Review: Dessus’s zipless, 4-to-8-watts-faster aero jersey

A ribbed jersey with integrated side-access pockets and an aero advantage. But is it worth it?

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Dessus is a Yorkshire-based brand born out of a discussion about the shortcomings of aero jerseys. While aero jerseys are nothing new, Dessus (French for “above”) felt the current offerings “weren’t meeting expectations” and set about designing a jersey to address those issues. The result was the brand’s signature garment, a zipless aero jersey. Dessus sent me the second iteration of that jersey, the Aero.21, for review. 

Let’s get straight to the point. If you’re buying a zipless aero jersey with integrated pockets, you are thinking about going fast! How fast does the Aero.21 make you? Well, Dessus claims its new flagship jersey is 4-8 watts faster than the “market-leading, Grand Tour-winning aero jersey” and 8-16 watts faster than a “standard cycling jersey.” 

Those claimed savings are huge, so how was this tested, you ask? Dessus worked with another British brand, Body Rocket – developers of an as-yet-unreleased on-board aero sensor – to test its new jersey, the original Dessus aero jersey, that “market-leading aero jersey”, and a standard jersey. Each jersey was tested over multiple runs, in an aero hoods position, with the jerseys being the only variable.

Dessus has published some of that testing data and the claimed 4-8 W saving over another aero jersey is the “estimated cost at FTP (200-400 W)” based on the percentage difference in CdA. 

The Dessus Aero.21 jersey is, as the name suggests, all about aero gains and going fast.

Parking the Aero.21 jersey’s “raison d’etre” for a moment, how is it as a jersey? The main body of the jersey features a ribbed design now commonplace in aero garments. This design is often said to trick the airflow into remaining attached to the body for longer, reducing aero drag. While Dessus hasn’t referenced this feature on the Aero.21 jersey, and while questions could be asked about the ribs’ placement, it certainly gives the jersey that aero look. Furthermore, the highly stretchy fabric used on the body gives the jersey that all-important second-skin fit and structure despite the lack of a zipper. 

Where most aero jersey designs feature a mesh body paired with ribbed lycra on the sleeves, Dessus has opted for mesh arms to sit alongside its ribbed body. This mesh material feels exceptionally lightweight and breathable – the kind of fabric we often see on lightweight summer climbing jerseys. The right arm features the topographic contours of the Wharfe Valley area, where most of the jersey’s testing happened. 

Pockets! Side-access, zippered, integrated pockets.

The rear of the jersey features Dessus’s integrated, side-access pockets, an update from the original Dessus aero jersey. This new pocket design smoothes out the back of the jersey by removing horizontal pocket openings and concealing the pockets’ contents inside the jersey. Dessus claims its pockets, when loaded, can save 5-10 W compared to a standard jersey with loaded pockets – a huge saving. 

The jersey is finished with a low-cut, collarless neck for some added aeroness, and a silicone gripper front and rear of the waist to hold the jersey in place. 

I spent a few hundred kilometres in the Aero.21 jersey over the past couple of months. While I cannot back up nor debunk Dessus’s drag-saving claims, I can report the jersey does at least look and feel fast. As the saying goes, correlation is not causation, but I did take a number of KOMs in that time. I was also using a new aero bike, aero helmet, aero wheels, and most importantly, trying quite hard, so I can’t give the Aero.21 jersey all the credit. 

The jersey feels well made. I haven’t had a single thread unravel or seam pop, and the jersey has kept its shape through multiple wash cycles. The pocket zips feel a bit lightweight but have so far passed the durability test. 

Breathability is an issue with the Aero.21. This is the jersey after a two-hour ride in 16 °C (61 ºF) – almost the entire front of the jersey was soaked in sweat on a day other jerseys could have allowed for better ventilation and breathability.

I do have a few issues with the Aero.21 jersey. Principal amongst those is that ribbed lycra. I found it too heavy and stiff for an entire jersey body, resulting in a fit that felt like a heavy layer rather than a lightweight jersey. I found the fabric lacked breathability, even on a mild day. Time and time again, I found myself reaching for a zip that wasn’t there to get some cooling onto my chest. Keep in mind, I live in Ireland, and 16 ºC (61 ºF) was about the warmest temperature I rode in with the Aero.21.

Furthermore, that integrated pocket sits inside the jersey – think of a jeans pocket – meaning there are three layers of fabric on almost a third of the rear of the jersey, further compounding those overheating issues. More on the pockets in a moment.

Zippers often get the blame for jerseys bunching on the chest and stomach areas. But even though the Aero.21 jersey has no front zipper, I still found it bunched up at times. I feel this issue could have been resolved had Dessus opted for the mesh fabric used on the sleeves. Pulling the jersey further down the body can eliminate some of this bunching up, and the silicone grippers do a great job of holding the jersey in place, but it does eventually work its way back up.  

In contrast, the mesh sleeves fitted perfectly, stayed in place, and have excellent breathability. 

The mesh sleeves held their position throughout every ride.

The integrated pockets didn’t do it for me. I found the zipper difficult to close on the move and almost impossible without using both hands. I was always conscious of having the pocket zips closed when moving, as the side opening seems prone to having items fall out. I did have a gel escape an open pocket when just sitting at a stop, so I feel if the pockets were left open during a ride, the contents could easily fall out.

The closed-off integrated pocket also meant choosing between carrying a rain cape, phone, or multi-tool – all things I usually carry in jersey pockets in addition to ride food. And on the topic of ride food, bananas are a no go with these pockets. 

Admittedly, training is perhaps outside the Aero.21’s intended use case (i.e. racing). Still, even for racing, I’m not sure the added effort to open the zip, extract the right bar or gel without dropping the rest of the pocket contents, and then using both hands to close the zip again is worth the 5 W.

Although not mentioned in Dessus’s testing, I assume some of the aero gains from integrated pockets are lost when pinning race numbers to the area. With that in mind, and given the jersey’s aero focus, I am surprised Dessus hasn’t included an integrated race number pocket on the rear. 

Your pocket’s open mate – you’ve left a trail of fig rolls behind you.

I can certainly see the potential in the Aero.21 jersey concept to offer jersey-and-bibs level of comfort in a package as aero as a skinsuit for crit racing or Strava KOM hunting. But for me, the jersey still needs a few tweaks before I would opt for it over a modern race suit. Breathability is at the top of that list – if Dessus can improve the breathability with a lighter fabric that’s not as clammy on warmer days, I believe the rest could fall into place. 

The Dessus Aero.21 jersey is priced at £120 (roughly US$165 / AU$230 / €140) and available at Dessus.cc. Stay tuned for a review of the brand’s Fondista bibs. (Spoiler alert: I like them a lot.)

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