We are now entering the latter few weeks of autumn and still there are cyclists in some part of the UK who are routinely riding out in bib shorts and short sleeve jerseys. It’s always liberating to be spared the pain of having to pull on all the necessary clobber for a winter ride, but the colder weather will come and if you have any gaps in your wardrobe, now is the time to be plugging them!
The long sleeve jersey is obviously a staple of the road cyclist and a versatile garment to have in your wardrobe. Coupled with a base layer, a long-sleeve jersey will see you through those milder autumn, spring and winter days, but underneath a more substantial jacket, they will provide a little more protection and insulation against more extreme weather conditions. There is now a spectrum of choice out there to accommodate every taste: from retro chic to a sleeker, contemporary look. Others flirt with haute couture (even Paul Smith is getting in on the act!) and some brands are pushing the boundaries, introducing funky and original combinations of colours and graphics.
The good news for the road cyclist of today is that clothing is such a competitive sector of the industry and so manufacturers are pumping huge amounts of R&D into sportswear fabric innovation. The consequence is that the bar is continually being raised when it comes to comfort and performance, but the prices have to remain competitive and realistic. The quality of the fabrics and how they are combined will certainly impact on the price you pay and construction and detailing will invariably add to the cost too. All but the very cheapest jersey should provide a decent level breathability and protection and some features should come as a given: generous rear pockets that will not sag or deform, Hi-Viz detailing to improve your visibility, robust zips, secure hems, cuffs and necklines and a cut that avoids unnecessary bunching or flapping of material.
Below is our pick of five of the best long sleeve jerseys currently available for Autumn/Winter 2015. They represent different price points, but also illustrate the variety of choices available to the road cyclist who intends to continue riding through the colder months, whether at a higher pace or on longer, slower base rides.
dhb Blok Micro Roubaix Long Sleeve Jersey
The dhb Blok range occupies the funkier end of the design spectrum and is characterised by vivid colours and bold graphics. Original design is one thing, but this jersey is underpinned by dhb’s consistent ability to provide cycle clothing of a very high quality, both in performance and construction, but at a price point that would embarrass many of the brands sitting at the higher end of the market.
The Blok Micro is only available in one colour combination and the design is relatively subdued in both the men’s and women’s version, especially when compared to the bolder motif of its sibling, the Meso Jersey. Personally, I like the white/lime/light blue combination over the darker blue base and I cannot recall another jersey on the market that it resembles. It’s certainly has a uniqueness that makes it stand out from the crowd.
The warm temperatures we have enjoyed in my Cotwolds playground this autumn have created problems in assessing the performance of this jersey. So effective is the Roubaix fabric in providing thermal protection that any rides at a half decent tempo have led to overheating. This suggests that the Micro Roubaix Jersey is best kept for those chillier autumn and winter days, when the north winds can nip at your body, cooling you quickly if stationary. For lower tempo or base training rides in milder weather it is perfect, but paired with a decent long sleeve base layer, I can envisage it handling temperatures just above zero. It therefore offers versatility and there’s no denying the overall quality of the jersey. The cut is very precise – a race orientated fit, but relatively forgiving too (not always a happy marriage and one that few carry off well).
The sizing is spot on too. Now I’m on the biggish side: 6 ft, 43” chest and my optimum fighting weight is somewhere around the 88 kilo mark. I call myself ‘big boned’, though my friends would probably call me ‘voluptuous’, but the XL was a really snug fit and well-tailored around the torso, neck and arms. For those of you who have tried to squeeze yourself into certain European über-brands, the sensible sizing on the Wiggle website will be a blessed relief. Silicon hem, elasticated cuffs, a decent zip, which incorporates a draught shield, tick all the necessary boxes. The three deep pockets provide plenty of storage and the centrally placed zipped pocket is well positioned and easily accessible. I’d like to see a little more hi-viz detailing (there is only a strip below the central rear pocket) but there is a lot of quality packed into the Blok Micro jersey and at £45 it’s actually a bit of a steal!
Room for more cake: the dhb Blok Micro Jersey is beautifully cut, without being too unforgiving.
The dhb Blok Micro Jersey is available exclusively on Wiggle and comes in both a Men’s version and Women’s version, the latter in black with a white and coral design. Both jerseys have a RRP of £45. Their sister jersey, the Blok Meso, as mentioned in the copy above, is also priced at £45 and comes in the navy/black/orange combo for men and a yellow/navy/turquoise version for women. (Johnny Morrison)
Isadore Apparel Long Sleeve
Peter Velits, co-founder of the stylish and distinctive Slovakian label, Isadore Apparel, wore the leader’s jersey for a day at the Vuelta this summer, when he led the BMC time trial team across the line on the opening day. The brainchild of Peter and his brother, Martin, who rides for the Belgian Etixx-QuickStep team, Isadore Apparel is definitely a label that packs a heavyweight pro peloton punch. Though the onus is very much on performance cycling gear, the brothers obviously have a very keen eye for a distinctive and stylish look. Everything about this label, from the original designs to the sturdy, but sophisticated box the garments arrive in, to the oozingly cool website, all earrings and tatts, mark out this new kid on the block as something a little bit different – a sort of Eastern European Rapha, but with a slightly edgier, hip-hop swagger.
