Why Do Cycling Jerseys Have Pockets in the Back?

Why Do Cycling Jerseys Have Pockets in the Back?

If you’ve ever wondered why cycling jerseys have small pockets on the back, you’re in the right place.

As a fellow cycling buff myself, I was also curious about the history and purpose of these pockets when I first got into riding.

Now that I’ve logged thousands of miles on the bike, I can’t imagine riding without my trusty jersey pockets handy.

In this in-depth article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the pockets that make cycling jerseys unique.

Grab a tasty energy gel from your stash and let’s get rolling through the reasons for these functional features!

Do Cycling Jerseys Have Pockets?

First things first – yes, the vast majority of cycling jerseys are equipped with pockets, typically two or three pockets strategically placed on the rear back panel.

Jersey designs may vary, but most have open elastic pockets specifically for carrying ride essentials like food, tools, gear, and more.

Unlike basic workout shirt designs, cycling-specific jerseys incorporate features to meet the unique demands of riding.

The snug performance fit, rear mesh panels for ventilation, front zip for temperature regulation, and rear storage pockets all provide functional benefits to cyclists.

Premium cycling jerseys from brands like Castelli, Pearl Izumi, and Rapha perform even better but will cost you a pretty penny.

However, most basic jerseys from Pearl Izumi, Bontrager, and other popular brands have the standard three open pockets on the back.

So if you invest in a jersey labeled as a “cycling jersey” or “bike jersey“, you can expect it to come equipped with these handy pockets to stash ride essentials within easy reach.

What Are The Pockets On A Bike Jersey For?

So what kinds of things are these jersey pockets meant to carry?

Cycling clothing is designed thoughtfully around utility on the bike, and the pockets facilitate streamlined storage and quick access to items you want close at hand while riding.

Here are some of the most common uses for jersey pockets while cycling:

Energy foods/gels – Portable carbs like energy gels, bars, and chews are easy to tuck into a jersey pocket for fuel during long road rides, trail rides, or races when you need quick calories and easy access.

Keys/ID – Stashing your house key, car key, or ID card ensures you won’t lose these important items on the road or trail.

Just be sure to zip the pockets closed during rowdier rides.

Tools – Small bike repair kits, tire levers or a multi-tool are extremely convenient to store and access from jersey pockets when dealing with mechanicals like flats, chain issues or other breakdowns on a ride.

Cash/cards – Emergency cash and credit/debit cards come in handy for pit stops at stores or cafes mid-ride if needed.

Much better than stuffing your pockets.

Phone – Most jersey pockets have enough room to safely hold all but the largest smartphone models.

Keep your tech handy for taking photos, accessing maps, or music.

Cycling computer – Many riders stash compact GPS cycling computers like Garmin, Wahoo, or Lezyne units in the pockets for tracking data on rides.

Gels/chews – Race gels, energy chews, gel flasks, and carb drink mixes are all made for portability in jersey pockets during cycling events and training rides.

Wrappers – The pockets work great as temporary storage for used gel and food wrappers until you can properly throw them out after your ride.

Mini Pumps – Compact and portable bike pumps designed specifically to inflate tires can slide right into most jersey pockets for quick fixes.

Lights – When not in use, small bike lights or wearable safety lights can be tucked away in the pockets to shed bulk and keep them secure.

Pepper Spray – For solo female riders concerned about safety, mini pepper spray canisters can be carried.

Sunscreen – Mini one-time-use sunscreen packets or small reusable containers are pocket-friendly for reapplying when exposed.

Chamois Cream – Some brands offer single-use cream packets that are easy to pack to prevent chafing, especially on longer rides.

Cash to tip ice Cream man – If you expect to pass by a tempting treat, carry some bills to enjoy a cool pick-me-up and thank the vendor.

So in summary, jersey pockets allow you to smartly organize and easily carry small essentials you may need at any time without weighing you down or inhibiting performance.

The simple design provides accessible storage on the bike.

