Rising temps are no reason to hide out in the AC and throw your mileage out the window. Dress appropriately and you’ll be as comfortable on hot days as you would be on any other picture-perfect afternoon. With most cycling brands offering kits and other apparel made from lightweight and breathable fabrics, there’s no shortage of options specifically designed to handle the heat. See at-a-glance reviews below of five of our top choices for lightweight summer cycling gear, or scroll deeper for more high-ranking options plus a few things you should look for when narrowing down your choices.
Look for Natural Fibers and Lots of Holes
Merino wool is still king when it comes to moisture and temperature management. This natural fiber is incredibly breathable and can be very lightweight. Because it’s so fragile, it’s often partnered with a percentage of polyester to add durability. Some companies are also incorporating bamboo into jerseys, because bamboo fibers are cool to the touch. If the jersey isn’t made from merino, it should be optimized for air permeability, which is a fancy way of saying it should be mesh. Cycling companies love mesh because it keeps your skin cool and, because there’s less fabric, dries faster. Behold, the power of tiny holes!
Go High Tech
New technologies are also being incorporated into fabrics that help enhance a layer’s cooling capabilities. Xyalite is a chemical that turns cold when it gets wet. When a shirt is coated with Xyalite, it feels cool against your skin when you start to sweat. Tencel is a natural fiber that has a similar effect because of its naturally high moisture content. When the fabric meets wind, it feels cold to the touch.
Seek Out Built-In Sun Protection
In addition to coating your exposed skin with sunscreen, you should also look for apparel that has built-in sun protection with a rating of SPF 30 or more.
How We Chose These Products
All the gear recommended in this list was personally tested and hand-picked by editors on our test team. In addition to riding loads of sweltering miles in them, we research the market, survey user reviews, and speak with product managers and designers to determine the best options. We looked for products that meet the guidelines as stated above—lightweight and breathable fabrics, cooling tech, ventilation, and sun protection. Here are 12 suggestions to help you start building your ideal summer kit.
Velocio Radiator Mesh Jersey
Velocio has an entire line of ultralight clothing designed for besting the summer heat, but the Radiator is the apex of the collection. The front panel of this zip-up is made from Polartec Delta, a Tencel-based fabric that cools the skin thanks to a high moisture content in the fabric itself. Velocio adds 100 percent recycled mesh poly to the arms and back for air permeability, and sun protection with an SPF30 rating.
Rapha Core Lightweight Jersey
Unlike some road jerseys we’ve tried that can feel too tight to the point of being stifling (unless you size up), the Core Lightweight Jersey fits true to size. It’s formfitting yet comfortable, with 100 percent polyester fabric that rests lightly on your skin, wicks sweat incredibly well, and is super airy overall. But that supple fabric doesn’t extend to the pockets—instead, the pockets on the Core aren’t very stretchy at all, which meant we could fill ’em up without having to worry about weighing them down, a great feature on a jersey at this price. The front and shoulders of the Core are a lightweight mesh that generously moves air; the back is a tighter knit that offers some sun protection, but you’ll still want sunscreen underneath.
Pactimo Summit Aero Mesh Jersey
Whether you live someplace that often sees super-humid summer days or you have the pleasure of being a profuse sweater no matter what the temp is, the Summit is your answer to staying cool on the hottest rides. One tester, who battles both variables, was blown away by how well it wicks moisture: “I was sweating like mad on the trails,” he said. “But the jersey stayed perfectly dry all day.” The full-mesh aero-style jersey has a low-profile, unobtrusive collar, and its integrated carbon particles (from volcanic sand) help regulate body temperature by pulling sweat away from your skin so it can evaporate. Save this jersey for shorter rides when you don’t need to carry a lot; the pockets are a bit small and sit high on the back.
