Flip through a rack of cycling jerseys at your local bike shop, and you’ll see options priced anywhere from $50 to $350. You’ve likely noticed the differences in quality, but what exactly goes into the price tag?BICYCLING RECOMMENDS
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Cycling apparel these days is loaded with features... which ones are important to you? Matt Rainey
Cheaper jerseys. Much like bikes the first thing to note is that what is called a cheaper jersey now has far better technology and value than a top of the line jersey 20 years ago.
The biggest cost of making a cycling jersey is the fabric. Less expensive jerseys use simpler fabrics, so they may or may not absorb moisture or wick sweat. In high-end jerseys, fancy treatments like UPF and odor control are permanent, but in a $100 jersey, those treatments are more likely to wash out.
A budget jersey might also look less flattering, manufacturers have to balance the cost of sewing with the cost of fabric waste, so a brand may cut simpler patterns to get the most pieces from a single swath of fabric. “In sub-$100 jerseys, typically seams are straight because they’re quicker to sew, with less waste.” He says. The resulting fit will be "blockier" rather than tailored.
The way your jersey fits can make a huge difference on long rides where comfort is important. Matt Rainey
. Look for locking zippers; hems and sleeves that stay put without grippers; pockets that don’t sag when they’re loaded with stroopwafels; and consistency of fit. Sheehan.
You'll also get some strategically placed premium fabrics. In this price range you'll see hi-tech kit features like mesh under the arms for breathability, or directional panels that only stretch in certain ways depending on how the jersey should move.
The construction of a pricier jersey also gets better. “In a $150 jersey, seams have shape,” says Sheehan. You lay a $150 jersey on the table, and it won’t be flat because it’s sewn in 3D to mimic a human body.” V Of course, the result is that these jerseys are sometimes so complicated that they require exceptionally skilled sewers;, some sewers at their Italian factories have been in the jersey business for generations.
And while we’re on the topic of Italy, consider that where your jersey is made can also affect the price. For example, any garment made in the European Union is subject to strict environmental and labor laws, so the number on the price tag will reflect the cost of environmental offsets, as well as good wages and working conditions.
Premium Jerseys have a more precise fit and advanced fabrics... which means they look really good and feel even better. jesse southerland
, premium cycling apparel tends to pack a serious technological punch. When you get into this price range, you can expect the very best in fit and fabrics, as well as the leading edge of whatever the brand has to offer. Often you’ll be enjoying features developed for racers and teams—this price range is where designers really get to flex their muscles.
For example, features fabric composed partially of carbon fiber, and a mechanical weave designed to push moisture away from your body. “It’s strong and light with odor control comparable to silver,” Andretta says. The carbon also dissipates electronic discharge from powerlines or cell phones, which is thought to promote qualities of wellbeing.
What is the difference between Lycra and polyester? What are the pros and cons?
[David Sommerville] “Lycra” is a sub group of polyester fabrics. Spandex is the Invitsa-Dupont trademark preferred name for North America, Elastane is very popular in European marketplace and as “Lycra” for UK, AUS and some other countries.
Polyester is a catch all term for fabric materials usually used in the upper garments like jerseys which have softer hand feel, better wicking properties and either 2 or 4-way stretch. Polyester Membrane fabrics are normally used for jackets and vests when looking for barrier protection and are a combination of layers of materials.
There are no pros on using Spandex/Elastane/Lycra for an upper material even on skinsuits. The cons outweigh the pros as nearly all knit Spandex/Elastane/Lycra materials have 4-way stretch which means that jerseys can sag when wet or with weight in the pockets, add lower breathability complied with usually a higher Grams Per Meter (GSM) yields a lower performing garment.
Why do some jerseys have a blend of the two?
[David Sommerville] Its best not to blend Spandex/Elastane/Lycra into the upper garments. The reason many companies do this is because it is cost effective and they don’t need to stock extra materials making BOM and inventory management easier.
