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Top-End Jerseys
By Jon Sharp

For the most part, growing up with cycling, I couldn't figure out what the point of the jersey was. Of course, I might have felt differently had I not been only a mountain biker at the time. Because I always used a hydration pack, I saw no need for pockets. Also, though I had been converted to the merits of cycling shorts, I just didn't understand why a cotton t-shirt wouldn't work as well as an expensive jersey. My first time with a real cycling jersey was a freebie that Cannondale gave out. I got it after many hours in the saddle in the summer desert heat. I was hot. I was sweaty. My cotton t-shirt was doing what it does best: staying wet and sticking to me. Much to the disgust of all those around me, when the Cannondale worker handed me a jersey, I immediately stripped off my t-shirt and put on my brand new Chain-Gang jersey. I'm not sure anything I've worn in my life, or will ever wear, could possibly feel as good as that jersey did at that moment.

My purpose for this review is two-fold. First, I want to know if putting on a high-end jersey, such as those featured in this review, creates an experience that approaches the one described above. That is, once I slip into the expensive Lycra, will I say to myself, "wow, this is REALLY nice"? Second, what is different between these jerseys and a inexpensive jersey? Throughout this, I hope to find a winner—a jersey that stands out from the rest—from the current crop of high-dollar jersey's listed here.

Disclaimer: Going into this, I feel you, the reader, should be aware of a few things. Pockets are good. Really good. Though some mountain-bike jerseys are designed without pockets to make wearing packs more comfortable, I like pockets. Also, because these jerseys are set to match up with some pretty nice bibs—also not as comfortable with a pack—I'm going to assume that, primarily, these will be used for an application where pockets would be welcomed. Also, these are short-sleeve jerseys. They are made for warm weather. Therefore, these jerseys have been reviewed with hot weather in mind. If you live in an area where 30 degrees F is downright balmy, you might not relate to this review. Okay, let's get started.

Assos
Cannondale
Giordana
Pearl Izumi

Assos Equipe Jersey
Assos Equipe JerseyAt face value, and certainly from a simple picture on the internet, the Assos Equipe jersey appears fairly normal. Because of this, the $150 price tag most likely will seem a bit steep. But, before we worry about the price—this is, after all, a high-end jersey review—let's look at features.

The Equipe has a short collar and a full-length zipper. There are three large pockets in the rear, along with a zippered pocket on the outside of the right-most pocket. There is gripper elastic—the same employed in the legs of their Equipe bib shorts—on the tail of the jersey to keep it in place. Though there are many colors to choose from—14 in all—they all have a white back. There are small reflective tabs on the sides of the jersey—visible from both the side and rear.

The cut of the Equipe is definitely more European. Expect it to fit much more snug than a "club-cut" jersey. I found the material to be cool enough on all but the hottest summer days—definitely aided by the white back—but without employing mesh. This made the Equipe comfortable on warm days, but not too cool for chilly mornings or cool late-spring afternoons. The zipper-pull is a small Assos logo. Besides adding to the aesthetics of the jersey, it made adjusting the zipper an easy task—even with full-fingered winter gloves. I really like the full-sized pockets found on the Equipe—and the zippered security pocket made them that much better.

One of the things that set this jersey apart from the other jerseys in this review is a general lack of seams. There are the sleeve seams, and seams down the sides, but the main body front is without seams. I like this in a jersey because sometimes seams in the wrong places can lead to chafing in the wrong places.

So, coming back to the price, what do you get for $150? A great-fitting jersey. A jersey built with the top quality always present in Assos clothing. Assos thought of everything with the Equipe. It is a very comfortable jersey with all the right features, and built to last. Is it worth $150? Well, part of that price includes the cost of the Assos name. Evidently, it doesn't come cheap.

Cannondale Climb Jersey
Cannondale Climb JerseyMy first impression of the Cannondale Climb jersey was, "Wow, this is so light." Right away I knew this jersey would be best in the summer. My second impression was, "What? Size medium?!" However, my second impression was alleviated when I tried it on. While Cannondale's "Competition Fit" isn't quite the normal loose-fitting I expect from a non-European cut jersey, it isn't as miniature, either. While I normally wear a large and expect it baggy, this medium fit snug, but not tight.

The material I found so "light" when I picked up the Climb is Diamondte. It has a diamond-shaped pattern—almost like a mesh, though it isn't an open knit. This weave creates channels said to carry moisture away from the body. I found it not only adept at moisture management, but also very stretchy and comfortable. Though the outside is patterned, the inside has a smooth hand that is soft to the touch.

The Climb is highly reflective with reflective piping (complete with the Cannondale name printed on it) running across the top of the three large rear pockets, as well as two larger reflective areas to the side of the pockets in the back. The Cannondale logo on the left chest is also reflective. Besides the three large pockets I mentioned, there is one zippered pocket which is somewhat hidden on the outside seam of the right-rear pocket. The front zipper is full-length.

