Many people write mountain bike jerseys off as expensive t-shirts, and on the surface, they aren't totally wrong, but subtle details like seams that play nice with mountain bike backpacks and neck braces, drop tails, reinforced panels, built-in ventilation and goggle wipes are among the many features which set them apart.
There are multiple styles of mountain bike jerseys, from form-fitting XC-style jerseys to bulkier long sleeve downhill jerseys. Most brands offer lots of designs and colors so you can find one that matches your style. Jersey's don't have to be expensive either. The top brands can be found at reasonable prices in online shops, and last year's stock is sold at good discounts too.
This is our round-up of the best mountain bike jerseys we've tested for all types of riding disciplines. At the bottom is further buying advice on things like fit and materials.
Best mountain bike jerseys
Modal is a semi-synthetic fabric and is made by spinning reconstituted cellulose from beech trees and is becoming increasingly common in technical activewear because it's lightweight, super soft, and fast-drying.
We found that the jersey handles heat and moisture extremely well and is supremely comfortable. The fit is slim, but not overly form-fitting like a race-cut spandex jersey so you arent going to look too sporty on a trail ride and the styling is enough on the casual side that you can wear it off the bike if you wish.
The latest Gore C5 short sleeve Trail jersey is a massive improvement on the previous version. The material is fast drying and doesn't smell bad. Plus it's slightly stretchy in case you want to size down for a slimmer fit.
The multi-panel cut also means that mobility isn't an issue, plus there's a women's cut version too. You can match the C5 jersey with Gore's C5 shorts, which have received good reviews from our testers as well although our test samples didn't have a perfect color match.
Specialized makes a summertime Enduro kit for aggressive trail riding whether you're riding the brand's rock consuming Enduro bike or its Stumpjumper trail bike.
Specialized's VaporRize fabric helps the jersey handle moisture and heat, plus the material is 100 percent recycled. Another bonus is that it's rated to SPF 30 for sun protection.
Our testers found that the fabric has a silky quality that feels great against the skin and handles water and sweat well. The medium-loose cut is just baggy enough to be comfortable while not flapping in the wind too much. You can also match this jersey with the brand's Enduro Pro shorts.
This jersey from Leatt is a thermal, windproof top for aggressive enduro or downhill riders. Even though this jersey is somewhat more heavy-weight, it breathes out moisture well while still keeping your body warm from any wintertime draughts.
This jersey will hold up to lots of use in nearly any weather conditions and keep you riding for longer without having to reach for a shell jacket. There is also a pocket with an eyewear wipe for when your goggles or glasses get splotched with mud.
At first glance, the Pearl Izumi Canyon Graphic jersey might look like something you'd reach for heading out for a road ride with its full-length zipper and three rear pockets. While it could pull double duty, the relaxed fit makes it more at home on the trail. Speaking of the zipper, it's a semi-auto lock design meaning if you leave the pull flipped up, the jersey can be easily tugged on to open, or flipped down if you want to lock it in place.
The three rear pockets hold heaps of bars, layers and tools, and a small zippered pocket on the right side is angled so it's still accessible if you've got a pack on. The combination of a raglan sleeve and rotated side seams make this jersey hydration pack friendly, and the mesh back and side panels help your body manage the heat.
Sitting at the top of Nukeproof's clothing range is the Blackline collection. Even though it's labeled as 'premium' the price sure doesn't reflect it. The majority of the Blackline short sleeve is made from 100% recycled S.Cafe Polyester (said to be UV rated), while under the arms and the majority of the back panel are made from mesh (not recycled). This is not only to keep you fresh but also to limit sweat from your backpack - the panel is also black so nobody can see if your back gets a bit swampy.
There's also a sizable stash pocket - more than large enough for a phone. The Blackline short sleeve is also available in men's cuts, with the women's version showing a more tapered fit. Even better, with a long list of features, it's also one of the cheaper jerseys on our list.
Fox's Ranger top is one of the most comfortable jerseys we've worn, and the TruDri fabric is soft to the touch and efficiently wicks moisture off your skin. The middle third of the jersey is mesh, allowing for plenty of air to find its way into the shirt and the seams are non-intrusive and flatlock stitched. While it does not command the same price as some of Fox's other tops like the Flexair and Indicator, it's made from the same material - the only difference being the lack of lie-flat cuffs and the perforations not being laser cut.
The Ranger jersey has a looser fit and as Fox puts it 'drapes' around your body. While this leaves ample room for padding underneath and airflow, if you like something a bit more fitted, consider sizing down.
Hailing from Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, Mons Royale started making merino wool underlayers for skiers, however, with the Kiwis being MTB mad it's no surprise to see them with a range of bike clothing. The Mons Royale Vapour Lite three quarter is one of the first jerseys we reach for getting ready for a day on the trail, in large part because Mons Royale's Merino Tencel wool/Lyocell blend feels more like a warm hug than an MTB jersey. The material does not dry as quickly as open mesh synthetic materials, but it still keeps you comfortable even in the heat and humidity of the summer. The wool also staves off smell and can be worn multiple rides without you being relegated to the back of your riding group because you stink.
