For many people getting into cycling, the idea of wearing spandex might seem like something only the pros or ultra-serious cyclists need. With many cycling jerseys sporting loud logos and colors, you might even feel foolish zipping up a tight-fitting jersey when all you want to do is get in shape.
While some of these thoughts are justified, there’s more to your gear choices than simply mimicking what you see from the pros or even other cyclists. With so much gear to buy initially, it’s OK to question whether or not a cycling jersey is something you actually need.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cycling jerseys so you can determine if it’s an investment you need to make.
THE PROS OF WEARING A JERSEY
Whether you’re a serious cyclist or just getting into the sport, there are plenty of good reasons to wear a jersey.
- It can make long rides easier: A T-shirt or loose-fitting item of clothing creates more wind drag when you ride. This resistance created against the wind slows you down, making it more difficult to pedal even at slower speeds.
- A jersey is more comfortable: Like a running top or other sport-specific article of clothing, a cycling jersey is made of breathable materials meant to improve comfort over long distances and wick sweat to keep you dry when the weather is hot. Cycling jerseys are also cut differently in the shoulders to allow for the forward position on a road bike and are normally longer in the back and slightly shorter in the front. Because of this, it might feel like it doesn’t fit when you’re standing up straight, but it will be more comfortable in the hunched over position that’s common on a road bike.
- The extra pockets are handy: Unlike a regular T-shirt or even a moisture-wicking running T, a cycling jersey has three pockets on the backside to store those extra items you’ll need on a bike ride. This includes things like food, spare clothing items such as a rain jacket or vest, or any extra tools that might not fit in your saddlebag.
- It’s safer: Being visible on the road so vehicles, pedestrians and other cyclists can see you and know your intentions is a vital part of staying safe. A good jersey has reflective materials and utilizes high-visibility colors to make it easier for others on the road to see you.
THE CONS OF WEARING A JERSEY
No matter what the subject is, there are always counterpoints that can be made in any debate. As it relates to cycling jerseys, there are reasons why some cyclists might not immediately want to wear one. Here are a few of the cons against purchasing a dedicated cycling jersey:
- They’re expensive: Like most cycling items, a good quality jersey can be expensive. When you factor all the other items that might take a higher precedent, the need for a jersey might get pushed down the priority list. However, one jersey can go a long way, or you can keep an eye out for used gear. There are plenty of good, inexpensive jerseys to be had, even if checking out the used selection on a site like eBay is your only option.
- It doesn’t make the biggest difference in terms of comfort: A jersey offers more of a performance advantage than a basic cotton T-shirt, and the pockets offer more convenience than a standard athletic T-shirt, but the gains may not be as great as other pieces of cycling gear. For the most bang for your buck, opt for a helmet, bibshorts and shoes before getting a jersey.
- Jerseys don’t fit my style: Cycling jerseys generally have a tighter fit. Because of this, some cyclists may feel self-conscious and not entirely comfortable in public. Some cycling jerseys can be really loud and obnoxious. Loud colors are actually good for safety and making you visible on your bike.
- It might be unnecessary in cold weather: In the winter, you can probably layer in a way that won’t make a jersey necessary. A long-sleeve base layer and a jacket could work, making that expensive jersey unnecessary for up to half the year, depending on where you live.
If you don’t have the budget to spend on unlimited bike gear, you might be able to pass on a jersey until you save some more. The key is to find a jersey that fits your riding style, activity level and body type. Don’t let the tight fit of higher-end jerseys steer you away from purchasing a jersey, as there are plenty of jerseys that have a looser fit. Looking good makes you feel good, and the better you feel on the bike, the more you’ll want to get out and exercise.