Cannondale's Climb jersey retails for $75. This is a fantastic jersey for this price. For $75, Cannondale manages to compete well with the more expensive jersey's in this review. The Climb is a great summer-weight jersey that keeps you cool, has plenty of storage, lots of reflective accents, and won't weigh you down.

Giordana Forma Jersey
Giordana Forma JerseyAs with their Forma bib shorts, Giordana didn't seem content to just product a nice-looking jersey. They used some of the same technology—and more, as well—to make the Forma more than just a jersey. Before I get into that, however, let's talk about what is normal about the Forma.

For starters, there is a 3/4-length hidden zipper up the front. There are three large rear pockets in the back—one of which has a zippered security pocket on the outside. This zipper is reflective. There are also reflective accents in the form of the Giordana logo and name front and rear. The collar is slightly taller than average, but a little less stiff as well.

Giordana relies on many different panels for the shape and function of the forma. The majority of the fabric is Moovix—a light-weight hollow fiber fabric. Though smooth in feel and appearance, it is woven in a honey-comb pattern which allows it to stretch in every direction—unlike most lycra which might only be two or four-way stretch. The lower body is made up of a looser-knit weave to better move perspiration. Above the shoulders and down the sides of the back is a mesh-like knit. I say "mesh-like", because the inside is smooth, while the outside looks more like a mesh. Also, it seems to have a silicon coating, as it is extremely slick to the touch. These panels are placed here not only for wicking perspiration, but also, I believe, for aerodynamics. Also like the Forma bibs, the Forma jersey utilizes the smooth Liquid-elastic in the sleeves. There is also a silicon gripper elastic in the waist to keep things in place.

Whew, that's a lot of technology for one Jersey. The Forma is meant to fit close-to-skin, and it did. With the Liquid-elastic sleeves, and the many contoured panels, however, unlike with many other close-fitting jerseys, I really loved the way this jersey felt. Though I might not look it, I just felt fast in this jersey. It breathes exceptionally well and flexes and stretches with every movement. Though not quite as light-weight as some of the other jerseys in this review, the Forma was very comfortable in the heat of the summer. Though not cheap at $200, Giordana's Forma jersey proves its worth with all the technology—which translates into performance—they pour into it.

Pearl Izumi MicroSensor Jersey
Pearl Izumi MicroSensor JerseyThe MicroSensor Jersey is probably the most aptly-named jersey in this review. That isn't to say it is small, though it is meant to be form-fitting, but rather every detail screams out minimalism. This is a light-weight jersey—perfect for the very hottest days, when you probably shouldn't be out in the heat anyway.

For starters, there is no real collar. Though the 3/4-length zipper zips up to what appears to be a collar, when you put it on, you see it sits no higher than that of a t-shirt. The pockets in the back are, well, small. There are two angled pockets on the sides, and one normal-sized pocket in the middle with a zippered security pocket on the outside of that. Though angled pockets make getting in and out of them easy, it also makes them shorter and less able to carry extra gear (like that 3rd water bottle you might need on that extra-hot day).

The MicroSensor's material, Microsensor, is extremely adept at pulling moisture from your body—something very useful as you drip buckets from every pore while toiling up that climb under the burning sun. The center back, shoulders, under-arms and sides are not Microsensor, but Microsensor mesh—an almost imperceptible material that allows free-flow of air—perfect for that down-hill coming up.

Though I feel every jersey should have standard-sized pockets, the real strength of this jersey (in case it isn't obvious by now) is its cooling ability. If the competition were all about cooling in the heat of the dead of summer, the MicroSensor would win. Coincidentally, if the competition were about price, this jersey would win as well. At $70, this is the least expensive of this review. Unfortunately, because it is so good in the heat, it suffers on cool mornings and is all but useless in the early spring or late fall. For $70, though, you might not mind such a specialized jersey.

Conclusion
The jerseys reviewed here are very nice. The prices range from $70 to $200—some being relatively simple, and others technological marvels. As with all apparel, you should always try on clothes before buying (or make sure there's a good return policy). For me, I found Giordana's Forma jersey to have the most features. No other jersey gets me as jazzed about the materials and workmanship as the Forma. Clearly, Giordana has put a lot of time into it. Of course, you have to pay for them. The Cannondale Climb is a fantastic jersey that is, perhaps, more versatile than the other jersey in this review with a similar price—Pearl Izumi's MicroSensor. The Climb is light, but not so light that you'll freeze when the temperature dips. There are three large pockets and a fourth zippered. There are reflective accents galore. For the money, the Climb can't be beat. If a smooth, seamless design is your preference, the Assos Equipe is your best choice.

Jon Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com who wishes all his shirts had pockets in the back. Read his blog.

For more information, contact:
Assos
Cannondale
Giordana (Gita Sporting Goods, Ltd.)
Pearl Izumi


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