The three-quarter length sleeves hang just below your elbows, and have enough room for pads underneath, but aren't loose or floppy should you ride protection-free. At the bottom there is a stepped hem, meaning the back of the jersey extends lower to prevent riding up, and there's an integrated glasses/goggle wipe too.
With its founders coming up through outdoor brand Arc'Teryx it's no surprise the gear from 7Mesh is top quality and versatile. The Desperado Henley doesn't scream bike dork from a distance; however, closer inspection reveals a drop tail and articulated cut through the torso and sleeves so the top won't bunch or bind when you reach for the handlebars. Even still, the aesthetic and fit also don't look out of place off the bike at the pub or on a hike. Snap closures at the front can be popped should you need a bit of extra airflow, and the buttons are low profile and don't rub.
Made from a 54% polyester and 47% merino blend the fabric breathes well, and the slim cut also means it can double as a base layer when the temperature drops. Like the Mons Royale jersey, it doesn't dry quite as fast as fully synthetic fibers, but it also doesn't pick up a smell when you think the word 'sweat.'
One of many mountain bike brands with moto roots, the 100% R-Core DH Jersey definitely looks fast. The top is made from polyester mesh, so it's quick-drying and has received an antimicrobial treatment to stave off smells. There is a semi-raglan sleeve, with the seams situated so they won't interfere with a neck brace.
Being a DH jersey the fit is relaxed, leaving abundant room for armor underneath, and there’s a drop tail with a goggle wipe inside the hem.
Best mountain bike jerseys: what you need to know
1. Fit and riding style
Beyond just navigating size charts to find the correct size jersey, your riding style will also play a role in how a riding top should fit.
XC whippets will usually err on the side of skin-tight Lycra, and may even wear road style jerseys (or even skinsuits) to eke out any possible aero gains and use the rear pockets for spares, food and water.
Trail jerseys cover a large swath of riders and can mean anything from casual-looking dry-release t-shirt style tops to full zip garments with a mix of stretch and non-stretch panels and rear pockets. They come in several weights, sleeve lengths, cuts and materials, and some feature zippered pockets and goggle wipes too.
Downhill jerseys are usually made from slightly thicker fabric, have a baggy fit to accommodate body armor underneath, and have long or three-quarter sleeves. Often DH jerseys will also see extra panels of soft fabric devoid of seams around the collar to play nice with neck braces, and may even have reinforcements in high friction areas.
Regardless of your riding style, a jersey should be comfortable in the riding position and should not restrict your movement or bind, which in some cases may make for an awkward fit off the bike. At the most basic end, this should mean a longer rear hem or 'drop tail,' and may also influence the placement of seams, moving them away from areas that rub.
Even if a mountain bike jersey has every bell and whistle and the cut is bang on, if it's made from scratchy fabric it's still going to be uncomfortable. For the most part, jerseys will use materials designed to wick sweat and dry quickly to prevent you from overheating. For those that live in colder climates, there is also a broad range of thermal jerseys and jackets, but we will cover those in a separate guide.
MTB jerseys come in all sorts of polyester blends, and natural fibers like merino wool. While synthetic fibers often dry faster than natural ones, they do tend to pick up a perma-stink that will persist through an infinite number of washes - which also releases microfibers into the water supply. On the other hand, your merino jerseys can be worn multiple rides in a row and won't pick up a funk. Often fabrics will receive chemical treatments or something like silver thread woven throughout to add wicking properties or keep body odor at bay, however, these solutions don't seem to last.
Quite often, mountain bike jerseys will have mesh panels or lighter weight fabrics in areas like the armpit or the back to further the ability to dump heat and moisture as you ride.
MTB jerseys are available in short, three-quarter length, and long sleeve varieties. Look for a Raglan sleeve, meaning the sleeve starts at the collar and the seam runs down under the armpit. This not only allows for a bit more freedom of movement, but it also moves the seams well clear of backpack straps that might cause chafing.
Obviously, longer sleeves are going to be warmer than short sleeves, but the layer of material over your arms also offers added protection from spikey trailside plants, the ground if you come unstuck and the sun too. For both long and three quarter sleeve tops if you wear elbow pads, make sure they fit underneath, however, don't get something overly baggy as it will flap when you ride. And no one likes that.
The roots of MTB clothing comes from motocross, with quite a few of the top brands making gear for both. With this, it shouldn't be a surprise the fluoro MX pajamas complete with massive logos have made the jump across to mountain biking.
While there are people on both sides of the debate, in recent years many brands have adopted a more casual style, with smaller logos and muted colors. However, there is still plenty of MX steeze to go around if that's your thing, no judgment here.
Beyond what we have listed above, MTB tops will often feature goggles or glasses wipes inside the bottom hem of the shirt and a zippered stash pocket situated behind your kidney.
Also be on the lookout for flatlock stitching, which will not only help the seems to last longer but reduces chafing too.
Finally, some jerseys will feature reinforced fabrics around high friction areas.