It is a golden age for riding dirt, and it’s only going to get better when restrictions are relaxed—that’s why you need a shirt that can handle all that shredding.
It is a golden age for riding dirt, and it’s only going to get better when restrictions are relaxed—that’s why you need a shirt that can handle all that shredding. (Photo: Isaac Lane Koval/Cavan)

We Love These 6 Men’s Mountain Biking Jerseys

Tested for style and durability, these tops can handle anything coming down the trail

It is a golden age for riding dirt, and it’s only going to get better when restrictions are relaxed—that’s why you need a shirt that can handle all that shredding.

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A silver lining of the past year? We’re all riding bikes. A lot. The shops are busy in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Families are taking over the streets on two wheels, and cyclists are wearing out their Strava segments. Personally, my backyard pump track has never been in better shape. This is the summer to get out and ride dirt with your friends—you should have a shirt that can keep up. Whether you’re looking for a stylish top you can wear around town or something burly that can handle a spill, I’ve tested something for every type of rider.

Fox Racing Defend Delta ($100) 

(Courtesy Fox)

Best For: Going fast downhill

Size Range: S to XXL

Point your mountain bike downhill and gravity will eventually catch up with you. The Defend is designed to help protect you against those inevitable falls by incorporating a layer of Cordura fabric in high-impact zones on the sleeves for extra durability. I expected this downhill-specific jersey to be thick and stiff, but it’s surprisingly comfortable and airy, thanks to Polartec’s Delta fabric, which is superb at wicking moisture and promoting airflow. And if you’re sending the true gnar, the Defend is loose enough to fit elbow pads and a back protector underneath.

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POC MTB Pure ($80) 

(Courtesy POC Sports)

Best For: Hot days and plant protection

Size Range: XS to XXL

I ride in the southern Appalachians, which are incredibly hot in July and August and plagued with poison ivy, briars, and stinging nettles. Short-sleeve shirts might be more comfortable when it’s scorching, but I prefer long sleeves for the protection they offer against flora that can cause itchy rashes. The Pure is the lightest, breeziest long-sleeve jersey in my quiver. Thanks to tiny perforations in the polyester build that boost air flow, sweat disappears immediately. There’s also a zipper pocket in the back big enough for cards and a key. The Pure will be my go-to jersey on cross country rides this summer.

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Troy Lee Designs Ruckus ($65)

(Courtesy Troy Lee Designs)

Best For: Riders on a budget

Size Range: S to XXL

Troy Lee Designs helped shape mountain bike style, and the popular Ruckus has become an industry standard for cyclists who want to look good while shredding without breaking the bank. Its moto-inspired design is loose enough to encourage airflow and hide pads, while a mesh liner helps move sweat away from your body. Two zippered stash pockets in the back are big enough for your phone and snacks. I dig the three-quarter-length sleeves and the shirt’s silky texture. The budget-friendly price and thoughtful design make this one of my favorites. 

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7Mesh Industries Desperado ($80)

(Courtesy 7Mesh)

Best For: Stink-fighting simplicity

Size Range: S to XXL

Not all jerseys have to be aggro. The Desperado looks like a simple Henley you’d wear to the store, but it’s designed to rip. The supersoft and odor-resistant merino-polyester blend, flat-lock seams, and rear drop hem keep you covered and comfortable when you’re hunched over the bars. It’s the kind of shirt I forget I’m wearing during a ride, which is why I reach for it time and again.

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Kitsbow Essplanade ($155) 

(Courtesy Kitsbow)

Best For: Bike-to-bar versatility

Size Range: XS to XXL

There’s a good bit of singletrack near and around my hometown, so my crew and I grab post-ride beers often. Kitsbow’s apparel isn’t cheap, but the company makes some of the best trail-to-town gear. The poly-cotton Essplanade is the perfect example. It has jersey details like hidden vents in the shoulders for extra breathability, SPF 50 sun protection, and a zippered rear stash pocket, but the sleek style (dig those snap buttons!) means you could easily wear it to work or on a date. It’s a relatively thick shirt, so I probably won’t reach for this one in August, but I will use it often on social rides. I’m also a sucker for a front chest pocket. There’s also a long-sleeve version.

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Pearl Izumi Canyon ($100) 

(Courtesy Pearl Izumi)

Best For: Sleek breathability

Size Range: S to XXL

I’m not a huge fan of roadie jerseys, but Pearl Izumi gives dirt lovers a slightly looser fit with the Canyon by ditching the elastic around the waist, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing superhero spandex. I like the trio of rear stash pockets that offer enough storage for snacks or a light tool roll. I can even fit a wind layer in the center pocket. There’s also a smaller zipper pocket for a key, which means you can probably leave your pack at home on short rides. This is a great jersey if you pedal in hot climates—the Canyon is perforated and has larger holes on the back and under the arms for maximum breathability.

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Lead Photo: Isaac Lane Koval/Cavan

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