Best summer cycling jerseys — your buyer's guide and 10 of the best
How to find the best short sleeved cycling top for hot weather riding
While you can wear a t-shirt when you go cycling, you'll soon drown in your own sweat. Better to wear a specific cycling jersey made from a breathable fabric to keep you dry and cool no matter how long or hot the ride is, ensuring you remain comfortable all the way. Along with padded shorts, a good short sleeve cycling jersey for warmer weather is an essential part of any cyclist's wardrobe.
You can shed litres of sweat on long rides in the sun so a technical jersey made with a high wicking fabric will keep you dry and cool. Worth noting is that many jerseys can be worn nearly year round, during early spring and late into the autumn. As part of a layering system, a jersey can be paired with a gilet and arm warmers and used on cooler days around the calendar.
A summer jersey is a simple garment in essence, but look through any catalogue or browse your local shop and you'll quickly realise there are hundreds of different jerseys. They're all trying to do the same thing though, but how they do it can be very different, so it's worth being clear what you're looking for before you starting buying.
You can pay anything from £5 to £130 for a jersey, but an expensive one isn't necessarily 20 times better. Generally, you're paying extra for better and more advanced fabrics that are better at wicking sweat and keeping you cool and dry than very basic fabrics. You can also expect improved fit and styling and extra features.
Materials and fabrics
Yes, you could wear a t-shirt on your bike. But cotton, as you'll find out if you ever ride in it on a hot day, isn't that great at dealing with sweat; it simply holds onto it, and before long will be soaked through. Add a light breeze and you can quickly chill. Not good.
So the aim of a technical jersey is to wick sweat from your skin to the outer side of the fabric, where it can evaporate. That leaves you dry, so you don't get clammy with sweat and won't chill if the temperature drops or the wind picks up.
Man-made synthetic fabrics are the mainstay of summer jerseys, but natural materials – basically types of wool – are also good choices. Naturally sourced materials such as Merino wool have developed a lot in recent years with many improvements and developments leading to Merino wool being a good choice, even on hot days. One particular benefit of woollen jerseys is that the fat molecules in sweat find it harder to cling to the organic fibres than they do with man-made polyester, so wool jerseys take a lot longer to pong.
Another consideration for cycling in hot weather is to look for a jersey with a fabric that provides some sun protection. Some jerseys use very lightweight and loose weave fabric that can let a lot of harmful UV rays through, so manufacturers have started addressing this by making clothing with SPF and UPF ratings. When you're cycling you're exposing your back to the sun, the area under your jersey that you most likely don't apply suntan lotion to.
Fit is everything
You can have the best and most expensive fabric in the world, but if the jersey doesn't fit well you'll lose a lot of performance. Fit is, naturally, a personal thing, and also depends on the style of riding you do. If it's sportives and racing, then tighter fitting jerseys are better, they're less flappy and more aero.
For touring and leisure cycling a relaxed fit with a more generous cut will be preferable. Equally too for commuting to the office. Such jerseys can be made from highly technical fabrics, but offer a more relaxed style that is as comfortable on the bike as sitting in the beer garden for a post-ride drink.
Sizing is critical, whichever your chosen style, and here companies offer a range of sizes that should sit most body shapes. Some measure up smaller or larger than others, so don't take it for granted that you're a medium in one brand that you'll be the same size in all other brands. Trying before you buy is really the best way to proceed, if you have the opportunity.
If you're racing or seeking an aerodynamic advantage, there are a raft of new jerseys designed to sit very close to the skin, with no excess material to flap in the wind, and help your upper body better cut through the air. They're not for everyone though... Remember, about 80% of the wind drag you face when cycling is caused by the body, so ensuring your body is aero is a better place to start than dropping £2K on a pair of carbon deep-section wheels.
Pockets, zips and mesh panels
Features can make or break a good summer jersey, and generally speaking, the more features the higher the price. The very minimum you want is three pockets around the back for stuffing a ride's worth of food, money and spare tubes, and a zip at the front for when you need to cool down. That's your classic cycling jersey right there.
There's a myriad of extra options, with everything from zipped pockets, full-length zippers, mesh panels strategically placed for maximum ventilation, elasticated waists, silicone hems to stop them riding up, and reflective stripes, good for riding late into the summer evenings.
Style it up
How the jersey looks is purely personal preference, there's enough choice out there to keep everyone happy. Your options range from team replica kit, understated but stylish branded wear all the way through to the current trend for retro inspired garb.
And the choice continues to grow. A big growth area has been in the cycle clothing that doesn't look like cycle clothing, that could happily be worn off the bike without raising eyebrows. Yet using the latest technical fabrics and smart fit, means they work well on the bike when you're hammering along the road.
Women are better catered for now than they ever have been in previous years, with most manufacturers now offering comprehensive choice of jerseys specifically to cut to suit the female form. And some even manage to avoid making their jerseys pink or baby blue and plastering butterfly details over them, but if that's your thing there are still plenty of pink and flowery tops too.
Caring for your new jersey
It's not a good idea to wear your new cycle jersey more than once, even if it was just a short ride. Your perspiration settles into the fabric of the jersey, and the bad smell is caused by bacteria. So wash your jersey after every ride.
For washing, it's important to follow the manufacturers guidelines printed on the care label. The temperature rating is the vital bit, and it's necessary to wash accordingly. If you do wash a fabric at a higher temperature than advised and do so constantly, the fabric will deteriorate in quality.
Washing liquid or gels are preferable to powder as they are less aggressive with the delicate fabrics, though powder is better at getting out really muddy stains. When it comes to drying avoid the tumble drier at all costs, unless you want your jersey a size smaller. Hang on the washing line or over a clothes rack and allow to dry naturally, the best thing about cycle clothing is how quickly it dries, so you won't have to wait long.
