Whats the difference between an expensive jersey and a cheap jersey? The look and feel is an obvious difference, but the real price changes can occur behind the scenes. Read more to know what your earned dollars are paying for.
Buying a bike is not the only expense when it comes to beginning a lifetime of riding adventures. There are a dozen other necessary items to additionally blow your budget expectations. Depending on what your Country cycling laws are, a helmet, lights, reflectors or a bell may be considered necessities. Apart from all the bike accessories, there's the kit .... shoes, shorts, socks, jacket and or jersey. The list can really go on.
Its no wonder many riders begin by keeping it simple and wear a running shirt or comfortable cotton t- while pedalling about the park.
Its not usually long before the sweat, smell, and wear and tear of these everyday items has a rider considering the benefits of cycling specific jerseys.
Let the progression to lycra begin!
As the years go by this "progression" often fuels into obsession, till we're chasing the latest brand with the latest designs and technologies. For some however, its never quite clear how a costly jersey can add any sensory or performance experience to riding. And so low cost items such as cheaper jerseys is a sensible choice. But, without trying high-end jerseys, its difficult to make an informed judgement call on how an expensive jersey may act over a cheaper version.
So... What difference can money make when buying a jersey?
Obvious considerations are the quality of the fabric/zips/elastics and design features, or the quality of printing and manufacturing costs. Other differences to the price you pay may not be as obvious.
For premium items you expect to also be contributing to ethical and environmental standards and transparency for both production, packaging and freight decisions. You may also have best customer service practices, after-sale assistance and communications, guarantees and replacement or repair options provided by high end brands. Brands like Machines for Freedom (MMF), provide a very wide range of female specific sizing, an unusual and celebrated increase to their range. MAAP provide a 40% crash warranty in the circumstances you ruin a kit by unceremoniously scraping yourself along bitumen. Meanwhile, Velocio provide a 30 day money-back guarantee for those not convinced of a garments prowess. We hear its such a small proportion its easily provided by Velocio and reduces the risks associated with buying incorrect size or style.
Brands will usually offer support to retailers who stock their goods so clients can try and buy locally. This is certainly a great way for you to feel fabrics and fit, and talk to someone who knows the garment intimately. Meanwhile other brands have stopped partnerships with retailers in the aim to reducing costs to pass savings to riders. La Passione have dropped retail relations for such reasons. As their website attests, "We want our pricing to be unbeatable. We simply sell directly to you. We've left out all intermediaries and avoided increased prices." There are always consumers who are confident in their online shopping choices, and so the cheaper price will no doubt suit those buyers.
Looking at the differences in the fabrics, brands such as Q36.5 work with engineers to design in-house (rather than choosing what a manufacturer has on offer). Q36.5 writes, "The choice of collaborators is based not only on the ability to produce a high quality product and benefit from sophisticated manufacturing know-how but also the possibility to work side by side our suppliers for a faster, clearer and often weekly 1st person dialogue regarding all factors of product development." This is clearly a company who aims to excel in garment technology for a rider who appreciates the finest and most innovative of products.
More specifically in the circumstance of purchasing Q36.5 consumer investment is found in technical application of fabrics aligned for different parts of the body and under difference intensities. What does this mean? Each fabric and its placement within the jersey is chosen by quality such as strength, flexibility or support, breathability, wicking or wind protection. Q36.5 actually use silver infused thread in their pinstripe jerseys to regulate body temperature and prevent sweat associated (bacterial) odour. This must be the most technical cycling wear available to consumers.
Common to the designs in jersey by each of these mentioned brands is that they are specific for the bike. And its no surprise that riders uninitiated with high tech cycling kit, feel uncomfortable and opt for sizes one or two times bigger. A high-tech designed jersey, as I've said a dozen times in the past, is not for strolling to a cafe for a coffee. They are specific panelled ergonomic constructions that fit best when you're crouched forward replicating the position "on the bike". If you consider the fit by looking in the mirror while standing, the cuts will otherwise do weird things. An example is that they may raise at the front to reveal your belly, feel tighter in the chest, or sit high on the neck. The more expensive jerseys will tend to look awkward if you walk around in them. Meanwhile their cheapest counterparts sit baggily on the wearer and flap in the wind.
What are the benefits of loose, baggy jerseys with sublimation printing? Absolutely nothing. I would never wear another cheap jersey, charity ride or not. Firstly, as a female its rare for these jerseys to be female cuts. Secondly they're made of materials that foster sweat. The printing aids in holding in the sweat and the stench of a cheap jersey is something I never want to experience again. While I understand some people will not be persuaded by comparatively high cost, it is certainly from experiential judgement that I base my own standards.
Im glad I got that off my chest, metaphorically and literally.
There are also a huge amount of mid-range items. These jerseys will have some features of high tech, but the costs will reflect the fabrics used, the detailed qualities such as the chosen zipper, elastic banding, the stitching and construction. The fabrics may wear differently and change over time in terms of support they offer.
What to look for when you're handing over your hard earned money? For one, its more than colours and graphics. Expensive garments should offer a different experience on the bike, and this will be written boldly in their Brand philosophy and commitments. Performance, innovation, progressive, difference are some descriptive terms that might just resonate with your aims. Check their customer service, guarantees, commitments. Look at their "About us" page to monitor their ethical stance and environmental beliefs and practices. Check who makes their garments, literally. Can they identify the hands that created the garment if not the territory that the garments are constructed? Look at the fabric descriptions and understand how it may benefit your riding.
Lastly, a brand that sings the loudest is not necessarily providing you a better experience on the bike. In my experience, the brands that focus attention on what their riders need are the ones that spend their time, expertise and investment in the product rather than marketing. It is always a shame that the majority of the population will believe credibility comes with greater advertised exposure. But hopefully articles such as these will highlight some reasons behind pricing differences. In doing so, it may allow you to make informed decisions in your next jersey amongst a great range of boutique passionate brands.