With their bright colors and patterns, women's cycling jerseys and tops are definitely stylish, fashionable and visible (making you safer in traffic). What makes them truly special, though, is that they're actually technical clothing pieces with fabrics engineered for specific functions, like wicking, breathing, and sometimes, even blocking the sun's UV rays.
This makes them much more comfortable and useful than even designer T-shirts. And, they're way better to ride in than a basic cotton tee that can catch the wind slowing you down like a parachute. Or, get damp and stay damp making you feel uncomfortable.
To help you select the right tops to be ready for all your riding, here are some tips:
Women's and men's cuts in jerseys and tops vary. Women's come in at the waist and flare at the hips for a more natural, flattering fit. Men's have a box shape, often with a slight taper to the waist. As with all clothing, you'll want to find the best fit by trying things on.
Most manufacturers offer multiple fits geared toward the different types of riding, so if you can think of how you ride, you can select the right top. There's casual, relaxed, pro and even urban, club, and race.
The pro fit is contoured and fitted so women who like to ride at speed do not have flapping fabric slowing them down. The sleeves usually have elastic at the hem to keep them in place and the back of the jersey is longer than the front to provide coverage when you're in an aggressive riding position.
The relaxed fit is often just a roomier version of the pro fit for women who do not like a skin-hugging look or need a little more room. And the casual fit is often similar to a women's tee and typically lacks the elastic in the sleeves and hem. Designed for a more upright riding position, the front and back are close to, if not the same length. There are also casual jerseys with a crew neck or V-neck style.
All jerseys are made from fabrics that wick moisture to keep you dry, comfy and cooler on warm days. Many tops incorporate different materials in different places to speed cooling, such as mesh sides. There are new specially-treated fabrics that actually increase the cooling sensation (a xylitol treatment is one such technology). Though less common in women's styles, compression technology is also available for greater muscle support, often in strategic panels but not a full jersey.
Sleeves are another consideration. Fitted jerseys often have raglan sleeves (think baseball jersey) for a nicer fit in motion. A raglan sleeve is shaped like a triangle that starts at the neck and wraps around the shoulder and upper arm. Set-in sleeves are like those of a traditional T-shirt. They start at the shoulder and cover the upperarm. More casual designs might use a cap sleeve, a small, short sleeve that starts at the shoulder and provides coverage to the shoulder but not much more.
Except for the more casual fits, most jerseys have elastic at the waist to help keep it in place and prevent wind blowing beneath. Some also add a gripper to keep the jersey from sliding up over your hips as you change positions, stand to climb, etc.
Women's jerseys and tops have zippers that make it easy to get them on/off and allow convenient ventilation. Longer zippers let you let in more air, which is handy in warm weather and if you ride in hilly terrain and constantly heat up and cool off over the ups and downs.
A full zip is especially convenient if you wear bib shorts because it means not having to remove your helmet to pull the jersey over your head to take it off. There are also "invisible" zippers that are sewn into the jersey in such a way that they hide when up. This way they don't interfere with the jersey's print design.
Many women's race-style jerseys will have three pockets across the back just like traditional men's jerseys. However, since women have smaller backs and narrower waists, many manufacturers are putting only two pockets across the back for a better fit, which you may or may not like, since that's one less pocket to carry your essentials.
Some designers incorporate a hidden rear pocket for an MP3 player, phone or keys. Casual and mountain styles will often have just one hidden zip back pocket that doesn't scream "biker!" when you stop for some ice cream or wear it to Spin class.
Some jerseys with pockets for MP3 players incorporate a method of headphone cord management. Even more common are reflective accents for safety.
Sleeveless Jersey Styles
For those who do not want tan lines or are looking more for fashion than function, check out these styles:
Sleeveless Jerseys have the same fit and features as sleeved models but without sleeves.
Halter Tops have completely open backs with no shoulder straps and a built-in shelf bra. You get the fewest tan lines. They're fitted with a loose hem.
Camis have narrow, sometimes adjustable shoulder straps and a built-in shelf bra. They're fitted.
Tanks have wide shoulder straps like a traditional sports bra, and may incorporate a built-in shelf bra. They're fitted in the top and a little looser at the waist. They may have a pocket or two. This is the common style used for triathlon-specific tops.
Shelf Bras are built-in bras that eliminate extra tan lines. These are usually best for small to medium cup sizes. Women with larger busts may still want to wear a sports bra underneath for better support.
Long-Sleeve Jersey Styles
While they're practical, long-sleeve jerseys for women aren't all that common. This is because they're usually too warm for nice-weather riding so they don't typically get that much use. And, because you can simply wear arm warmers to turn any short-sleeve jersey into a long-sleeve one. A lot of women also wear base layers beneath their short sleeves to get a little extra comfort. Layering means it's easy to change for the conditions too.
Winter - Usually winter jerseys are similar in design to short-sleeve jerseys, but some are made of more protective fabrics. And, you get the coverage and warmth of long sleeves.
Sun-Blocking - There are a few lightweight long-sleeve jerseys for those who require extra sun protection and blocking. They are usually a light color and the fabric has extra UV protection built in.
Mountain-Bike - There are also some long-sleeve or 3/4-sleeve mountain-bike jerseys that are cut very roomy to fit over armor or for a casual, T-shirt style look.
We hope these tips for tops will help you find women's jerseys you love. If you have any questions, please let us know. We look forward to showing you our wide selection in person.