Kitsbow Hilso Tee
The sweatier you get, the cooler the women’s Hilso Tee makes you feel. Breezy mesh panels on the front, back, and underarms sit lightly against your skin and let moisture escape while allowing air to flow in as you dart down the trail. The mesh fabric, a combination of knit structures containing both hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) materials, sheds and retains just enough water to actively cool your core temp as you ride. And the antimicrobial tech lets you get away with wearing this tee two (or three or four!) days in a row without stinking. One bummer about this jersey is that it has no pockets—nothing a great handlebar bag can’t cure (plus, it’ll keep you cooler). Men, your Kitsbow equivalent is the Superflow.
Zoic Piper Jersey
Despite looking more like a backyard BBQ button-down, the flattering Piper is one of the lighter, more comfortable riding jerseys we’ve tried. The super-thin and stretchy polyester fabric feels almost gauze-like, letting air flow freely and evaporating sweat on muggy days. And a looser waist and longer hem kept us covered and confident on the bike (without fear of it riding up). The delicate snaps stay secure, and a vented mesh panel on the shoulders steadily releases heat. There’s a single zipper pocket on the right side that’s big enough to hold some cash and cards, but if you put something heavy in it, like your phone, the stretchy fabric will sag. Bonus for really gross days: This jersey looks the same whether it’s dry or soaked with sweat, upping its postride casual appeal to yet another level. Men’s version: the Guide.
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Bike Shorts
These mountain bike shorts are built with a contour fit and made from a lightweight and breathable recycled poly/spandex blend that has four-way stretch and a DWR finish to shed rain. A waistband that’s both micro-adjustable and elastic helps you dial in the fit, while the minimalist styling means you can wear these shorts off your bike as well. But we love them because they’re superlight (4.5 oz.) and dry as fast as a swimsuit.
Castelli Inferno Bib Shorts
Bibs can feel extra constricting on a summer ride, but the Inferno is designed for the hottest weather you can throw at it. The bib shorts are made from six different fabrics, all placed strategically to keep you cool for longer. Highlights of the makeup are the perforated fabric on the side panels, mesh leg bands on the thighs, and titanium dioxide injected into the front panel, which helps keep you cool while also reflecting UV rays.
Pearl Izumi Attack Bib Short
These shorts have a lot of stretch in the hip and thigh and felt sleek and supportive without being restrictive. The recycled polyester material is soft and comfy, and wicked sweat away from our skin, helping to keep us dry. The hem seemed to stay put despite moderate compression throughout the leg and a delicate gripper band at the bottom. We appreciated the super light straps on hot days, and the clip in the front adds extra support (the plastic clip is so tiny we couldn't tell it was there even when we didn't use it). In the back, the straps criss-cross over your shoulders and attach on either hip, allowing nature breaks without taking off anything else—which cut our pit stop time and discomfort by a lot.
Giro Hex Helmet
Most road cycling helmets are well vented and light enough to work well in the summer, but many mountain bike helmets can be downright suffocating in the heat, due to the added coverage. The Hex is not like most helmets thanks to its 21 air vents that use “Wind Tunnel Ventilation,” which is a series of exhaust channels inside the helmet that move fresh air over the rider’s head.
Fizik Infinito R1 Knit
The Infinito might have the best ventilation of any road shoe because Fizik puts vents on the sole of the shoe that actually move air across the bottom of your foot. It’s refreshing. The company even took the Infinito a step further this year by adding a knit upper to increase ventilation while also creating a snug fit. You also get a full carbon sole.
Aero Tech Lightweight Gel Gloves
Fingerless gloves are a must in the summer, but Aero Tech takes it a step further by adding a back panel that’s made from a polyester mesh netting that contours to your hand, giving you a snug fit, but allowing plenty of air to flow over your hands in the process. There’s just enough palm padding to reduce fatigue, a reflective strip to help increase visibility, and a soft wipe panel on the thumb to keep your nose and brow tidy.
Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves
Yes, you could ride your bike without arm sleeves, but Pearl Izumi loads these babies up with tech that makes you think twice about spending an afternoon on your bike with bare arms. The white sun sleeves have UPF 50 protection and are injected with xylitol, a coating that reacts to moisture, turning the fabric cold when it gets wet.
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