Editor’s note: This product review was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Velo magazine.
For some rides, a shortsleeve jersey, arm warmers, and a vest are the best layering options, providing much-needed versatility. For other rides — the cooler, flatter rides that tend to define much of the winter and early spring — a full-zip long sleeve is just the ticket, either as a layering piece or as the only garment you pull over your baselayer. These four long-sleeve jerseys cover a variety of temperatures and aesthetics, but any is a worthy addition to your offseason wardrobe.
Donkey Label Merino Wool
Rating: Three stars
Donkey Label may not be as common of a name as the others here, but the new Minneapolis-based brand is building impressive products all made in the U.S. The Merino Wool long-sleeve jersey is lighter than the other Rapha and Bontrager jerseys here, making it more of a mid-layer piece than a frontline defense against the elements. Panels under the arms and down the center of the back improve breathability. The cut is slim, similar to the Bontrager RXL, but not too tight. It’s simple, warm, and subdued. Available in black only.
Vulpine Merino Alpine
Rating: Four stars
This thin, 100 percent Merino wool long-sleeve is perfect for transitional temperatures. The fabric is soft and comfortable, as Merino always is, and though the cut is classic and somewhat casual, Vulpine hasn’t skimped on the technical details. The rear pockets are angled for easy access, a silicone waist gripper keeps the jersey in place, flatlock stitching and printed labels prevent rubbing or itching, and a perfectly shaped collar keeps chills out. Engraved buttons and stitched logos add a healthy dose of class. Available in orange, blue, or charcoal.
Rapha Long Sleeve
Rating: Three stars
British boutique brand Rapha never does anything halfway. Even something as simple as a long-sleeve jersey ends up feeling both highly detailed and classically simple. A mid-weight jersey with a casual cut, Rapha has positioned its versatile, fullzip Long Sleeve as “perfect for autumn and winter riding.” A Merino wool blend makes for a soft, fast-drying, odor-resistant fabric, while Rapha’s stitching and seams are, as always, built to last. If you think $220 is too much to spend on a long-sleeve jersey, other options abound. If you’re looking for a piece of apparel rich in both style and durability, this is your jersey. Available in blue, orange, or purple.
Editor’s pick: Bontrager RXL Thermal
Rating: Five stars
If one were tasked to design a simple, warm, affordable long-sleeve jersey, the finished product would look exactly like Bontrager’s RXL Thermal. Other than the zippered right-side security pocket, there’s very little extravagance happening with this piece — even the Bontrager logos are minimal. Instead, the focus is on both utility and price. Fit is snug, and the fuzzy Profila thermal fabric conforms as needed. Rear grippers keep the jersey in place, while reflective elements enhance visibility for those deep winter days when the sun sets quickly and early. At $110, the RXL runs at least $50 less than any other jersey in this round-up, and is exactly half the price of Rapha’s long sleeve offering. Available in black, blue, yellow, or red.