Other tips, don't forget to empty the pockets – sounds obvious but I've lost count of the times I've stuffed a jersey in the washing machine and forgotten to remove a used gel wrapper. We would advise washing your cycling clothing separately from your ordinary clothes too. And don't forget to zip up the zippers as well.
10 great summer jerseys
There isn't much cycling kit you can get for a tenner: a pair of socks maybe, or a of couple water bottles. Or, you can buy a fully functioning B'Twin 300 cycling jersey. You'll have change too. In fact you'll have change from a fiver.
It may be basic but the 300 isn't just a rehashed t-shirt. You get breathable material with various panels, two rear pockets and a front zip plus Decathlon's two-year warranty against defects. You kind of wonder what the catch is. As far as we can see there isn't one.
At just £39.99 Tribesports' short sleeve cycling jersey is certainly priced at the budget end of the marketplace. Get the miles in though and you'll find its only the cost that is entry level.
The jersey itself is made from an 88% polyester, 12% spandex mix which creates a very pliable 4-way stretch material. Tribesports have gone for an aero fit which means it's pretty-figure hugging and not for the body conscious. It feels like a mild compression top giving the muscles a bit of support.
dhb's Blok range is inspired by jockey racing silks and retro team geometrics, which change every year. This is probably the most understated of the range, which includes designs inspired by flags and large geometric shapes.
The fit is described as 'anatomic'. In practice, the fabric is highly elastic, and I found the cut figure skimming; stretching comfortably over the hips and chest and in at the waist. I could have happily sized up for a more relaxed fit without compromising a female silhouette.
The excellent fit is compounded by the generous length of the jersey. It sits comfortably on my hips, and combined with the added security of a silicone strip running along the hem, doesn't ride up at all. The standard three-pocket design is supplemented by a nifty hi-viz zip on the right, giving access to a smaller pocket easily big enough for keys, coins or a debit card.
The Conquest Performance 2 is an excellent technical jersey in a slim, performance cut.
It's made from several different types of fabric. The fabric used for most of the body is dimpled. Conquest say that this reduces drag, although to my mind the fact that it lets plenty of air through is more significant. The textured surface doesn't easily stick to your body when you do get it sweaty; that can sometimes be an issue if you ride without a base layer.
With a racy fit and cooling areas built in, Altura's Podium SS is aimed at the higher performance end of the market than the UK brand's usual fare, and it's spot on for hot summer rides.
This is definitely a jersey for hot days. The sheer mesh on the underarms works really well at keeping you cool when it's 20 degrees or more out.
Compared with other racing/performance jerseys, £59.99 is pretty good value for what you are getting with the Altura Podium. Recommended it to anyone looking for a jersey they can ride fast in on hot summer days.
The simple and surprisingly understated design by Castelli for the Entrata jersey makes a comfortable and stylish summer top.
The Enrata is made from Castelli's ProSecco 3D fabric, which scores 10/10 for the play on words for starters. Improved evaporation, by spreading moisture across the jersey within the fabric, helps with keeping your skin noticeably dryer and cooler. Even with the customary Castelli tight fit, the Enrata wasn't clinging to my skin even on the few genuinely hot days of this early spring.
The fit on the Bodyline jerseys is top drawer; it's no exaggeration to say that it's on a par with high-end jerseys costing over £100. The sleeves are undoubtedly the highlight. Super stretchy fabric gives a tight aero fit on the skinniest biceps with a raw cut end - no seams.
I'd never previously found myself irritated by a seam on the end of my sleeves, but raw sleeve ends are what the pros are mostly wearing and they're bloody lovely. Quite simply, they are the best-fitting and most comfortable sleeves of any jersey I've worn, at any price.
The torso is also a close aerodynamic fit which I found was very comfortable and not at all restrictive; you can really see the expertise of manufacturing subcontractor Bioracer here. Breathability is decent, if (unsurprisingly) not on a par with the ultra lightweight jerseys that the likes of Castelli, Rapha and Adidas have produced recently for the hottest of summer days.
With its lightweight construction and airy feel, Sportful's R&D Ultralight Jersey meets the demands of the warmest conditions, keeping you cooler than a regular jersey.
Sportful's R&D range is reserved for their most cutting-edge garments, essentially a showcase of their latest developments. The Ultralight jersey has a claimed weight of just 99g – our size small sample weighed 104g – and compares very favourably with similarly lightweight jerseys from Castelli and Rapha.
The Ultralight was developed to meet the needs of climbing mountains in the hottest conditions. To achieve this, Sportful combine Diablo Mesh, a very thin, light, meshy and stretchy polyester and elastane material, with Air Mesh shoulders to create a jersey that offers exceptional breathability.
The design brief for this jersey was to improve the fit so it's far more figure-hugging and at the same time more aero than anything Etxeondo had made before. They've designed the shape of the panels to ensure the jersey sits very flush with the body, especially around the neck and arms. These are areas where any badly designed jerseys or excess fabric can bunch up, but that's not the case with this jersey.
The jersey is made from a Meryl microfibre fabric with UV protective qualities. I tested the jersey on a recent trip to Majorca and I can vouch for its wicking and sun protection abilities. Flatlock stitching throughout means no seams to cause irritation. You get three good sized pockets plus a small zippered pocket, large enough for some cash, a credit card and your house keys.
Alé's PRR Ponente Jersey might be pricey but it puts in an excellent performance if you're after a slim-cut option for the hot weather.
The PRR Ponente is a lightweight polyester/elastane jersey with perforated front panels that let lots of air in and moisture out. The tops of the arms/shoulders are made from the same breathable fabric. The jersey as a whole wicks sweat well and dries fast when it does get damp.
road.cc summer jersey reviews
We test jerseys to help you choose the right one for your needs, take a look at the archive here.