A cycling jersey is a staple to any cycling kit. New cyclists are often skeptical of the form-fitting bike jerseys, but we promise, there are good reasons why the pros don’t race the Tour de France in T-shirts. Like all other clothing in a cycling kit, a cycling jersey is designed to keep you comfortable and help you perform your best on any ride and in any weather. It helps to fight the chill in the air or to keep the sweat off your back so you can focus on your ride. If you’re wondering why you should wear a cycling jersey, what type to look for, or how to find a bike jersey that fits well, we’ll explain and give you jersey options so you can cycle in style.
What is a cycling jersey?
A cycling jersey is a shirt designed for the movement, posture, performance, and comfort of a cyclist. The technical fabrics, features, and fit are stitched with precision to maintain body temperature, assist speed, and protect against wind, rain, and UV rays. A cycling jersey can be worn on its own on hot days, over a base layer on cooler days, or it can be worn under a jacket in winter. It’s made from materials that keep moisture out and prevent chafing. For one piece of clothing, a cycling jersey offers a lot, and we wouldn’t recommend replacing a jersey for anything else, no matter how new you are to cycling.
What to look for in a cycling jersey
Every good cycling jersey, no matter the style, has most or all of the following qualities. When you’re shopping for a jersey, make sure it has all the characteristics needed for a comfortable ride.
- Moisture-wicking: You need a cycling jersey that maintains your core temperature with fabric that keeps your sweat off your body and keeps rainwater out. Your jersey doesn’t need to be waterproof unless you regularly ride in rainy weather. If you experience only occasional showers, you can opt for a rain shell that fits nicely in a pocket to pull out when showers hit.
- Wind-repellant: If you frequently experience strong winds, especially in winter, you need a long-sleeved cycling jersey that stops the wind from slowing you down or giving you a chill. The cuffs of your jersey should be sealed to prevent wind from creeping in. Form-fitting jerseys reduce wind drag. In winter, you may need extra wind protection with a storm collar and thermal, windproof panels.
- Breathable: Your jersey needs to provide you with plenty of airflow in warm or cool weather. A full mesh jersey or one with strategically placed mesh panels will keep your jersey from becoming too stifling.
- Pockets: You never want to cycle unprepared. Energy gels, an extra layer, your keys, your phone, and a repair kit are all cycling necessities, and you need pockets to put them in.
- Panels: A jersey with panels provides a closer, contoured fit for better flexibility and comfort. Panels can also have different features, like mesh for breathability on the sides.
- Zipper: Zippers allow you to adjust the temperature of your ride and get a little extra airflow or warmth. Your jersey may have a full zip, half zip, or ¾ zip. We like full zips best for greater temperature control.
- UV protection: The fibers of your jersey should be stitched to keep the sun’s rays from scorching your skin and provide some level of SPF protection.
Types of cycling jerseys
As you’re considering different types of cycling jerseys, think about the type of riding you’ll be doing and how important your performance is. Also, decide whether you need a long or short-sleeve jersey, and it’s not just dependent on the season. You may prefer lightweight long-sleeve jerseys in warmer seasons for additional sun protection, or you may like short-sleeve jerseys year-round and a light jacket for colder temps.
We’ll show you a few of our favorite pro-tested jerseys in each type. All of these jerseys have everything you need, including Pro-Grip cuffs or armbands, full front zippers, UV protection, flat seams, reflective logos, UV protection, plenty of pockets, mesh panels, and super soft and sleek designs.
1. Relaxed-fit bike jersey
If you’re a social cyclist or weekend warrior who loves riding for recreation or stopping at different points on your ride for a bite to eat with friends, then you may be most comfortable in a loose-fitting cycling jersey. Our club-fit jerseys are made for recreational cycling. Club-fit jerseys are great when you just want to enjoy a leisurely ride and speed is not important.
Men’s Element Midweight Long Sleeve Jersey ($120)
Shop our relaxed-fit Women’s Element Midweight Long-Sleeve Jersey or Momentum Short-Sleeve Jersey.
2. Race-fit bike jersey
Race-fit cycling jerseys are great for all types of cyclists, from amateurs to pros. They’re slim and provide aerodynamic benefits while still giving a little for breathability.
Men’s Gravity Zero Long Sleeve Jersey ($150)
Men’s Virtual Short-Sleeve Jersey ($100)
Shop our race-fit Women’s Virtual Short-Sleeve Jersey.
3. Pro-fit bike jersey
The pro-fit jersey is super snug for maximum aerodynamic enhancement. The pro jersey is great for really serious, competitive cyclists when every second matters.
Men’s HRC Short-Sleeve Jersey ($160)
Shop our pro-cut Women’s Black Short-Sleeve Jersey.
How should a cycling jersey fit?
Your road cycling jersey should be form-fitting but flexible, though recreational jerseys may be looser. Your jersey fits you best when you’re in the saddle, so it should be longer in the back and shorter in the front and flexible through the shoulders. When in a cycling position, it should not bunch in the front or rise up in the back.
How tight should a cycling jersey be?
The right fit of your jersey depends on what makes you most comfortable. But if you are concerned with performance, then it should be tight, but not so snug that it restricts movement. A loose jersey will catch the wind and slow you down. Loose jerseys also bunch and chafe and are less comfortable on long, challenging rides. Compare our collections to find the right fit for you.
Cycling jersey sizing
Once you know what type of cycling jersey you need and have a few great options with all the features you need, it’s time to find your fit. Our jerseys come in regular sizes of XS, S, M, L, XL, and 2XL. Our sizes are based on chest measurements, but you may also want to measure your waist for the best fit through your mid-section. If two different measurement points measure two different sizes, go with the larger size. For example, if your chest measures M but your waist measures L, choose a size L. After you take your measurements in inches, compare them to our size chart and order your jersey.
Best fabrics for a cycling jersey
Cotton is never a good material for a cycling jersey. Cotton bunches, soaks, smells, and chafes, which leads to a rough and painful ride. The best fabrics for jerseys are either a blend of polyester and lycra or merino wool.
- A synthetic blend of polyester and lycra: A synthetic blend of materials is the most common choice for a cycling jersey. Polyester and lycra are excellent at wicking moisture and giving plenty of ventilation. The elasticity of the fibers gives you flexibility and a snug, aerodynamic fit.
- Merino wool: Merino sheep are a very soft breed whose wool regulates their temperature in both cold and warm climates. These features make this wool perfect for a cycling jersey. It’s natural antibacterial and moisture-wicking. It’s also the most sustainable option for a cycling jersey. However, it is more expensive to construct a jersey from merino wool, and it does not provide the same level of elasticity as a synthetic blend. We highly recommend a short-sleeve merino wool base layer for summer or a long-sleeve base layer for winter.
Now that you know what cycling gear to wear up top, learn how to size and fit your cycling shorts. If you’re looking to layer, choose from 9 of our best cycling jacket picks for winter or wet weather.
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