There are polyester materials in the jersey category that look like Spandex/Elastane/Lycra but are completely different as they offer 2-way stretch and increased breathability. These fabrics are normally lower in GSM, usually over 25% or more lighter, and the only downside is they tend to snag easier on pins, harder to sew requiring skill and top level machines, are less abrasion resistant and the cost can be anywhere form double to three times higher.
At Verge Sport, we don’t use any Spandex/Elastane/Lycra on our jerseys or Road Speedsuits such as Strike+ or Carrera Strike+ garments. The Go Fast TT Speedsuit and Definitive Cyclocross Speedsuit use Elastane materials on the uppers. With regard to Go Fast, the material is incredibly fast and on the CX items the intended garment is desired to insulate more and be higher abrasion resistance.
What kind of fabric are best for the side panels and why do some jerseys use them and other do not?
[David Sommerville] Fabric on the side panel is primarily a matter of marketing over performance. The marketing spin is to use mesh on the side panels so that it is more “breathable” but the difference is minor.
Nearly all top-level jersey materials are having about the same 2-way stretch regardless of the appearance such as mesh or smooth finish. Mesh normally has a lower UV rating, but in this location it not normally a negative influencing factor.
Some companies use polyester mesh based products for the side panels, which is usually the same as the upper bib strap materials in order to save money and lower BOM inventories. The problem is its 4-way stretch and you get jersey sag and the sublimation is usually bad due to fabric shift in the process. (Ghosting)
Personally, I don’t prefer mesh on the side panels as it is not as durable and prefer garments with smoother textures.
Classic “European” jerseys don’t have side panels, I actually like these greatly! From production stand point, its quicker to make, easier to sublimate which can provide a lower price point. Side panels in jerseys started for varied reasons, the switch to digital process also has had an influence on construction and in the past “more panels are better” concept. We also saw the same marketing direction with Bibs/Shorts. But lately, it has been shown that “less is faster and better” and we moving away from this concept.
Is flat-lock stitching just a visual trend or is there a real performance advantage?
[David Sommerville] Flatlock is on the way out as it is a trend.
It’s actually much larger of a topic of discussion as there is technically varied methods using the same name with regard to the end user knowledge.
Flatlock is not used by all companies as it requires special machines and skilled sewers. It is the best method to achieve the appearance and performance of the “look.” Garment seam allowance, if done by skilled sewers, leaves you with more consistent sizing. The finished product is more comfortable as the thread is nicer and the seam is thinner.
Many companies use a Serge Seam with Coverstich.
This is accomplished with lower end machines with two or three threads, with higher end using 5 thread.
The difference is huge as the Serge Stitch creates the inside “seam allowance” which means the garment is completely sewn together then a Coverstich is applied. The seam is thicker, the thread is not as soft and the seam doesn’t stretch anywhere near as much as Flatlock. If the sewers are not skilled, the garment sizing can vary easily especially as you normally have several people sewing this method.
Either method increases production time which drives up the end user cost while not providing much benefit other than appearance and the way the seam lies on the skin side.
Normal Flatlock thread good on the skin and performs well, but if the seam gets snagged and undone, the whole garment can come apart easier. Overlock is usually not very comfortable on the skin, lower the stretch rate in the seam and less comfortable but if you snag it, the garment is still sew with a Serge Stitch.
Merrow Stitching, which Verge Sport is one of the few companies that can manufacture, is the only true increase in performance seam over traditional stitching. This method stretches in the seam and is incredibly comfortable as the thread is very soft and elastic.
All the above methods are much slower in the wind tunnel, so if true performance is a factor stick to traditional Serge Stitch.
What do you look for when you check out a jersey to see if the factory is doing a good job on production and manufacturing?
[David Sommerville] There are many small details that set apart a quality facility over one that is not.
Most end user clients won’t notice these aspects which is why it is harder and harder to sell quality over price in the marketplace today. With the world economy, every manufacture as access to the same fabrics so that detail is less important as long as they are specified and used correctly. But, I am always amazed to see companies that print on the wrong side of the garments!
