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The Band of Climbers Empire LS Thermal Jersey scores very well thanks to its high-quality fabrics and the excellent attention to smaller details. This mid-weight jersey feels like a very well-considered product, though it won't help you out when the rain arrives, it lacks reflective elements and the colour choices are quite conservative.
Looking for winter warmth? Check out our best winter cycling jerseys buyer's guide.
The Band of Climbers' 'Together We Climb' patter makes you feel like you're joining a slightly grandiose gang of mountaineers, so it's lucky that this jersey was a pleasure to wear from the off. The material's four-way stretch made it extremely pliable when I put it on, and while it actually felt a little too small at first, a bit of tugging and dragging around my less-than-grimpeur-like physique brought everything into place. The resulting fit is svelte and aero-friendly.
I put in a lot of miles wearing the Empire jersey, with a day in the Dolomites sure to please the Band of Climbers. I went out with no base layer at 7am when the temperature was a chilly sub-10°C, which rose as I climbed the Passo Giau.
I never felt cold, except after brief pauses, where the fabric was damp with sweat and I vowed to warm myself up rather than throw on a windbreaker. Admittedly I was pushing the jersey's breathability and wicking to the max, where I found its performance okay rather than exceptional.
I found it handy descending without the need to put on arm warmers, and the jersey's lengthy sleeves came into their own when I was hunched into the drops.
The grippers did a sterling job all day and I was never aware of it shifting out of place.
I found the jersey consistently comfortable, and I think it looks good too – provided you're into more stealthy looks. There are two other colours, however, one of which is an off neon. This stealthiness is evident in the stitching and pockets too, which are almost invisible and use some thick seams that make it feel indestructible.
I was confident stuffing the pockets with layers and pumps and paninis and anything else I could lay my hands on. Subtle BoC branding tags the rear with a secure zipped valuables pocket, which, unfortunately didn't quite accommodate my phone.
The fit probably won't be to everyone's liking. I'm 187cm and 82kg with broad shoulders and this size Large feels like it's been sewn onto my top half with a little more room for manoeuvre down by the waist. But personally I like keeping things hugging as an incentive to shed a bit of excess weight! If I went a size up the arms would be long enough to blow my nose on, so sizing is something to bear in mind when choosing.
If you're looking for a cheap jersey you could do worse than the dhb Long Sleeve Jersey that Steve found was pretty much all things to all men and comes in at a mere £35. That said, you would be sacrificing all of the nice features you get at around the £100 mark.
Steve also tested the fiver more expensive Nalini Ergo XWarm Jersey though he found it lacked warmth. Sure, I didn't plunge the Empire Jersey into the Arctic Circle but it did very well without a baselayer on fresh days.
Further up the scale is the 7Mesh Mens Ashlu Merino Jersey that Matt liked, which demonstrates what an additional £45 will get you. Merino wool is the main benefit, which adds odour protection and generally a smarter and more adaptable fabric that will support you through varying conditions.
The Band of Climbers Empire LS Thermal Jersey compares well to its direct price equivalents, such as the Albion Long Sleeve Jersey and the TICCC Omloop Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey. VecchioJo scored the TICCC Omloop very highly, and to me the Empire looks better than both.
This is a smart addition to your shoulder wardrobe. While it doesn't offer rain protection, as a warm standalone jersey, or one that you pair with baselayers and gilets, the Empire is competitively priced when compared with jerseys from excellent brands such as Albion and Le Col. It's high-performance aero-leaning jersey that looks good and is very well made .
Not a do-everything jersey, but a stylish do-most-things-jersey that will be useful for nine months of the year
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Band of Climbers Empire LS Thermal Jersey
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
From Band of Climbers:
The ultimate long-sleeve jersey for training rides in milder temperatures through winter and spring. The Empire LS Thermal Jersey is a midweight jersey that can be worn on its own in milder temperatures, or as a mid-layer under a gilet or jacket in colder conditions.
Produced with our finest materials yet, a pre-dyed luxury Italian brushed-back fabric with 4 way stretch to get the perfect fit. A deep cut silicon gripper ensures the jersey stays in place throughout the entire ride.
Carefully crafted rear pockets with entirely hidden stitching provides a classy touch and gives a unique look to the rear of the jersey. 3 open pockets plus a 4th zipped essentials pockets keep your essentials secure.
A low profile neckline, zip guard and full length YKK cam lock zipper combine for comfort and durability.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Midweight thermal jersey with Italian Pre Dyed brushed stretch fabrics
Close fitting for optional position on the bike
Breathable, highly wicking fabrics
Bonded cuffs for a close fit
Hidden Pocket Stitching
Full-length Cam Lock YKK Zipper
3 rear pockets + 4th Zipped Pocket
Deep-cut silicon rear gripper
The Empire Jersey is a close-fitting jersey that shares a similar fit to our Helix Pro, PXL and Apex Thermal Jerseys.
The inclusion of the YKK Cam lock is a nice touch. Flick it one way and the zipper stays put; flick it the other and you can drag the zipper undone by tugging on the jersey's fabric. Elsewhere, the jersey feels thoroughly well-made in every department.
While recommended for milder conditions, I also managed a good day of riding on a warmer spring day where the hugging arms excelled on descents. Repels a good amount of wind chill but does soak up sweat, and I didn't find that it dried out particularly well, though I was giving it a decent test.
Well made and solid thus far.
As with other Band of Climbers long-sleeved tops I have worn, the designers favour a tapering arm that bunches towards the wrists and feels clinging and grippy in that area. Imagine an archetypal climber's frame and that's what this seems made for.
No issues with sizing here except the slightly longer-than-expected arms which do aid with arm extension when in different positions on the bike. Available in seven sizes, though Band of Climbers advises you only measure your chest, when measuring your arms might be more important.
It's good going to weigh in at 245g for a jersey that offers decent protection from the chill – despite being billed as a mid-weight.
Velvety inners ensure that you can feel the well-selected Italian fabrics. Might be a little tight and clingy for some around the wrists and arms.
Compares favourably with the competition which often strays beyond £150 for jerseys that perform less well.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed half a dozen times and no noticeable deterioration.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Empire LS Thermal Jersey stood up to conditions of a varying nature. Setting out in high single digits without a base layer was where it was in its element - the heat of my body soon bringing me to perfect riding temperature. I found it pretty easy to sweat through the entire thing once the days warmed up and I started climbing, but I think I was wearing it beyond its intended range.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit is glove-like and while I'm a big advocate of bright colours on the bike, there's no denying the suaveness afforded by deep navy. Also, I'm a sucker for a zipped pocket – especially when it's YKK and positioned so wisely near the front of the body.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Made me question how I've come through life with such short arms.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's extremely easy to spend more than £100 on a long sleeved jersey, but the Empire Thermal performs very well against the three-digit competition. The Lusso Long Sleeve Jersey + is a notable sub £100 option that Steve Scott found little fault with and offers a DWR coating for showers.
The Albion Long Sleeve Jersey is slightly heavier and costs a fiver less, and it has similar qualities – though its breathability seems superior to the Empire. It also goes to war in the colour stakes.
You could spend £160 on the Le Col Pro Long Sleeve Jersey but Ben didn't find it very warm despite its comparable fit and comfort.
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 overall score
The shoulder months are probably the most fraught season for cyclists and the Empire LS Thermal Jersey is a versatile solution that, coupled with the swapping in of baselayers and gilets, will make your life easier (and warmer) for a competitive price. Great materials, smart design, aero fit, carefully thought-out detailing and understated aesthetics made it a winner for me.
About the tester
I usually ride: Pearson Hammerandtongs My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Ultra endurance