Pure Velo's Racerback Jersey is perfect for hot, sunny days in the saddle. While the design and level of support won't suit everyone, it ticks lots of boxes where comfort and practicality are concerned.
To say I was reluctant to pull this on initially would be an understatement; a racerback cycling jersey? It's a triathlete thing, no? However, the roadie in me was cast aside and, swallowing my pride, I discovered it really wasn't a bad choice in the recent heatwave. There's a lot to be said for a jersey like this when the mercury nears 30 and you want a relaxing ride.
I am seeing more and more women on bikes, and many of them are opting for racerback or sleeveless tops. It's no longer a style that is primarily associated with triathletes.
Pure Velo's Racerback is a decent jersey that will appeal to all sorts of cyclists wanting to stay cool and comfortable on the bike. It doesn't have to be confined to summer miles either – it would look at home in a spin class.
I sit exactly between a small and a medium on the Pure Velo size chart, and tested a medium which offered a snug fit without being compressive. (It's not me in the photos, that's Tass who sits more towards large.)
The tail is a decent length, with silicone gripper holding it securely in place, and the fabric is soft against the skin – I never suffered with seams digging in anywhere.
The neck line is well designed too, I had no bagging or gapping here, even when leaning over on the road bike. You are protected from the zip by a thick strip of fabric.
The built-in bra didn't offer the support I am used to, which perhaps would have been addressed if I'd sized down. Some women who are used to plenty of support from a sports bra are likely going to want to wear something in addition to the built-in bra. There is no cup structure or shaping to it, it's simply a cropped top sewn into the jersey at the neck and arms, with a free floating, wide chest band. Naturally, if you do opt for extra support, you'll need to use a racerback bra if you want it to be hidden under the jersey.
Needless to say, I wasn't down on the drops putting in any high speed efforts while testing the Racerback. I tested it on some leisurely rides on both road and mountain bikes – nothing extreme or intense – and it was refreshing to have airflow around the shoulders and upper arms, particularly in the recent hot temperatures. In short, the body's own cooling system works better when the skin is exposed. I never noticed my torso getting too hot, or the jersey becoming overly sweaty, even when it was 30 degrees.
The rear pockets are roomy, certainly enough for a smartphone, snacks and spares. I even crammed in a lightweight short sleeve jersey just in case the sun became too intense.
A racerback naturally has the advantage of increased tanning, if that's your thing. I plastered myself with carotene sun lotion and was impressed that it didn't stain the white trim, as it does most white fabrics, validating Pure Velo's 'suntan lotion resistant' claim. My racerback tan lines also support PV's claim of the material's UV protection.
The design, with lateral panels, is flattering, though the polka dots won't be for everyone. The jersey is only available in one design and colourway, and matches the Short Leg shorts I also tested. The overall finish is tidy and it has washed well, showing no signs of wear.
One black mark though is the price. At £80 rrp (currently on sale for £68), it makes quite a dent in your wallet, especially for a top that can't really be pulled on for every ride (at least in the UK).
If you are considering going sleeveless, La Passione has something close to a racerback for £45 (rrp £58) and if you aren't quite on board with the racerback, sleeveless options are available for less too – for example Van Rysel's £34.99 jersey at Decathlon, or another option from La Passione for £53 (£66 rrp).
You don't get the built-in 'bra' with those, though. Castelli's Solare Jersey, which also has a built-in bra and a full frontal zip, is also £80.
This is our first review of a racerback jersey, so I can't really make accurate comparisons on performance, but I'd say that with a top like this it's more about fit, comfort and support anyway. Here, I'd suggest you opt for the smaller if you are between two sizes.
Overall, I think Pure Velo's Racerback has lots of positives – it'll keep you suitably cool and comfortable in hot weather, and help you avoid upper arm tan lines – though the degree of support won't be right for everyone, and there are cheaper options that are similar, if not fully racerback.
Comfortable and cool on the hottest of days, but pretty pricey and the support level of the built-in bra won't suit everyone
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pure Velo Racerback Cycling Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Pure Velo says: 'The Pure Velo Racerback jersey is a perfect choice to keep you cool on those hot summer rides or in a spin class and is super comfortable to wear.
'The Racerback has been designed for those that find themselves riding with their jersey sleeves rolled up on hot sunny days, avoiding the inevitable summer cycling arm tan lines. Made from a soft and breathable fabric this jersey will keep you cool on the bike whilst offering UV protection.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Pure Velo lists:
* Built in bra offering extra support and coverage
* Premium short front zip
* 2 large back pockets to carry your Pure Velo ride pac, mobile phone, gels, pump, tube, lightweight extra layer etc
* Soft breathable fabric
* Excellent coverage
* Silicone elastic across the bottom of the jersey holding the garment in place whilst riding
* Moisture wicking
* Pilling resistant
* UV protect
* Suntan lotion resistant
* Made in Italy with premium Italian performance fabrics
Very good Italian construction.
Keeps you cool but support level could be better.
Not enough support for me, but admittedly there's some personal preference here.
If in doubt, size down.
Built-in bra aside (it's comfortable but not supportive), the rest of the jersey is very comfortable.
There are cheaper 'similar' options out there (if not true racerbacks). It's a high price for something that probably won't get as much use as a regular jersey.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine – 30 degrees, comes out looking new.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It keeps you cool. I wasn't confident without extra support but with a cropped top style sports bra in addition it felt very comfortable. The fabric itself offers protection against the sun and won't be ruined by lotion.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great to have airflow over the shoulders and around the upper arms.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Insufficient support from the built-in bra.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's certainly more expensive than some similar (but not true racerback) designs, such as La Passione's Tank Top, but it's the same as Castelli's Solare.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, with added support.
Would you consider buying the product? No. It's just not me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall, I'd say it's good. It's designed for comfort, coolness and looks, and makes a decent job of it, though the level of support from the built-in bra won't be sufficient for everyone. It's not cheap either, especially as its use is likely to be pretty limited in the UK.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…