Their long sleeve jersey, which comes in three great colours (potent purple, burnt orange or olive green) is actually one of their more restrained designs, but it is unmistakably classy. The merino rich material lends the jersey an exceptionally luxuriant feel and the tailoring and detailing are haute couture in character. The internal chest pocket and elbow pads are nods to contemporary fashion, which add to my initial impression that this is a jersey as much at home on a brisk autumnal ride as Happy Hour in a cocktail bar.
On the bike, however, the ergonomic cut tells you that this is a jersey that is designed for cycling: slim, racy and with a lovely length to the arms and torso, with deep pockets that hold plenty of accoutrements without sagging. There is a small percentage of elastane woven into the fabric, which provides a good level of stretch without sacrificing the warmth and softness of the merino/polyester fabric. A reflective strip (on the left hand side, which highlights the continental provenance) provides one with a certain level of visibility in lower light conditions, rounds off a very classy garment. My only gripe, but worth mentioning, is the metal logo on the neckline – perhaps a detail too far. (Dave Nash)
The Isadore Apparel Long Sleeve Jersey can be purchased online only on the Isadore Apparel website. It retails €139 (around the £100 mark in today’s money) and delivery to the UK takes 4 business days and costs a further €10 (£7). For €30 (£21) an express FedEx/TNT delivery is available, which takes 1-2 business days.
Prendas Ciclismo La Casera-Bahamontes
The Dorset based online retailer, Prendas Ciclismo, finds inspiration for many of their retro designs from the cycling past, including some of the most famous jerseys that have ever graced the professional peloton. The unveiling of their La Casera- Bahamontes short sleeve jersey last year marked a change in their usual Franco-Italian hunting ground, resurrecting a jersey from a Spanish pro team of the early 1970’s and, furthermore, a team that would only be on the radar of the most avid fan of the sport’s colourful history. And what a colourful jersey this is – deep tomato red, green and white combined with the strong logo make for a striking design. So it was great news when Prendas announced they were following up the success of the short-sleeve jersey with a long-sleeve version. The design is essentially the same as the summer jersey – the arms have been extended in the same rich red, setting off the strong logo of the team name, which was sponsored by the drink La Casera, and managed by the Spanish cycling legend, Federico Bahamontes, the ‘Eagle of Toledo’.
The long sleeve offering shows all the hallmarks you would expect from the Italian manufacturer, Santini. It’s beautifully cut and robustly constructed, with an unmistakably slinky feel. Santini class the NDP42 material as ‘Light Thermofleece’ – it’s a 96% polyester/6% elastane mix and has a reassuringly cosy warmth. The team at Prendas, all avid cyclists, suggest the jersey is perfect for temperatures between 5°C to 12°C and in outings in temperatures nearer the higher end of that advice, it has provided more than adequate warmth when teamed with just a sleeveless base layer.
The three rear pockets are stretchy, ample and strong and the little zipped pocket is perfect for a mobile or valuables. The tops of the pockets are edged in a 7mm strip reflective trim, which paired with the reflective (but discreet) Santini logo on the middle pocket and the white bands on the arm and torso, ensures you will be very visible on the road too. Retro chic at its wintery best. Vamos!
The Prendas La Casera/Bahamontes Retro Jersey retails at £69.95 and is available to buy exclusively on the Prendas Ciclismo and comes in their usual huge spectrum of sizes, from XS to 8XL
Rapha Long Sleeve Pro Team Aero Jersey
In this era of marginal gains, cycle clothing manufacturers have become adept at convincing us that their latest garment may significantly improve our performance. Where the pros lead, we weekend warriors invariably follow and this is very much the case with the Rapha Long Sleeve Pro Team Aero Jersey. Developed in response from a request from Team Sky to produce an emphatically race orientated, aerodynamic jersey, this jersey is the end result. Fine-tuned with feedback from members of the team, the jersey has a very tight, figure-hugging fit. Any bulges in the wrong places will be ruthlessly exposed, so before you click the ‘Buy’ button it might be pertinent to measure your body fat weight percentage! No worries for the Team Sky riders, of course, who will be wearing the same jersey on their winter training rides, albeit with team branding.
