How to choose the right jersey for road cycling

‘Jersey’ suggests a knitted garment, and indeed the name for the standard top worn for road cycling is a throwback to a time when they were made from wool.

These days, lighter-weight, fast-wicking, quick-drying manmade fabrics are mostly used for road cycling jerseys, although merino wool does still have its place and is particularly prized by touring or long-distance cyclists for its soft stretchiness and ability to absorb odours.

The type of jersey you choose depends not only on the type of road cycling you’re doing but also on the weather. For hot, midsummer riding, a short-sleeved jersey with mesh panels that offers a high level of breathability is a great option, while a long-sleeved jersey with an insulating fleece lining keeps the warmth in and the chill out if you’re riding in early spring or late autumn.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer so that you can pick out the right jersey for the type of road cycling you plan to do, the time of year and also for your budget.


Road jersey

For beginning cyclists or if you’re on a budget, the Triban RC100 Road Cycling Jersey has everything you need for summer fitness riding. It’s made from breathable fabric, has three large rear pockets plus two zip-secured ones and is designed to fit more casually than the race or performance-orientated jerseys.

Offering great value for money, the RC100 incorporates mesh fabric under the arms for efficient wicking, and there’s an elasticated waist with silicone gripper to keeps it in place. Like the other jerseys it also runs a full-length zip.

Look out for: Easy fit, breathable fabric, full-length zip, multiple pockets.


Lightweight race jersey

Cycling jerseys designed for competition have a close, second-skin fit that makes the rider as aerodynamic as possible. Racing also requires clothing and equipment to be lightweight – both to cut system weight and for maximum breathability. The Van Rysel RR900 and the Van Rysel Racer jerseys, for example, feature mesh inserts for ultimate light weight and optimal moisture management. There are raw-cut elasticated bands at the waist and sleeves, which keep the jersey securely in place and allow the air to flow smoothly around the rider.

Also check out the Van Rysel Women’s Racer jersey, which features mesh panels and is constructed from a fabric that includes 31% elastane for a skinsuit-like aerodynamic fit.

A race jersey will have a full-length zip for temperature regulation and a minimum of three pockets at the rear.

Look out for: Close fit, ultra-light, breathable fabrics and mesh, short sleeves, full-length zip, rear pockets.


Performance jersey

For all-day comfort on longer rides, a performance-orientated jersey will have a slightly more relaxed cut than a race jersey so that the wearer can enjoy maximum freedom of movement.

A jersey such as the Triban RC500 has short sleeves and a full-length zip like the race jerseys, but it has what we call a classic fit. Instead of mesh for increased airflow, the RC500 has merino inserts, which limit odour and also give it an aesthetic that’s as classic as the fit. Like the race jersey it has rear pockets, but we’ve added an extra two at the sides, making a total of six pockets including two with zips for secure portage.

Look out for: Classic fit, comfort-orientated features such as merino inserts, plenty of pocket storage space, full-length zip.


Touring jersey

For multi-day rides in warm weather you need a jersey that supplies ultimate comfort. It also might need to be worn on consecutive days without getting whiffy. And if you and your fellow riders are going to be seeing a lot of it, it needs to be as easy on the eye as it is on the nose, with an understated aesthetic.

The Triban Merino Touring Jersey is made from a modern blend of 70% merino and 30% acrylic. The merino supplies the comfort and odour control, while the acrylic helps it keep its shape and adds durability. Developed by our test team in 2019 over several long-distance events including Born to Ride, the Dirty Boar Gravel Ride and the Baroudeuse, it is has the full length zip of the race and performance jerseys and a single rear pocket with a zipped compartment.

For spring and autumn multi-day rides when you might need a bit more coverage there’s the long-sleeved RC900 Merino Touring Jersey, which also has increased storage capacity with an extra mesh rear pocket.

Look out for: Merino wool, comfortable fit, classic, understated design, durability.


Sleeveless jersey

If you’re cycling in very warm weather and like the sleeveless triathlon style, this type of jersey allows great freedom of movement while deploying the same technologies in the torso as the short-sleeved jerseys

The RC900 and RC500 sleeveless jerseys have a full-length zip, four and six pockets respectively, are constructed using breathable, wicking fabrics and are held in place with elastic grippers at the bottom hem.

Look out for: Fitted cut, full-length zip, breathable fabrics, good spread of rear pockets


Long-sleeved jersey

For the ‘shoulder season’ – spring and autumn broadly speaking – or for summertime early starts when it’s a bit chilly for a short-sleeved jersey but too warm for a jacket, a long-sleeved jersey offers that crucial extra warmth and protection.

In addition to its full-length sleeves, the Van Rysel RR900 has an insulating fleece lining to trap warm air. And when you do warm up, heat can escape through vents at the rear and under the arms. The RR900 is constructed from stretchy fabric that allows freedom of movement, has three rear pockets and raw-cut cuffs and bottom hem to keep its lines sleek.

Meanwhile, if you’re after more wind protection, there’s the Triban RC500 Shield long-sleeved jersey, which has a windproof front to keep out cold draughts.

As with the short-sleeved jerseys, there’s a range of long-sleeved jerseys for men, women and kids to suit all budgets.

Look out for: Long sleeves that don’t ride up leaving a gap, soft, stretchy fabric for good freedom of movement, full-length zip, rear pockets.


Conclusion

Whatever season you’re riding in, whether long or short distance, there’s a jersey for you. From technical garments developed with our sponsored Ag2r-La Mondiale U19 race team to casual, stylish tops perfect for a Sunday spin round the park, we’ve got it covered.