in the back to provide adequate coverage when you are bent over your bars.
Think about sleeve lengths as well. Longer sleeves are great for cooler temperatures, but you may be more comfortable in shorter sleeves the rest of the year. If you budget limits how many jerseys you can afford, your best bet will be to go with a short-sleeve jersey and use arm warmers (which are normally a tenth the cost of a long-sleeve jersey) for cooler days.
And, as mentioned above, the more panels of fabric used in the construction of the garment, the better the fit.
Zippers are important because you can lower them or raise them providing the right amount of ventilation your body needs, whether it is heating up or cooling down. While some jerseys come with zippers that are only partial length, others have full length zippers. The important thing is to make sure the jersey you select comes with a zipper, and a good one too. It’s extremely annoying to have to fight a zipper snag while in the middle of a ride. YKK is an excellent zipper manufacturer used in athletic performance apparel all across the globe. The better designed cycling jerseys will make their mark with either a nice zipper garage (that bit of material that protects your neck from a zip accident), or by way of a custom, branded zip puller.
You’ll also want to look for bicycling jerseys that feature rear pockets with either a zipper or elastic to hold them closed. The zipper is normally the case on mountain bike jerseys, where big bumps might result in valuables or tools getting bounced out, even with an elastic closure. A couple of pockets on the jersey can allow you to keep important items with you while riding, including your keys, cell phone, a couple of energy bars or tire tools and a spare tube. On road bike jerseys you’ll want them to be deep and stretchy.
Lastly, you’ll want to choose a design that allows you to show off your personal sense of style.
Tony Kelsey has 20 years marketing experience, previously serving as global vice president of creative for an international, $1B IT solutions consultancy. Although a self-proclaimed “mediocre” racer in high school, his intense passion for cycling and bicycles in general has never waned. Today he is marketing VP at Pactimo and frequently writes about cycling as a sport and hobby. @tonykelsey
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