It’s a stripped down garment in every sense and the fabric, a polyester/elastane mix, has an innate stretchiness so the jersey hugs every contour. This is where the strength of this jersey lies, for whether standing or on the drops, there is no flapping of material whatsoever. Excess material has been completely eradicated. When riding at a higher tempo, the lack of bulk is noticeable, which does make for a far more efficient and comfortable ride, not unlike a second skin.
The fabric may not be substantial in feel, but it delivers a level of protection that surprises. Thanks to a mild autumn, I’ve had ample opportunity to put the jersey through its paces in temperatures fluctuating between 7°C and 14°C. Paired with a short-sleeve base layer, it has been consistently comfortable and reliably warm, and when the tempo has risen, I have never felt overheated (or sweaty), so it has great breathability too. In fact, the harder you push, the better it seems to perform in terms of keeping the core body temperature constant.
The Pro Team Aero Jersey comes in black, coral (above) or the data print design.
To date the garment has performed flawlessly and I find it difficult to find any faults. OK, the neck line is low, but on colder mornings I’ve taken to simply wearing a neck warmer. The size of the rear pockets is one niggle – with a depth of just 17cm they are far smaller than average and there is no zipped pocket for valuables, but I acknowledge that this is further evidence that this is a jersey with a clear race-orientated pedigree. I have long been a fan of the Castelli Gabba jersey – my ‘go to’ jersey for when the clouds are looking a little more threatening, but this offering from Rapha is definitely comparable in the way it actually helps one perform better and ride more efficiently. Just ask my club mates – ever since I’ve been wearing this jersey, I’ve been ramming home the advantage! Marginal gains ain’t just for the pros!
The Pro Team Aero Jersey is available exclusively to buy on the Rapha website. At £140 it is the most expensive jersey on test and comes in two versions: black and coral. Alternatively, the jersey is also available in the striking Data Print edition. (Shpend Gerguri)
Endura FS260-Pro Jetstream III
Coming in at a competitive price point, the FS260-Pro Jetstream from Endura is further evidence that the Scottish based manufacturer has really upped its game in the last few years. Is this a jersey or a jacket? In these times of ever more innovative fabrics, it can sometimes be a thin dividing line and the scrunchiness of the material and the high neckline suggest that the FS260 Pro resides in the latter camp.
It is a very unsubstantial, lightweight garment, however, and will undoubtedly appeal to those looking for a less minimalist, racier looking jersey to see them through the colder months. The ‘go faster’ stripes down the arms suggest a passing nod to some veritable Italian marques and the cut, which is tapered and aero, makes this a jersey for those who intend to ride at a higher tempo over the coming months.
Endura have been the official kit supplier to the Spanish team, Movistar, for the last two seasons, who boast Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Britain’s Alex Dowsett in their squad and though the Jetstream III jersey is certainly a reflection of that association, the FS260 range is not marketed exclusively at performance driven cyclists. In fact, cyclists of all abilities can reap the benefit of the entire FS260 range, as it draws on premium, innovative fabrics to ensure the respective garments perform at the very highest level in the conditions for which they were made. On the road, in temperatures around 8°C, the Jetstream III is remarkably warm (paired with a long sleeve merino base layer), which is surprising given the thinness of the panels. Windstopper fabric on the arms and front help keep the chill at bay and further insulation is afforded by the snug, high neckline and fleecy panels on the underside of the arms and the back.
Breathability is excellent too and even when riding at a higher tempo, the jacket wicks sweat away effectively. It also coped with a damp morning mist and though I would not want to be caught in a deluge wearing this jacket (it is not overly water resistant) it can cope with lower degrees of moisture and the tight fit offers good security against water ingress.
The FS260 Jetstream III has a striking design, with some honeycomb detailing in strategic places. The lime green jersey tested is vivid to say the least and would be just as home on a high tempo 50 miler at the weekend as it would on a swift ride to work on a cold January morning.
The pockets (pictured above) are very roomy – at a generous 27cm they were by far the deepest on test – and offer more than enough room for a few extra spare tubes and energy bars! There’s also a small zipped pocket for valuables (too tight for the larger smart phones – my iPhone 5 just had room). I love the Hi-Viz accents on the neck and cuffs and also over the top of the pockets, all of which do not distract from the overall design, but compliment the look perfectly. The Jetstream III is pitched at a mid-market price point, but it’s a very well thought out jersey that illustrates that fabric technology is now at a point where performance and comfort, not forgetting cutting edge design, are more affordable than ever.
The FS260-Pro Jetstream III RRP of £72.99 for both the men’s and women’s version. More information can be found on the Endura website, where you will also find a list of stockists. The jersey is widely available to buy online, including Chain Reaction Cycles. The Men’s version comes in sizes ranging from Small to XXL and is available in Black, Red, Blue, White and Hi-Viz Green. The Women’s version is only available in red or black, and comes in sizes ranging from XS to Large.