The Specialized SL Elite SS Jersey is ideally suited to riding in high temperatures thanks to its lightweight mesh construction which keeps you cool by letting the wind pass through. The cut is also perfect for those who like a close-fitting jersey without any fabric flapping in the wind.
With much of the UK basking in warm sunshine during lockdown, and more free time for me to ride my bike, the SL Elite jersey has seen plenty of use. In temperatures above the high teens, its lightweight mesh construction on the rear and arms really comes into its own, allowing a cool breeze to flow through. Riding hard on the flat and on all but the steepest and slowest of climbs, I never felt myself getting overly hot and sweaty.
Hauling myself up a 25 per cent hill, things could get a little overwhelmed in that department, but you can always drop the zip a little to help. Descending on the other side soon saw me dry out anyway.
To stop you getting too chilly, the front panels are a more solid knit of polyester, which is light and soft to the touch. There isn't much stretch involved as it has no elastane added, unlike the mesh sections, relying on the cut and shape to provide the fit.
The mesh sections have 15 per cent elastane added, which allows you to move around on the bike without the jersey riding up or the fabric bunching. It's a close fit all told, and the multi-panel design allows plenty of movement on the bike without fuss – when going from seated to a standing climbing position, for instance.
The tail is dropped by a fair amount, which keeps your lower back covered when in the drops, and I had no issues with it riding up thanks to the silicone gripper.
At the rear are three traditionally positioned pockets. They are made out of the same mesh fabric as the back panel, so aren't the tautest I've ever used and can sag a little when loaded up, though I never lost anything, even when in the drops.
Included is a headphone cable port in one of the pockets which marries up to a little loop (conveniently showing a headphone logo) on the collar to keep your wire neat and tidy.
One thing I would like to see is the inclusion of a valuables pocket with a zip. I know we managed fine without them for decades, but it has become a bit of an essential on a jersey or jacket for me now, knowing that my keys and debit card are safely tucked away. It's one of those little details I'd expect to find on an £85 jersey.
For the money, the SL Elite is very well made. Everything from the stitching to the fabrics themselves looks and feels top notch. The zip runs smoothly and thanks to the small plastic tab it is easy to locate and to adjust its height, even when riding at full chat.
Price-wise, it looks to compete well against Shimano's Climbers jersey. The Spesh might be a tenner more but it is about 50g lighter, cooler and has a more race-orientated fit.
A similar mesh-style jersey is the Pearl Izumi Pro Mesh, which ups the pricing stakes, coming in at £124.99. It competes well in terms of performance according to Adam's review, but you are paying an extra 40 quid for it, which is a big chunk of cash.
Overall, the SL Elite SS jersey is a great choice for riding in the spring and summer, especially when the temperatures really ramp up. Its high-performance cut and fabrics mean that it keeps you cool even when you are working hard.
Great breathability and a race fit mean the SL Elite is spot on for hard riding in the heat
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized SL Elite SS Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Specialized says, "Maximum comfort while riding thanks to the highly elastic SL 100, a polyester fabric with a Hydrofit finish, which assures evaporation of moisture."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Back and sleeves in breathable mesh fabric.
Full front zipper.
Three open back pockets.
Reflective S-Logo on front and on the back.
Considering how light it is, the fabric feels pretty tough.
It does have a close, slim fit which you need to take into consideration, but use Spesh's size guide and you won't go wrong.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues at all when following Specialized's instructions.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A race-orientated fit and the breathability of the fabric used mean this jersey feels cool and airy when riding hard in the sun.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fabric works well in high temperatures.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No valuables pocket.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Jerseys like this cover a fair old price range, and I'd say the Specialized sits somewhere in the middle. For instance, it's a little pricier than the Shimano mentioned in the review, but much cheaper than the Pearl Izumi.
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 overall score
The SL Elite delivers on performance thanks to the mesh fabric really allowing you to keep cool. This is backed up by a great fit and quality to match. Little omissions like the lack of a valuables pocket and a zip garage are a bit disappointing at this price, but it's still very good overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 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!