Is this ‘gravel’? I’ve been scratching my head for some time. The marketing images on the MAAP website show it a little dirty, so that’s a clue, and it’s said to be for ‘alternative paths’. In the UK that usually means muddy bridleways, or it’s what your parents say politely when describing your drastic career change. In any case, the MAAP Alt_Road ½ Zip Jersey isn’t quite so overtly gravel as the Rapha Gravel Jersey, but it’s clearly not an all-out road jersey, so what is it? The clue, I think, is hidden on the neck label.
The easiest way to find out is just giving it a load of use, so I’ve taken it bikepacking in freezing conditions, road riding in warmer weather, and gravel riding somewhere in between to find out what ‘Alt_Road’ really means. Is it one of the best gravel jerseys, or even one of the best cycling jerseys in general? Scroll down and find out. If you want to go full matchy-matchy (and let’s be honest, we all do) we’ve also got the MAAP Alt_Road Cargo Bib Shorts covered too.
Design and aesthetics
This section is where MAAP gear really shines, and the Alt_Road ½ Zip Jersey (which I’m going to abbreviate from now on) is no exception from a visual perspective. The colour palette from MAAP is pretty much always spot on, especially if you’re into the slightly more edgy side of design. Compared to some of its other offerings this jersey is actually pretty understated, which I also like.
The petrol blue exterior is gorgeous, married up with a very dark grey warped chequerboard motif front and back, which matches the rear pockets. Other than that the only contrast is a brighter, almost juvenile blue zip and rear patch, and a reflective salmon pink stripe on the rear. Again, it’s a pretty simple package, but it looks really stylish.
Nominally it’s a half-zip, but in reality, it is what most of us would think of as a quarter-zip; we wouldn’t want something so functional as a zip spoiling the clean aesthetic of the drunken chessboard now, would we?
While the outer looks pretty homogeneous in construction, save for the contrast grey pockets, the material for both the side panels and the pockets is a more rip-resistant nylon outer, but in reality, you can’t feel much difference at all and I only realised about the side panels while re-checking the specs online.
The price we will get to later on, but for a jersey of this price, you usually expect some additional details. Panels to sculpt and lift, some aero material to cheat the air, or mesh bits to dump heat. In this case, the construction is quite basic. Not in a detrimental way, as we will also get to, but it is two T-shaped bits of fabric, two side panels, and a pair of sleeves. It is constructed as what is often referred to as ‘club cut’ jerseys, i.e. those less preoccupied with cheating the wind and allowing a little more freedom of movement. Those jerseys tend to cost a lot less though.
I’m going to begin with the only thing that I really didn’t like about this jersey in terms of performance, and that’s the pockets. They are plenty deep enough to hold a tonne of deadweight, but the capacity isn’t matched by the security. Being realistic you’re more likely to be donning this jersey if you’re of a gravelly persuasion, and with that comes a lot more bumps, and much more frequent bunny hops (well, for me anyway). I didn’t feel truly comfortable leaving anything valuable like my wallet, or breakable like my phone in my pockets. There is a valuables pocket to the right-hand side that sits behind the main pocket, and while this is big enough to house a pretty beefy phone (a mid-range Motorolla #BigFlex), the fit around the body isn’t secure enough to stop the jersey lolling round to one side unless you balance it out on the other side with something of similar heft.
Pockets aside, I have really enjoyed my time in the Alt_Road Jersey, and that’s mostly down to comfort. While the outer fabric is a denser synthetic weave, with an almost lustrous sheen to it, the inner fabric is lightly fleeced. Lightly being the operative word here, as this isn’t the roubaix fabric you’d find on the inners of the best arm warmers and the best leg warmers, but there is a little bit of merino fluff to add a bit of warmth and give a truly wonderful feeling next to the skin. I tended to wear a base layer, because I had them to test, but besides the large inner label panel behind one of the pockets there is very little to irritate the skin, so consider a base layer optional. The simple construction also means fewer stitches to contend with, which also adds comfort.
I’ve been wearing my usual jersey size, a small, and the fit is spot on. The long arms give it a modern look, but they are roomy enough that they never feel restrictive. Around the shoulders is secure without being tight, and roomy without ever flapping in the breeze. Around the middle, it sits close to the skin, but not skintight. Enough room for a big pub lunch if you’re off bikepacking without it becoming unflattering. As someone with IBS and a propensity to inflate after large meals, this was genuinely a key selling point for me while out on overnighters.
The thermal management was also a lot better than expected. The fabric is breathable, and despite only having a small zip I never felt like I was going to overheat, even on extremely protracted climbs. Sure, it’s no mesh race jersey and I wouldn’t wear it in a heatwave, but for changeable conditions, it’s brilliant; cold morning at camp? Throw on some arm warmers and a wind jacket. Warms up at lunch? Take it all off and just use the jersey.
The fashion for wearing your best cargo bib shorts and just a T-shirt is still alive and well, and I think what this jersey does is provide a halfway house for those that want something that looks more casual but with some of the performance benefits of a jersey. Interestingly the label on the back of the neck says ‘Alt_Road Tee’, so I think I’m onto something here.
The long story short is that in terms of performance it’s very much like throwing on your favourite T-shirt, except better. And much, much more expensive, which brings us to the next topic.
With an RRP of £155/$205/€175 this is an expensive jersey. MAAP gear is almost always at the premium end of the spectrum in both price and execution, and for the most part this is backed up by technical features as well as beautiful aesthetics.
Beyond the comfort factor, I cannot shake the feeling that, while being lovely to behold, you can get most of the same benefits that this jersey offers by just wearing a club cut quarter-zip. Many of them have a bit of fuzz or fleece inside too, and will offer the same fit for a fraction of the price. Many of them will likely have better pockets too.
For bikepacking, it’s a great option, but the Rapha Brevet Jersey or its lightweight counterpart offer a more feature-packed package along with a full zip for a lower price too, so it’s hard to see how you can justify the price.
The MAAP Alt_Road ½ zip Jersey is a difficult proposition as a product. In terms of performance, it is relatively basic but extremely comfortable, particularly for longer rides, and I think it looks fantastic. You are paying for the aesthetic though, as much as anything else.
Cycling is, for better or worse though, an aesthetic-forward sport. How much you want to buy into that is up to you. Did I love riding in it? Absolutely. Did it make me feel dead fancy when I rocked up to the ride? Absolutely. Would I spend £155 of my own money on it? No, I don’t think I would.
|Design and aesthetics||It looks beautiful and that’s all there is to it||10/10|
|Thermal management||Unless it’s really hot, this is a really good option. The small zip stops you from dumping heat though||8/10|
|Storage||Big pockets, but they lack security so you cant trust valuables to them||5/10|
|Comfort and fit||Sensationally comfortable for any length ride||10/10|
|Value||It’s hard to justify the price for what is quite a simple package||6/10|