300 euros? Here’s how to pay less and get more for cycling gear.
Note – I put a TL; DR at the bottom of the page – feel free to skip ahead.
As the search results for “professional grade cycling jersey” came up with a long list of ads, I sighed at how bad I (still) am at using google. Seeing the number of brands preaching “professional grade” I also realized this was going to take a bit of comparison shopping. After checking out 5 or 6 I didn’t feel any closer than when I started. Aside from how each jersey looked, whether it was for hot/cold weather and the cost, I struggled to differentiate the product. What made them “professional”?
With a range of prices between 30 and 300 euros, I was determined not to be swindled. Clearing my afternoon plans and plugging in my mouse, I sat down to a session of thorough research.
I hate shopping...
I usually take a simple decision to begin with – am I here to win on PRICE or QUALITY? With the result being that I usually either buy a cheap product or seriously over pay. With a few hundred euros on the line I wasn’t ready to commit in either direction.
Thinking it through, I realized I’m looking for a jersey on the lower half of the price range but one that shares as many traits as possible with those on the upper half.
So what are the expensive jersey’s giving me?
Brands – I didn’t care what brand it was, so wasn’t a reason for me to pay more.
Style – I found ugly and stylish choices at all ends of the price range.
Features – Reflective fabric, back pockets for storage
What then? I can’t decide on pockets alone…What makes good clothing, well, good?
…The material it’s made from!
I began studying the fabric composition of the higher priced jerseys and found 3 recurring materials -
Polyester, Polyamide and… Wool?! I started digging…
First learning here was that wool isn’t just for Siberian winters. Actually, it can be knitted in very thin layers.
Across the brands and ranges you find mostly either Polyamide or Polyester. A few brands include a % of wool as well.
Why choose one or the other?
I believed I had found the crux of the issue. A few searches of this vs that and I find that all 3 have their strong and weak points. Below is my take on each one, with a recommendation on what and when to buy.
- Most comfortable
- Odor resistant
- Most Expensive
- Least durable
- More moisture absorbent
- Lower thermal efficiency (warmth vs weight)
Merino wool tends to be much softer to the touch than synthetics. It is a high performing fabric, providing excellent breathability and odor resistance as well. However, it is less durable, less moisture resistant, and less thermally efficient (meaning heavier for the same insulation) than the ‘poly’ fibers. Merino is also decidedly more expensive than polyester and polyamide. Be prepared to pay a high price for a jersey feels great, but won’t last as long as synthetic jerseys.
- Most moisture resistant (Hydrophobic)
- Lowest price
- More durable than Merino
- Very light
- Least Comfortable
- Holds Odors (oleophilic)
Most sportswear is made of polyester. However, compared to other fabrics noted here, polyester scores highest only in terms of moisture resistance, as it is considered “hydrophobic”. I expect price is the key reason for this, as the lower priced jerseys tend to show a higher % of polyester. Polyester is still a good fabric and is more durable than Merino. It is considered stretch resistant, and has an “anti-pilling” effect, which keeps it looking newer, longer.
However, 2 important call outs were comfort; polyester is harder than Merino and less flexible than Polyamide – making it the least comfortable of the 3 materials. I also learned a new word today – Oleophilic. Polyester is Oleophilic, meaning it holds odors strongly – picture your stinky sports gear. Of the 3 materials described here, it stands out for this feature, as the other two are highly odor resistant. Therefore, I think if you willing to splurge for a high price/high quality jersey, be wary of those which are made up of polyester. I regularly found that the lowest price jerseys were 100% polyester.
- Most durable
- More comfortable than Polyester
- Odor and Oil resistant
- Least insulating
- Less moisture resistant than Polyester
Polyamide appears to be the “all-around” choice. For one it is the most durable, and the most odor and oil resistant of the 3. It does this while being softer and more comfortable than polyester, but lighter and less expensive than merino. It is however the least insulating of the different fabrics, but as I will be exercising, I am not sure it is my most important criteria. It is highly breathable and wicks moisture away from the body, keeping you dry.
I had settled on Polyamide as my material of choice.
Many jerseys had %'s of each material worked in anyway, which typically reflected back into the price. One additional material which many featured was Elastane (spandex). I did not include it in the comparison because it is not the fabric which makes up the bulk of the jersey (like the others) but is only added in small %'s to create a snug, stretchy fit.
I was settled then -> Find a jersey with a high % of Polyamide, at a good price (I thought 90-110 euros), that looks stylish too. After some searching, I settled on one from PIPPO Sportswear. Their Alp D’Huez jersey met all the criteria, including having back pockets and reflective fabric.
TL;DR - Focus on the materials the jersey is made from to guide your choices. I chose Polyamide (nylon) as my main fabric, as it is more affordable and durable than Merino, but softer and more odor resistant than Polyester.
Thanks for reading!