Why Do Cycling Shirts Have Pockets In The Back?

Why Do Cycling Jerseys Have Pockets in the Back?

By now the usefulness of jersey pockets should be clear.

But you may be wondering why they are always positioned on the rear lower back panel instead of the front, middle or sides.

There are several excellent reasons behind placing the pockets on the backside of cycling jerseys:

Aerodynamics

Rear storage pockets help reduce drag when riding hunched over as air flows smoothly across your back. Side or front pockets create more resistance.

Comfort

Stashing items in rear pockets prevents them from bouncing around uncomfortably on your stomach or sides when riding bent over handlebars.

Accessibility

Reaching the pockets is easy in most riding positions. Front access would be extremely difficult and awkward.

Weight Distribution

With storage in the back, weight is better balanced instead of pulling you awkwardly frontwards, especially when climbing.

Safety

Rear pocket storage allows safely securing items without compromising bike handling or risking spillage forward in the event of a crash.

Visibility

The location also allows jersey brands to add reflective piping on rear pockets to improve visibility and safety when riding in low-light conditions.

Spaciousness

The full-back panel provides more surface area for pocket space than the front or sides would allow.

Moving Parts

Unlike side seam positioning, the back locates pockets away from moving legs and arms for less interference.

The intentional design and rear positioning allow the pockets to achieve multiple functional benefits for cyclists.

Form truly follows function when it comes to maximizing their utility!

What to Put In your Cycling Jersey Pocket?

Now that the purpose and placement of jersey pockets make sense, what kinds of items should you actually be putting in them?

Here are some dos and don’ts for utilizing jersey pockets properly:

Recommended Items For Jersey Pockets

  • Energy gels, bars, chews
  • Phone, cash, keys, cards, ID
  • Minibike tools like tire levers and CO2 cartridges
  • Cycling GPS computers and small cameras
  • Race nutrition like gels and energy drink mixes
  • Used gel wrappers and food trash until you can dispose
  • Pepper spray for solo female riders
  • Minibike lights when not in use
  • Sunscreen and chamois cream packets
  • A few bills to tip your friendly ice cream man

Items to Avoid Putting in Jersey Pockets

  • Bulky wallets, sunglass cases, or boxes of stuff
  • Sharp tools or pointy objects that could poke through
  • Heavy items like full-size hand pumps or U-locks
  • Oversized smartphones that stretch the fabric
  • Loose change or anything that could fall out
  • Valuables like expensive jewelry or electronics
  • More items than the pockets can fully secure
  • Anything that pokes, chafes or restricts movement

The key is to use your jersey pockets for their intended purpose – streamlined storage and access to lightweight essentials.

Avoid cramming them to capacity or putting items that could poke through the fabric or restrict your pedal stroke.

Use common sense based on your particular ride distance, terrain, and intensity.

For short spins around town, all you may need is your phone, keys and some cash.

For ultra-distance rides, you’ll likely utilize every bit of capacity the pockets allow.

With practice, you’ll figure out your ideal cargo system to take advantage of your jersey’s purpose-built storage capacity.

What Are Some Cycling Jersey Storage Solutions?

While the traditional three open pockets on most jerseys get the job done, some companies offer creative variations and enhanced storage options:

  • Zippered Pockets – Some jerseys add zippers for securing valuables like keys, cash and phones. Pearl Izumi is known for this feature.
  • Water-resistant Pouches – Special lined and coated pockets keep phones and electronics dry in wet conditions. Check out Showers Pass.
  • Multiple Large Pockets – Designs like the Panache Long Distance Jersey have up to 6 expansive rear pockets.
  • Inner Storage – Additional mesh pocket layers inside the main pockets allow further organization.
  • Side Pockets – Some mountain biking styles add pockets on the side hips for more capacity.
  • Stash Sleeves – Integrated storage sleeves on the middle rear allow carrying a jacket.
  • Reflective Detailing – High visibility reflective accents and piping improve pocket visibility.
  • Magnets – Magnets help hold flapped pockets closed, especially handy on rougher terrain. Check out brands like Twin Six and Louis Garneau.

