Jerseys — the cooling (and coolness) factor

When I started biking last summer, my uniform was a pair of mountain biking shorts I’d had for more than 10 years (yes, they still fit) and a cotton t-shirt. It didn’t take long to figure out that I needed to make a change.

Most importantly, I had to get rid of the t-shirt. I’d come home drenched with sweat, and would have to wring it out on the back patio before bringing it inside.

I was aware of the colorful jerseys cyclists wear, but in keeping with my usual spending habits, I was put off by the price tag. Sixty dollars and up seemed excessive. So I got the best one possible: a free one. My wife already owned a jersey and had just bought a second one, but it didn’t fit her. It fit me, though, so it was mine.

The hand-me-down jersey.

Sizing was an issue right away. The jersey is by Nike, and their clothing always seems to run small. This is an XXL, and my usual shirt size is XL. And in this case, even the XXL was snug. So, taking my cue from this experience, I figured other jerseys were sized small, to get that skin-hugging sensation, and I ordered Nashbar’s most basic jersey, for about $19.

The Nashbar Essential jersey.

No skin-hugging here. It flaps in the wind. I didn’t return it for an exchange, because at the time, I was more comfortable with loose than snug. And the safety factor is great. The picture doesn’t do the bright, saturated yellow hue justice. This thing really stands out.

How do they perform? They’re both great. They wick perspiration away from the skin, and even though they can be soaked at the end of a ride on a hot day, my body is comfortable. I wear each of them a couple of times a week, but I favor the white one for club rides or organized rides.

Since then, I got a third jersey, a long-sleeved one from Performance, as a Christmas present. Although it is Performance’s basic jersey, again just a single solid color (red this time), it’s very different from the Nashbar one. For one thing, it fits better — it’s an XL. It seems better made. The fabric is heftier, which makes sense, since it’s supposed to be used in cooler weather.

So I’m pretty happy with the basic jerseys. I could use another, though, because it seems I’m always tossing these things in the wash. Which brings me to the big question — what kind? I kind of like the solid colors, but something’s been nagging at me. The coolness factor is missing. I see multi-colored club jerseys, and beer jerseys, and pro team jerseys, and rock ‘n roll jerseys, and I wonder if this old fart should gussy himself up a bit more? Thoughts? What do you wear?


  1. says

    I have some team jerseys, but for the most part mine are solid color Pearl Izumi jerseys. Never truly understanding the point of all the guss unless you actually have sponsors, I still prefer the relatively plain solid colors.

    As for fit, I’ve come to prefer loose over super tight. My favorite jerseys right now are actually $12 sleeveless C9 Champion shirts from Target. They’re cheap, loose, and the lack of sleeves keeps me even cooler. They don’t have the pockets in the back, but I have frame bags enough to make up for it. They also didn’t have the bright yellow I wanted, but the white and red options aren’t bad.

    For cycling jerseys, I still prefer sleeveless in the summer, and simply layer sleeved jerseys over wicking base layers in the winter.

  2. Black Pearl says

    I am sure you are going to find this difficult to believe but I have found a wonderful secret that I will share with you.
    I live in Dallas (that is not the secret) and I only wear wool jerseys. The natural fabric absorbs sweat and turns into a big movable swamp cooler. Even in August at the Hotter than Hell I am cool and comfortable. They never have an order, since I commute that is very important, they rarely are seen all over the groups that I ride with, and while they are expensive it is a luxury that I allow myself once a year. I now have about seven or eight and the oldest is just as good as the newest they seem to last a long time.
    Although having said that, I must confess that this year my jersey is synthetic, I was lucky enough to score a Men’s Pink Fat Cyclist jersey, and I will ware it to support Susan

  3. Nick V. says

    I have to second the Black Pearl’s comments. I won a smartwool light weight long sleeve base layer shirt this last year and I love the thing. I haven’t tried wearing it in the heat yet, but I wore it all winter here in Seattle under another jersey and couldn’t have been more happy. I used to wear polypro t-shirts under my jersey in cold weather, but boy do they stink. The wool base layer, never. They are expensive, but wow are they nice. An actual wool jersey is on my list for someday!


    Nick V.

  4. rainycamp says

    Wool. I knew it was the fabric of biking jerseys in the days of yore, but I’m hearing more about it now. Might have to consider it someday.

  5. Black Pearl says

    One other comment on the wool jersey, yesterday as I was getting ready for a 20 mile hill ride, I’m scoping out the route from DeSoto where I live to the DART station so I can make a car less commute. As I am getting dressed for the ride the postman comes and like the Wells Fargo wagon of yore he brought my Fat Cyclist jersey, WAHOO! So I am getting dressed it is 94 and 80% humidity out, so why not try my new jersey?

    It was hot, and I felt very sticky, furthermore, I could not stand my own smell by the time I got home.

    Love the jersey, glad to support Susan and Fatty but I am not sure about the jersey, I may try it one more time with a wool base layer that I have and see if that mitigates any of the drawbacks.

  6. Black Pearl says

    Oh one more thing abut my wool jerseys. Living in Austin you would love my Hotel San Jose jersey.

    I did the ride for the roses a couple of years ago and got full support from the team support van due to it. All the guys on the team, wanted the wool one rather than the team kit.

  7. says

    I have yet to try wool…but I would like to one of these days. But like Black Pearl mentioned it’s a little pricey! I received my Fat Cyclist jersey on Friday and wore it today. While I like the jersey it is definitely the hottest one I own and I doubt that it will see much love this summer. The coolest is probably the Single Track Ale one which is made by Primal Wear. That jersey gets lots of use! Maybe it was just the heat today but I definitely felt hotter than normal in the Fat Cyclist jersey…maybe it’s like that to help me lose some weight :-) I didn’t have a problem with odors though. I generally use a jersey for a couple of days before washing it and odor has never been an issue.

  8. Jeff Albro says

    Love your blog. I stumbled across it while researching saddles; now I’m reading thru your archive. I wanted to tell you about; they sell name brands in shorts and jerseys, but they have their own brand. Not really expensive, long, short or sleeveless. The shorts are as you have previously described…least expensive are not the most comfortable, but their Black Pearl is doing the trick for me.

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