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Aerodynamics is informing every part of road bike and equipment design at the moment, but with the cyclist making up about 80 per cent of the overall air resistance, it makes sense to ensure you're as aerodynamic as you can be. Which is why clothing companies like Sportful are investing in aerodynamic materials design and coming up with impressive garments such as this R&D Speedskin jersey.
Sportful, an Italian company which supplies the Tinkoff-Saxo professional cycling team, has been using its R&D label for the last couple of years to denote clothing that is at the cutting-edge of its development cycle. With more racers seeking the aero advantage, whether for breakaway riding or sprint finishes, Sportful developed the new R&D Speedskin jersey to reduce drag.
It's been raced in the Tour de France and proven its worth on the most demanding stages – Michael Rogers was wearing this jersey when he won stage 16 of last year's Tour de France.
By using a combination of aero fabrics and construction, Sportful claims the jersey saves nearly 20 watts at 50kph compared with its BodyFit Pro Race jersey. That's a substantial saving and certainly not one to be sniffed at if you are racing, and I imagine you'll need to be racing or time trialling to hit that that sort of speed.
The jersey is made from a dimpled Cruise Speed Fabric with seamless AirMesh shoulders and a 3D-effect back panel. The fit and sizing is typical Sportful – not exactly large – and of course you want to wear an aero jersey very snugly, but despite that snugness there's no restriction around the shoulders or torso. It's tight, but it's supposed to be tight, and it's not uncomfortable.
There's a full-length zip and an interesting collar design that ensures the zip puller sits flat and reduces drag, and also avoids irritation when the zipper is fully closed.
The three pockets are generous in size but they don't handle being fully loaded quite as well as Sportful's other jerseys, because the fabric used is quite stretchy.
It's a jersey designed for carrying minimal contents in the pockets, though, so races and short rides really. That is one of the most notable downsides to the focus on aerodynamics, that and a slightly impaired breathability compared with other Sportful jerseys.
But the big question is: is it faster? As ever, testing aerodynamic products in the real world is a very tricky task; there are simply too many variables to rule out to get any meaningful data. It certainly feels fast, though. If you want to cycle as fast as possible and have already invested in other aero products (bike, helmet and so on), it makes a lot of sense to invest in an aero jersey.
The Sportful R&D Speedskin jersey is ideal – essential, in fact – for anyone looking for every aerodynamic advantage.
Superb fitting aerodynamic jersey that could save you seconds against the clock
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Make and model: Sportful R&D Speedskin jersey
Size tested: small, blue
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Sportful says: "This jersey was designed for those maximum speed days. In a Tour de France stage where the riders cover 150 km in three hours, any aero mistake is amplified. This jersey uses the most aero fabrics and construction to save nearly 20 watts at 50 km/h compared to our BodyFit Pro Race jersey. It does make some compromises for aerodynamics: the high Lycra® content means it's not instantly dry like the BodyFit Pro Race jersey, and the stretch fabric in the back means you won't want to completely load up the pockets. Those 20 watts aren't completely free, but they make you very, very fast."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Cruise Speed Fabric
3D-effect back panel
Low collar to reduce drag
Back pockets hidden from wind
Full-length YKK® zipper
Excellent construction with smart mix of materials to balance the needs of aerodynamics and breathability.
It's an excellent-fitting, if a little snug, jersey ideal for racing and riding fast where reducing drag can make a sizeable difference.
Durable and tough construction and has been through the washing machine many times with no sign of wear.
It's not the lightest jersey but it's not exactly heavy.
The tight fit means it's not quite as comfortable as other jerseys but that's part of the price you pay for aerodynamics, and it's not exactly uncomfortable.
It's a decent chunk of cash, but cheaper than other brands' aero jerseys, and shopping around reveals it can be picked up a bit cheaper. For a jersey that won a stage of the Tour de France last summer, it's very good value for money.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
If the claims are to be believed then this is an exceedingly fast jersey that is going to get you to the coffee stop quicker than your mates.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great attention to detail, fit and features.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The very long sleeves.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A lot of performance for not a lot of cash.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.