Shimano's Evolve jersey is airy and comfortable and fits well, but comes with a bit of a high price tag, despite being in Shimano's 'second tier' range.
Last year, Shimano launched its top-end S-Phyre clothing line, with a range of rather pricey apparel which was mostly pretty good, as you might expect. This year, it's released a second-tier Evolve line, which in typical Shimano trickle-down fashion is intended to offer much of the fit, function and muted styling of the top-end gear but at a (somewhat) more palatable price.
The Evolve summer jersey on test here is available in a range of colours including black, this navy, and a lighter blue. It has really minimal branding, just a small tag and an almost invisible Shimano logo on one sleeve, and a rather nice (if a bit Rapha-derivative) pink contrast collar. I think it looks pretty good.
Shimano has worked hard on fit too, and this medium sits nice and close on me. That isn't me in the photos, but the fit is similar. There's plenty of stretch in the fabric, meaning that it can be cut to sit closely on the torso without being constrictive. Shimano has used bonded seams quite extensively here, rather than stitching, and claims that this improves comfort and aerodynamics. It is both comfortable and aerodynamic, so I guess it's broadly right there.
The sleeves have a bonded tape at the ends, which can cause a bit of a sausage effect as seen on our model (who has bigger arms than me). Lots of jerseys now have raw-cut sleeve ends, which for me is the best solution in terms of comfort and fit.
Shimano has also focused its attention on heat management, with some interesting details included in the Evolve jersey. There are some very small laser-cut holes (sorry, "cooling micro-vents") on the front and back of the jersey, as well as under the armpits, intended to help keep you cool. My wife noticed them and asked me how I'd damaged my jersey.
Do they work? Who knows? I can't say I was able to detect any apparent extra cooling in those areas. Fact is, summer-weight jerseys are generally made of a very breathable fabric anyway, and these holes are really very small. I certainly felt as well-cooled as in any other decent summer jersey.
There is also a partial baselayer built into the Evolve, which is something we've seen before from Assos.
The theory is that having a meshed baselayer next to the skin is the best way to keep you from getting too sweaty – the baselayer can wick moisture away from the skin more efficiently more efficiently than a typical jersey fabric. And hence, ("take two bottles into the shower?") here we have a jersey with a baselayer integrated. There is some debate about summer baselayers, but if you prefer to have a meshed surface against your skin, you'll like this jersey.
I like a good baselayer as much as the next cyclist, although one of the things I like about them is putting my bib straps outside the baselayer rather than against the skin, which you can't do here, obviously. The mesh extends across the front and back of the shoulders and down the back, as well as sections in the armpits. The mesh isn't bonded to the outer fabric; the panels are sewn in.
Around the back, there's a broad stripe of reflective material, which matches the colour of the rest of the jersey but lights up brightly under car headlights, and the regulation three pockets. I found the pockets slightly small, and slightly higher than I'd like. The Evolve jersey is rated to give sun protection at UPF50+, so you can achieve an optimal cyclist tan look.
Priced at £129.99, Shimano is aiming this jersey at the big boys – that's a long way into Castelli, Alé and Rapha territory; more even than some Assos jerseys. It reminds me of the Superleggera I tested last year, although is priced a little higher, and that didn't have the partial baselayer. Both are made from lighter-weight fabric in a superfine knit, so good for hot days (although not as durable as heavier fabric – my Superleggera has quite a few snags in the fabric now). You can find it for less than £100 online, but at RRP it seems like an awful lot of money for a summer jersey.
In terms of performance, it does a good job, being well fitted, airy and comfortable. So if you like the fairly sober styling and are willing to spend that sort of money, it could be worth a look. If you're not, Sportful, Shutt VR, Craft, Northwave and others are offering hot-weather performance jerseys below (and well below) the £100 mark.
Subtle looks on this summer jersey hide some interesting heat-dissipation ideas
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano Evolve Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Engineered to ride further and faster with seamless construction, integrated base layer, and cooling micro vents
Dual-layer structure features a built-in baselayer and laser-cut micro vents at the chest, under arms, and back
Premium fabric with luxurious hand feel and softness
Lightweight design and construction
Discreet reflectivity elements on back for low-light visibility
Bonded seam construction for added comfort and clean look
Glove-friendly zipper pull for easy opening and closing
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
MATERIAL: Main body: 73% Polyamide, 27% Elastane; Part: 94% Polyamide, 6% Elastane
Nicely put together; pockets are on the small side.
Hard to fault on a warm sunny day, although in some ways I'd still prefer a separate mesh baselayer.
In my experience, lighter-than-average jerseys don't tend to last as long as heavier ones. No indications of any premature issues here yet, though.
Close-fitting but comfortable. Taped sleeve ends could make your biceps go sausagey.
A fairly typical weight for a summer jersey, but bear in mind that this includes a partial integrated baselayer, so it is pretty lightweight considering.
It's a comfy jersey. I'd probably prefer untaped raw-cut sleeves for maximum comfort score.
I was a bit surprised by the price here, which elevates it firmly into the territory of Rapha et al. Sure, it's a nicely made top and the baselayer is an interesting (if not wholly novel) idea, but I rather suspect that brand cachet plays a pretty important role at this end of the market, and that might limit its sales.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Generally pretty well. It's comfortable, well fitted and copes well with hotter days in the saddle. I'd have liked bigger, easier-access pockets.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Subtle, grown-up styling. Comfort. Subtle but effective reflective panel.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I doubt it – I think it's overpriced.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Potentially
Use this box to explain your overall score
It is a good jersey. I don't think the tiny ventilation holes and baselayer elevate beyond good It's a bit overpriced, too; I like it, but no way would I pay £130 for it.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.