Dan Martin had a good day during stage 6 of the 2018 Tour de France. He won the stage, in fact, while he was wearing this Champion System Apex Elite Cycling Jersey. It would be an otherwise unremarkable detail, but this particular jersey has a pretty special feature — or lack thereof: It doesn’t have a zipper.
Basically, it is a really tight tech tee with pockets on the back. So why get rid of the zipper? According to Champion System, this eliminates any possibility of jersey flapping, which would, in turn, lead to lost watts. It also makes it possible to achieve the tightest form fit, potentially improving aerodynamics. We are talking about the most marginal of marginal gains possible here.
That claimed increase in efficiency comes at the cost of ventilation, first and foremost. We really missed the zipper when the temperatures climbed and the collar started to feel a bit stifling. It’s tight to begin with, so unless that collar fits you perfectly, you might find it a tad uncomfortable. Fortunately, the collar is also low profile, so maybe this is much ado about nothing in the heat of a race.
Since there is no zipper for ventilation, Champion System relies on the exceptionally lightweight Agile Fabric material to ensure adequate airflow. The open weave of the fabric supposedly helps move moisture away from your skin — and it is an incredibly airy jersey.
That same material is essentially see-through, so if you’re shy about what’s underneath, skip this one.
While the jersey is about as snug as it gets, it is also generally quite comfortable. The hem gripper keeps the rear of the jersey from riding up. The sleeves extend far down the biceps, almost to the crook of the elbow, and the cuff sits comfortably there, no pinching at all.
But as early as our first ride in the jersey, the seams started to pull apart in several places on the jersey (see photo below). Okay, I’m not Dan Martin skinny, but I’m not chubby either. I suspect the seams pulled apart as I put the jersey on or took it off … a problem a zipper could have solved. Fortunately, Champion System offers a Lifetime Quality Commitment, so if you run into the same problem, just contact the company and you should be able to get a replacement.
The Elite Cycling Jersey is generally a comfortable race jersey, ideal for very hot days. Whether the lack of a zipper offers a real gain is up for debate. If you’ve had difficulties with flapping jerseys in the past, this is an option for you. But everyone else might want to think about whether it is worth ditching the convenience of a zipper for the potential aerodynamic advantages.