Does a long sleeve jersey add a lot of warmth for riding during the winter months, or does a short sleeve jersey suffice during the cold. I want a jersey for my commute to work and back and I can't decide if I should get a long sleeve or short sleeve. I am in Seattle, WA so the weather goes down to around 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. My commute is all down hill going there (I hit around 35 mph), and all up hill going back. So I do not want a jersey that will get me too hot on the ride back, but will keep my warm riding to work. Any tips or recommendations?

  • A small contribution: you can take a long sleeve with a long front zipper, since it might help gets you a lot cooler if needed. A "turtleneck" one would be perfect for best thermal/airflow control around your torso. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 18:45
  • Fer cryin' out loud -- just carry a small bag of some sort and put on/take off layers as need be. Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 23:21

6 Answers 6


Start with short sleeves, arm warmers and a light jacket and layer.

Everybody has different tolerance for temperature changes, but here is what I normally wear on my upper body.

  • 65°F (18°C) or higher: Short Sleeve Jersey
  • 55-65°F (13-18°C) Short Sleeve Jersey with Arm Warmers
  • 45-55°F (7-13°C) Short Sleeve Jersey and a Jacket/Windbreaker
  • 35-45°F (2-7°C) Short Sleeve Jersey, Arm Warmers and Jacket - or Long Sleeve Jersey (see below)
  • Below 35°F (2°C) PolyPro Base Layer T-shirt and a combination of the top layers...

My primary decision on whether to use arm warmers or a long sleeve jersey is what the temperature it is forecast to be when I head home. If I think it's borderline or will be warm enough I pick the arm warmers in the morning so I can ride in the short sleeve on the way home. I have about 25 short sleeve jerseys, 2 lighter and 2 heavier thermal fleece long sleeve jerseys. I rarely wear the LS above 35-40°F.

Also - for flexibility you may want to look at a convertible cycling jacket where the sleeves can be removed. That gives you additional options like using the full jacket in the morning, and using it as a vest on the ride home.

  • 1
    +1. I too progress from short-sleeve to adding arm warmers, or a long-sleeve base-layer with a short-sleeve jersey over it. Arm warmers are cheaper and more versatile, since jerseys tend to be a bit pricey.
    – rally25rs
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 19:09
  • @rally25rs thanks. Another great thing about the arm warmers is that I now use them for backpacking too. Saves packing an extra sweater or LS T-shirt.
    – Gary.Ray
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 19:14
  • This is really a great explanation, thank you. But I have one stupid question. What are arm warmers? Can you provide a link to an amazon product?
    – anton2g
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 19:55
  • @anton2g They are long sleeves without the shirt... amazon.com/Pearl-Izumi-Thermal-Lite-Warmer/dp/B002KW3I5U/…
    – Gary.Ray
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 20:19
  • +1, the key to riding in the cold is layers. You'll be amazed at how quickly you get hot riding in even the coldest of weather. Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 20:52

I also live in the Pacific NW climate.

Here's what I do....when it's not summer...

  • Short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, plus a wind protective vest. This gives me the options of adding and subtracting layers to get to the right comfort level.
  • A GORE windstopper jersey. The front panels are made with a "wind stopping" fabric. The sleeves zip off. This is one of the best bicycling clothing products I ever bought. This works well for me and seems like it may fit your criteria.

I currently use the Gore Windstopper jersey, but that is not to say that other manufacturers don't have similar products.

And as others have mentioned, layering is key. I have a variety of base layers (Craft, UnderArmour, etc) to utilize depending on the conditions.

One other note...back in the 90's my commute was from the top of Capitol Hill to the Seattle Center area. My morning attire was usually a base layer, short sleeve jersey, arm warmers and a somewhat water repellent wind shell (and maybe a fleece layer on really cold days). I subtracted whatever necessary for the ride back up the hill in the afternoon.

  • 1
    Great recommendation with the Gore Windstopper jersey. I will keep that one in mind. Also good to hear the perspective of someone in the Pacific NW.
    – anton2g
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 21:55
  • 1
    Windstopper is a gift from the gods.
    – LukeN
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 4:55

All other things being equal (similar material, etc.) then a long sleeved jersey is going to be much warmer than a short sleeved one, especially down to those temperatures.

If you're wavering in the middle, I'd say to use arm warmers. Certainly for those days when it's colder in the morning (perhaps it's still dark) but warmer in the evenings, it allows for a wider flexibility.


I try to keep my clothing layered, and in such a way that I can re-configure mid-ride. I'm always colder when I start, so I will often start my ride with arm-warmers and a short-sleeve jersey, and peel off the arm-warmers after I warm up.

As the temperature gets lower, I'll use a long-sleeve base-layer with a short-sleeve jersey over that (my base layer is black, so i keep a jersey on to add color / visibility), and also start to add a nice warm vest (keeping your core/chest warm makes a lot of difference), and/or a long-sleeve fleece.

All these layers can be removed and stuck into or onto my hydration pack (or tied around the bike frame) so even if I start my ride with a fleece, jersey, and arm warmers, I could stop and peel down to just the jersey in 30 seconds.

So anyway, my overall suggestion is to keep a short sleeve jersey, and add arm warmers and a long-sleeve outer shell (fleece or a wind-proof jacket)


I can't imagine riding in the winter with short sleeves, even with a jacket over them. Perhaps I'm just too sensitive to the cold or perhaps the climate here is just a lot colder than the northwest, but short sleeves don't come out of the closet until April.


I don't think I have ever seen,let alone heard of arm warmers. It doesn't get as hot here, but in summer I wear a t shirt or vest and in winter a long sleeved top over that. If it is raining I will wear a waterproof top as well but any more layers would make me overheat on anything over a ten minute cycle.

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