The best way to look at quality is to turn the garment inside out. Review the pocket sewing, check for details like how the zippers are installed, specifically the upper closure. It’s of the upmost importance that the garment seams are not “moved” while sewing in order for the artwork to align on the outside which can make one side longer by up to 5mm or more! Overlock or true Flatlock is another easy to spot detail.
If you have access to many of the same size garments, you can look to see if the seam allowance is the same, at about 4mm per seam, 2mm per side of the “bump” otherwise the size can vary greatly of the finished production run. This means the “Medium” will vary in size depending on the skill level of the sewer. This is possible as most panels only vary by a few mm each to create different sizes when combined in total. Take an extra 2mm off per seam, your medium is now a small. New sewer? It’s probably now a XSmall. This is why you get the “the fit is different than last year or last run” Or “it doesn’t fit like the sizing kit” problem.
I learned this lesson the hard way, when I was asked to sew my first jersey together! The right side was 1cm longer and the Medium measured as a XSmall since I trimmed too much during the Serge Seam allowance which is auto-trimmed by the machine as you sew.
It is hard to tell if sublimation is good as most companies use the same inks and machines.
Color profiles are another story, if you have access to several runs of clothing, it’s easy to spot if they are the same color and the factory uses proper setup color profiles and protocols.
If you are shopping for a jersey what do you look for if you are trying to find good value, what would you spend more for and what would you not spend as much for?
[David Sommerville] Single fabric with medium weight “stock” smooth polyester type garments are usually most cost effective.
The production cost for labor doesn’t vary much between the top and bottom levels garments in nearly all factories, the factor that influences the end price is either fancier material costs or marketing influence. If buying in bulk, over 50 pieces, it’s possible to have better pricing as “volume is king.” Many facilities have the ability to cut up to 150 layers of fabric at a time, this greatly lowers the production time over a single hand cut item.
I won’t pay for Flatlock as it’s not needed, a trend, and no was if its Overlock. To me having scalable versus cut line artwork doesn’t matter either. Trims are what matter most to me, having reflective elements, better chamois, 4th zipper pockets coupled with the major company materials such as Miti, Plastotex, Carvico and others.
What about some of the newer hi-end fabrics, like CoolMax or ColdBlack and other technologies. Any you like? Are they worth it? What are you paying for in that premium- is it R&D, the more expensive fabric or are they harder to make?
[David Sommerville] CoolMax and ColdBlack are great technologies but both are quickly becoming dated. ColdBlack, in nearly all cases, is a coating on the Spandex/Elastane/Lycra and can be added by the manufacture for a couple Euro per meter. CoolMax is a catch all level name now and you can even get in in socks that can be sublimated or a version from recycled plastic bottles (PET bottles and “polyester” cycling fabrics are just about the same thing.)
Most of the technologies are worth the raw material upcharges and on the end user side if they are priced within reason and not just added as marketing influence to drive the price higher.
What matters more than the fabric is the production quality compiled with the history of the company in which you are purchasing. This is where R&D comes into play and the fundamental business and core values of the company.
The future for cycling marketplace is Woven Fabrics. With a much lighter GSM, considerably more breathable, up to five times more abrasion resistant, provide 4-way stretch that reacts more like human skin. You can get coatings that make them super-fast in the wind tunnel or in the water.
Remember those super-fast swimsuits that broke all the world records, they were woven. The last few years see those super-cool Tour De France speedsuits, bibs and jerseys, they too were all woven. ESF, a French company, is the leader in this technology. The only downside, the price per meter is five times greater making the garments considerably more expensive.
My personal “go to” year-round seasonal choice for fabric is smooth finish Italian manufactured Spandex/Lycra/Elastane, mesh straps which is basically “traditional” construction bibs.
For value, these traditional bibs are usually the best choice.
For chamois, I am super picky after working to develop several models directly with a few top Italian companies.
120kg, Laser Cut, 12mm with smooth top covers are my personal choice.