At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.
Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
Bontrager's Ballista range is all about top end performance, which is why the £119.99 jersey fits so well while offering both breathability and an unbelievable range of movement. It carries an impressive amount of attention to detail too.
Made from Profila fabrics, the Ballista is all about technology and what can be achieved with it to create the best garment possible. It's a jersey of very few compromises and comes with an unexpectedly robust build quality, something a lot of lightweight kit doesn't offer.
Profila is the name given to Bontrager's premium fabrics and a couple of them are used here. The Profila Dry, which is designed to wick moisture rapidly and dry quickly, is used on the front panels and sleeves. With 88 per cent elastane in its construction it's highly stretchy in all directions – which is what it has to do just for you to get it on. The snugness creates a kind of compressive feel that comes into its own on those long rides, a little extra muscle support if you like.
The Profila Cool mesh fabric, which makes up the rear and side panels, lets warm air escape as the wind blows over your back. As far as comfort in warm weather goes, the Ballista is hard to fault. It's one of the most impressive jerseys I've used in sunny conditions for modulating temperature. This could be down to the Coldblack technology, which stops black fabrics absorbing heat from the sun. I've used plenty of garments with this technology in the past and it's always difficult to gauge how effective it is.
The fit might be snug, but as far as sizing goes it's on the generous side. By that I mean the sizes are realistic. I tested the medium which fits spot on in terms of length for the torso and arms, and although the fabric is supposed to be stretched once you put it on it's not tight or restrictive in any way.
The rear sits a couple of inches lower than the front and the whole jersey is held in place with a Lycra band at the bottom and nothing at all on the arms. The garment is so fitted that it requires nothing extra to maintain its position.
One neat touch is the pocket stitching. They aren't just sewn to the jersey at their lowest point like most, they are almost folded back underneath themselves before being fixed. This means when you load them up with your bits and bobs they have the material there to expand. This way they stay tight when full rather than sagging.
Now for the contentious issue of price... £120 for a jersey isn't actually that rare, and I can easily say that in relation to its competition the Ballista justifies the price tag. It's more than just a great jersey, it's special. The fit is spot on, the feel of the fabric, and the build quality all equate to a jersey that is more than the sum of its parts.
Expensive, yes, but you'll feel like a pro every time you put it on.
Beautiful top level kit that'll make you feel like a pro
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Ballista Jersey
Size tested: Medium, Black/Mint
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Ballista jersey sits at the upper end of Bontrager's range, as it says it is "Designed to be raced at the highest levels, every aspect of the Ballista jersey is built for speed."
It certainly is a lightweight piece of figure-hugging fabric.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*Profila Dry Fabric
*Three rear pockets
Neat and tidy stitching with real attention to detail.
Skintight fit and highly breathable, perfect for warm days.
The stitching pattern is designed to take some abuse.
Weighs about the same as most summer baselayers.
The material feels good against the skin and with the amount of give in the material you never feel restricted.
Like a lot of top end kit it's pricey.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For top notch race kit, the Ballista delivers exactly what is expected: a body-hugging fit, lightweight materials and great wicking properties.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The huge amount of stretch and comfort in the material.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
You need to be a racing whippet to look good in it... and I'm not!
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, once I've lost a few pounds.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Ballista pretty much sums up the professional-level jersey, a piece of fabric that looks like a child's garment but once on, the technology shows through. The material has a high level of compression and stretch so it moves with you at all times without bunching. Details like the way the pocket bottoms are sewn shows a lot of attention to detail.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!