It's easy to make a road jersey: Just tack on three pockets and a zipper to a t-shirt, and presto. It's not easy to make a good road jersey. A good jersey has to hang right in a drop position, compress but not constrict, hold plenty of gear in back without having the pockets blow out, breathe well, wick moisture, and look good. That's a tall order, which we've found out over the past few months of trying a closet full of apparel. Only a few are outstanding. Below are three of the tops we find ourselves reaching for again and again. Here's why.
Mavic Inifinity Jersey ($180)
The tech look of this French company's apparel can seem hit-and-miss, but the Infinity gets it right. The lightweight body material has felt airy even in the inferno of the last month, and the sleeve fabric, which is a sort of stretchy mesh that resembles a fine screen, squeezes gently on the arms without the clamminess of rubberized grippers. Most testers liked this sleeve material but a few found it a bit too rough. Fabrics aside, it's the details that really set the Infinity apart: the seamless semi-high collar looks and feels great, and the zipper port is well-designed so it doesn't catch. The full zip allows total venting when it's blazing. And the contrast rear pockets don't just look stylish but also have both a built-in media port and a trick little pouch on a leash so you don't inadvertantly lose your cash.
BOTTOM LINE: The perfect antidote to the hottest days.
Assos SS.Uno_s7 Jersey ($200)
What sets Assos apart and makes its products merit their exorbitant prices is the company's dedication to tailoring. The SS.Uno_s7 uses four different fabrics and 15 patterns to create a jersey that fits like a second skin on the bike. That last bit is important because when you first pull on this jersey it might feel constricting and a bit strange. In the saddle, though, it recedes. The back is longer and front higher for the seated position, the shoulders are tailored to mimic a rider's curvature, and the arms are cut lower on the inside to prevent chafing. Other than the satiny main body fabric, a high-wicking, medium-stretch material Assos developed in-house, the textured fabric under the arms lifts moisture and allows breathing while the stretchy panels on the shoulders keep everything moving with you. There are three pockets, of course, as well as a zippered mesh security pocket on the outside, but even here Assos leads the way with an extra bench of material at the base of the pockets to accomodate the bulk without sagging.
BOTTOM LINE: The next best thing to riding naked.
We love Icebreaker's superfine merino for cycling, but past entries have been a touch heavy for hot days. Enter this new 150-weight jersey, which is so light and airy it's tough to believe it's wool. Even when the high desert sun was beating down, we were as comfortable in the SS Team as we were in our lightest synthetics. Often we were more comfortable because the slightly more generous cut let air filter on to our skin and dry out perspiration before it even wet the fabric. This jersey has all the features you'd expect (grippers at the waist, three pockets out back), though we'd love to see a version with a full zip for even more versatility. One big gripe: the looks. Though it's clear Icebreaker was trying to delve into the bolder cycling aesthetic, we'd rather they stick with their normal understated persona. And while the red is tolerable, the high-vis yellow is too bright to come out of the drawer.
BOTTOM LINE: Brilliant summer comfort in a roomier-than-racer fit—now about those aesthetics....