A good winter jersey is one of the staples of your cycling wardrobe. It needs to keep you warm in a variety of conditions while also being breathable enough to keep you sweat-free when you hit a tough hills. That’s not an easy combination to get right, but thankfully there are plenty of impressive options to choose from these days. Here’s what to look for when making your choice.
Before we start, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a fine line between a winter jersey and a winter jacket. In fact, what one brand describes as a jersey would be a jacket in another brand’s range, so it’s also worth checking out our Buyer's Guide to Winter Cycling Jackets for more advice on what to buy.
We're covering pretty much all types of long sleeve jersey here, from lightweight ones for autumn/spring and occasional winter use through to windproof jerseys suitable for when the temperature is well down in single figures centigrade.
Long sleeve jerseys are available in many different fabrics, most of them synthetic.
At one end of the spectrum, you get jerseys that are made from similar fabrics to summer jerseys, just with long sleeves. These are usually lightweight polyester and they don’t offer masses of insulation, so they’re suitable for autumn and spring conditions.
Roubaix brush-backed polyesters come in a variety of different thicknesses to provide more warmth. These fabrics breathe well – they let plenty of sweat escape outwards to stop you getting wet and uncomfortable when you work hard – but they’re not windproof.
Many manufacturers use different fabrics for different panels to provide you with more weather protection in the most exposed areas at the front.
Many people love Merino wool as a winter cycling jersey fabric because it provides warmth, wicks sweat outwards from your base layer, and it is antibacterial so doesn’t easily start to smell as you exercise. Fans also love the feel of this natural fibre.
Most manufacturers that use Merino in their jerseys blend it with synthetic fabrics to tailor the performance, maintain shape, and improve toughness and durability.
Rapha, for example, use a lot of Sportwool in their range, a mix of Merino wool and polyester.
A downside to Merino is that it can get heavy when wet from sweat or rain.
Windproof fabrics are designed to stop the cold air from getting in and that’s particularly important when the temperature is very low and when you’re moving fast on the bike, increasing the level of apparent wind.
When you climb up a long hill you’re likely to ride fairly slowly and get sweaty. Then, when you go over the top of the climb and start to descend, you’ll speed up. The combination of the dampness you’ve built up on the climb and the faster speed means you can get cold very quickly.
Windproof fabrics reduce the effect of the airflow so you’re not robbed of your body heat, allowing you to stay warmer for longer.
Some windproof fabrics are more breathable than others but none is as breathable as most ordinary, non-windproof fabrics. This means that moisture can build up inside if you’re not careful, and that can lead to you getting cold and uncomfortable over time.
Many manufacturers make winter cycling jerseys with windproof panels at the front – the area that’s most exposed to the wind as you ride – with more breathable fabrics around the back. This is a tried and tested formula in cycling. You effectively get a jersey with a gilet built in.
Manufacturers will often make the top/front panels of the arms windproof too, with the underside of the arms made from more breathable materials. Some people prefer this kind of design, especially for colder conditions.
Windproof fabrics typically add enough water resistance to stop road spray and fog soaking through, although you’ll need the protection of a waterproof jacket if it starts to rain.
You’ll occasionally see tops made completely from windproof fabrics described as jerseys, but we’d say that these are usually better thought of as jackets.
Whatever type of riding you do, you want a winter cycling jersey that sits reasonably close to your body so that it doesn’t flap as you ride. Apart from being inefficient and annoying, a loose fit can lead to your body heat getting wafted out rather than staying inside and keeping you comfortable.
Stretchy fabrics are useful because they give you the option of fitting an extra layer underneath as well as your normal base layer on colder days, although very stretchy fabrics around the back can be bad news if they allow the pockets to sag when fully loaded.
Whereas some summer jerseys have quite a low collar, you want a tall, close-fitting collar on a winter jersey to stop the cold air getting in around your neck. You can always drop the zip down a bit if you feel too warm.
Look for a body that’s long enough to keep your lower back fully covered while you’re stretched out on the bike, or a dropped tail to do a similar job.
Sleeves need to be long enough to fit over or inside the cuffs of your gloves to avoid cold wrists. Occasionally you'll get thumb loops to avoid the possibility of any leaks.
Nearly every winter cycle jersey comes with a full-length front zip. As well as allowing you to get the jersey on and off easily, this allows you to regulate the airflow and temperature inside. This is particularly important if you have windproof panels at the front of your jersey. Look for a large zip pull that’s easy to grab with gloved fingers when you’re on the fly.
A baffle behind the zip stops cold air getting through.
Known as a zip garage in clothing designer jargon, a chin guard is usually a simple fold of fabric over the top of the zip to stop it scratching your neck. Some jerseys have a similar arrangement at the bottom of the zip to prevent damage to your bib tights/shorts.
Although zipped vents are more commonly found on jackets, you’ll occasionally find them on jerseys to add airflow to windproof front panels. You unzip them when you’re riding hard and sweating, zip them up again when you need more warmth.