While extras like these offer nice enhancements, the classic three open back pockets serve most recreational riders perfectly well.

Use them properly and you’ll reap the benefits!

Do Any Jerseys Have Front Pockets?

While rear storage pockets are the cycling jersey norm, a few styles break convention with front zip pockets.

However, these are optimally designed for storage when off the bike, not while riding.

Some examples include:

  • Mountain biking enduro jerseys – All-day enduro race styles favor front access pockets for lift days.
  • Casual cycling jerseys – Looser casual designs accomodate off-bike use for tours or commuting.
  • Adventure road jerseys – Baggier long-distance and gravel jerseys often have supplementary front pockets.
  • Cargo jerseys – Some novelty cargo biking jerseys have expedition-ready front and side pockets.

So in summary, frontal storage pockets do exist but target off-bike usage, not for accessing items during rides.

Rear pockets still reign supreme when it comes to functional utility while riding.

Why Are Some Cycling Jersey Pockets Mesh?

Another jersey detail you may notice is that the pocket fabric itself is often a lightweight stretchy mesh as opposed to the main jersey fabric.

But why mesh?

There are a few advantages to utilizing mesh for the pocket panels:

  • Improved ventilation and air flow to your back under the pockets
  • Lighter overall weight without compromising storage capacity
  • Increased expandability and stretch to hold items securely
  • Enhanced moisture wicking compared to non-mesh fabric
  • Greater flexibility to move with you during pedaling
  • Mesh tends to be more durable than standard jersey fabrics

So in summary, mesh pocket panels offer the best blend of ventilation, flexibility, stretch and durability to perform their storage duties on rides.

Personalizing Your Pocket Storage System

While savvy pros have their pocket system dialed to precision through years of experimentation, casual riders can also refine their storage setups with some trial and error.

Here are some tips for optimizing your next ride essentials in those handy jersey pockets:

  • Start by taking inventory of any items you’ll absolutely need quick access to like food, tools, keys, cash, etc. and set those aside.
  • Gather potential items and assess their size, weight and necessity. Eliminate any excess bulk.
  • Organize items from largest to smallest to visualize the ideal storage configuration.
  • Figure out your dominant hand for easy rear pocket access (likely opposite your rear brake hand).
  • Put heavier essentials like tools lower down and lighter items like gels up higher.
  • Consider a small saddle bag for overflow if your jersey pockets fill up quick.
  • Test out different pocket items on short rides before longer journeys.
  • Adjust your system over time based on convenience, comfort and utility.

With some thoughtful experimentation, you can dial in the ideal setup of ride essentials across your jersey pockets.

Mark those pockets with a sharpie so you remember which one fits what.

Why You’ll Love Having Jersey Pockets

After learning the history, function, and utility of the humble jersey pocket, I hope you have a deep appreciation for this genius cycling-specific feature.

Here’s a quick recap of why they’re so awesome:

  • Carry essentials without wearing a bulky backpack or stuffing pockets
  • Instantly access food, tools, cash, valuables, phone and more as needed
  • Ditch the excess – no more hauling stuff you don’t need
  • Pedal with greater comfort, maneuverability and aero advantage
  • Enjoy the convenience of organization with “grab ‘n go” pocket storage
  • No more pre-ride clutter trying to figure out what to bring
  • Never lose track of valuables like keys or wallet again
  • Fuel up with ease by grabbing gels without stopping
  • Fix flats faster thanks to tire levers and CO2 always at the ready
  • Stash trash away cleanly until you pass a garbage can
  • Gain confidence by carrying pepper spray for solo rides if desired

After your first long ride utilizing those pockets properly, I’m positive you’ll be sold!

Now you just have to figure out which energy gels and bars to stuff them with for your next cycling adventure.

So get out and ride knowing that those pockets have got your back – literally!

Let me know if you have any other cycling gear questions.

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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