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Sportful's R&D Ultralight jersey is a feathery light and meshy jersey that offers incredible cooling properties, stopping you from overheating on warmer days or when slogging away up long mountain climbs.
Watch the Tour de France over the past few years and you'll notice a subtle change: jerseys have got thinner and more see-through. That's because the racers want to stay as cool as possible when the temperature ratchets up, especially in the mountains.
Sportful works closely with the Tinkoff team it sponsors and their demands for a lightweight and highly breathable jersey for the hottest days and races culminated in the development of this jersey.
As a result, it's the lightest jersey in the Italian clothing company's range, with the one pictured here (a size small) weighing just 103g. That's not much at all, and is bang on target with its rivals – though not as light as the exceptional Adidas adizero jersey tested a couple of years ago.
Granted, the temperatures in the UK don't tend to reach the same figures as they do in the French Alps, and the suggested working temperature of 25°C and above can be a rare thing indeed, but when they do, this jersey really comes into its own. I found it worked well below that temperature guide, too, and it's a good choice if riding a hilly course or sportive as it copes exceptionally well with high levels of sweat.
It's made from a Diablo Mesh fabric with AirMesh on the shoulders, with raw cut sleeves and a low collar. The fabric is soft next to the skin if you do forgo a baselayer, and the extra stretch in the shoulder panels gives it a really comfortable fit with no hint of restriction when moving about on the bike. The fabric has a UPF10 rating to protect against the sun.
A snug fit is usually expected of any Italian garment and especially one designed for a professional racing team, but even though it feels close-fitting when zipping up the YKK full-length zip, it isn't at all restrictive, whether stood upright for a photoshoot or crouched over the handlebar. The shape of the panels, the placement of the seams and the raw cut sleeves are all intended to maximise the aerodynamics, and while I didn't test it in a wind-tunnel, it certainly feels fast.
Compared with a regular jersey, the R&D Ultralight feels almost like you're wearing nothing at all, it's so light and airy. Nothing really compares to how breathable it is on a warm day, or grinding up one climb after another with little airflow to cool your sweaty brow. The material very effectively allows sweat to be whisked away and it dries almost instantly.
It may be best in the high temperatures that it's designed for, but it works well in typical British summer weather when the sun is shining, and as I've said, it's also a good choice for very hilly rides, where the low weight and breathability come into their own. It would also be a good jersey for the privateer racing who values breathability and aerodynamics.
The only downside is that the jersey can leave you more exposed on cooler days or if the weather turns during a ride, so you might be reaching for a gilet sooner than you would with a regular weight jersey.
It's available in a wide range of sizes and colours, and it's also worth shopping around as you can get it discounted.
A feathery light and highly breathable jersey for warmer days
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful R&D Ultralight Jersey
Size tested: Small
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?
Sportful says: "We made this jersey specifically to help win a Tour de France by keeping the Tinkoff Saxo riders as cool as possible when the temperature climbs. The semi-open mesh fabric allows maximum airflow and the low Lycra® content helps maximize evaporative cooling. The light, airy feel has us reaching for this jersey from 25° and up. Should be used without a base layer for best effect. UPF 10 rating means that it filters out 90% of damaging UV rays."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Diablo Mesh fabric for climbing the hottest mountains
AirMesh fabric on shoulders for extra stretch and perfect fit
Raw-cut sleeve edge lies flat and is extremely comfortable
Low collar keeps your neck feeling cool
BodyFit Pro ergonomic pattern
Lycra® trim waist and pocket support
Lightweight YKK® zipper
Exceptional performance in warmer weather or on very hilly routes.
I tested this jersey last year and have been wearing this one all summer, and it's brilliantly durable.
Snug is the best description; it was designed for a pro race team, but Sportful offers a wide range of sizes.
One of the lightest jerseys on the market.
The close fit isn't restrictive, and the fabric is soft next to the skin if worn without a baselayer.
Pretty good price at RRP but shop around and it can be bought at a discount.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy, bung it in the regular wash with your other clothing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent breathability in the heat and dries quickly; keeps you feeling cooler than a regular jersey.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Breathable, light, airy, aero fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Bit breezy on cooler or windy days.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's a very good jersey if you're heading out for a ride in the heat or hills, it'll keep you feeling cool and drier than regular jerseys.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.