Most winter cycling jerseys have some form of elasticated waist in order to get a close fit, and there’s often a silicone rubber gripper inside to prevent it from riding up as you pedal. You’ll occasionally find a drawcord instead, or nothing at all, in which case you’ll need to make sure that the fit is close enough to avoid draughts.
Reflectives are useful if you’re riding in dark or dull conditions and other road users are using lights. Some reflectives look subtle grey in daylight but shine out brightly as soon as they’re caught by headlights.
Most winter jerseys come with three pockets in the lower back although an increasing number now have a zipped compartment back there for securing your valuables: keys, smartphone and cash. You might want to carry quite a bit with you on winter rides, including a waterproof jacket, so make sure the pockets are big enough for your needs and that they’re built strongly.
The Etape LS Merino jersey is a great quality, comfortable three-season top that is very versatile. The majority of the jersey is made from Australian Extrafine Merino Sportwool which feels very soft against the skin, with no scratchiness or anything. It is unbelievably warm for a jersey that is so thin and its lack of bulk makes it ideal for layering, as you can wear it comfortably beneath a close-fitting waterproof or windproof jacket.
The Gore C5 Thermo Jersey is perfect for those dry, cold rides. It manages to maximise warmth without unnecessary bulk, and performs excellently both on its own or with other layers. The quality, pockets and breathability are all top notch.
Gore advertises the C5 Thermo jersey as being for 5-15°C temperatures, which in the UK – let's be honest – is most of the year. Over the last month and a bit of autumn/winter weather, it's become tester Steve's go-to jersey on any dry ride due to its excellent temperature regulation and versatility.
The brushed fleece lining might be thin, but it's more than comfortable enough without a base layer, and can indeed be worn in temperatures up to about 15 degrees. On chillier days a long-sleeve base layer easily slips underneath, and it's happy with a jacket over the top.
The Vulpine Men's Alpine Merino Blend Long Sleeve Jersey is comfortable and classic-looking, and the fairly light weight means you'll get plenty of use out of it during the spring, autumn, and even summer evenings.
Rather than being pure Merino wool, this one is 80% Merino and 20% polyester. Your instinct might say that this is a downgrade, but the synthetic fibre adds a little durability and you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference in terms of feel. This is still soft (the diameter of the follicle is 18.5 micron; superfine) – it doesn't itch your arms when worn over a sleeveless baselayer, for instance – and lightweight at 180gsm.
The British brand's tongue-in-cheek attempt to sex up this winter garment by naming it after the infamous erotic novels is unnecessary: the Lusso 50 Shades stands up on its own thanks to some good fabric choices, a stylish look and a well judged fit.
Lusso is clearly aiming to spank its competitors with the 50 Shades jacket, and it certainly has the look and the performance to put it in a dominant position. [That's enough BDSM gags – Ed.]
It is in reality more of a thermal jersey than a jacket. It's not water- or wind-resistant but instead it's lightweight and close fitting enough to be worn under a hardshell in winter and works equally well as an outer layer over a baselayer for shoulder-season riding.
The Altura Icon Long Sleeve Jersey is a warm, comfortable and very effective top or mid-layer for cool to cold rides, with a style and build that belies its price. It breathes and wicks well, and bar a lack of windproofing and the odd straggly stitch, really has no negatives.
This is the kind of top that makes you think jerseys must be simple things to get right – clothes makers have had a while to practise now, let's face it – even as plenty of other brands get it wrong. Whatever, the Icon makes it feel simple by just being really right without fuss.
Considering how thin and lightweight it is, the dhb Aeron Equinox Thermal Jersey does a very impressive job of keeping you warm and its lack of bulk means it's great for layering when autumn gives way to winter. It's also great quality and decent value too.
Tester Stu found that "with the temperature nudging 8°C outside I really wasn't sure how I was going to stay warm with just the dhb jersey and a long sleeve lightweight baselayer on. The fabric is really lightweight and although dhb claims a working temperature range of 6°C to 16°C, I wasn't convinced.
"However, the first couple of miles were chilly, as it should be when you first start out, but once I'd got the blood pumping, the temperature of the dhb was absolutely spot on."
The classically styled Sportful BodyFit Pro Thermal Jersey may look simple, but with the inclusion of plenty of technical fabrics it delivers on both comfort and performance. It's very well made too, which goes a long way to justifying the asking price.
Sportful's BodyFit range is designed for performance riders, those who want close-fitting apparel with a great cut when on the bike, no flapping fabric or creases around the joints. And that is exactly what you get here with the Pro Thermal jersey.
The Triban Long-Sleeved Merino Wool Bike Touring Jersey from French sports giant Decathlon represents incredible value for money, harnessing all the qualities of the famous fine sheepswool and looking chic both on and off the bike.
Packing for a multi-day cycle tour focuses the mind like nothing else. The knowledge that you have to lug everything with you up all the hills forces you to think very carefully about every single item. Do you really need that pair of pants or can you 'go commando' in the evening? Should you wear flip-flops? Saw the handle off your toothbrush?
A single, reliable, super-versatile jersey that with some canny layering can be worn every day in all conditions takes out a lot of cycling kit-related guesswork. One that can all do that and double up as a pub jumper is priceless. The Triban merino jersey is one of those.
