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How to Choose a Cycling Jersey

For the semi-serious cyclists who’d like to keep up with the local cycling group, a jersey that’s specifically designed for biking is one of those little things that might just make a difference. Here are a few tips when choosing a top for road biking.

Bike Jersey

Fit

Road bike jerseys should fit snugly. Loose material flapping in the wind will slow you down. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to go down a size; the manufacturer will have already taken that into account. Try on the size you normally choose, and it should be form fitting.

Shirts specifically made for cycling usually have a drop tail, meaning that the back is longer than the front. Make sure your jersey is long enough and doesn't ride up too far when you raise your arms to a standard cycling position.

Pockets

What differentiates a bike jersey from any other top are the three pockets found on the back, toward the waist. These pockets are easy to reach while you’re cycling and are perfect for stashing energy bars, gel, and other small items. If the jersey has no back pockets, pass on it—it’s not a cycling jersey.

Road Biking vs. Mountain Biking

Because of the speed difference, mountain bikers are less concerned with aerodynamics. They’ll sometimes wear a road bike jersey because of the pockets in back, but unless they’re racing, mountain bikers usually wear a loose-fitting synthetic T-shirt instead.

Full Zip vs. Partial Zip

Most road bike jerseys have a zipper in front, allowing you to ventilate as needed. Some zippers are full length; others come down only about two thirds of the way. Full-length zippers allow the best ventilation, but it may be harder to zip closed (after being fully unzipped) than a partial-length zipper.

Long Sleeves vs. Short Sleeves

Unless you bike only in hot weather, you’ll probably want a couple long-sleeve jerseys plus a few short-sleeve ones. It all depends on the temperature. For most people, the deciding point is somewhere between 50°F and 60°F.

Remember that it’s often better to start out a little cold; you’ll warm up after the first uphill climb. If it’s still too cold, consider combing arm warmers with a short-sleeve jersey. If it warms up, you can always take the warmers off and stow them in your back pockets.

If you’re biking in cooler weather, consider wearing either a heavier long-sleeve jersey or a cycling jacket.

Fabric

Polyester is the most common material used in cycling tops. It dries quickly and wicks moisture away from your skin. Most jerseys also have a percentage of spandex or other stretchy fabric.

Materials that contain an antimicrobial element have an added benefit, as it helps to prevent odors from taking hold. You can also find jerseys that provide protection from the sun up to about SPF 30.


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