By Ken Bonner
Source: Company website
How Obtained: Review sample from company
Tested: Several thousand miles, all types of weather
RBR Sponsor: No
Wool Jersey Delivers Versatile Performance
A couple of years ago, I discovered wool cycling jerseys, and purchased a smart-looking one that advertised my then new, custom-built BERG titanium road bike. Although I liked the look of this attractively designed jersey (made in China, by the way) I was worried it would be itchy and would shrink.
I discovered that it was warm in a wide range of temperatures and in fact was not itchy. However, it did shrink — even when washed according to the instructions on the garment. The shrinkage was so great that I passed the jersey on to my 5-year-old granddaughter as a dress!
During the past year, I acquired another wool jersey via the San Francisco Randonneurs cycling club that was also made in China. Slightly lighter than my previous wool jersey, it also is not itchy, and so far, with hand washing, I have avoided significant shrinkage.
In the depths of another cold and wet West Coast winter, I obtained a 3rd wool jersey from Wabi Woolens. It comes in red or black. The Wabi Woolens Sports Series short-sleeved wool jersey is the most comfortable of the three merino wool jerseys I’ve owned so far. Made from Australian wool, it is designed and knitted in Portland, Oregon.
Great Performance in All Weather
I have worn the Wabi Woolens jersey while riding in vastly different weather conditions over several thousand miles in the saddle. Much of the riding was in cold, wet conditions, but I’ve also worn it in temperatures up to 104F/40C.
My last experience before writing this review was wearing it this fall on the Crater Lake 1000 km/622-mile brevet. Even with only arm warmers and a rain jacket over the top of it, I was warm and comfortable while climbing from Roseburg, Oregon, at the 500-foot elevation level, in the early morning hours at 60F/15C, to the top of Crater Lake (7,500 feet/2,286 m) with the temperature dropping to 32F/0C on the way up.
In fact, it is the ability of wool to keep you comfortable across a range of weather that is its true calling card. But the Wabi Woolens jersey takes wool up a notch, with added features that make it premium quality. For example, extra material sewn into the neck to enhance comfort and prevent stretching; extra deep rear pockets that don’t droop when full; and a small zippered pocket built into the middle rear pocket to store keys, etc.
The jersey also has a long front zipper for ventilation, but wool retains its warming properties even when wet, so a little sweat won’t hurt when wearing it.
All of these things add up to the jersey being useful not just for cycling, but also for running, cross-country skiing or other sports.
One caveat for super weight-conscious cyclists: my large Wabi Woolens wool jersey weighs about 10 oz./283 g, compared to a typical synthetic jersey that weighs about half that.
Wool Does Require More Care than Synthetic
I washed this Wabi wool jersey twice during the test period. Not that it needed it from a smell point of view, but to see if it would shrink. Although the label states that it can be washed in warm water, after my disastrous experience with my first wool jersey, I chose to be conservative and washed it in cold water on the delicate setting of my washing machine. I used Woolite, but other cyclists have suggested that Ivory Snow is a better alternative.
Do NOT put a wool jersey in the clothes dryer. Gently squeeze most of the water out by hand, lay it on a large towel, roll-up the towel and twist lightly. This will remove most of the liquid retained by the wool. Then, place the jerseyon a dry towel on a flat surface in a normally heated room. The wool jersey should be ready to wear in a day.
Using this procedure, there was only a very slight one-time shrinkage. Although any wool jersey requires a little more cleaning care than does a synthetic jersey, it certainly makes up for it by providing superb warmth and versatile performance.
Ken Bonner is a former marathon runner and renowned ultracyclist who holds the course record for the British Columbia Rocky Mountain 1200k and several UltraMarathon Cycling Association point-to-point records. Retired and living in Victoria, British Columbia, he rides about 18,000 miles a year.