Decathlon continues its theme of offering quality products at great prices with this Triban RC 100 Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey. Under 20 quid gets you a warm, well-cut top that is pretty good in the breathability stakes too.
This jersey is currently £17.99 on the Decathlon website, and for what you are getting it is pretty remarkable. Made from a blend of 90% polyester and 10% elastane, the fabric has a soft but robust feel to it, and it's warm too.
Riding early in the morning before the sun is up, the Triban has done a sterling job of keeping my torso warm when the temperature's hanging around the mid to high single figures, with just a lightweight baselayer underneath.
Morvelo’s Thermoactive jersey is a warm long sleeve autumn to spring jersey that will become part of your essential cycling wardrobe very quickly. On its own, with a base layer, under a windproof or a waterproof or with a gilet it’s a hugely versatile jersey which will work hard to keep you warm.
In many ways, it’s just a classic cold-weather jersey with its stretchy soft fleece lining and a high collar which immediately feels snug when you put it on. However, it is Morvelo’s attention to the fit that has made it so practical. The sleeves and cuffs are close fitting to prevent excess material flap, increase warmth and to help you wear it under other shell garments. The material is an undisclosed Italian fabric which is sewn into a multi-panelled construction that copes extremely well with moving heat away from your body and keeping you warm however you wear it.
There's a big range of colours and patterns too.
The Liv Race Day Thermal Long Sleeve Women's Jersey is a stylish, functional top that doesn't cost an absolute fortune. It will keep you warm enough without a baselayer on cool days, and its low bulk means it fits well under a jacket too.
The Race Day jersey doesn't boast any windproof properties, but don't let this put you off. It does an excellent job of protecting you against the cold without causing you to overheat. Even when working hard I never noticed moisture building up inside the jersey. Janine had a similar experience with the Flara Jersey; the Transtextura fabric just seems to be able to handle the moisture really well.
The Liv Flara Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey feels every bit as cosy as Liv claims. The ThermTextura tech delivers warmth and impressive moisture wicking. It's a snugger than expected fit, yet the cut is generous where it counts – lower back, neck and cuffs. The pockets are a bit small and fiddly, but for performance-meets-versatility that'll help you transition through the seasons, it's a great bit of kit at a decent price.
We were impressed to find the jersey stayed dry on the inside after a sweaty and hilly ride when tested without a baselayer. But something we found particularly notable was the inner fabric's ability not only to let moisture out, but not let it in either. While this jersey is not wet weather protective (nor does it claim to be), when it does get a little wet on the outside, the inner remains remarkably dry. Rapha's Souplesse jersey, by comparison, almost immediately felt damp on the inside when it got wet. But these jerseys aren't designed for rain, so in the case of the Flara it's more an added benefit.
The Merino Long Sleeve Jersey from Manchester-based Lusso has just the right amount of weight to the fabric to suit those chilly autumn days right through to the really cold winter ones when used as part of a layering system. It's a warm, comfortable and excellently made winter cycling jersey.
If you want to feel warm and comfortable on your bike this winter without compromising on appearance, then look no further than the Madison Keirin thermal jersey. Its medium to heavyweight fabric has a super-soft fleecy lining that feels lovely against the skin and does a pretty good job of wicking sweat, unless you're really pushing it (in which case most fabrics will struggle).
The fit is very flattering thanks to its stylish cut and the stretchy Lycra material, and I found the sizing spot on (that's not me in the photos, it's a tighter fit on our model). I particularly like the fact that it's not too short at the front. It comes in two colours: this bright pink 'Very Berry', and black.
Wiggle own brand dhb has an extensive line of strikingly-styled winter cycling jerseys, including this Blok women's jersey in fleece-backed fabric. Our Steph really liked the now-discontinued Superstar print when she reviewed it. It's warm, well-cut and looks good. There's a men's version too.
A long-sleeved Merino-based top with windproof properties, the Popsicle is designed as a spring and autumn jersey, keeping out the worst of the wind, while still having the breathability and temperature management properties of Merino wool. It’s essentially two tops in one, with ultra breathable Merino based sleeves, sides and full back, but a windproof fleecy panel across the front, where the wind does its worst. There’s a deep chest zip to help with ventilation. Ground Effect's Baked Alaska is the men's equivalent.
This is the long-sleeved version of the mighty Castelli Gabba, the ground-breaking short-sleeved Windstopper jersey that ushered in a wet-weather clothing revolution a few years back. The idea of the Gabba and Perfetto is that they provide adequate protection against the cold and wet if you're working hard, but aren't as bulky as a waterproof jacket. They're also more breathable, so you get less of the boil-in-the-bag feel.
The Parentini Mossa is a race-fit waterproof and windproof jersey that copes well with the rapidly changing and impossible-to-predict British winter conditions.
The Mossa is actually fully waterproof, not just water resistant. This is achieved with the Windtex Membrane fabric, which comprises two layers sandwiching a membrane, plus a hydrophobic treatment providing water repellency. Water simply beads off the fabric and even on a ride of 2-3 hours in steady rain, the Mossa copes admirably.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.